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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

November 7, 2014 at 10:23 AM

Vote: Obama and the economy

Here are some fun facts. When Barack Obama became president…

  • The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent on its way to 10 percent. Last month it was 5.8 percent.
  • The federal deficit was $1.4 trillion or almost 10 percent of gross domestic product. Now it’s about $483 billion or 3.3 percent of GDP. The deficit has fallen faster than any time since the end of World War II.
  • GDP was $14.4 trillion. In the third quarter it was $17.5 trillion.
  • Corporate profits after taxes were about $1 trillion. In the second quarter of this year, the most recent data available, they hit a record $1.84 trillion.
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 7,949. Today it is above 17,560.

Presidents tend to get too much credit or blame for the economy. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton won big thanks to it. George H.W. Bush’s popularity after the First Gulf War could not withstand a mild recession (and the challenge from Ross Perot).

But President Obama has gotten little credit for avoiding a second Great Depression (can you imagine the response of a President McCain and Vice President Palin?) and the improvements since. In every poll, majorities disapprove of his handling of the economy, which pundits claim played a major role in the Republican wave on Tuesday.

The right-wing media echo chamber has done a good job of presenting Obama as a job-killing socialist, and its older, white demographic represented the most voters in this election. Many working-class white voters don’t blame union-busting, offshoring oligarchs for their straits. Most people who voted forget who blocked bills that would have improved the recovery — they voted for more of these lawmakers and their ideology.

On the other hand, progressives have much to be angry about from the past six years: Obama led enactment of the formerly Republican health reform, not single-payer; inequality grew; most new jobs paid less than the ones they replaced, and austerity is strangling investments in research and infrastructure. Also, Obama pushed what they see as job-killing trade agreements. Most of all, he failed to hold Wall Street, the biggest culprit in causing the meltdown, to the rule of law.

What do you think?

This Week’s Links:

Democrats lose because they can’t explain economics to voters | Angry Bear

The $9 billion witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s worst nightmare | Rolling Stone

No, the Fed is not using unexpected inflation to lower unemployment | Tim Duy

The ‘magical fairyland’ of corporate tax scams | New Economic Perspectives

War of the words: Amazon vs. Hachette | Vanity Fair

The ‘oil glut’ could lead to a price spike | Oil Price blog

China’s questionable economic power | Project Syndicate


Today’s Econ Haiku:

Another day here

Another dull glass tower



I invite you to follow me on Twitter @jontalton



Comments | More in Politics and the economy | Topics: Election 2014, Obama, Obama economy


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