Are we better off than we were four years ago? Mitt Romney said we are. In an interview earlier this year, he said, “of course [the economy is] getting better” under President Obama. But Romney hasn’t been a reliable source of information, so let’s check the available data.
Under Bush, in September 2008, the U.S. was in a financial panic: the economy was shrinking rather than growing; we were losing jobs by hundreds of thousands per month; corporate profits took a dive; household wealth declined sharply; foreclosures were escalating; investment banks were failing; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed into conservatorship, and the groundwork was being laid for Bush’s $700 billion bailout of the financial system.
Under Obama, in September 2012, the U.S. economy is recovering: the economy has grown for 39 straight months; we’ve added jobs for 42 straight months; the stock market has soared since the day Obama was sworn in; corporate profits set record highs; farm profits hit record highs even in the midst of a drought; financial firms made more profits under Obama than during eight years under Bush.
CNN reported on October 10, 2008:
“The Dow has now tumbled for eight consecutive sessions, losing nearly 2,400 points, or 22%, as panicked investors ditched stocks across the board.
“The panic gripped the global markets as well, with the Japanese Nikkei tumbling 9.6% Friday and the London FTSE down 8.9%. The global selloff kept the pressure on U.S. markets Friday.
“‘The magnitude of what’s going on is unprecedented and people are frightened,'” said Robert Philips, senior portfolio strategist at BLB&B Advisors.”
That day, the Dow Jones closed at 7,773.71, and at this writing, the Dow Jones is up to 13,258.93 – an improvement of just over 70% under Obama. The S&P 500 index is at its highest point since May 2008, and the Nasdaq composite index is at its highest point since November 2000.
How bad was it under President Bush? Think Progress dug up some of the headlines from his last year in office:
- STOCK SHOCK FELT ROUND THE WORLD. Gets ‘nasty’ as Lehman tanks, Merrill vanishes, AIG wobbles [New York Daily News, September 16, 2008]
- One day on the brink On Wednesday, it seemed U.S. economy might collapse [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 21, 2008]
- ‘Great Depression’ closer than U.S. admits, report finds [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 27, 2008]
- Will Bush become the new Hoover? [Politico, September 19, 2008]
- Depression seen possible [Florida News-Press, September 27, 2008]
- Wall Street Meltdown Continues [CNN, September 17, 2008]
- Is It Really the Next ‘Great Depression’? [NPR, September 19, 2008]
- Behind Closed Doors, Warnings of Calamity [The New York Times, September 20, 2008]
The Pew Charitable Trust gives us some numbers on the damage the Bush Crash of 2008 caused:
“The financial crisis cost the U.S. an estimated $648 billion due to slower economic growth…. That equates to an average of approximately $5,800 in lost income for each U.S. household. Federal government spending to mitigate the financial crisis through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) will result in a net cost to taxpayers of $73 billion according to the CBO. This is approximately $2,050 per U.S. household on average. The U.S. lost $3.4 trillion in real estate wealth (in a 6-month period)…. This is roughly $30,300 per U.S. household. Further, 500,000 additional foreclosures began during the acute phase of the financial crisis than were expected…. The U.S. lost $7.4 trillion in stock wealth (in a 6-month period)…. This is roughly $66,200 on average per U.S. household.”
Romney recently said it’s only fair to give a new president “at least six months or a year” to get put together an economic plan, assemble a team, and put his or her “policies in place.” OK, we’ll go with Mitt’s measure; which reveals that Obama created a net 3.88 million jobs — 4.44 million private-sector jobs — in less than three years. That’s pretty darn good, especially when you compare it to Bush creating only 1 million jobs over 8 years. When Bush left office, we were losing 750,000 jobs per month; under Obama, we’ve now gained jobs for 42 straight months.
When Bush left office, the GDP was shrinking at a rate of nearly 9%; under Obama, the GDP has grown even month since mid-2009. As TIME magazine’s Michael Grunwald noted:
“Four years ago, the U.S. economy was in smithereens. It contracted at an 8.9% annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2008, which is Great Depression territory. At that rate, we would have shed an entire Canadian economy in 2009. We lost 800,000 jobs the month Obama moved into the White House. Then Obama passed his $800 billion stimulus … and the second quarter of 2009 reflected the second largest GDP improvement in 25 years and the largest jobs improvement in 30 years.”
