Tag: Barack Obama

Does the U.S. Lead the World in Mass Shootings?

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

An inevitable talking point following any mass public shooting is that such tragedies “simply don’t happen” anywhere else in the world. Former President Barack Obama famously said following the 2015 Charleston church shooting which killed nine, that “This type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.”

To support the claim, the White House released a statement citing research from criminologist Adam Lankford, which concluded the U.S. has roughly 5% of the world’s population, but 31% of the world’s mass shootings (with 90 of 292 mass shootings having a minimum of four victims having occurred in the U.S.). The time-frame was from 1966-2012, and put the blame on America’s gun laws and gun culture. The study also found that American mass shootings tend to be carried out with multiple weapons, while mass shootings abroad tend to be carried out with a single weapon (though interestingly the average death toll per shooting is lower in the U.S. despite that, with about 6.87 victims per incident in the U.S. and 8.8 per incident abroad). 

Countless publications cited the study as proof that mass shootings are a uniquely American problem, but a new study found serious flaws in Lankford’s research, concluding instead that despite having 4.6% of the world’s population and 40% of the world’s firearms, we in the U.S. experience just 2.88% of the world’s mass shootings. According to the study, authored by John Lott and titled “How a Botched Study Fooled the World About the U.S. Share of Mass Public Shootings: U.S. Rate is Lower than Global Average“:

Lankford claims to have “complete” data on such shooters in 171 countries. However, because he has neither identified the cases nor their location nor even a complete description on how he put the cases together, it is impossible to replicate his findings.

It is particularly important that Lankford share his data because of the extreme difficulty in finding mass shooting cases in remote parts of the world going back to 1966. Lack of media coverage could easily lead to under-counting of foreign mass shootings, which would falsely lead to the conclusion that the U.S. has such a large share.

As it turned out, Lankford massively under-counted mass shootings abroad, giving the U.S. an unjustly high share of the world’s mass shootings in his findings. Lott’s study used the same criteria for mass shootings as Lankford, though his researchers relied on a wide array of crime databases to search for mass shootings, and also hired people who spoke Chinese, French, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and other languages to scour international sources Lankford may have missed.

And boy did Lankford miss a lot. Lott’s list include:

1,448 attacks and at least 3,081 shooters outside the United States over just the last 15 years of the period that Lankford examined (1998-2012). We find at least fifteen times more mass public shooters than Lankford in less than a third the number of years. Coding these events sometimes involves subjectivity. But even when we use coding choices that are most charitable to Lankford, his 31 percent estimate of the US’s share of world mass public shooters is cut by over 95 percent. By our count, the US makes up less than 1.43% of the mass public shooters, 2.11% of their murders, and 2.88% of their attacks. All these are much less than the US’s 4.6% share of the world population. Attacks in the US are not only less frequent than other countries, they are also much less deadly on average.

In other words, the U.S. has had 43 mass shootings between 1998 to 2012, compared to 1,448 from the rest of the world. 

While there’s an impression that mass shootings are on the rise in the U.S., that’s certainly not true relative to the rest of the world:

And aside from mass shootings, America is not a uniquely violent country despite widespread gun ownership. Americans commit just 3.7% of the world’s murders, despite having 4.6% of the world’s population and 40% of the world’s firearms.

Yes, Trump is Tougher on Russia than Obama

Actions speak louder than media rhetoric, and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to President Donald Trump’s supposed romance with the Kremlin. It is amusing to note how randomly the Left seems to create new villains, given that as recently as the 2012 presidential election, showing any concern over Russia’s global influence was laughable to Democrats.

Now, all of a sudden, not only are the Russians public enemy no. 1, they’d supposedly been in cahoots with a Republican presidential candidate and now-President. Vladimir Putin did admit that he preferred President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election at the Helsinki Summit (leading some liberals to cite this as “proof” of collusion), but those same liberals didn’t notice (or care) that Putin also preferred Obama over Romney in 2012.

