Opinion

SHAPIRO: 11 Leftist Myths About American History

   DailyWire.com
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The Left tells a story about America. It goes something like this: Once upon a time, a group of brutal white colonial Christians arrived in North America from a far-off land. They brought with them disease, murder, and rape. They savaged the natives, enslaved people across the earth, and founded a country based on racism and sexism. That country’s founding document — the United States Constitution — was an ode to the propertied class, to sexism and racism, to slavery itself. America has never been able to escape those sins, and only the growth in power of the federal government controlled by people of the Left has been able to carve away at that dark legacy over time — but that legacy will never be erased, except by a complete reshaping of American society and politics.

Conservatives tell a different story. European colonists arrived in America in order to establish a country founded on principles of liberty and religious toleration. America is guilty of many sins in its past — but the principles enshrined in the Constitution are eternal and good. The Constitution’s central natural law principles laid forth the notions of individual liberty and rights to one’s own labor — and over time, those rights would be perfected in the United States, not through centralized government, but through good people struggling to bring about change through blood and sacrifice and persuasion. The growth of an overreaching federal government now threatens those very liberties in the name of tearing away at the system upon which our freedoms and prosperity is based.

There’s an enormous difference between these stories. It would be foolish not to acknowledge the sins of the past. But it would be far more foolish to throw away America’s glorious history in the name of wiping away the greatest system of government ever devised by man, and crippling the freest philosophy ever implemented in governmental form.

Myth 1: The U.S. Constitution is no longer relevant.

Fact: The U.S. Constitution is a timeless document.

On June 24, 2016, Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals — an appointee of Ronald Reagan — announced that he no longer thought studying the Constitution was worthwhile. After lamenting the encomia for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Posner wrote, “I see absolutely no value to a judge of spending decades, years, months, weeks, day, hours, minutes, or seconds studying the Constitution, the history of its enactment, its amendments, and its implementation (across the centuries — well, just a little more than two centuries, and of course less for many of the amendments). Eighteenth-century guys, however smart, could not foresee the culture, technology, etc., of the 21stcentury. Which means that the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the post–Civil War amendments (including the 14th), do not speak to today.”1

This isn’t rare in the legal world of the Left. Leftists who speak of a “living Constitution” generally mean that the Constitution itself is irrelevant, dated, a vestige of a different time and place. The founders, they suggest, would never have structured our government the way it is if they had only known about iPhones and wireless internet. In 2001, then-State Senator Barack Obama told public radio that it was vital for Americans to “break free” of the Constitution in order to promote government-created “economic justice.” Obama explicitly stated, “We still suffer from not having a Constitution that guarantees its citizens economic rights.” By this, Obama meant that the government was not empowered under the Constitution to do much beyond ensuring so-called negative rights: rights that exist because no one can violate them. He wanted so-called positive rights: rights to goods and services provided by others via the government.2

Leftists on the Supreme Court agree with Obama and Posner. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking to Egypt’s Al-Hayat TV, admitted that she didn’t find the United States Constitution particularly inspiring. “I would not look to the US Constitution, if I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012,” Ginsburg said. “I might look at the Constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced human rights, had an independent judiciary… It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done. Much more recent than the US Constitution.”

The South African Constitution, like most constitutions composed by the political left, guarantees certain rights to other people’s property, services, and treatment. It vaguely guarantees a right to “inherent dignity,” whatever that means. It also guarantees a right to “access to adequate housing,” as provided by the state, and a right to “health care services, including reproductive health care,” among others. So, this should make South Africa a paradise, no? No, actually, the murder rate in South Africa is 32 per 100,000 residents (in the United States, the murder rate is 4.6 per 100,000, by way of contrast); per capita GDP is $5,691.70 (in the United States, it’s $53,041.98). A piece of paper can guarantee you the fruits of other people’s work, but if people aren’t willing to work, the paper isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

The chief reason for that: constitutions that guarantee positive rights demand labor from others. Involuntary servitude is the precondition to positive rights provided by the government. Wealth must be confiscated; property must be taken; services must be forced. And government force invariably ends in societal breakdown: lack of social capital and trust, lack of innovation and drive.

The founders recognized that, which is why the Constitution of the United States is a timeless document. The Constitution was created to deal with flaws in human nature, not to cope with technological advancements: we may have better means of communication than we did in 1787, but we don’t have better people. People are the same as they ever were.