As Fox – yes Fox! – Business News noted:
“…corporate profits have surged an average of 51.8% under Obama, the best out of any stretch of party control since 1933, S&P said. Profits increased at 12.5% per year in Clinton’s White House and 14.2% under Bush…. The S&P 500 has also climbed an average of 12.3% each year since Obama’s inauguration, far outpacing the 3.3% mean return for his predecessor.”
Corporate profits set record in 2010 hitting 1.68 trillion. And the second quarter of 2012 is up 13% from 2011.
Under Bush, in 2008, median pay for CEOs of big firms was $8 million in 2008; Under Obama, in 2011, it was $9.6 million. That’s a 20% raise over three years.
When Bush was finished with us, the consumer confidence index was at 37.4, a deeply recessionary level. Today it’s at 65.9.
Under Bush, in June 2008, the National Federation of Independent Business Index of Small Business Optimism fell to 89.3 – a recession-level reading, and the lowest index reading since 1980. In August, it fell to 88.2, establishing one of the longest strings of recession-level readings in the history of the survey. And by the time Bush left office, it was down to 85.2, the second lowest reading in the 35-year history of the survey.
By February 2012, under Obama, the optimism index had risen to 94.5. It’s currently at 91.2
Under Obama, the U.S. tax bill hit the lowest point in 50 years, and 95% of Americans got a tax cut. Under Obama, the rate of increased government spending is lower than under Bush 1, Bush 2, Reagan, Carter, Ford or Nixon – and that includes the $2.7 trillion of Bush’s hidden spending that Obama put back into the budget. Of our current $15.9 trillion debt, Bush created 42.7%, Obama only 16.8%
Under Obama, we’ve added 500,000 manufacturing jobs – the first increase since the 1990s. There are now 250,000 more people employed in the auto industry than when it was restructured. And that industry is booming: Chrysler is up 14% from last month and18% from a year ago; Ford is up 13% from last month and 37% from a year ago; GM: is up 10% from last month.
Not by bread alone
The economy isn’t the only measure of how a country is doing, and President Obama has made things better in a number of other ways. Here are just a few:
- Undocumented immigration is at a net zero. It has been for two years.
- Bush’s Folly in Iraq is over.
- Osama bin Laden is dead.
- DOMA is unenforced.
- DADT is finished.
- According to the ACLU, “Torture … (is) no longer officially condoned. … President Obama categorically disavowed torture when he came to office, and closed the secret CIA prisons where so much of the abuse took place.”
- The Medicare donut hole is closed, helping 4 million elderly patients better afford their medications.
- Obama increased funding for local emergency planning and rolled back Bush cuts to first responders.
- Health care inflation is under 4% for the first time in 50 years.
- Insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition – an improvement for 129 million Americans.
- ObamaCare ended the practice of rescission in which insurers drop sick customers to avoid their mounting bills.
- Obama grant Cuban Americans unrestricted rights to visit family.
- ObamaCare allows 3 million Americans aged 19-25 to be insured by their parents’ policies.
- Our clean water standards are higher under Obama than they were under Bush, who worked to weaken them.
- Americans and their employers received $1 billion in insurance premium refunds, thanks to ObamaCare.
- Obama more than doubled funding for research into clean energy.
- Oil imports are at a 20-year low and renewable energy production has doubled.
- For veterans, Obama has assured the VA is fully funded and that its budget has a “must pas’ status, expanded the housing voucher program for homeless vets, expanded veterans centers in rural areas, beefed up the VA’s mental health care budget, and launched an innovative supportive services-housing program to prevent at-risk veterans and veteran families from falling into homelessness.
- Obama increased the size of the Army, the Marines and the special operations forces.
- Obama created the military families advisory board, made deployments more predictable for military families, and ended the “stop-loss” program of forcing troops to stay in service beyond their expected commitments.
- Obama signed the Ledbetter Act, ensuring that victims of wage discrimination can seek justice.
There’s more here.
I’m one of those millions of Americans who lost his career, his savings, his credit rating and his house in the economic collapse. I’m one of those under-employed Americans working two jobs to try to scrape by. And I can tell you, even from the vantage point of the bottom of the barrel, things look much better under Obama than under Bush.