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Stephen Moore / October 13, 2020

No, Joe, There Was No Economic Boom Under Obama

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are conveniently misremembering the former president’s legacy.

The great Jackie Gleason once said, “The past remembers better than it lived.” And so it is, apparently, with the Obama years.

There was no economic “boom” as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are misremembering. This was an economy that skidded into a financial ditch and seemingly never pulled out of it and got back on the prosperity hot lanes until Donald Trump won the election in November 2016.

You can mark the real recovery — an economic inflection point almost the day after that surprise election outcome.

Every liberal forecaster and most academic economists had guaranteed America that, if Trump were elected, the stock market would crash; workers would be flattened; and, as New York Times economist Paul Krugman famously predicted, the economy would “never” recover.

Instead, the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared by 257 points the morning after the election (that’s some crash), and it rose for the next three years, as it has again over the last several months. A few days after that election, small-business optimism surged by its most considerable amount ever measured, going back many decades. Family incomes surged to record-high levels in 2017, 2018 and 2019 as deregulation and tax cuts fueled a powerful engine. In three years, ordinary people had made more income gains than in eight years under the Obama-Biden administration.

But now we are being told a fairy tale that the Obama economy was booming and Biden miraculously fixed it and Trump “blew it.”

Here’s the reality check. Under Barack Obama, the economy barely grew 2% — rather pathetic for a “recovery.” The people who made the preposterous bullish claims that Obama saved the economy are the ones who now say the Biden economic plan will gain millions of jobs.

In the last year of Obama’s presidency, growth shrunk to 1.6%, and the concern was the possibility of another recession. That’s some boom.

If the Obama recovery had been as rapid as the average recovery, we would have had at least $1 trillion more GDP by 2016. If we had experienced a Ronald Reagan-style recovery, the GDP would have been $2.5 trillion larger when Obama left office. It is almost equivalent to the size of the entire output of the state of California gone missing.

The first four years of the Obama presidency were abysmal. The Obama-Biden $800 billion stimulus plan left unemployment higher every year than their economists had predicted if we did nothing. What bailed out Obama, ironically enough, was the shale oil and gas revolution that added millions of jobs despite the Obama-Biden hatred of fossil fuels. Most of the employment growth came in Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Meanwhile, most of the green energy subsidies went into failed and now-bankrupt companies such as Solyndra. And now Biden promises another $2 trillion for “clean energy” corporate welfare subsidies.

Throughout nearly all of the Biden-Obama presidency, roughly 1 out of 3 people in the United States rated the economy as “good” or “excellent.” Most of the rest rated the economy “fair” or “poor.” That number surged to about 65% rating the economy as “good” or “excellent” within a year of Trump’s presidency.

People can debate Trump’s handling of the virus and the mistakes that have been made. It now looks like under any scenario, except an airtight sequestering of those over the age of 75, smokers, diabetics and severely overweight people, we would have seen the same or worse results.

Now the question is which game plan gets the economy and employment back to normal as quickly as possible. Biden promises a $4 trillion tax hike on almost all U.S. businesses and investors. That’s roughly 5% of everything we produce that gets snatched away in higher taxes. If you believe that this will get America back on the fast track, you probably believe Obama caused an economic boom.


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