The economy under President Obama seems difficult to defend — unless you put it in context.
The president attempted to do that on Thursday in a speech at Northwestern University:
Here are the facts: When I took office, businesses were laying off 800,000 Americans a month. Today, our businesses are hiring 200,000 Americans a month. The unemployment rate has come down from a high of 10 percent in 2009, to 6.1 percent today. Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have created 10 million new jobs; this is the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history. Think about that. And you don’t have to applaud at — because I’m going to be giving you a lot of good statistics. Right now, there are more job openings than at any time since 2001. All told, the United States has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined. I want you to think about that. We have put more people back to work, here in America, than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined.
America’s recovery has been nearly the best in the world — thanks largely to the stimulative policies embraced by Congress in 2009. But even the chief executive who championed those policies recognize that their benefits are not being widely felt.
“By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office,” he said. “At the same time, it’s also indisputable that millions of Americans don’t yet feel enough of the benefits of a growing economy where it matters most — and that’s in their own lives.”
Since the economy began growing again, the gains have gone almost entirely to the richest 10 percent. This isn’t a new phenomenon but one that’s gotten worse in recent years. Since Reaganomics took hold in 1980, most of our economic growth has gone to the richest Americans. which was exactly the point of Reaganomics. It was called Trickle Down but it should be known as Sucking Up.
So why has this recovery been so beneficial to those who need it the least?
George W. Bush’s tax polices play a role — of course. It’s only been since 2013 that we’ve gotten a taste of President Obama’s reversal of most of Bush’s breaks for the rich. And the most profound thing that this president has down to fight inequality — Medicaid expansion — just went into effect this year, along with new taxes on the rich, super rich and car elevator rich.
Higher taxes didn’t break the economy, as Republicans always pinky swear they will. Instead, job growth has improved dramatically as the rich have had to pay a bit more in taxes.
We gained about 88,000 jobs a month in 2010, 173,000 in 2011, 186,000 in 2012 and 194,000 in 2013. This year — thanks in large part to Republicans taking a break from shutdowns and debt limit crises to pretend they’re sane for the election — we’re averaging 215,000 new jobs a month.
President Obama hasn’t racked up the 18 million jobs created under Reagan or the 22 million under Clinton but the Obama economy has flown by an interesting milestone passed with no fanfare at all.
More net jobs have been created under Obama — 5,142,000 as of the August jobs report — than under George H.W. Bush — 2,637,000 — and George W. Bush — 1,282,000 — combined, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
You should rightfully point out that crediting jobs created to a president exclusively is stupid. The president, Republicans argue, only deserves credit when he’s Ronald Reagan. Otherwise any Republican you can find in the Congress deserves all the credit. And when there’s a massive financial crisis — like the last two under Republican presidents — it’s polite to pretend such things are inevitable and not the result of conservatives in both parties abdicating any responsibility to regulate Wall Street.
The true test of President Obama’s economic policies is going on now as 10 million Americans have gained health insurance and we’re enjoying the best job growth in at least an decade. If this continues, he won’t have to make speeches defending his record anymore.
But if you’re looking for some context for now, just tell people we’re doing better than under both Bushes — combined.