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Allyne Caan / January 14, 2016

State of Fundamental Change

The economy isn’t terrible, but it’s not as strong as Obama claims.

When Barack Obama campaigned for president in 2008, he pledged to strengthen the economy, create jobs and restore confidence in America. On Tuesday in his final State of the Union Address, he tried to convince America that he had succeeded. But after seven years of watching the White House operate outside the realm of reality, no one is fooled.

Obama set the stage by preemptively insulting anyone who would attempt to unravel the spin he was about to spew, stating, “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.” Of course, someone who lives in a world of fantasy, where a jump in the national debt from $10.6 trillion in 2009 to $18.8 trillion today is “economic progress,” can hardly be trusted to judge fact and fiction.

In the land of reality, Obama’s economy is a downright failure. First, as The Daily Signal explains, while Obama touted lower unemployment and more jobs, the fact is that the 5% unemployment rate today is worse than the 4.4% rate under George W. Bush in May of 2007. And the unemployment rate doesn’t count the millions who have left the workforce during Obama’s reign. Indeed, the labor participation rate today is the lowest since 1977, standing at just 62.6%. What’s more, the average unemployed worker has been jobless for more than six months, longer than at any time between 1945 and Obama’s inauguration.

As for those new jobs? Job creation has mostly kept pace with population growth. While treading water is better than the alternative, it’s hardly worthy of a medal.

And let’s not forget the $80 billion (per year) in new regulations under Obama that have wreaked financial havoc on business and individuals alike — ObamaCare being the prime example. Obama said Tuesday that “there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut,” but under his watch Americans have inherited 184 new major rules. Meanwhile, just 17 federal rules have been scaled back. That red tape seems to be sticking pretty close to Obama.

Then there’s Obama’s claim that government spending on renewable energy has brightened the economic landscape. “On rooftops from Arizona to New York,” he said, “solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills and employs more Americans than coal — in jobs that pay better than average.” Well, remember all those regulations? They’re killing thousands of better-than-average-pay coal jobs. Meanwhile, solar energy, while growing thanks to taxpayer-funded subsidies, remains one of the most expensive ways to generate electricity. So if there are more solar jobs than coal ones, it’s because Obama put his foot on the scale.

Finally, while Obama claimed over the last seven years that progress toward the goal of “a growing economy that works better” for everyone, those facing declining incomes under his watch might disagree. As the Signal notes, “Between 2007 and 2011 (the most recent data available) labor income for non-elderly households in the middle quintile dropped roughly 10 percentage points.”

While no amount of rhetoric can spin all this into a booming economy, Obama still tries. As The Wall Street Journal observes, “Obama’s legacy project is already in high gear. This includes Tuesday night’s State of the Union, which is best understood as the start of a campaign to persuade Americans that the last seven years have been better than they believe. He needs to start early because this reality makeover won’t be easy.”

Indeed, Obama prepares to exit office with a limping U.S. economy, an economic slowdown in China that could make the limp more pronounced, and falling oil prices that might bring relief at the pump but are hitting the U.S. drilling industry hard.

It’s little wonder that the Democrat presidential candidates lining up to take Obama’s place are far from enthusiastic about the economic legacy they’re simultaneously running on and against.

Who can blame them? Obama’s economic legacy will be one of change minus the hope. And no lies intermittently augmented by nearly 15 minutes of applause can change that.

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