US official did not apologise for ‘bottom-up’ model. Meme distorts news article

The meme shared by Ong’wen distorted the news article.

The state of Kenya’s economy is  a major talking point in the country’s election campaigns. Kenyans will vote in August 2022.

William Ruto, Kenya’s current deputy president is running for the presidency, leading the United Democratic Alliance party and the Kenya Kwanza coalition. He has selected Rigathi Gachagua to act as deputy president should Kenya Kwanza win the election.

The other main frontrunner in the race for the presidency is Raila Odinga who leads the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition party. His candidate for the post of deputy president is lawyer Martha Karua.

Ruto has referred to his economic plan as “bottom-up”, which he explains as focused on helping ordinary Kenyans and small businesses get ahead. He refers to the United States as an example where this strategy is being implemented and refers to US President Joe Biden as a supporter of “bottom-up”.

Stipend of Sh6,000

The Azimio coalition has also published measures aimed at uplifting more vulnerable Kenyans economically, including a stipend of KSh6,000 each month for vulnerable families. There are also proposals in favour of small businesses in the coalition’s manifesto.

An official of Odinga’s party has however taken issue with Ruto’s economic plan. Odour Ong’wen, who is chief executive officer of the Orange Democratic Movement party, which is in the Azimio coalition, posted a meme which showed the US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, apparently apologising for the failure of the “bottom-up” economic approach. 

“US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Tellen apologises to US citizens while admitting the economic challenges are a result of the experimental bottom-up economic approach. Revises Biden’s policy paper and renames it ‘modern supply-side economics’.  Bottom-up is a scam, ” read the text of the meme.

Ong’wen tweeted: “This might happen in this country in the unlikely event that some of those engaged in the misadventure of using Kenya as an economic laboratory come anywhere near State power.”

‘Improve infrastructure’

We checked if a news article reported that Yellen had apologised for the failure of “bottom-up” policies in the United States. 

The meme contains the names David Lawder and Andrea Shalal. So we searched Google using the keywords “David Lawder”, “Andrea Shalal” and “Janet Yellen”.

We found that a Reuters article with the same photo of Yellen and published by the two writers was published on 21 January 2022.  A search of the photo of Yellen using Google Lens turned up an updated version of the same article which matches the image in the meme exactly.

In the article, Yellen said that President Biden’s economic agenda was a “modern supply-side economics” that sought to “increase labor supply and improve infrastructure, education and research to boost potential U.S. growth and ease inflationary pressures.”

Yellen contrasted Biden’s agenda against the “old” supply-side economics which she said included “tax cuts” and “deregulation” and which she criticised as “ a failed strategy for increasing growth”. The article notes that the old supply-side economics policies began under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

The Reuters article referred to in the meme shows Yellen did not say that Biden’s economic agenda had failed or apologise for the failure of any experiments.  Neither did she revise Biden’s economic policies. The meme shared by Ong’wen distorted the news article.

This article was first published on the Kenya Editors Guild site.

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