Allen West Tells Obama to Get Out of South Florida, Fudges "Obamanomics" Numbers

​Welcome to another post in our Allen West Fact Party series, in which we take claims made by the District 22 Republican and attempt to figure out whether they have a basis in reality. In case you were wondering, they usually don't.

Today's fact-check comes from not one but two Facebook accounts of Congressman Allen West. On his main account yesterday, he posted a statement about President Obama's campaign swing through South Florida, telling him to "turn the airplane around and go back to Washington DC, we here in South Florida can do well without your lies." West went on:

President Obama is in South Florida today to promote his idea of economic fairness... completely intellectually dishonest. The "Buffett Rule" which the Obamanista spinmeisters have created -- is nothing more than divisive rhetoric not based on any economic reality, just empty political gimmickry.
First of all, mad props for "Obamanista spinmeisters." That's awesome.

Now, onto West's criticism for Obama's "empty political gimmickry" and being "completely intellectually dishonest," because West's chucking "you're a liar" stones from inside a big, patriotic glass toolshed.

Right around the same time as the "get on your plane with your lies" statement, West's campaign posted a very attractive graphic outlining "The Effects of Obamanomics."

It looks a bit sparse written out, but somebody over there is really talented with the picture-making. Here's what West says the president has done:
  • Increased the national debt by over $5 trillion
  • 9.4% unemployment rate in Florida
  • 1 in 7 Americans on food stamps
  • 1 in 4 homes underwater
Let's just go down the list and see if Obamanomics really are to blame. The first two points get tackled today; the second two will get looked at tomorrow Friday morning.

1. Obamanomics increased the national debt by over $5 trillion.
This one's easy -- he's wrong.

It's a claim that was debunked months ago. If you look at the general numbers, it seems to be true: Obama took office with a $10.5 trillion national debt, and now it's around $15.2 trillion.

But to say it's all Obama's fault is, well, completely intellectually dishonest.

The stimulus cost $874 billion. That's on Obama, sure. And the 2010 deal to extend the Bush tax cuts added $600 billionish to his tally.

But what else has Obama been spending money on? The health-care law, whether or not it reduces deficits like the Congressional Budget Office says it will, isn't a factor thus far. The $224 billion housing bailout passed under George Bush, and it'd be really hard not to pin the $853 billion spent through 2008 in Iraq and Afghanistan on Bush as well.

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein laid it out at the end of January, and his handy infographic reveals that the Bush tax cuts -- before Obama (and Congress) extended them -- have been the single largest hit to the national debt of the past decade. They cost $1.8 trillion, much of which got added to the debt after Obama took office. At the end of it, even if you completely ignore projected savings from Obamacare, Obama's debt impact adds up to just over $1 trillion through 2017 -- nowhere near the juicy $5 trillion being thrown around because some people think "subtraction" is an astute financial observation.

If you don't believe the Post, the New York Times has another graph showing similar calculations. And if you don't believe the Post or the Times, well, you might as well stop reading now, because there's nothing here for you.

2. Obamanomics caused Florida's 9.4 percent unemployment rate.
There's no limit to the ways you can add political spin to a recession -- you can say it's Bush's fault, you can say Obama made it worse, you can say if it weren't for that goddamned Glass-Steagall Act, we'd have an American base on the moon. There are too many factors to sit down and prove one way or another whether Big Barack Hussein is responsible for the millions of currently unemployed Floridians.

There is one thing you can prove, though -- many more Floridians lost jobs under Bush than under Obama.

Florida's unemployment hit a low in January 2006, according to data from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. It was at positively idyllic 3.3 percent but soon started shooting up, and up... and up.

By February 2009, the unemployment rate had almost tripled, to 9.2 percent. There's no blaming him for that -- the economy died, and then he showed up, in conditions that the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy said could take years and years to rebound from.

After that, though, it gets fuzzy -- Florida's unemployment rate then jumped to an insane 11.4 percent in February 2010, one year into Obama's term. Can you blame him for that? Ask a Republican and the answer is, "Oh yeah, totally -- he ruins everything." Ask a Democrat and you'll get the opposite.

In any case, you run into the same problem when trying to dole out credit for the subsequent rebound -- today's 9.4 percent is still a high number, but it's a 17.5 percent improvement from two years ago.

The bottom line is that Florida's unemployment is essentially at the same level it was when Obama took office and is on a sharp decline rather than a crazy upward slope -- check out the graph if you don't believe me.

If there's evidence that the Florida jobs mess is Obama's fault, West didn't offer it, but nobody will ever be able to point to one thing and say, "It was that." But it's an election year, and West earns street cred for attacking the president, so Obamanomics gets blamed -- even if the numbers don't back it up.

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Rich Abdill