The founders constructed the Constitution on the basis of three main realizations about human beings. First, they realized that human beings are imperfect, selfish, driven by self-interest. They will go to war with each other to assure the victory of that self-interest. The founders agreed with the central theory of Thomas Hobbes, that without government, man reverted to constant warfare: “No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

But they disagreed with Hobbes that the only way to solve this conundrum was a great and powerful ruler. They believed that such rulers were similarly capable of brutality in their own self-interest. They adopted this philosophy from John Locke, who wrote, “The end of government is the good of mankind; and which is best for mankind, that the people should be always exposed to the boundless will of tyranny, or that the rulers should be sometimes liable to be opposed, when they grow exorbitant in the use of their power, and employ it for the destruction, and not the preservation of the properties of their people?” In other words, if rulers invaded the rights of others, they ought to be curbed.

So, how could society survive without an all-powerful ruler checking men? By a series of mutual checks and balances. As James Madison famously stated in Federalist #51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

Checks and balances were designed to prevent government from overreaching its boundaries; only widespread agreement could overrule such checks and balances. The judiciary was therefore designed not to lord over the executive and legislative branches, but to interpret the law “under the Constitution”; it was checked by its requirement of funding from Congress and execution from the executive branch. The legislative branch was designed to pass laws in concurrence with the Constitution; the president was given the power to veto laws. Congress itself was checked by distribution of power between the House, chosen by population, and the Senate, chosen by state. The executive branch was checked by the legislature; the executive couldn’t create laws or self-fund, and the legislature could always impeach an incipient tyrant. The federal government as a whole was checked by state governments, all of which had their own checks and balances.

The structural Constitution, not the Bill of Rights, is the essence of American government. And it has nothing to do with technological progress. It relies on the same vision of human nature held by the founders, and the same vision of human rights: that because you are a human being, you have inviolable rights that cannot be removed from you by majority vote.

But the Left despises the Constitution because the Left believes that human nature can change, if only people are granted material wealth. If people are given positive rights by government, they transform, almost magically, into better human beings: less selfish, more giving, altruistic about their time and labor. Marx infamously stated that while animals generated only enough to survive, humans generated excess — and, said Marx, this perverted them into lesser beings. Communism, by confiscating labor and providing for needs, would transform capitalistic people into better people. The state would solve man’s spiritual ills.

The American Constitution rejects this materialist notion. And so for well over a century, the Left has attempted to destroy the Constitution in the name of action.

Myth 2: America was founded on slavery.

Fact: The Northern Founders wanted to abolish slavery.

One of the most-uttered myths regarding the United States is that it was “founded on slavery.” This statement is used to justify everything from affirmative action to federal transfer payments to low-income minorities; it’s used as a scapegoat for elevated levels of black crime and for black educational underperformance. It’s also a wild overstatement.

Slavery was a grave moral evil. It was also common at the time of the founding. The United States did indeed tolerate slavery, and the southern states fought for the continuation of slavery during the Civil War. But virtually all countries in human history also supported slavery during that time, including African countries shipping Africans to the Americas in chains. The first European country to ban import of slaves to its colonies was Denmark in 1803; Britain only outlawed the Atlantic slave trade in 1807; the United States passed legislation banning the new importation of slaves beginning in 1808. Britain only passed gradual abolition of slavery in 1833; Denmark only abolished slavery in 1846, France in 1848, Brazil in 1851; and the United States in 1862. To pretend that the United States was unique in regard to its history with slavery would be historically ignorant.3 That does not justify American slavery (nothing does), but it does provide vital historical context.

From its founding, the United States attempted to come to grips with slavery and phase it out. The state of Vermont was the first sovereign state to abolish slavery, in 1777. During the debate over the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wanted to include a provision that would have condemned King George III for “wag[ing] cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation hither.” Southern states demanded that this provision be removed in return for joining the revolution. Having no choice, Jefferson removed the clause.

The Constitution of the United States is frequently seen as enshrining slavery, but the so-called three-fifths clause was an attempt to do the opposite. The whole question of popular apportionment rested on whether to count slaves as full people for purposes of representation. To do so would have put the slaveholding south at a significant advantage: they would have counted slaves in their population, not allowed them to vote, then used their increased representation in order to re-enshrine slavery. As James Madison noted, the delegates from South Carolina fought for blacks to be counted as whole people so as to include them “in the rule of representation, equally with the Whites.” The three-fifths compromise was designed to curb the South’s expansionist tendencies with regard to slavery by preventing them from stacking the electoral deck. The Constitution also allowed slave importation to continue until 1808 — but Congress moved in 1807 to end it there.

