|Obama, Three Years Ago This Week: “If I Don’t Have This Turned Around in Three Years…”|
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, February 02 2012
On February 2, 2009, Barack Obama confidently announced the following performance standard for himself in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer:
Lauer: “At some point, will you say, ‘Wait a minute – we’ve spent this amount of money, but we’re not seeing results, we’ve got to change course dramatically’?”
Obama: “…A year from now, I think that people are going to see that we’re starting to make some progress, but there’s still going to be some pain out there. If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”
Well, Obama has certainly spent a lot of money. So how does his performance stack up at the conclusion of his own self-imposed performance period?
Unemployment has increased in the past three years from 7.8% to 8.5%, and has remained above 8% for an all-time record 36 consecutive months.
Here’s why that 8% benchmark is particularly damning. In January 2009, his administration projected at the onset of his nearly $1 trillion spending “stimulus” that unemployment would not exceed that number. The Obama Administration further projected that the 8% peak would occur all the way back in October 2009, and be down to approximately 6% today.
Instead, the U.S. has endured a record stretch of unemployment and is $1 trillion deeper in debt because of it. From canceling the Keystone XL petroleum pipeline to suing Boeing, America’s largest exporter, the Obama Administration’s own policies have directly contributed to that result.
Moreover, today’s unemployment rate doesn’t even reflect the number of Americans who have simply dropped out of the employment market and stopped looking for a job in dejection. The straightforward unemployment rate only counts those who report that they actively seek work, meaning that the rate would be closer to 12% if the number of dropouts hadn’t jumped.
Meanwhile, federal debt during Obama’s three-year performance period has increased a breathtaking 43%, from $10.6 trillion to $15.2 trillion under his brief watch. That translates to an increase from $34,731 per person three years ago to $48,699 today.
Under Obama, deficits went from being measured in “billions” to being measured in “trillions.”
In 2008, the nation’s deficit reached $455 billion, jumping to $1.4 trillion in 2009, $1.3 trillion in 2010 and $1.3 trillion again last year. Just this week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced a projected $1.1 trillion deficit again this year, making it four straight trillion-plus deficits under Obama.
Other economic benchmarks have fared no better during Obama’s self-imposed performance period. Gasoline prices, which hit everyday Americans particularly hard, have almost doubled from $1.85 in January 2009 to $3.43 today. The number of poor Americans has increased by 6.4 million, from 39.8 in January 2009 to 46.2 million now, while the number of food stamp recipients has risen from 32 million to 46 million. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew an anemic 1.7% last year.
During Obama’s tenure, the U.S. has also fallen from a “Free” economy to a “Mostly Free” designation according to the worldwide Index of Economic Freedom.
But what of Obama’s rationalization, that he simply failed to understand the depth of America’s economic crisis, and that he somehow prevented the “worst recession since the Great Depression”?
Well, the facts tell a different story.
First of all, the recession was already moderating before any of Obama’s policies took effect. GDP declined 8.9% in the fourth quarter of 2008, but abated to 6.7% in the first quarter of 2009 and all the way back to just 0.7% in the second quarter. That wasn’t Obama’s doing. That was a cyclical rebound before his policies took effect.
Second, the early 1980s recession that Ronald Reagan quickly conquered was more severe than the 2008-2009 recession. Reagan faced higher unemployment, not to mention exponentially higher inflation and interest rates. Moreover, Reagan’s recovery occurred amid a program of monetary tightening, whereas the Federal Reserve under Obama has opened the monetary spigots like no other period in American history.
Third, and most important, Obama’s policies have had the effect of exacerbating our economic malaise rather than curing it. As stated by Mike Solon and former Senator Phil Gramm this week, “Never before in postwar America has either real per capita GDP or employment still been lower four years after a recession began.” That fact speaks for itself.
In the face of these realities, Obama will rationalize his failure by scapegoating everyone but himself, despite the fact that a Congress controlled by his own party enacted his agenda from day one of his tenure. He can’t marshal the facts in his defense, so he will instead marshal speculation and excuse.
Three years on, he has spent a lot of other people’s money and made big government even bigger. But by his own performance metric, Obama has failed.
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