A Full Fact-Check of Niall Ferguson’s Newsweek Piece
It appears that Niall Ferguson’s attack on President Obama in Newsweek is full of inaccuracies. That doesn’t surprise me considering previous criticisms by fellow academics like these and this one, as well as some of the fear mongering pieces he’s written in the past, like Eurabia? and his AEI lecture, The End of Europe?
Oh, and it looks like he’s gotten into another spat with Paul Krugman for calling him out (again). Also see Business Insider’s piece, Niall Ferguson Publishes Embarrassing Defense Of Newsweek Article.
Celebrity historian Niall Ferguson doesn’t like President Obama, and doesn’t think you should either.
That’s perfectly fine. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to disapprove of the president. Here’s the big one: 8.3 percent. That’s the current unemployment rate, fully three years on from the official end of the Great Recession. But rather than make this straightforward case against the current administration, Ferguson delves into a fantasy world of incorrect and tendentious facts. He simply gets things wrong, again and again and again. (A point my colleague James Fallows makes as well in a must-read.)
Here’s a tour of some of the more factually challenged sections of Ferguson’s piece.
“Certainly, the stock market is well up (by 74 percent) relative to the close on Inauguration Day 2009. But the total number of private-sector jobs is still 4.3 million below the January 2008 peak.”
Did you catch that little switcheroo? Ferguson concedes that stocks have done very well since January 2009, but then says that private sector payrolls have not since January 2008. Notice now? Ferguson blames Obama for job losses that happened a full year before he took office. The private sector has actually added jobs since Obama was sworn in — 427,000 of them, to be exact. For context, remember that the private sector lost 170,000 jobs during George W. Bush’s eight years.
Of course, it’s not really fair to blame Obama — or Bush — for jobs lost in their first few months before their policies took effect. If we more sensibly look at private sector payrolls after their first six months in office, then Obama has created 3.1 million jobs and Bush created 967,000 jobs.
“Meanwhile real median annual household income has dropped more than 5 percent since June 2009.”
I can’t replicate this result. It’s difficult, because Ferguson does not cite his source. The Census Bureau only has data on real median household incomes through 2010 — and it shows them falling 2.28 percent from 2009. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has numbers on real median weekly earnings that go through 2012, but those only show a 3.7 percent decrease from June 2009.