Then, of course, the United States fought a great and massive Civil War to free the slaves, in which over 620,000 Americans died, nearly half the total number of Americans to die in all wars combined. The economy of the United States was not built on slavery — in fact, the South’s economic power was dismal compared to that of the north, which is why the north was able to overcome the south during the Civil War.

Myth 3: Segregation was imposed socially.

Fact: Segregation was imposed governmentally.

The Left constantly repeats that government is necessary in order to stop discrimination between private parties. Government does intervene to stop uses of force between private parties, of course. But you have no right to my services and I have no right to your services. This argument leads leftists to say that if we don’t allow government to intervene in order to force me to serve you, widespread, rampant discrimination will break out. They often cite Jim Crow in defense of this notion.

That’s nonsense.

Segregation was governmentally imposed, not socially imposed. The whole reason that government was necessary was so that those who would not abide by social racism were forced to do so. As black economist Walter Williams states, “whenever there is a law on the books, one’s immediate suspicion should be that the law is there because not everyone would behave according to the law’s specifications.” He continues by talking specifically about Jim Crow:

From the 1880s into the 1960s, the majority of American states enforced some form of segregation through what were known as Jim Crow laws. . . . The bottom line is that racists cannot trust free markets to racially discriminate… Racists need the force of government to have success.4

Two famous examples show how true this is. In February 1960, four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat down at the counter at Woolworth’s. This was four years before the Civil Rights Act. By July 1960, Woolworth’s lunch counter desegregated itself, after losing $200,000. The market worked.

Then there’s the Montgomery bus boycott. In 1955, city ordinances required segregation on buses. Rosa Parks and the NAACP organized a massive boycott that resulted in 40,000 black people refusing to take the buses the day after Parks’ famous refusal to move to the back of the bus. The only reason that the bus company refused to abide by the demands of the boycotters is that they were in negotiations with the city, and the city ordinances prevented them from doing so.5

This isn’t to claim that there aren’t racists who would resist tolerance. But it is to say that the market is better at uprooting such discrimination than the government is without invading the rights of private business owners to choose their clientele.

Myth 4: Hoover was a conservative.

Fact: Hoover pursued the same policies FDR did.

One of the great myths of American economic history is that Republican President Herbert Hoover stymied a recovery from the Great Depression by pursuing conservative economic policies. That simply isn’t true. Hoover actually pursued substantially the same policies FDR did after Hoover lost the 1932 election — FDR just doubled down on them.

In 1930, Hoover imposed the so-called Smoot-Hawley tariffs, which crippled global trade; global trade dropped to a small fraction of what it had been when Hoover took office thanks to his protectionist policies, which were designed to boost agricultural prices. He also blew out the federal budget — in 1929, the federal budget was $3.1 billion; by 1932, he had increased it to $4.6 billion, a nearly 50 percent increase. In real dollars, Hoover actually doubled the federal budget, since the Great Depression came along with deflation; his deficits actually ran higher than FDR’s until World War II.

Hoover also participated in subsidies to agriculture on a massive scale, tried to pressure firms not to cut workers and wages, and forced the government to pay above-market wages for federal projects. Hoover also pursued government-sponsored loans to states and banks. Hoover also pressed enormous tax increases.

Here’s Hoover on his own agenda in 1932: “We might have done nothing. That would have been utter ruin. Instead, we met the situation with proposals to private business and the Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counter attack ever evolved in the history of the Republic.”

And here’s a member of FDR’s own brain trust, according to Steven Horwitz: “When we all burst into Washington . . . we found every essential idea [of the New Deal] enacted in the 100-day Congress in the Hoover administration itself.”6

Myth 5: FDR saved the American economy.

Fact: FDR made the Depression great.

FDR is on the dime and was elected to four terms as president supposedly thanks to his legacy of single-handedly saving the American economy from the throes of the Great Depression. This is utter hogwash. In fact, FDR’s policies greatly lengthened the Depression and made it far worse than it otherwise had to be.

