Right Hooks

Who's 'Peddling Fiction' About the Economy?

The chief executive's divisive rhetoric isn't helping.

Dan Gilmore · Jan. 13, 2016

At last night’s State of the Union Address, Barack Obama crowed about his track record with the economy. Jobs have been increasing, he said, and because of that, everything is on the up and up. “Let me start with the economy and a basic fact,” Obama said. “The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. … Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.”

Yes, every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases that jobs report and the headlining numbers — how many jobs added, the unemployment rate — look good. But Obama is painting with too broad a brush when he says his naysayers are describing a fictional reality. The numbers deeper in those reports tell a more ominous story. As Fortune demonstrates, wages under Obama’s administration have basically stagnated. Personal debt held by Americans has increased by about $1 trillion. Meanwhile, fewer Americans are buying homes. And as for those increased employment numbers, it is undercut by the fact that the overall percentage of Americans in the workforce is hovering around record lows.

As a hallmark of his economy, Obama said last night more Americans work in the solar industry than coal. Of course — this is because the Obama administration has decimated the coal industry through regulation, as the second largest coal company filed for bankruptcy and West Virginia struggles with staggering unemployment numbers. The chief executive’s divisive rhetoric on the economy isn’t helping, either. But here’s some good news: America’s economy is durable. It will move past the Obama era.

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