On Jan. 20, 2009, the day Barack Obama became president, I owned three guns, which I’ve used for hunting and occasionally target practice. Eight years later, I still have the same three guns.
Why do I mention this? Well, if you believed the predictions of the National Rifle Association, I wouldn’t still own those guns. That’s because the NRA claimed Obama would be “coming for our guns.” That prophecy was only one of a great many made by Republican groups and politicians about the Obama administration which proved to be absolutely false. Yet it seems that rightist pundits have discovered that they can gain political advantage by scaremongering with false predictions yet face few negative consequences because they are rarely held to account months or years later when events prove them totally wrong.
The examples abound when it comes to Republicans' frightful predictions about Obama’s policies. Last I checked, gas cost $2.21 a gallon. If you listened to a leading Republican senator (Mike Lee), gas would cost $6.60 per gallon by the end of Obama’s term. Not to be outdone, big time Donald Trump booster Newt Gingrich predicted that if Obama was re-elected, we’d be paying “$10 a gallon.”
Republican leaders took special aim at the supposed impacts of Obama’s economic policy. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney predicted that the unemployment rate would exceed 8 percent under Obama. Well, what actually happened? On the day Obama left office, the rate was one of the lowest in years at 4.7 percent.
Republican advocates also said Obama would cause a crash in the stock market. After Obama won re-election in November 2012, many commentators, including Trump, predicted that the stock market was headed sharply down. Of course, just the opposite happened. Thousands of points were added to the Dow stock index during Obama’s time in office.
Another right-wing leader, Rush Limbaugh, predicted that “the country’s economy is going to collapse if Obama is re-elected.” Republican leaders repeatedly used the phrase “job killing” to hit Obama’s initiatives. Four years later, the economy has enjoyed the longest continuous gain in private sector job growth in American history. Just last year, Americans saw a 5.2 percent jump in median family income — the largest single-year increase since record-keeping began.
One the most notable bearers of false warnings regarding economic policies is the current speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. In response to the economic policies of Obama, Ryan warned about “inflation’s looming shadow.” He kept harping on the “debasement of the dollar” under Obama. He also wrote that environmental regulations would drive up prices. He further complained that Obama would drive up the deficit.
How far off the mark was Ryan? Answer: Wrong on every count. Regarding the strength of the dollar, when Obama took office, you’d have to spend $1.35 to get one euro. Now it takes only a bit more than a buck. The inflation rate is about as low as it has been in decades. And the annual deficit? Obama has cut that by almost three-quarters.
I could list many, many more examples of Republican false prophesying — remember “death panels”? However, my motive for bringing up these examples is not just a big “I told you so.” The reason is that we now hear many more predictions from Ryan, Trump, etc., about the impact of their proposals. So when they say tax breaks for billionaires will create jobs, more dirty fuels won’t harm the environment, repealing the Affordable Care Act won’t lead to poorer health care, or a Muslim ban will make us safer, don’t forget how wrong they’ve been in the past.
Spencer Black represented the 77th Assembly District for 26 years and was chair of the Natural Resources Committee. He currently serves as the vice president of the national Sierra Club and is an adjunct professor of urban and regional planning at UW-Madison.
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