Obama’s Weak and Weakening Plea for Re-Election
Would President Obama’s case for re-election be any less porous if we removed blame from the political equation – that is, the debate over who is largely at fault for our current economic crisis?
Apparently, the first question requiring an answer is whether the United States is even in real economic trouble. If Obama and his team are to be believed, we aren’t nearly as bad off as the right wing news media and conservative blogospheres presume. With now infamous recent statements like “the private sector is doing fine” and “we’ve tried my way, and it worked”, Obama seems to believe, or is at least trying hard to make his audience believe, that things aren’t so precarious.
This is interesting, as it appears Obama is trying to make the case that not only is he not to blame for the county’s economic woes, but that the perceived problems don’t much exist. Or perhaps the severity of the problems has been greatly exaggerated by the other side.
The President is certainly willing to (falsely) deem the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009 “the worst crisis since the Great Depression,” and grasps every opportunity to ensure his predecessor receives more than the lion’s share of blame. When attempting to explain away the unimpressive “recovery summer” of 2010, Obama proclaimed that the financial crisis was much deeper and complicated than even he, in his extensive genius, realized.
So why has the President changed his tune? He acknowledges that the economy was in shambles when he took office – his “inherited mess” – but believes (or is pretending to believe) that it isn’t anymore. This is his only case for re-election; that things were bad but he fixed them, or is in an effective process of fixing them.
That’s a hard sell, to be sure.
But back to the original question. Regardless of the causes, do Obama’s results merit a second term? Has he delivered on his promises? Are things better, or at least moving in that direction?
Put another way: what if we’re willing to forgo the oft unavoidable blame game in regards to economic evaluation and answer Obama’s own challenge, poised in 2009, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
We are now in August 2012, our 42nd straight month of unemployment above eight percent (8.3%, per the most recent jobs report). Keep in mind that Obama promised his $831 billion taxpayer-funded “stimulus” would have unemployment under six percent two years ago. More alarmingly, these mammoth-esque unemployment numbers hide the egregious fact that thousands have stopped even looking for work. If the labor force (those working or actively seeking employment) was the same today as it was in George W. Bush’s last year in office, the unemployment rate – the “real” rate – would be 11.1%.
The unemployment rate in the minority community is even shoddier. Black unemployment is above 14%, black teen unemployment nearly 49%. Unemployment in the Hispanic and Latino communities exceed the national average as well. In fact, this President has presided over the worst 30-month stretch of unemployment in 25 years.
So things are tough. But are they looking up? The notion of improvement is largely das kaput at this point, but are there at least signs of looming progress? Can Obama argue for another four years on the promise of better days ahead (“Hope and Change”, if you will)?
Holding to economic technicalities, the recession officially ended in 2009. The American economy has always seen above-average vitality in the years immediately following a recession. Reagan’s inherited recession (worse than what Obama was handed upon inauguration, by the way), was beat in less than two years. Not the case this time around. A newly released study by the Federal Reserve says the U.S. economy has actually decelerated again in the first half of 2012, and isn’t taking any steps to buck the trend.
Similarly, the RNC research team just published a study revealing Obama’s post-recession economy (almost his entire term has been post-recession) is trudging through the single worst economic recovery in the history of any developed nation – a “recovery” so slow and stagnant that it’s hardly a recovery at all. The entire nation only created 120,000 jobs in April, a dismal 69,000 in May, and 88,000 in June. That’s the entire nation. We need between 200,000 and 250,000 new jobs a month simply to keep pace with normal population growth.
John Ransom writes in a recent column: “The Obamaconomy has only averaged about 2.2 percent [growth] annually in three and a half years of failed policies, says Jim Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute. Pethokoukis also says that falling below the 2 percent GDP threshold is a bad sign of things to come. Indeed, research from the Federal Reserve finds that that since 1947, when year-over-year real GDP growth falls below 2%, recession follows within a year 70% of the time. The U.S. economy remains in the Recession Red Zone.”
George W. Bush ran a deficit for fiscal year 2007 of $161 billion. Obama’s deficit has surpassed $1 trillion for each of the past three years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, at the end of this fiscal year, the Obama administration will have four consecutive years of trillion dollar-plus deficits under its belt.
This, of course, is staggering. But perhaps even more telling when examined in light of Obama’s designation that his would “be a one-term proposition” if he “didn’t cut the deficit in half in four years.” He’s running in the wrong direction from that oath.
And we haven’t even touched debt and spending. On this, there is much to be said, but the short of it is that Obama has added more to the national debt in one term (more than $5 trillion, a 23.5% increase) than Bush did in two ($3.8 trillion, a 21% increase), and Bush fought two wars.
It’s not just the middle and lower class Americans taking the hit from this prolonged economic winter. According to a recent Thomas Sowell column, “…while the average household income fell 12 percent between 2007 and 2009, the average for the lower four-fifths fell by 5 percent or less, while the average income for households in the top fifth fell 18 percent. For households in the “top one percent” that seem to fascinate so many people, income fell by 36 percent in those same years.” In fact, America lost a net 129,000 millionaires in 2011 alone. Not exactly optimistic, and a poor sign from those who provide real economic stimulus through employment, investments, etc.
One can argue that these failings are Bush’s, or bad luck, but that alone doesn’t create a strong case for Obama’s re-election. Cause of the problems or not, Obama’s policies blight everyone. A second term should be a reward for a job well-done, not a second chance to get it right.