It’s not hard to see why. As the left-leaning Brookings Institute reminds us:

  • Obama turned a blind eye to Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008.
  • In 2009 Obama axed missile defense plans for Poland and the Czech Republic, which Russia interpreted as America retreating from the European continent. Russia then became more interventionist in Europe.
  • Obama didn’t utter a peep as Russia annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014.
  • Obama ignored calls from Congress, foreign policy experts, and members of his own cabinet to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine.

Obama has also been criticized by his fellow Democrats for not doing enough in response to the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC (which they now claim didn’t occur), or the alleged Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton’s private email server (which we now know was done by the Chinese).

Biggest of all however is the failure of Obama’s attempted “Russia reset” in 2009, which began with Hillary Clinton literally traveling to Russia with a “reset” button” that vaguely resembled one of those “That Was Easy” buttons you’ll see in a Staples commercial. The word “reset” was misspelled on the button, and things only went downhill from there. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul was the architect of the reset plan – and encouraged future administrations to not pursue the same policies that the Obama administration did. Bill Clinton also deemed the attempted “reset” a failure.

Unlike Obama, Trump hasn’t been weak on Russia. Trump has said he’s the “toughest on Russia,” and while he’s no stranger to hyperbole, there’s no question that he was tougher than his predecessor.

While Trump isn’t shy to heap praise on Putin, you wouldn’t think the two had a cozy relationship if we were to judge Trump only by the actions he’s taken towards Russia as President.

  • Trump did approve the sale of lethal weapons to Ukraine in December 2017.
  • On the annexation of Crimea, Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated “We do not recognize Russia’s attempt to annex Crimea. We agree to disagree with Russia on that front. And our Crimea sanctions against Russia will remain in place until Russia returns the peninsula to the Ukraine.”
  • Trump has ordered missiles to be fired at Syrian military sites (after President Assad was accused of using chemical weapons on his own people), which have a strategic alliance with Russia. In response, Putin accused the U.S. of “making the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Syria even worse and bring[ing] suffering to civilians with its strikes.”
  • In August 2017, Trump signed into law CAATSA, the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” which imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia. In the words of the geopolitical intelligence platform Stratfor, “CAATSA demonstrates that the United States is more strident than ever in pushing other countries to reduce their defense and energy ties with Russia.”
  • In March, following the poisoning (presumably by the Russian government) of former KGB agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Trump expelled 60 Russian diplomats.
  • In April, Trump imposed more sanctions on Russia following the indictments of 13 Russians for “malicious cyber activities” earlier in March. Russia’s stock market dropped 11% on the news. Shares of the Russian aluminum giant Rusal (which is the world’s second largest aluminium company) tanked 40% on the news.

And what’s the evidence that Trump has been kind to Russia? Because Trump says nice things about Putin, and vice versa?

In reality, the two are respectful to one another despite politics – not because of them.

 

Did Obama’s Stimulus Work?

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

Is former President Barack Obama to thank for pulling us out of the worst financial crisis since the Great Recession? His trillion dollar stimulus generated plenty of debate, and there’s no question that we did rebound from recession under his administration, but how connected are the two, and how does this recovery compare to countless others in history?

It should’ve been a red flag to most observers when the Obama administration began inventing new economic terms to measure the stimulus’ alleged success, such as how many jobs were being “saved or created” by it. Obama told us not long after passing the stimulus that it had created or saved 150,000 jobs in June, and would save or create another 600,000 by September. How the heck does one measure a “saved” job? Simple, create a baseline prediction (for example: predict the economy will lose a million jobs next month), and then if the economy were to only lose 200,000 jobs, Obama could claim he “saved” 800,000 jobs. Convenient, right?

It’s never a vote of confidence when the statistics are being tortured to prove a point, and when measured using conventional (i.e. real) statistics, the stimulus didn’t live up to its own hype.

The Stimulus Did Not Meet the Obama Administration’s Own Predictions

Prior to passing the stimulus to find out what’s in it (wrong bill, I know), the Obama administration predicted the unemployment rate would never top 8% with the stimulus passed. But in absence of the stimulus, we were told that unemployment would touch 9 percent.

And now that enough time has passed to do a full comparison, here’s what actually happened:

As you may have noticed, not only did unemployment crack eight percent, nine percent, and ten percent, the actual unemployment rate was always higher than the unemployment rate that was predicted without the stimulus. 

