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Obama, GOP stretch economic facts in their annual State of the Union exercise

In a State of the Union address heavy on economics and education, President Barack Obama and his Republican competition gave the country a healthy dose of selective math.

Take, for instance, Obama’s boast about the state of job creation on his watch. “After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over 6 million new jobs,” the president declared Tuesday night.

While the number itself is true, it hardly tells the whole picture. That figure covers the amount of jobs created only from February 2010 forward, while ignoring the 5 million or so jobs that were lost during his first 13 months in office.

The net gain in jobs on Obama’ watch is a more modest 1.2 million when losses in the public sector are included.

Obama’s Republican counterpart on the national stage Tuesday night, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, had his own fuzzy take on economics while calling for a balanced budget amendment.

Rubio declared that the “real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending $1 trillion dollar more than it takes in every year.”

While the gap is true, his assessment doesn’t get directly to the cause of the suddenly bloated deficit: the worst recession since the Depression prompted increased government spending while also substantially reducing tax income.  Revenues from both individual and corporate taxes fell markedly over the last few years, which hurt the government’s bottom line, a fact the Florida senator omitted.

The president also gave a rosey assessment of the state of illegal immmigration, correctly noting he’s put more border patrol agents (20,000 in all) on the U.S.-Mexico border than at any time in history.  But when he suggested that the decrease in the rate of illegal immigration was due to his policies, he ignored the fact that immigration, both legal and illegal, drops during recessions as jobs dry up.

Obama also was a bit premature — about 12 years too soon – when he declared that  “we have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas.”

The Obama administration has set a goal of doubling fuel efficiency. But it won’t happen until at least 2025, and only then if automakers can hit the current goals they have agreed to.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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