E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote yesterday that “many Americans have lost the sense of what he [President Obama] is doing to improve their lives.” Dionne goes on to say that to combat this disillusionment, President Obama needs to do a better job of telling the American people how his agenda promotes “growth and opportunity.”
The fact is that President Obama needs a new agenda, not a better way of selling the status quo. If we define the success of the Obama presidency by examining some of the quantifiable facts that measure our country’s progress, it’s hard to argue that the lives of Americans have improved over the past four years or that these discouraging trends are going to be reversed anytime soon.
Since Obama’s first full month in office in February 2009, the unemployment rate has gone from terrible (8.3 percent) to very bad (7.5 percent). But a true picture of just how bad the unemployment situation is in our country is revealed by the fact that more than 9.5 million people have dropped out of the labor force since the president took office in 2009. Undoubtedly, the impact of this number is reflected in some of the other indices and statistics that we can use to objectively measure the success of the Obama presidency.
In the past five years, 9.5 million people have quit working and the current labor force participation rate is just 63.6 percent, the lowest it’s been since May 1979. More than 15.2 million more people are on food stamps today than were in February 2009, and during the same time frame, the poverty rate has increased by 0.7 percent.
Gasoline prices have almost doubled under Obama, and there’s nothing more corrosive for the middle class than when more cash comes out of everyone’s pockets at the pump. This is especially true given that the median household income has dropped more than $3,000 during the Obama presidency.
All the while we have experienced the biggest jump in our national debt in history under Obama, with the debt exploding from $11 trillion at the end of 2008 to almost $17 trillion today. And I’ll point out once again that if we look at this huge number in more relatable terms, our current national debt translates to a cost of more than $148,000 per taxpayer, up from just over $90,000 per taxpayer in 2008.
Even the infamous “Misery Index,” created by Jimmy Carter, has gotten worse under the Obama presidency. Remember, the Misery Index is the unemployment rate plus the inflation rate. In January 2009, the index was 7.83, but as of March 2013, it increased to 9.07.
It’s safe to say that the above statistics are key benchmarks of the U.S. economy. You can pick through other available figures and try to find some small pieces of good news, but by any measure, what these data show is that things have gotten worse rather than better for many Americans during Obama’s tenure. His time to enact change is rapidly diminishing, and as I have referenced over the past couple weeks, he appears to be out of ideas and energy. His second-term agenda, which should be fresh and marching its way through Congress, is nowhere to be seen. Given where we are now, it is hard to see how Democratic candidates will want to embrace an Obama agenda in the 2014 election.