FDR’s own economic ignorance is legendary. According to historian Amity Shlaes, FDR used to tinker with the price of gold arbitrarily. At one point, he raised the price of gold by 21 cents because he said it was a “lucky number, because it’s three times seven.” Henry Morgenthau, part of FDR’s brain trust, said later, “If anybody knew how we really set the gold price through a combination of lucky numbers, etc., I think they would be frightened.” The true reason Democrats think of FDR as a hero is because he was a brutal class warrior who jabbered about “heedless self-interest.”7

But in reality, according to Professors Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian of UCLA’s Department of Economics, FDR’s policies prolonged the depression by at least seven years. Cole explained:

President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services. So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies.

Not surprisingly, wages were 25 percent above market level, but unemployment was also 25 percent higher than it should have been. Demand stalled because of artificial boosts in prices. Ohanian explains, “By artificially inflating both [prices and wages], the New Deal policies short-circuited the market’s self-correcting forces.”8

Myth 6: The Great Society made life better for black people.

Fact: The Great Society significantly slowed economic progress for black Americans.

While the Left likes to blame the stagnant rates of increase in black prosperity on slavery and Jim Crow, the truth is that government involvement is far more to blame. The Great Society programs of President Lyndon Johnson, touted as a sort of reparations-lite by Johnson allies, actually harmed the black community in significant ways that continue to play out today. According to former Air Force One steward Ronald MacMillan, LBJ pushed the Great Society programs and civil rights bill out of desire to win black votes: “I’ll have them n*****s voting Democratic for two hundred years” he reportedly said.9

In essence, the Great Society drove impoverished black people into dependency. In 1960, 22 percent of black children were born out of wedlock; today, that number is over 70 percent. The single greatest indicator of intergenerational poverty is single motherhood. As Thomas Sowell writes, “What about ghetto riots, crimes in general and murder in particular? What about low levels of labor force participation and high levels of welfare dependency? None of those things was as bad in the first 100 years after slavery as they became in the wake of the policies and notions of the 1960s.”10

According to the left-leaning Brookings Institute, “From 1940 to 1970, black men cut the income gap [with white men] by about a third, and by 1970 they were earning (on average) roughly 60 percent of what white men took in.” Such growth slowed after the implementation of the Great Society. According to economists John J. Donahue III and James Heckman, black men saw “virtually no improvement” in wages relative to white men outside the south from 1963 to 1987 — and those gains in the south weren’t due to the Great Society, but to civil rights legislation.11 Here’s Sowell again:

Despite the grand myth that black economic progress began or accelerated with the passage of the Civil Rights laws and “War on Poverty” programs of the 1960s, the cold fact is that the poverty rate among blacks fell from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent by 1960. This was before any of those programs began. Over the next 20 years, the poverty rate among blacks fell another 18 percentage points, compared to the 40-point drop in the previous 20 years. This was the continuation of a previous economic trend, at a slower rate of progress, not the economic grand deliverance proclaimed by liberals and self-serving black “leaders.”12

As for the Great Society itself, poverty rates in the United States have remained largely unchanged: the government spends $9,000 per welfare recipient per year in the United States, and yet Americans had the same poverty rate in 2013 as they did in 1963. Living standards have improved, but dependency has not decreased — except when Republicans attempt to decrease it with acts like welfare reform.13

Myth 7: The Republican Party switched into the racist party.

Fact: The Democratic Party remained the racist party.

One of the favorite refrains of the Democratic Party, attempting to escape its history of racism, slavery, and segregation, is that in the 1960s, the Republican Party hijacked racism and the Democratic Party abandoned it. Citing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as the turning point, Democrats point out that the formerly solid Democratic south moved gradually into the Republican camp, while the Republican north turned more Democratic over time. This, they say, was clearly the result of racism coming to the fore in the GOP.

There is little evidence to support this contention.

First, according to Professors Richard Johnston of the University of Pennsylvania and Byron Shafer of the University of Wisconsin, “the shift in the South from Democratic to Republican was overwhelmingly a question not of race but of economic growth.” The movement toward Republicanism in the south began in the 1950s as the south industrialized. Working-class whites and blacks remained Democrat until the 1990s. Here’s The New York Times reporting:

To give just one example: in the 50s, among Southerners in the low-income tercile, 43 percent voted for Republican Presidential candidates, while in the high-income tercile, 53 percent voted Republican; by the 80s, those figures were 51 percent and 77 percent, respectively. Wealthy Southerners shifted rightward in droves but poorer ones didn’t.14

Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics agrees: he says that the GOP gradually increased its support in the south from 1928 to 2010. As Dan McLaughlin summarizes, “As late as 2010, there were still states like Alabama and North Carolina that were voting in their first Republican legislative majorities since Reconstruction — something that would have happened overnight in the late 60s if the partisan realignment had been driven by lockstep white voting loyalties on racial lines.”