And if that wasn’t bad enough…

The Unemployment Rate Was STILL Higher Than Advertised!

Despite unemployment being higher than predicted in absence of the stimulus, the true rate is still masked in large part because the labor force participation rate declined. A person is only counted as unemployed if they’re out of work and currently looking for work. But if an unemployed worker simply gives up looking, they’re no longer counted as “unemployed” in the statistics, even though their situation remains unchanged.

The headline unemployment you often see is the U-3 unemployment rate. The U-6 unemployment rate adds back in discouraged workers to the statistics, and you can see what a difference that makes:

Since Obama taking office to his departure, the number of Americans employed rose by 9.9 million – compared to 14.6 million who left the labor force. In other words, nearly 50% more left the labor force, than became employed. The labor force participate rate of those aged 65 and older actually increased during the Obama years, meaning this shrinkage in the labor force under his watch cannot be attributed to people leaving the labor force by retiring.

The Speed of the Recovery

The fact that the economy recovered under Obama doesn’t say much, given that all economies go through cycles. What is notable is the glacial pace at which the economy recovered. As Forbes Magazine noted:

The Obama recovery of the last seven years remains the worst in postwar American history. Average gross domestic product (GDP) growth since the bottom of the recession in 2009 was barely above 2.1% per year. The average since 1949 is well above 4% per year during the previous 10 expansions.

 

Had Obama’s recovery kept pace with historical averages, incomes would’ve been 20% higher at the end his presidency than they actually were.

How’s that for a recovery?

Is Obama to Thank for the Trump Economy?

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

The stock market is on a historic tear, unemployment is at records low, inflation remains under control, and the labor participation rate may finally began to tick upwards once again.

But should we be thanking Trump? Not according to the partisans.

  • “Here are two words we won’t hear President Trump say tonight about the economy — ‘Thanks Obama‘”   says Chuck Schumer.
  • “I don’t understand why, well, maybe I do why the folks in the Trump administration won’t admit that the economy was doing well under President Obama,” CNN’s Don Lemon. (Humorously, a conservative guest quipped in response that Trump should thank Obama for not being President anymore).
  • In December 2017, Obama himself decided to pat himself on the back for the economic landscape under Trump. “As we took these actions, we saw the U.S. economy grow consistently,” former President Obama “We saw the longest streak of job creation in American history by far, a streak that still continues by the way.”

While I’d agree that the typical person credits the President (regardless of who it may be) far too much for the positive or negative state of the economy, that doesn’t mean we can’t prove that things are better off than had Obama remained in office.

How do we know? We can look at the Congressional Budget Office’s predictions for economic growth in past reports, and compare them to realized growth under Trump.

For instance, in 2016, the CBO projected real economic growth of 2.2 percent in 2017, and 2.1 percent growth in 2018.

Growth came in relatively close in 2017, at 2.3 percent, but 2018 is where things begin to diverge. Remember, it wasn’t until the end of 2017 that Trump signed his tax package – the main catalyst we’d expect for growth under his presidency.

As one writer for Investors Business Daily noted:

Last June (2017), the CBO said GDP growth for 2018 would be just 2%. Now it figures growth will be 3.3% — a significant upward revision. It also boosted its forecast for 2019 from a meager 1.5% to a respectable 2.4%.

“Underlying economic conditions have improved in some unexpected ways since June,” the CBO says. Unexpected to the CBO, perhaps, but not to those of us who understood that Trump’s tax cuts and deregulatory efforts would boosts growth.

Economists agree too.

The Wall Street Journal polled a number of business, financial and academic economists on if Trump in January 2018 on who was more responsible for the current economy, most of which “suggested Mr. Trump’s election deserves at least some credit” for the upturn. Additionally, a majority said the president had been “somewhat” or “strongly” positive for job creation, gross domestic product growth and the rising stock market.

Are we supposed to believe that it’s a coincidence that business confidence and the stock market didn’t begin their recent liftoff until after Trump was elected? The Dow Jones Index’s 1-year gain following Trump’s victory was the largest post-election bull run since 1945.

If the market loved the Obama presidency, it sure has a weird way of showing it.