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How true are Obama's claims about the economy?

Compiled by Sam Turner

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Jan. 14 2016 2:55 p.m. MST

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., listen as President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Susan Walsh, AP

In President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address Tuesday, he made some bold claims about the economy.

"The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world," said Obama. "Anyone claiming that America's economy is in decline is peddling fiction."

Obama was able to cite several figures that represent an upturn in our economy. Fact-checkers went to work and published their findings on the Internet within hours.

Here is what they found:

Health care

Obama said that “nearly 18 million people have gained coverage” due to the Affordable Care Act. That is true. But the president's claim that the ACA is responsible for the slow inflation of health care costs is suspect.

According to USA Today, the low rates of growth are more likely "a reflection of the sluggish economy" and that the ACA has had a "minimal impact."

The government’s most recent projections estimate the ACA costs $506 billion from the current to the 2019 fiscal year.

The White House also reports, however, that the ACA implements cost-curbing measures and eliminates waste, reducing the deficit by a projected $1 trillion over the next 20 years.

Already some of these savings can be seen. For example, U.S. News reports that in 2014, hospitals saved $7.4 billion on uncompensated care costs because of the ACA.

Employment

The president highlighted an "unemployment rate cut in half." USA Today noted this is only true if "measured from the worst point of his presidency," the rate of 10 percent in 2009. After this spike in unemployment during Obama's first year in office, the rate has eventually reached 5 percent as recorded in December 2015.

According to USA Today, Obama also overstated his achievements stating that in the last six years we have seen 900,000 new jobs in manufacturing. The national newspaper said during Obama's eight years as president, the number of manufacturing jobs has actually had a net decrease of 230,000.

There are still almost 8 million jobless Americans as recorded in December 2015, a large portion of which are recent college graduates. According to Newsweek, the millennial generation makes up 40 percent of America's unemployed.

The president did recognize this problem, stating that "a great education isn't all we need in this new economy." Obama hopes that strengthening Social Security and Medicaid will help Americans to navigate career mobility and periods of unemployment.

Defense spending

Obama's comments served to pacify paranoia over weakened defenses and persuade Americans to a Democrat position of conservative military spending.

During his presidency, Obama has tried to cut back on military spending and vetoed a $612 defense bill in October 2015. Many of those seeking the Republican 2016 presidential nomination have listed increased military as one of their top priorities.

Obama denied having "diminished American strength" and reminded Americans that the United States spends "more on our military than the next eight nations combined," and that claim was found to be "mostly true" by Politifact.

Budget deficit

Obama claims that his administration "cut our deficits by almost three-quarters."

USA Today and Politifact confirmed this claim is essentially true.

Politifact explained, however, that the decrease in deficits is partly made possible by a massive increase in deficits in FY2009. In other words, the administration's spending at the beginning of his presidency, including stimulus packages to help resuscitate the failing economy, has largely distorted the decrease he reported.

Princeton economics professor Harvey Rosen told Politifact that the government will not be able to keep the deficits stable. Programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would have to undergo "substantial reform," he says.