Second, it was southern Democrats fighting against the Civil Rights movement for the most part. In 1948 and 1968, insurgent Democrats launched anti-civil rights presidential campaigns. Civil rights bills required more Republican than Democratic support.15

Finally, the myth of the southern strategy also suggests that today’s southerners vote for Republicans because they’re more racist than northerners. There’s no evidence to that effect, either. According to Gallup, “Southern Americans’ ratings of race relations are currently about average when compared with those in other parts of the country.” The most segregated areas of the south are in major metropolitan areas — which tend to vote more heavily Democratic than their surrounding areas.16

Myth 8: Americans lost the Vietnam War.

Fact: Politicians lost the Vietnam War.

In Vietnam, the United States beat the Viet Cong soundly militarily. Then, at the Paris Peace Accords, the Nixon administration determined that it no longer wished to participate in the war, and decided to pull troops. They pledged further military assistance in terms of hardware for the South Vietnamese. Nixon triumphantly announced, in terms rather reminiscent of President Obama’s triumphant Iraq withdrawal announcement 38 years later, “Now that we have achieved an honorable agreement, let us be proud that America did not settle for a peace that would have betrayed our allies, that would have abandoned our prisoners of war, or that would have ended the war for us, but would have continued the war for the 50 million people of Indochina.”17

Upon their election to a Congressional majority in 1974, leftist Democrats promptly decided it would be more palatable to destroy funding for the war than to guarantee the safety of our allies. In 1974, President Richard Nixon requested $1.45 billion in aid to South Vietnam. Instead, Congress spent $700 million. When Gerald Ford requested $300 million, Congress cut him off completely.18 South Vietnam promptly disappeared, with Communists taking over the entire country as well as Cambodia and slaughtering their opponents by the hundreds of thousands, leaving tens of thousands of freedom-loving Vietnamese drifting out to sea to escape the regime.

Myth 9: The economy is better because of Democratic presidents.

Fact: It’s difficult to credit particular politicians with economic benefits.

Democrats and leftists routinely state that they have a better record on the economy than Republicans. In 2016, Hillary Clinton declared that “the economy always does better when there’s a Democrat in the White House.” She has claimed before that Republican presidents are responsible for more recessions, and her husband claimed that since 1961, Democratic presidents have produced 42 million jobs, to just 24 million under Republicans.

There’s some truth to these numbers, but they miss the central point: presidents do not create jobs. The private sector creates jobs. The government’s impact on the private sector extends far beyond the executive branch — Congress played a major role, for example, in the fact that President Clinton’s budgets were far more fiscally responsible than his predecessors’ — and international conditions matter a great deal. So, too, do economic policies put in place before Democratic presidents take office — again, to use the Clinton example, the economy had been expanding under George H.W. Bush for 22 months before Bill Clinton even arrived in office.

Pretending that the economy can be boiled down to the occupant of the White House is dictatorial thinking at odds with reality. According to Princeton economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson, factors outside the control of the president have far more weight on economic matters than presidential policy. The claim that Democrat presidents are good for the economy is a simplistic talking point.19 And if Democrats disagree, ask them why President Trump’s job creation record was so good in his first year. Will they give him credit, or rightly say that the economy is a bit more complicated than that?

Myth 10: George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction.

Fact: Intelligence agencies gave Bush flawed information.

The common wisdom now suggests that President George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This silliness has been parroted by members of the Left (Michael Moore) and the Right (Donald Trump). The reality is more complicated: The entire international intelligence community was convinced that Saddam Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; Hussein himself telegraphed such intentions; there’s even evidence that WMD were smuggled out of Iraq and into Syria in the weeks leading up to war.

First off, such a lie would presuppose a motive for the lie. If you wanted to invade a country with a serious record of human rights abuses and foreign invasions, would you really rely on shoddy arguments to do so, knowing they would immediately be debunked upon conquering that country? Those who scream “war for oil” never seem to acknowledge that the United States didn’t get any oil out of the deal, or that Bush could have come up with a far more plausible reason to invade than phantom WMD.

Second, everybody — everybody — agreed about WMD in Iraq.

