“The White House’s Economic Case for Reelection in 13 Charts” is how The Atlantic magazine’s Derek Thompson characterizes a new blog post by the U.S. Treasury Department. The post presents a baker’s dozen of charts created by Team Geithner to highlight just how successful the Obama economic policy has been. Indeed, it all fits in nicely with President Obama’s campaign theme (via the New York Times, also the source of the above photo whose colors I inverted):
President Obama has a new message: America has gotten its groove back. In ways large and small, Mr. Obama has seized on a narrative of national optimism in recent weeks, offering a portrait of a country that, guided by him and powered by the American worker, is making a comeback. It is a narrative with strong echoes of President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign and one that is intended to provide a contrast with today’s less sunny Republican candidates.
And, of course, it is meant to suggest that Mr. Obama himself has hit his own stride. “I placed my bet on the American worker,” he said Tuesday in a boisterously received speech at a United Automobile Workers conference that was centered on his often-criticized bailout of the auto industry three years ago. “The American auto industry is back.”
Here is the counter argument, though I am presenting it as the case against Obama’s economic policies rather than his reelection. I report, you decide:
1. The current recovery in the labor market has badly lagged others that occurred after deep recessions. (via the Minneapolis Fed)
2. The official unemployment rate is 8.3 percent, but when you include labor force dropouts and part-timers who want full-time work, the rate jumps to 15.1 percent. (U.S. Labor Department)
3. The actual share of the the population with a job has collapsed and remains low.
4. The size of the U.S. labor force has also collapsed, partly due to discouraged Americans giving up looking for a job.
5. Those without a job have been without a job for a long, long, long time.
6. This recovery has lagged others in terms of economic output or GDP growth. (via the Minneapolis Fed)
7. Economic growth in this recovery has not just lagged the best recoveries of the past or the average recoveries, but the worst other recoveries, too. (via the Economic Policy Institute)
8. The result of the weak recovery is a huge gap between where the economy should be, in terms of growth, and where it is. (via The Wall Street Journal)
9. And that output gap means there’s an income gap, as well. (MKM Partners)
10. The slow, anemic recovery has contributed to keeping the housing market in a depressed state.
11. The national debt has exploded during the Obama administration. (Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget)
12. The White House itself admits that its new budget plan would keep the national debt on a dangerous and unsustainable trajectory. (The White House)
13. The current economic picture doesn’t look anything like what the White House promised back in early 2009. (via the Heritage Foundation)
Bottom line: In some areas, like housing and debt, the trend is in the wrong direction. In other areas, like employment, well, here are the words yesterday of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke: ”The job market is far from normal. Continued improvement … is likely to require stronger growth in final demand and production.”
To me, it all adds up to Stagnation Nation rather than a Return to Prosperity. What voters will have to decide is whether Obamanomics—the $800 billion stimulus, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, anti-energy regulation—has been a net plus or a net minus. Did Obama make things better or worse?