WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama did some cherry-picking Tuesday night in defense of his record on jobs and laid out a conditional path to citizenship for illegal immigrants that may be less onerous than he made it sound.
A look at some of the claims in his State of the Union speech, a glance at the Republican counterargument and how they fit with the facts:
OBAMA: "After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over 6 million new jobs."
THE FACTS: That's in the ballpark, as far as it goes. But Obama starts his count not when he took office, but from the point in his first term when job losses were the highest. In doing so, he ignores the 5 million or so jobs that were lost on his watch, up to that point.
Private sector jobs have grown by 6.1 million since February 2010. But since he became president, the gain is 1.9 million.
And when losses in public sector employment are added to the mix, his overall jobs record is close to a wash. And when losses in public sector employment are added to the mix, his overall jobs record is a gain of 1.2 million.
OBAMA: "We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas."
THE FACTS: Not so fast.
That's expected to happen in 12 more years.
Under a deal the Obama administration reached with automakers in 2011, vehicles will have a corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, twice the 27 miles per gallon, on average, that cars and trucks get today. Automobile manufacturers won't start making changes to achieve the new fuel economy standards until model year 2017. Not all cars will double their gas mileage, since the standard is based on an average of a manufacturers' fleet.
OBAMA: "I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."
THE FACTS: Obama failed to get a global warming bill through Congress when both Houses were controlled by Democrats in 2010. With Republicans in control of the House, the chances of a bill to limit the gases blamed for global warming and to create a market for businesses to trade pollution credits are close to zero. The Obama administration has already acted to control greenhouse gases through existing law. It has boosted fuel-efficiency standards and proposed rules to control heat-trapping emissions from new power plants. And while there are still other ways to address climate change without Congress, it's questionable regulation alone can achieve the reductions needed to start curbing global warming.
FLORIDA SEN. MARCO RUBIO, in the Republican response: "The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending $1 trillion more than it takes in every year. That's why we need a balanced-budget amendment."
THE FACTS: That statement may reflect the math behind recent debt, but it doesn't get directly to the cause — the worst recession since the Depression and its aftereffects. The deficit is not only caused by spending, but by reduced tax revenues. And during the recession, revenues from both individual and corporate taxes fell markedly.
The steep increases in debt and the measures that should be taken to ease the burden are central to the debate in Washington. But there is no serious move afoot to amend the Constitution to prohibit deficit spending.
The ability to take on debt has been used by governments worldwide and through U.S. history to shelter people from the ravages of a down economy, wage war and achieve many other ends. An effort to amend the Constitution for any purpose faces daunting odds; this would be no exception. Most state constitutions demand a balanced budget, but states lack some big obligations of the federal government, including national defense. And Washington's ability to go deeper into debt provides states with at least a minimal safety net in times of high unemployment.