"We are going to have the candidate of food stamps, the finest food stamp president in American history, in Barack Obama, and we are going to have a candidate of paychecks."
-- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Tuesday on CNBC
As speaker, Gingrich helped push through the signature welfare overhaul that then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996. When Clinton, after two vetoes, agreed to accept the legislation, he shrewdly noted that he was eliminating the welfare system forever more as a campaign issue.
"After I sign my name to this bill, welfare will no longer be a political issue," Clinton said. "The two parties cannot attack each other over it."
Having eliminated welfare as a campaign issue, Gingrich now appears to be trying to breathe life into "son of welfare" by attacking President Barack Obama as the "finest food stamp president." But he has explicitly rejected the idea that this is a not-so-subtle form of racial imagery.
In any case, how accurate is the claim that Obama is the "food stamp president" ?
The food stamp program is formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is administered by the Agriculture Department. It is broadly available to almost all households with low incomes, although most of the benefits go to families with children. It also has massive support from the farm lobby, which is why GOP efforts to cut it back have often failed.
Gingrich is correct that the number of people on food stamps has reached an all-time high. Of course, the economic aftershocks of the Great Recession, which was in full force before Obama took office, has a lot to do with that.
Obama's stimulus bill temporarily boosted benefits even more. The Obama administration also announced that it was pushing to expand eligibility.
Calling Obama the "finest food stamp president" in history is an example of taking a fact, an all-time high for food stamp recipients, out of context. Obama is struggling with the aftermath of an economic situation he inherited, while building on food stamp changes that preceded his tenure.
"Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1 percent -- 1 percent. That is the height of unfairness."
-- Obama on Tuesday
This is a striking statistic in the president's big speech from Osawatomie, Kan. But the only evidence that the White House could offer for it was a clip of a conversation on Bloomberg TV, in which correspondent Gigi Stone made this assertion during a discussion about the strategies that the very wealthy use to avoid paying taxes.
Stone quoted from a Bloomberg News article last month that reported on such tax strategies, which mostly involve complicated ways to defer paying capital gains taxes.
But the article never made the 1 percent claim.
It is impossible to know the financial circumstances of the handful of apparent billionaires who may have lowered their taxes to 1 percent, but there may be reasonable explanations.
For instance, the person may be retired and generating no new income, while keeping investments in tax-deferred entities.
To bolster his case about unfairness in the economy, the president is relying on a suspect statistic about billionaires paying as little as 1 percent in taxes. Even if true, it is clearly a rare event.
Moreover, it is certainly surprising that the White House would rely on such a dubious, unverified source for a major presidential address.