PoliGraph: Fact checking the Obama visit

President Barack Obama visited Minnesota today to raise some campaign money and to deliver a speech at Honeywell International in Golden Valley on the economy and a new plan to help veterans find jobs.

PoliGraph checked claims from Obama’s speech and from Tim Pawlenty, a surrogate for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and found some truth and some exaggeration.

President Barack Obama, in his speech at Honeywell International:

Giving a speech about the economy and job creation on a day when the Labor Department announces less than impressive jobs numbers isn’t ideal.

But that’s exactly the position Obama found himself in. Though the unemployment rate increased and only 69,000 jobs were created in May, the fewest in a year, Obama played up the fact that millions of jobs have been created since February 2010, the low point of the recession.

“Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months,” Obama said.

That’s true of private sector employment according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though it’s important to note that total non-farm employment has increased by only 3.8 million largely due to declines in public sector employment.

And while 4.3 million jobs sounds good, it’s still about 4.6 million below where it was in January 2008, the high point of private sector employment before the recession.

So the president’s statement is accurate, but it lacks some context.

Obama also talked about specifically about manufacturing jobs.

“Manufacturing is consistently adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s,” he said.

The last time the manufacturing industry created jobs was 1997, when 288,000 positions were added in the sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But subsequently, the manufacturing sector experienced a net loss every year.

In 2010, things started to turn around. That year, the industry created a net 117,000 jobs; in 2011, a net 181,000 jobs were created; and so far in 2012, 93,000 manufacturing jobs have been created.

The president’s statement is accurate.

Tim Pawlenty, on a conference call with reporters:

Pawlenty told reporters that even the president’s host for the day is critical of his record.

“In an interesting twist, the CEO of Honeywell, one of the facilities that the president is going to visit today in Minnesota, a Honeywell facility, has specifically cited the president’s inability and lack of progress in tackling the deficit and debt in this country as a leading factor for why the economy is not recovering and why it’s being stifled,” Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty is talking about Honeywell CEO David Cote, a member of Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Pawlenty’s talking point comes from a GOP brief on Cote’s comments about the debt and deficit, which he has called the “seeds of the next recession.”

Cote has made clear many times that he believes solving the nation’s debt problem is critical to create jobs, saying, for instance, that the biggest thing government could do “is to get that debt problem sorted out because if they just remove the uncertainty blanket that’s over everything right now, that would do more to stimulate demand and to stimulate confidence.”

He’s expressed frustration that Washington failed to reach a deal on the debt ceiling last year, and that the Bowles-Simpson Plan, a proposal that Cote helped create as part of Obama’s fiscal commission that encourages spending cuts and tax increases to solve the debt crisis, has been largely ignored by leaders from both parties, including the president.

But Cote hasn’t singled the president out for criticism. In fact, Obama and Cote appear to have a good relationship. Cote was with Obama during his speech, and he has spoken favorably of Obama’s stimulus plan. The Wall Street Journal called him “one of President Barack Obama’s go-to CEOs.”

When asked by a reporter Pawlenty even conceded later in the call that Cote never criticized Obama directly.

“I don’t think he did by name, but he did highlight the problem,” said Pawlenty. “And the problem has undeniably been worsened by President Obama.”

So, it’s true that Cote has criticized Washington in general for not acting to deal with the nation’s debt, and that includes the president. But he has not specifically said it’s Obama’s fault, as Pawlenty implied. That makes Pawlenty’s claim misleading.


Republican National Committee, Is the Debt King Listening, May 31, 2012

The White House, President Obama Names Members of Bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Feb. 26, 2010

Fox Business, Honeywell CEO on the Debt Talks, Jul 27, 2011

Fox Business, Honeywell CEO: Debt is a Huge Issue, Jan. 24, 2012

Honeywell, Dave Cote Introduces President Obama at White House Media Briefing on U.S. Recovery Plan, Jan. 27, 2009

The Wall Street Journal, Honeywell Takes the Lead in Political Giving, by Andy Pasztor and Brody Mullins, Oct. 13, 2010

The Associated Press, As unemployment nudges up, Republicans pounce, by Christopher S. Rugaber, May 31, 2012

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics, private and total non-farm employment data, accessed May 31, 2012

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics, total manufacturing employment data 1990-2012, accessed May 31, 2012

FactCheck.org, The State of Obama’s Facts, January 26, 2012

  • Ace

    So with the bad job report as a backdrop, all I had to hear about tonights poligraph was that it was Obama and Pawlenty who would be checked to know the results. Come on MPR, you’re embarassing youself and looking quite unprofessional while doing so.

