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The Fact Checker: Obama's 2011 State of the Union address

During the recession, for example, companies pared their workforces and found ways to increase output during the recovery with fewer employees. This increased productivity is a good thing in some ways - it means American goods are being produced more efficiently - but it also is one reason why the unemployment rate remains "sticky."

The dynamic holds true for exporters as well: If big international companies are able to rely on idle capacity or underused workers to fill new orders, the employment impact of increased exports may be muted, at least until companies are sure that their investment in new employees is necessary to meet rising demand.

- Howard Schneider

"The secretary of defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without."

By evoking Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates with this line, Obama was hoping for some inoculation against Republican claims that the Pentagon budget is being cut too much. This month, Gates surprised some in Congress when he said the Pentagon would contribute $78 billion in deficit reduction.

About $6 billion comes from reducing the size of the active Army and Marine Corps starting in fiscal 2015, when the war in Afghanistan is supposed to be over, and an additional $4 billion comes from a new production schedule for the joint strike fighter program.

The biggest chunk of savings - $54 billion - comes from what Gates called "overhead reductions and efficiencies . . . which include a freeze on all government civilian salaries." Obama had already announced the freeze in civilian pay, so Gates in effect pocketed that savings. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the pay freeze is worth about $12.5 billion. The rest comes from such items as a freeze on the number of civilian positions.

An additional $14 billion comes from changes in economic assumptions, such as a lower rate of projected inflation in later years. . . . Some might view this shift as a budget gimmick, since it involved changing a few variables - and no one really knows what inflation will be five years from now.

- Glenn Kessler

"Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon."

Obama wasn't born yet when Sputnik was launched in 1957, so maybe the details are hazy for him. But the race to the moon was not really on the priority list at the time for the United States - and certainly not for the Eisenhower administration.

A moon landing became a U.S. priority only in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy - under the prodding of his vice president, Lyndon Johnson - announced the goal of "before this decade is out, . . . landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth." The announcement followed a different Soviet accomplishment: launching a man into Earth orbit.


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