Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fact check of political "talking points"

Fact check of political "talking points"
Definition: “Talking point” - A talking point in debate or discourse is a succinct statement designed to persuasively support one side taken on an issue.
In politics “talking points” are used strategically to emphasize one side’s perceived strength or weakness on a particular issue.  Republicans and Democrats both use “talking points” ad nauseum  as a way to gain support from voters.  Unfortunately “talking points” rarely provide an accurate representation of the facts.  The “talking point” I am hearing of late, that is driving me nuts, and the “talking point” I will examine in this post is….
“When President Obama came into office gas prices were $1.84 per gallon.”
“Gas prices have more than doubled since the day President Obama took office.”
This “talking point” from Republicans highlights what they see as a weakness in President Obama…his energy policy. Now the obvious implication of this "talking point" is that President Obama's energy policy is so bad that it has caused gas prices to double since his inauguration. I am not going to debate the opinion of whether President Obama is weak on energy policy (in my opinion EVERY president is weak on energy policy), but what I am going to do is provide some context, some perspective on the rise of oil/gas prices since 2009.    
So first, is the statement itself accurate?  In January of 2009 were gas prices really around $1.84/gallon?  YES! Strictly looking at the dates and the prices of gas the “talking point” is accurate.  Well, case closed thanks for visiting my blog, come back again soon…right? No, not really.  See this is the tricky thing about “talking points” whether they are coming from the Republican side or Democratic side, at first glance they seem to be a true and accurate statement.  But what happens when you put those facts in perspective? What happens when you get some context?  That is where things start to unravel, if you could, please think back to January of 2009... what was the economy like?
When President Obama took office in January 2009 our own American economy was in freefall from the economic collapse (no finger pointing just saying the economy did collapse).  Nationally, Americans were losing 500,000+ jobs per month, and globally the economic picture wasn’t much better, entire countries were going bankrupt.  In response to this national and global economic disaster, the oil/gas markets reacted and prices dropped dramatically as demand evaporated. 

Simple economics…High supply +Low demand = Low price of goods.  Look closely at the dates in this chart.  As you can see, President Obama took office at the same time oil/gas prices bottomed out in response to the economic collapse (closest date on the chart is 1/12/2009).  So while on its face the Republican “talking point” about gas prices may be technically true, it certainly does NOT tell the whole story.   Are gas prices on the rise?  Yes they are but as I addressed in my previous post ( oil/gas prices are set by GLOBAL MARKETS not by the President, Congress or anyone else.  The “talking point” might be a good line for rallying the Republican base, but the narrative it tries to create just doesn’t hold up, even under the simplest of scrutiny. 

Does this post make you wonder about the validity of other "talking points"? If so, which ones?