TRUTH TEST: Ads duel on Obama's record

Throughout the 2012 political season, 9NEWS will hold those who run political ads on our networks accountable for what they say.

Check out previous Truth Tests here.

A lot of the effort is focused on spinning the economic story for or against President Obama.

One ad we're testing here features the President personally delivering his version of the story.

"We're not there yet," says the President. "But we've made real progress, and the last thing we should do is turn back now."

A competing ad from the conservative group "American Crossroads" features film star Clint Eastwood with a different version.

"We've got to hold [the President] accountable," said Eastwood. "Obama's second term would be a re-run of the first and our country just couldn't survive that. We need someone who can turn it around fast and that man is Mitt Romney."

Those statements spell out the opinions of both sides, but we can't test opinions. However, we can test the facts they point to in support.


CLAIM: 5.2 million new jobs were created under President Obama

Verdict: Not exactly

This claim is supported by a chart showing job growth each month between March 2010 and September 2012.

The campaign claims this figure is true for private sector employment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 4.7 million private sector job increase over that period.

To achieve the best-looking number, the campaign added 453,000 jobs to that figure by relying on a preliminary estimate of an annual benchmark revision to the number. The revision will not actually be made until February 2013.

Further, it would be better for the campaign to claim that the economy "recovered" these jobs rather than "created" them.

The big-picture story on jobs is this: 133.6 million Americans had jobs in January 2009 when Barack Obama was sworn in. 4.3 million jobs were lost in the first 14 months of his Presidency. 4.26 million jobs then came back.

The country is almost back to where it was.

CLAIM: Exports are up 41 percent
Verdict: True

The campaign points to monthly trade figures maintained by the US Census Bureau and compares the monthly exports from January 2009 (Obama's first month in office) to August 2012 (the most recent data.) Due to revisions since the ad was released, the number is actually better-a 45 percent increase in monthly exports.

The only context to add is that imports and the trade deficit increased as well. The nation exported $44 billion less than it imported in August. In January of 2009, the trade deficit was $38 billion.

The August 2012 figure is not as high as the trade deficit was during parts of the George W. Bush administration. During President Bush's second term, the monthly figure reached $67 billion.

CLAIM: Home values are rising
Verdict: True

Home values are rising in the US, according to the widely referenced S&P/Case-Shiller index.

Home prices are approaching the levels they had in January 2009.

CLAIM: The auto industry has bounced back
Verdict: True

After serious financial struggles and controversial bailouts of GM and Chrysler, auto sales are rising.

This quote appeared in a recent article on the website of Fox News:

"This could be the first year that we could really term the auto industry recovered," said Marty Padgett, editorial director at High Gear Media. "Back in 2008, car sales had plummeted down to below 13.5 million units. This year, we'll be above 14.5 (million). And next year, we could be back to 15."

CLAIM: Troops are coming home
Verdict: True

The Department of Defense reported 196,000 troops deployed in foreign countries in its annual end-of-year report last year.

There were 292,000 in December 2008.


CLAIM: 23 million people can't find full-time work
Verdict: True

This conclusion is reached using the broadest look at underemployment.

The BLSestimated in September there were 12.1 million unemployed, 8.6 part-time workers who want to be full-time, and 2.5 million discouraged workers who stopped looking.

CLAIM: We borrow $4 billion every single day, most of it from China
Verdict: Not exactly

Some days the US debt grows by $4 billion or more. Other days it doesn't.

Using the treasury department's tracking tool, you can calculate the growth in the debt between just about any two points in time. Divide by the number of days and you arrive at a daily average.

When I crunched the numbers for the entire Obama presidency from Jan. 20, 2009 to Oct. 29, 2012, I found an average of $4 billion per day in growth to the national debt, but the calendar year 2012 (Jan 1. - Oct. 29) the rate was $2.7 billion per day.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Each side can point to evidence supporting their view on the economy. It's true a lot of economic indicators have turned back up during Barack Obama's presidency-- AND it's true that things are still tough for a lot of people. Voters get to decide who picks it up from here.


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