President Obama returned Wednesday to the scene of what is considered his first major economic speech. It was delivered in 2005 at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., not long after he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
As he did eight years earlier, Obama expressed his empathy for Galesburg’s “proud Maytag workers” who lost their jobs when their plant moved to Mexico. Their travails were emblematic, the president said, of “what a changing economy was doing to the middle class.”
The president attributed some of that change, some of that labor market dislocation, to technology that “made some jobs obsolete” and global competition that “sent others overseas,” like those of Galesburg’s Maytag workers.
But far more significant, Obama suggested, was that “Washington doled out bigger tax cuts to the rich and smaller minimum-wage increases for the working poor.” From 1979-2007, he said, the top 1 percent of Americans saw their incomes nearly quadruple while the typical family’s barely budged.
“In many ways,” the president said, “the trends that I spoke of here in 2005 — of a winner-take-all economy where a few do better and better, while everybody else just treads water — have been made worse by the recession.”
Well, President Obama certainly can’t be blamed for the so-called Great Recession of 2007-09, which he inherited from George W. Bush. But he certainly can be called to account for his stewardship of the economy since January 2009.
The recession officially ended four years ago. And his economic policies have had more than enough time to produce a robust recovery.
Wednesday, the president boasted, “Over the past 40 months, our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs.” He also thought it worthy of celebration that, “As a country, we’ve recovered faster and gone further than most other advanced nations in the world.”
Well, we’re happy that businesses are creating new jobs. But we also are troubled that, four years into the Obama recovery, some 20 million Americans, according to the Wall Street Journal, have stopped looking for work or have settled for part-time jobs.
And, while the U.S. economic recovery, indeed, may be “faster” and may have “gone further” than in most other advanced nations, the more-relevant comparison is how the Obama recovery compares to past U.S. recoveries.
As Forbes magazine contributor Peter Ferrara noted in June, in the 10 recessions since the Great Depression, it has taken the U.S. economy roughly two years to recover all the jobs lost during the downturn.
But under President Obama, almost five and a half years passed (as of April), and the economy had not recovered all the jobs lost during the 2007-09 recession.
Wednesday, Obama offered a preview of what, he said, he will be fighting for “every minute of the 1,276 days remaining in my term” to advance the cause of “middle-class prosperity.”
Lamentably, much of it is simply more of the same policies he deployed during his first term, which produced the underwhelming recovery the U.S. economy continues to experience.
We refuse to believe that the American job machine has fallen into permanent disrepair. We just think that the navigator in chief needs to follow a different course he has for four years.
From the Orange County (Calif.) Register