In a response to my January 13th post (“Who’s ready for a revolution?”), a reader repeatedly asserted that Barack Obama is the “most successful President in US history.” Despite my requests for evidence to support this extraordinary claim, none was provided other than the reader’s personal statements that President Obama has had the “lowest unemployment rates in a decade,” and that he had “reduced the deficit by half,” and that everyone can now get healthcare, and that the stock market is at its highest point ever. So, I thought I’d address a few of these claims.
Why don’t I refer to all four of the reader’s claims? Frankly, I doubt that this reader will even look at this evidence, and since this same type of information is freely available to anyone who wants to find it, I am going to save myself more hours spent writing. And I’m probably speaking to someone whose own confirmation biases are pretty strong, which I understand but that is still not good critical thinking. The stock market claim is probably true, but that doesn’t speak to anything, for me at least, except that we have become a corporatocracy. As for the Affordable Care Act, I think it’s a great idea, in principal, but I also think that it’s too soon to “call it,” one way or another. I suspect that if it “flops,” it will mostly be due to what the Republicans manage to do to it.
Here’s a general sort of commentary about US Presidents: http://www.rantpolitical.com/2014/09/19/10-best-and-10-worst-us-presidents/#slide_1
Let’s look at the unemployment rate claim. Again, the reader stated that it was “at its lowest in a decade.” We’ll base that statement on the unemployment rate we are experiencing TODAY. I am not going to go into how many people have just “given up” and stopped looking for work, or how many people are “under-employed.” Let’s just put the very BEST face on it. So, today, the rate of unemployment is 5.6%
Has it been the best rate in 10 years? Nope. In May 2008 (Dubya Bush was President), it was below that. It was 5.4%, so THAT statement is incorrect. How does President Obama fare, using Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data going back to 1948? Not that well. Again, we’ll use the yardstick of 5.6%, given by the reader.
When you compare the hard data, provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it appears that MOST of the years since 1948 have been better than 5.6%. In fact, there have been many years since 1948 that have had, in some cases, MUCH lower unemployment rates. I have highlighted all the rates which fell BELOW 5.6% in the BLS report:
How do President Obama’s unemployment rates compare to other US Presidents during the 1948-present time period? Well, only Ronald Reagan had a worse record, again, using the 5.6% “benchmark.” President Obama has had roughly 72 months of unemployment rates HIGHER than 5.6%. Ronald Reagan had approximately 84 months of unemployment rates HIGHER than 5.6%.
Other “winners,” or, in this case losers? Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush, Sr. were also pretty sucky.
How about the deficit? Again, the statement was that President Obama “reduced the deficit by half.” To determine how important this is, we must understand the difference between federal “deficit,” and federal “debt.” The deficit is, indeed, going down, but deficits are a measure of a single (fiscal) year’s shortfall. It’s the difference between what the government takes in during one year and what it spends, again, in that one (fiscal) year. The federal DEBT is much different and speaks to a longer term and broader picture of our economy. Think of it like this: deficit = one year, debt = all money owed. I have referred to the deficit before, such as how the Nuclear Waste Fund has been pilfered to make the DEFICIT appear smaller. In other words, a short term, cosmetic ‘fix.”
So, how has President Obama done regarding the broader and long term picture of our economy? Is he really the most successful President in history? Not even close. The federal DEBT, as of today, is just over $18 trillion dollars (http://www.usdebtclock.org). The debt was $10.626 trillion dollars on Dubya Bush’s last day in office. How have levels of federal debt compared over the years, and how is our future debt projected, due to current economic policies? Keep in mind that changes in an immense economy such as ours don’t happen overnight. Like planting seeds, or changing course on a supertanker…
Again, we are very far from being able to classify President Obama as the “most successful President in history.” In fact, the future economic projections look pretty bad. When I say “bad,” I mean that we are headed down an ugly path. Here is a link to the Congressional Budget Office report: http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/44172-Baseline-OneColumn.pdf
And one other article, which may be of interest: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/national-debt-has-increased-more-under-obama-than-under-bush/
What is my point here? What exactly am I trying to achieve? First of all, I am not trying to glorify Republicans. Nor am I trying to denigrate the Democratic party, of which I have been a member for three decades. I am trying to cut through the gnarled, and yet tender, tangle of armor that many of us are wearing, and which is getting pretty heavy about now. We really must look at our national and global situation with a critical eye. We are not in a good place, people. You can call it a Democrat “problem,” you can call it a “Republican” problem, you can call it whatever you want. But you are going to have to admit that we, the people, have let it go too long. Many of us are finally looking up from all the distractions in front of us and BOOM – we are thinking, “what the hell has happened here while I was busy surviving?”
And if what people really MEAN when they don’t want me, a fellow Democrat, to criticize President Obama is, “wait, but he’s our first black President, and at least he’s not a Republican, and we need to go easy on him for these reasons,” well, I totally understand that, too. That’s probably why it took ME so long to actually start trying to figure out what was going on. My own “litmus test” issue is climate change. That is what prompted ME to frantically look around for real solutions to extinguishing the flames surrounding the powder keg we are all sitting upon. If it weren’t for climate change, I’d bet good money that I, personally, would have never looked up. I would have just kept ‘looking away,” as Naomi Klein refers to it. Making up excuses and reasons why things don’t make much sense, or seem quite right. But I can’t “unsee” it now, and unless we all, together, shrug off that heavy armor and acknowledge that things are not only “not good,” but, indeed, they are desperate, then we have no hope for a better future. And I’ve made promises to certain very precious people that I will not give up either hope or trying to fix this mess. So, I will not give up.