  • Here’s Bill Clinton in February 1998: “The UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions, a small force of Scud-type missiles, and the capacity to restart quickly its production program and build many, many more weapons.”
  • Here’s Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in 1998: “Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.”
  • Here’s a letter to Clinton signed by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and 25 others in October 1998: “We urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.”
  • In 2004, a Senate Intelligence Committee report openly stated, “The Committee did not find any evidence that intelligence analysts changed their judgments as a result of political pressure, altered or produced intelligence products to conform with Administration policy, or that anyone even attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to do so.”20

Third, weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. Here’s The New York Times in October 2014:

From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule. In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.21

Fourth, Hussein acted as though he was developing weapons for years. According to former FBI Agent George Piro, who interviewed Hussein after his capture, Hussein wanted Iran to believe he had WMD so they wouldn’t attack him; he believed that he had to deceive the West about WMD in order to deceive Iran.22

Finally, there is credible evidence to suggest that Hussein smuggled certain WMD materials across the border into Syria. David Kay, former head of the Iraqi Survey Group, said, “There is ample evidence of movement to Syria before the war — satellite photographs, reports on the ground of a constant stream of trucks, cars, rail traffic across the border. We simply don’t know what was moved.”23 That assessment was supported by Lt. Gen. James Clapper, later to be the Director of National Intelligence under President Obama.24

Myth 11: Barack Obama presided over a massive economic recovery.

Fact: Obama presided over the weakest economic recovery in modern history.

Advocates for President Obama say that he inherited a rotten economy from George W. Bush, proceeded to save it, and then ushered in a massive boom in growth and prosperity. And while it is true that George W. Bush left Obama with a mess, the main driver in alleviating that mess — for good or ill — was not Obama’s stimulus package or auto bailouts, but the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) pushed by Bush into law in October 2008. There is a good case to be made that TARP never should have been attempted by the feds, and that other institutions should have been allowed to buy up the assets destroyed by the recession. But there’s no question that TARP was the key move made during the period of the crash. By the time Obama took office, the economy was already bottoming out. By the second quarter of 2009, the economy was already on the rebound, and moved into positive territory in terms of GDP growth by Q3 of 2009.

Obama then proceeded to place heavy restrictions on banks and other financial institutions, raise taxes, increase spending, and create a wildly unpredictable regulatory climate. The result: the weakest peacetime recovery in modern American history.

  • From 2009 to July 2016, the economy grew at a mere 2.1 percent annual rate, the worst since 1949.25Before Obama, the average growth rate during a recovery was 4.3 percent.
  • Americans dropped out of the work force at record rates, dumping the labor participation rate to a 40-year low.
  • Obama acolytes said that his economy created 15 million jobs — but the working age population grew by 15.8 million during that same period.
  • Entrepreneurial activity has tanked, dropping 14 percent in 2014 and 12 percent in 2015.
  • Real household family income dropped from $57,000 in 2007 to $53,700 in 2014; homeownership also dropped.
  • By the end of his presidency,over 43 million Americans were on food stamps.26

Obama did oversee a massive stock market increase, but that’s largely because companies socked away their profits in savings rather than hiring, which drives up stock prices; they’d rather save or buy back stock than expend thanks to Obama’s regulatory climate. As The Atlantic reported, “Over the past decade, the companies that make up the S&P 500 have spent an astounding 54 percent of profits on stock buybacks. Last year alone, U.S. corporations spent about $700 billion, or roughly 4 percent of GDP, to prop up their share prices by repurchasing their own stock.”27

