Speaking at an event hosted by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) linked the economic policies of President Obama with those of the much-maligned Jimmy Carter. "Historically, the economy has grown 3.3 percent a year since World War II," he said. "There are only two four-year periods where growth averaged less than 1 percent: 1978 to 1982, coming out of the Jimmy Carter administration, and 2008 to 2012. Same failed economic policies." If you didn't catch it, Cruz employed a nifty little bit of rhetorical spin there. What he's actually comparing isn't Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. It's Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.
A few years ago, a statewide poll in Louisiana found that nearly a third of Republicans in the Pelican State blamed President Obama for the poor federal response to Hurricane Katrina. The nonsense was almost amusing -- Katrina hit in August 2005; Obama was inaugurated in January 2009.
But Louisiana Republicans aren't the only ones blaming the president for things that happened before he took office. Philip Bump had this nice catch yesterday:
Exactly right. Cruz is playing a dishonest little game, assuming that his audience isn't smart enough to notice the con. Indeed, the right-wing senator told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that President Carter and President Obama both embraced "out-of-control spending" (which is brazenly wrong), approved higher taxes (Obama has cut middle-class taxes); and produced "stagnation" (which doesn't accurately describe the Obama era).
But the real trick is which numbers Cruz chooses as important.
For one thing, the Republican senator ties Obama to the 2008 crash, which is foolish given the fact that Obama took office in 2009. Indeed, for Cruz to blame poor economic conditions in 2009 on the president is equally unfair given that Obama was still rescuing the country from the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression.
For another thing, if Cruz is looking for "four-year periods," he could have picked 2010 to 2014 to at least capture part of the Obama era in earnest, but that wouldn't prove his predetermined point, so he fudges the numbers in a ridiculously dishonest way.
Indeed, let's not brush past the fact that Cruz wants to blame Carter for Reagan's first two years in office, but doesn't want to blame Bush for Obama's first two years office. That's silly, but again, Cruz is counting on audiences not to pay attention to the details.
Finally, there's no reason to accept the premise that we've witnessing "failed economic policies." Cruz picks a metric -- GDP growth -- and then plays a lazy trick with the calendar, but we could just as easily pick a different metric -- say, creating American jobs -- and notice that Obama's record of spending, taxes, and regulations has led to very strong job growth and a sharp drop in unemployment.
In fact, job growth in 2014 was the strongest in 15 years, better than the entirety of both Bush presidencies, and better than much of the Clinton and Reagan eras. How does Cruz explain this? He can't, so he once again hopes the public doesn't notice.
Bump's report concluded, "Ted Cruz prides himself on his rhetorical ability; his skill in debate is integral to his political story. But the line he laid out [Wednesday] is pure rhetoric and zero substance."