The assertion: President Obama speaking to Congress last week:
[W]e must also address the crushing cost of healthcare.The math: A bankruptcy every 30 seconds would be 2 per minute, 120 per hour, 2880 per day and 1,051,200 each year.
This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds.
The statistics: In 2008, 1,086,130 personal bankruptcy petitions were filed. The rate of filings has increased this year: the American Bankruptcy Institute expects "more than 1.4 million new cases" will be filed in 2009.
The disconnect: Depending on the meaning of "now," the President is claiming that healthcare expenses cause somewhere between 75 and 100 percent of all personal bankruptcies. Even the erroneous and discredited Elizabeth Warren study only argued (incorrectly) for 50 percent. Such reasoning makes no sense: given the current economy, most observers sensibly blame the bankruptcies on "rising consumer debt coupled with the mortgage meltdown." Such costs, not heathcare, normally are the highest household expenses.
I note that various websites repeat the "30 second" statistic, which apparently is based on a further misreading of the Warren study:
Mr. Obama was very much technically incorrect. A bankruptcy isn’t caused every 30 seconds by medical bills, but every 30 seconds an individual person is forced to contend with one.The conclusion: If President Bush had made such a specious statement, the left would have called him a "liar" (as they did even when he was correct). That's not my style--but Obama's 14 words are unsupported and likely wrong.
The Economist magazine agrees the President erred.