Obama by the Numbers: Is America Better Off Now than When Obama took Office?
By Mark Patricks – League of Power
Compared with the situation eight years ago before President Obama took office, America is much worse off now in any number of ways. Here is a brief enumeration of several of them:
For many people, the economic numbers for the U.S. tell most of the story of the Obama administration: the national debt increased while wages fell and the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) tanked.
Indeed, Obama nearly doubled the national debt from $10.6 trillion in 2009 to $20 trillion as of the end of 2016. So, in essence, Obama was responsible for almost half the entire national debt while effectively doubling it in dollar terms. In fact, he increased the national debt more than all previous U.S. presidents combined.
Partially as a result, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S.’s credit rating, and there were multiple debt ceiling crises in Congress, including a two-week shutdown of the government in 2013.
At the same time, the U.S. economy as a whole grew at a dismal average of 2.1 percent during Obama’s tenure, and the highest growth Obama could boast during his two terms as president was 2.6 percent in 2015.
Obama didn’t have a single year where the economy grew by at least three percent, whereas from 1790 to 2000, U.S. GDP grew an average of 3.79 percent per year. The longest previous similar downturn only lasted four years, and that was in the Great Depression. These figures are dreadful for a modern administration and represent the fourth-worst GDP numbers for any president in U.S. history so far.
And finally, American median household income still has not recovered to pre-2008 levels of approximately $57,500, adjusted for inflation. This means that the multi-decade trend of most Americans’ incomes stagnating or falling has simply continued.
The above numbers, along with the amount of deaths from foreign conflicts (see below), are one of the Obama presidency’s worst legacies.
In some senses, U.S. citizens dodged a bullet on trade. Obama was trying his darndest to pass the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and other free-trade agreements before his term was up. In the time since Bill Clinton was president and signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), nearly one-third of all American manufacturing jobs have disappeared.
If any of the above deals went through, even more jobs would have left the country, and a few select billionaires would have gotten richer while more Americans would be out of work. In addition, U.S. citizens would be forced to accept lower quality standards for food, drugs and consumer goods imported from other countries.
Obama got as far as passing fast-track authority for TPP in Congress, but wasn’t able to corral the votes for getting the actual agreement itself passed after Trump won the election. Thank goodness; Trump announced that the TPP would be killed on his first day in office.
After the financial crisis of 2008, the economy tanked and millions of Americans lost their jobs. According to Obama’s own first Secretary of Labor, as many as one in three American men (out of approximately 96 million people total not participating in the workforce) is still out of work due to the greatly diminished recovery that Obama’s administration has tried to portray as fully fledged.
In fact, Obama’s nearly endless trumpeting of rosy job numbers in the last four years of his presidency (when official unemployment fell from 8 percent to under 5 percent) was based on fudged numbers given by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). When one looks at official data and charts, there are asterisks next to the most recent years due to changes in the way the BLS calculates its figures.
Another issue is that even if people have gotten jobs, as many as 94 percent of them are from part-time work in what many euphemistically call “the gig economy” (read: low-paying service-sector jobs). If one becomes a waiter when one used to be a union card-carrying factory worker, almost surely a pay cut is involved.
One of the reasons why job numbers and wages were so bad was because of illegal immigration during Obama’s two terms. Throughout Obama’s time in office, the number of illegal immigrants in the country remained roughly 11 million, or 3.5 percent of the country’s population.
But the number of illegals in the nation’s workforce is roughly 8 million, or 5 percent of those working or looking for work; the laws regarding employers hiring these people are not strict enough. Even with legal immigration, quotas on foreign-born H1-B visa laborers (currently at 85,000 per year) allow many transplants from other countries to grab high-tech jobs that could otherwise go to American workers.
In the very worst cases, employers such as Disney and Toys R Us laid off Americans who had to train their less-well-paid foreign-born replacements. And to make matters worse, before the presidential election, both Hillary Clinton and Obama were promising to boost H1-B visa numbers even higher, which would have resulted in yet more job losses. This was likely due to billionaires such as Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page donating millions of dollars to Democratic campaigns, such as the one for Hillary Clinton.
Not only were immigrants a threat on the job front, they were and still are a threat on the security front. High-profile shootings in San Bernardino, California; Orlando, Florida and elsewhere left dozens of Americans dead from Islamic radicals who were followers of ISIS. Despite the obvious danger, Obama and Clinton wanted to vastly increase the number of Middle Eastern and other dangerous refugees into a system that has extremely poor vetting.
Why were all these immigrants leaving these Middle Eastern countries? It could very well be because the United States was bombing them. At least in the case of Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, this was the case. In Syria alone, U.S. support for the “moderate rebel” opposition helped result in more than 400,000 civilian deaths, while tens of thousands more innocent people along with U.S. troops died in at least six other countries while Obama was in office. U.S. Special Forces are currently deployed in 134 countries globally, a 123 percent increase under Obama.
Of course, the Obama administration claims we were on the right side in all these conflicts, but foreign policy has not been Obama’s strong suit. Many analysts attribute the formation of ISIS to Obama’s pulling out of Iraq too early. Obama also released and transferred hundreds of prisoners from the U.S. facilities at Guantanamo Bay. At least a few of these prisoners have rejoined jihad movements to once again threaten the lives of U.S. soldiers.
Obama loves to talk about race and how the country needs to improve race relations. But under Obama’s policies and encouragement of social justice protesting by groups like Black Lives Matter, this improvement is not happening. Actually, in most cases, it’s just making matters worse.
In fact, it’s arguable that race relations now are rougher than they’ve been at any point in the last 20 to 30 years, as high-profile police brutality and murder cases have been covered seemingly nonstop by the media. From the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 to the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in 2014 to the death in custody of Sandra Bland in 2015, protests and anti-police violence have claimed the lives of brave police officers.
With each case, Obama has reminded Americans of how deep the divide is rather than attempting to heal the fissures that exist. He also has sought to undermine people’s faith in local police forces and said that protesting police action is a positive step. This ties in with:
Crime and Murder Rates
Something not spoken about much regarding the Obama administration is how much crime — especially the murder rate — has gone up during this time. The murder rate in the 25 largest cities across the nation went up by 11 percent from 2015 to 2016 and is set to rise again for 2016.
In Obama’s hometown of Chicago, the data is even worse. For 2016, the homicide rate was 715 deaths, with 4379 people shot last year, an increase of 59 percent from 2015 when 2996 people were shot and 447 died. Whether one can point the finger at the outgoing president specifically for this surge is admittedly debatable, but certainly, the dreadful economy played a part in this new crime trend, which Obama has grudgingly agreed with, mentioning “pockets of poverty that are highly segregated” in a recent interview.