Obama’s Lackluster Economy Still Lacks Luster
by DEROY MURDOCK
March 14, 2016
‘Anybody who says we are not absolutely better off today than we were just seven years ago, they're not leveling with you. They're not telling the truth," Obama said last week. "By almost every economic measure, we are significantly better off."
For a second opinion, just ask Obama's own economic adviser Robert Wolf. He told CNN's Carol Costello on Tuesday: "I don't think anyone is saying the economy is great right now."
Hillary Clinton seems to concur. "We have to make America whole," she said March 1. "We have to fill in what's been hollowed out."
By almost every economic measure, America is flat to falling. Obama certainly can boast about the unemployment rate. From his inauguration on January 20, 2009, until last month, that figure has fallen from 7.8 percent to 4.9 - down 37.2 percent.
But the labor-force participation rate over that period has slid from 65.7 percent to 62.9 (the lowest reading since March 1978) - down 4.3 percent.
On Obama's watch, the percentage of Americans below the poverty line has grown, according to the most recent Census data, from 14.3 to 14.8 in 2014 - up 3.5 percent.
Real median household income across that interval sank from $54,925 to $53,657 - down 2.3 percent.
Food Stamp participants soared in that time frame from 32,889,000 to 45,874,000 - up 39.5 percent.
Meanwhile, from Obama's arrival through the fourth quarter of 2015, the percentage of Americans who own homes sagged from 67.3 percent to 63.8 - down 5.2 percent.
(For a closer look at these figures, click here.)
Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, laments this chilling trend: "For the first time in 35 years, American business deaths now outnumber business births." As he observed in January, "Business startups outpaced business failures by about 100,000 per year until 2008. But in the past six years, that number suddenly reversed, and the net number of U.S. startups versus closures is minus 70,000."
Clifton worries gravely that "entrepreneurship is now in decline for the first time since the U.S. government started measuring it. . . . When small and medium-sized businesses are dying faster than they're being born, so is free enterprise. And when free enterprise dies, America dies with it."
Something else is missing these days: robust economic growth.
Over the six and a half years since the recession ended in the second quarter of 2009, "real GDP has grown by a total of 14.5 percent or at an annual rate of 2.1 percent," according to Jeffrey Schlagenhauf, a former senior adviser to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. "Other post-1960 recoveries averaged total growth of 28.4 percent (annual rate of 3.9 percent) over the comparable 26 quarters. The Reagan recovery of the 1980s saw real GDP grow a total of 35.0 percent or at an annual rate of 4.7 percent."
To put this more vividly, imagine that you are in a car riding shotgun next to Ronald Reagan. You just left New York City and are heading south on Interstate 95. You zoom along in the fast lane, at 78 mph. You just passed a sedan in the next lane. A totally average motorist drives it and strictly obeys the 65 mph speed limit. And way back, in the rear-view mirror, a third auto slouches in the slow lane. Behind the wheel is Obama, plodding forward at 35 mph.
Statistically, the Reagan, average, and Obama recoveries have advanced at speeds equivalent to those of these three vehicles. To illustrate what this means over time, picture where these cars would be after ten hours of non-stop travel. Reagan would be about 20 minutes north of Savannah, Ga. The average driver would find himself about 20 minutes past Florence, S.C. And Obama would be crawling through the Washington's northern suburbs in Richmond, Va.
Why are Americans so angry? Picture yourself on I-95, creeping onward at a mere 35 mph, itching to get ahead. And this time, you are trapped in Obama's car, listening to him insist that everything is - as he said last week - "pretty darn great right now."
A version of this piece previously appeared on National Review Online.
National Review Online contributing editor Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News Contributor. His column, "This Opinion Just In...," frequently appears in the New York Post, Washington Times, and Orange County Register, among other papers across America.