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Notes

  1. Richard A. Posner, “Supreme Court Breakfast Table,” Slate.com, June 24, 2016 http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_breakfast_table/features/2016/su-preme_court_breakfast_table_for_june_2016/law_school_professors_need_more_practi-cal_experience.html
  2. Paul Roderick Gregory, “Why the Fuss? Obama Has Long Been On Record In Favor Of Redistribution,” Forbes.com, September 23, 2012 http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulroderickgregory/2012/09/23/why-the-fuss-obama-has-long-been-on-record-in-favor-of-redistribution/#2aa890225db6
  3. “CHRONOLOGY – Who banned slavery when?,” Reuters.com, March 22, 2007 http://www.reuters.com/article/uk-slavery-idUSL1561464920070322
  4. Walter E. Williams, “Discrimination and Segregation,” Creators.com, October 5, 2016 https://www.creators.com/read/walter-williams/10/16/discrimination-and-segregation
  5. Mills Thorton III, Dividing Lines: Municipal Politics and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma (University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa: 2002), 68.
  6. Steven Horwitz, “Hoover’s Economic Policies,” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/HooversEconomicPolicies.html
  7. Ben Shapiro, “The Big Lie About The Great Depression,” Creators.com, June 26, 2007 https://www.creators.com/read/ben-shapiro/06/07/the-big-lie-about-the-great-depression
  8. Meg Sullivan, “FDR’s policies prolonged the Depression by 7 years, UCLA economists calculate,” UCLA.edu, August 10, 2004 http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/FDR-s-Policies-Prolonged-Depression-5409
  9. Kenneth T. Walsh, Air Force One (Hyperion Books, 2003)
  10. Thomas Sowell, “The Scapegoat for Strife in the Black Community,” NationalReview.com, July 7, 2015 http://www.nationalreview.com/article/420807/slavery-didnt-cause-todays-black-problems-welfare-did
  11. Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom, “Black Progress: how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go,” Brookings.edu, March 1, 1998 https://www.brookings.edu/articles/black-progress-how-far-weve-come-and-how-far-we-have-to-go/
  12. Thomas Sowell, “A Legacy of Liberalism,” NationalReview.com, November 18, 2014 http://www.nationalreview.com/article/392842/legacy-liberalism-thomas-sowell
  13. Robert Rector, “The War on Poverty: 50 years of failure,” Heritage.org, September 23, 2014 http://www.heritage.org/marriage-and-family/commentary/the-war-poverty-50-years-failure
  14. Clay Risen, “The Myth of ‘the Southern Strategy,’” NYTimes.com, December 10, 2006 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/magazine/10Section2b.t-4.html
  15. Dan McLaughlin, “The Southern Strategy Myth And The Lost Majority,” RedState.com, July 11, 2012 http://www.redstate.com/diary/Dan_McLaughlin/2012/07/11/the-southern-strategy-myth-and-the-lost-majority/
  16. “US Race Relations by Region: The South,” Gallup.com, November 19, 2002 http://www.gallup.com/poll/7234/us-race-relations-region-south.aspx
  17. Larry Berman, “No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam,” WashingtonPost.com, July 27, 2001 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/nopeacenohonor.htm
  18. “Ken Hughes: The Myth That Congress Cut Off Funding For South Vietnam,” HistoryNewsNetwork.org, April 28, 2010 http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/126150
  19. Anthony Cave, “Does the economy always do better under Democratic presidents?,” PolitiFact.com, April 6, 2016 http://www.PolitiFact.com/arizona/statements/2016/apr/06/hillary-clinton/does-economy-always-do-better-under-democratic-pre/
  20. James Agresti, “Did Bush Lie About Weapons of Mass Destruction?,” CNSNews.com, February 18, 2016 http://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/james-agresti/did-bush-lie-about-weapons-mass-destruction
  21. J. Chivers, “The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons,” The New York Times, October 14, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/14/world/middleeast/us-casualties-of-iraq-chemical-weapons.html
  22. Ronald Kessler, “Saddam Hussein Admitted He Planned on Nuclear Weapons,” Newsmax.com, September 7, 2010 http://www.newsmax.com/RonaldKessler/saddamhusseiniraqwmd/2010/09/07/id/369348/
  23. “Kay: No evidence Iraq stockpiled WMDs,” CNN.com, January 26, 2004 http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/01/25/sprj.nirq.kay/
  24. Bill Gertz, “Syria Storing Iraq’s WMDs,” FrontPageMag.com, October 29, 2003 < http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/262694/archives-syria-storing-iraqs-wmds-bill-gertz>
  25. Eric Morath, “Seven Years Later, Recovery Remains the Weakest of the Post-World War II Era,” Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2016 http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2016/07/29/seven-years-later-recovery-remains-the-weakest-of-the-post-world-war-ii-era/
  26. Aaron Bandler, “7 Facts That Show Obama’s Economic Recovery Has Been AWFUL,” DailyWire.com, August 1, 2016 http://www.dailywire.com/news/7970/7-facts-show-obamas-economic-recovery-has-been-aaron-bandler
  27. Nick Hanauer, “Stock Buybacks Are Killing the American Economy,” TheAtlantic.com, February 8, 2015 https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/02/kill-stock-buyback-to-save-the-american-economy/385259/
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