  • Jamie

    Why do you waste time and bandwidth on fact-checking what Pawlenty said about Cote or what Cote said about Obama? How about fact-checking somethign that MATTERS, like whether it’s true that the debt or deficit levels really effect the unemployment situation, and how important that effect really is (if there is one)? Or how about fact-checking other claims that Republicans make about how the current economy situation is all Obama’s fault — like, how much can Obama really do by himself? Or how about how Republicans in Congress have vowed to not do anything constructive about the economy (i.e., essentially sabotage our economy) in order to make Obama “a one-term president”?

  • JoeG

    What a joke, Republicans tanked the country and congress continues it,,, What a shame,,,, Sure it should only take a few months to get the economy back to where it should be, Mutt definitely knows what the working class in this country needs. God help us,,,,

  • Sue B

    Excuse me, this is Absolutely ridiculus. You know for a FACT that ALL the months of net job losses that occurred during Obama’s watch were in his 1st year & the worst of them his 1st 6 months. In the last months of 2008 & the 1st 6 monthsof 2009 we had lost 8 million jobs. No blame just FACT when this president took office we had been BLEEDING jobs at an average of 700k for a couple months the month he was sworn in we lost 800K job, more than ANY month in 60 years. The economy had lost $10Trillion in wealth & the average American had lost $100K in wealth. We had a world economy in collapse. How in HECK can you blame him for not completely filling the hole the last guy dug???? Wow, unbelievable. How come I never heard you blame FDR for the great depression, huh?? Look, I know you guys are scared the GOP will cut your funding & your popularity depends on a generally older white Obama-hating audience & the Koch bros fund you big time…. But get real…have some guts to be freaken honest & speak the truth. Im disgusted with you.

  • Sue B

    As a matter of fact, I am DONE giving ANY money to PBS or ever again calling my Congressman when the GOP wants to cut you. Go for it GOP they are every bit as worthless as you think they are.

  • Charles Irving

    It’s amazing how many have forgotten what made America a great country. We were built on a spirit of daring-do and defiance, community service and self-reliance. These form the bedrock of our founding, and the principles thrive to today.

    We are NOT a hand-me-down from an abdication of monarchy or feudal lords that our citizens could expect “protection” for life. In fact, we fought the Civil War and abandoned the psuedo-paternalistic hypocrisy of slavery to rid ourselves of a circuitous and dishonest return to human indignity.

    So why are we expecting ANYONE, including the POTUS and Congress to save us when we should be doing this on our own? At best, the POTUS and Congress are custodians of a framework for our ability to thrive and enable a better world, they are NOT elected to tell us what is and is not right.

    Having lived in several countries as ex-pat’s, our blue-sky optimism as Americans came under increasing re-examination as we witnessed first hand how other nations struggle with their own destiny.

    Beyond the old-world military carnage in the former Yugoslavia, North Africa and now the Arab world, some modern states are steadfastly refusing to cave into debt (UK, Germany, Italy until recently), while others are voting out their leaders who dared to bring the necessary objectivity to their entitlement mentality that has emptied their Treasuries (Spain, Greece, Japan, France).

    Meanwhile, totalitarian regimes don’t give their people a choice and just serve their own agendas (Ukraine, North Korea, China, Russia). Human right violations abound – told and untold.

    So where do you want America to fit in? Which of these countries do you think is doing better than we are and HOW are they doing it? Do you want their culture and political system imposed on us?

    The POTUS has a first duty and responsibility to America. The right POTUS will see not only what is happening here at home but survey through an international and historical context to validate our direction based on who we are and our cultural underpinnings. Lest not impose any ideology that will not fly – as it only brings instability that ultimately costs us. This doctrine applies to both parties.

    What I can safely state is there is not ONE country that has an entitlement-pushing administration can boast an innovative and self-reliant population where work ethic prevails over consumption. Not ONE. And America used to have it in spades with the “can-do” attitude. From our current position, we are at best a “can-pay” country even though we have zero means to do so.

    So in November, open your eyes and see if America’s true standing in history can so dramatically shift from the essence of daring-do and self-reliance to panhandling for crumps. Check the right box so a 75% income tax will not happen to American innovators like it is happening in France (it is already at 71%), and sort through the rhetoric of both camps and ask – which candidate will take us down a path to the possibilities of America’s greatness again in a world full of economic and ideologic foes?

    The one who stands up in the true spirit of this great country will get my vote.