November 15, 2012
Decades from now, young Americans will ask, “Was is really that
you know, people born in the 20th century
-- will attest that indeed, it was.
A dozen years
into the third millennium, economic carnage continues. And much of the blame
can be placed on the two most recent occupants of the White House.
Among the modern presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama
stand out for their prodigious inability to foster job growth. Since both took
office amidst downturns, let’s be charitable, and start their report cards when
employers began to hire again. Between Bush’s first-term job trough (August
2003) and the time he left D.C., total employment grew a meager 2.9 percent.
Obama has fared slightly better, with a less-than-impressive 3.5 percent. Bill Clinton’s
recession-free rule generated a job expansion of 20.7 percent -- the same
stellar share achieved by Ronald Reagan’s administration in its post-recession good
When Bush was inaugurated, the
Census Bureau’s measure of median household income, after adjustment for
inflation, was $55,414. Eight years later, when the cowboy passed the baton to
the community organizer, the figure was $53,918. In 2011, well into Obamanomics,
it stood at $51,723.
Unpacking the more granular data and trends, it’s easy to see
why the typical family’s standard of living is in decline. Unemployment remains
stubbornly high, and fewer
able-bodied adults are participating in the labor force. For those who still
punch a clock, compensation flirts with stagnation. In March 2001, average hourly wages and
benefits cost employers $29.07. The comparable figure for March 2012 was $30.61.
Workers commencing their careers have been hardest hit. A March analysis
by Lawrence Mishel of the liberal Economic Policy Institute concluded:
“From 2000 to 2011 … wages actually fell among every entry-level group
regardless of education. Wage losses occurred for each group of entry-level
workers between 2000 and 2007, as well as during the recessionary years between
2007 and 2011.”
At the other end of the age spectrum, seniors can’t take much
solace in returns from “safe” investments. Many widows-and-orphans stocks --
e.g., Bank of America, Ford, General Electric, Pfizer -- have performed
abysmally under Bush and Obama. The value of homes empty-nesters and retirees
planned to unload for a tidy profit cratered in the Fannie Mae Bust.
This one will hurt: In 2001, a
gallon of gasoline cost, in today’s money, $1.88. (In many parts of the country, electricity’s become pricier,
too.) The tax burden imposed by state and local governments has
intensified -- from 9.3 percent of income in 2001 to 9.9 percent in 2010.
(Medicaid, the healthcare program for the “underprivileged,” is one of the
chief culprits driving state budget woes.)
Bush ballooned the national debt
from $5.7 trillion to $10.6 trillion. After just one term, Obama hiked the
federal credit card to $16.3 trillion. No one knows the exact number, but the
unfunded liabilities for nationalized pensions and elderly healthcare run well over
Leftists are gleefully predicting the end of the Republican
Party, which has lost the popular vote in five out of the last six elections
and faces a seemingly insurmountable demographic challenge. But moonbats have
little cause to be cocky. In 2012, Obama’s share of the popular vote dwindled
from his 2008 victory, as did his Electoral College performance. A huge portion
of the citizenry rejected the guns-and-butter neoconservatism of George W. Bush,
but “progressive,” “green,” and hugely expensive Nanny Statism has an
expiration date, too. If economic conditions don’t improve during Obama 2.0, it
could be Republicans’ turn to gloat in November 2016.
GOP hopes are warranted, because there’s nothing in the
president’s public statements to indicate an imminent shift in policymaking. Like
Bush, Obama doesn’t let facts get in the way of his agenda. So taxes are likely
to rise, runaway
entitlements won’t be addressed, healthcare “reform” will assault
employers and pile
on more Medicaid expenditures, and environmental
overkill will increasingly target the nation’s energy sector.
and 2001, the federal
government’s share of gross domestic product fell from 22.3 percent to 18.2
percent. It was the only sustained drop of the postwar era, and its impact was
impressive. Jobs and incomes boomed. So did the stock market. Tax revenue
flowed toward Washington
at such a rapid pace, fedpols couldn’t spend it all, and budget deficits disappeared.
nor Obama learned the lessons of the 1990s. Their reign of fiscal madness, bloody
adventurism abroad, and regulatory ratcheting will not be a period we fondly
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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