Reading Time: 2 minutes


LENGTH: 30 seconds

AIRING: It’s the first ad in a $25 million series of commercials airing in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, Colorado and Nevada.

KEY IMAGES: A female narrator says, “America’s jobless rate is still too high” as the screen shows a long line of workers, presumably unemployed and applying for jobs.

“Barack Obama’s got lots of excuses for the bad economy,” the narrator says as a photo shows Obama pointing a finger. A string of brief Obama sound bites follows, including “Headwinds coming from Europe”, “We’ve had a string of bad luck”, “An earthquake in Japan”, “An Arab spring”, “Some things that we could not control” and “We’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades.” Large text of Obama’s words amplify the message.

The narrator concludes, “But Barack Obama never blames Washington’s wild spending and skyrocketing debt. Tell Obama: for real job growth, cut the debt.”

ANALYSIS: The ad sponsored by Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit arm of a Republican super PAC, accuses President Barack Obama of making excuses instead of taking bolder action, such as tackling the nation’s debt and curbing federal spending, to create more jobs.

Fixing the struggling economy and creating jobs are the dominant issues in the presidential race. Obama is on the defensive over recent lackluster jobs reports. Last month his campaign aired an ad blaming a divided Congress for not passing his jobs plan.

Crossroads GPS is the sister group of American Crossroads, a super PAC that has promised to raise millions to defeat Obama. Like a flood of other ads from both sides this election season, this commercial is airing in states that are expected to be competitive.

Because the ad relies on a jumble of sound bites strung together, there’s scant context for what Obama was trying to say in each case. Europe’s economic struggles and upheaval in the Middle East, for example, do at times impact the U.S. economy.

The ad also oversimplifies the role of federal debt in the broader economy. And it doesn’t tell the full story about presidents and the limited power they have over the economy, particularly on federal spending and the deficit.

Because Congress controls federal spending, presidents must work with lawmakers on cutting the federal deficit. That puts much of what can be done about deficits beyond the sole control of any president. A great deal depends on which party controls the House and Senate.

It’s difficult, too, to blame the economy’s weakness on the sheer magnitude of the debt. The economy is weak largely because it is still staggering from the Great Recession, which officially ran from December 2007 to June 2009.

Many economists put it the other way around, saying the debt is high because of the weak economy. Businesses and families are saving more these days, and the government’s spending of borrowed money is one way the economy has been propped up.

The growing debt problem existed before Obama came into office, and the economy itself bears much of the blame. The debt grew under tax cuts enacted by former President George W. Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan paid for by borrowing. The emergency financial bailout begun by Bush a few months before he left office added to the red ink, as did Obama’s 2009 stimulus package.

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