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Fact Checking Obama’s 2011 State Of The Union: Promises Versus Reality

Publication Date: 
January 26, 2011
National Post

Professor Alan O. Sykes is mentioned in the following National Post article gauging experts' reactions to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address:

U.S. President Barack Obama made quite a few promises during his State of the Union address. But are they actually possible? Aileen Donnelly asks the experts.


“To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 — because the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home.”

Experts agree that doubling exports by 2014 is an unrealistic goal. Alan Sykes, a professor of international economic law at Stanford Law School, said that pending free trade agreements could improve market access and that recovery from the recession should increase exports but not that significantly. He said it often takes three years just to build new plants and equipment. “There is no possibility that U.S. exports will double by 2014 as long as the U.S. fiscal deficit continues to spiral out of control. To a considerable extent our trade deficit is the twin of the fiscal deficit,” Ronald McKinnon, professor of economics at Stanford University, wrote in an email. According to the Foreign Trade Division of the U.S Census Bureau, exports have increased by about 3% since 2006 and by 35% since 2000.


“In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America.”

A popular stance, but not feasible and unlikely to get through Congress, say the experts. Terry Moe, a political science professor at Stanford University, said the first step would be a study to identify programs and agencies that can be cut back or reorganized and then present that information to Congress. However, “It will guarantee that opponents will have time to marshall their forces and try to make sure that their agencies and programs don’t get cut back,” Mr. Moe said. Jack Rakove, a political science professor at Stanford University, said such efficiencies were easier to promise than achieve, especially when multiple agencies have a vested interest.