Why, after all this, does President Obama enjoy an approval rating near 50%? How can people even think of voting for him over the Republican nominee in 2012? Well wonder no more.
- The Great Recession, which began in 2007, ended in June 2009, just five months after Obama was sworn into office.
- Since June 2009, real Gross Domestic Product has grown in every quarter, at an average annual rate of 2.8%. In the preceding eight years, from 2000 to 2008 (4th quarter to 4th quarter), average growth was only 1.7% per year. Real GDP is now at an all-time high.
- Over the last 14 months, over two million private sector jobs were added to the economy. Over that same period, over 300,000 government jobs were cut.
- The stock market is up over 60% since Obama was inaugurated. It is now at levels not seen since June 2008, or before Bush bailed out Fannie and Freddie and gave us TARP.
- There has been no tax increase since Obama entered office. In fact, he cut taxes.
- The tax rates enacted under President Bush were extended. We are now paying at the same tax rates we were in 2007 and 2008, if not less.
- The stimulus was about one third tax cuts and tax credits.
- As part of the legislation extending the Bush tax rates, Obama added billions more in tax cuts and credits.
- A big reason that the federal deficit is so large is that federal receipts are 4.1% of GDP lower in 2011 than in 2007. (OMB Table 1.2)
- It is true that the federal government is spending 4.6% of GDP more in 2011 than it did in 2008, but 67% of that is due to built-in increases in the mandatory programs, primarily Social Security and Medicare, and interest on the debt. Another 15% of that increase is due to increased Defense spending. (OMB Table 8.4)
- Non-defense discretionary spending increased only 0.7% of GDP from 2008 to 2011. That is, 85% of the increase in spending was either outside the President's control or was due to increased Defense spending.
The War On Terror.
- Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces. His computers, notebooks and other materials were taken into custody in one of the greatest anti-terror intelligence finds ever.
- The troop drawdown in Iraq essentially followed the plans of President Bush. When Obama was inaugurated, there were 142,000 US troops in Iraq. One year later there were still 110,000 US troops there. Even now, almost 2 ½ years into Obama's term, 46,000 US troops remain in Iraq.
- In Afghanistan, Obama more than tripled the number of US troops there: from about 33,000 to 100,000. He essentially gave his generals, such as Petraeus, everything they asked for.
- Obama has ordered more drone attacks than Bush ever did.
- Gitmo is still open and in business with about 160 jihadis in cells there. Military tribunals continue.
- The Patriot Act was extended.
- On February 22, Sarah Palin said, "NATO and our allies should look at establishing a no-fly zone so Libyan air forces cannot continue slaughtering the Libyan people." Within weeks, by March 17, the UN approved such a no-fly zone and by March 19, US forces and NATO allies were part of the coalition enforcing that no-fly zone.
- Obama retained George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates.
- In 2005, the Republican-led Congress mandated that 652 miles of fence be built along the US-Mexican border. That fence is now 649 miles long, or 99.5% complete.
- There are almost 20% more border agents now than when Obama took office, bringing the number to an historical high.
- More illegal aliens are being deported than ever before, especially criminal aliens.
- Comparing 2010 to 2008: 31% more criminal aliens were apprehended; 38% more criminal aliens were processed for removal; 93% more criminal aliens were ordered removed; and 40% fewer re-entered the US.
Compared to other advanced economies.
- According to IMF figures, the US economy grew 2.9% (inflation-adjusted) from 2007 to 2011 - the Great Recession years. That is more than 20 of the 34 countries classified as "advanced economies." Specifically, that is a better growth rate than Denmark (-2.4%), the UK (-2.2%), Spain (-2.2%), France (0.6%), the Netherlands (1.1%), Germany (1.9%), and Norway (2.7%).
- In 2011, net government debt in the US was 72.4% of GDP. While high, 8 of 26 advanced economies had higher: Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Portugal and the UK, ranging from 75% of GDP (UK) to 152% (Greece).
Compared to Republicans.
- The bailout of banks? Bush started that.
- The bailout of auto companies? Bush started that.
- Government take-over of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and 90% of the home mortgage business that went with them? Bush did that.
- Adding a new entitlement? Bush did that (Medicare Part D), to the tune of almost $8 trillion in unfunded government liabilities, more than the entire unfunded liability of Social Security.
- Ethanol subsidies? Pushed by many Republicans and expanded by Bush.
- Outlawing light bulbs? Bush did that.
- Mandating individual health insurance? Mitt Romney did that.
- "Comprehensive" immigration reform? Both Bush and McCain pushed that.
- Campaign Finance Reform? McCain pushed that and Bush signed it into law.
- No Child Left Behind? Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush pushed that, and Bush signed it into law.
- Earl Warren, Harry Blackmun and David Souter? All appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican Presidents.
- Do you want a vigorous attack against waterboarding? Just ask John McCain.
- Concerned about Climate Change? So are John McCain and Newt Gingrich.
- In favor of "Democrat" wars like Yugoslavia and Libya? So were most Republicans, McCain in particular.
Do I think Obama had anything to do with any of the good news above? No. Most of it was on automatic pilot. Recessions end, even if you do nothing about them. Obama was cautious enough to let Bush's War On Terror continue as planned, rhetoric aside. The bad things really were inherited - from LBJ and FDR. Entitlements are eating up everything.
Did Obama's stimulus help? No. Was it terrible? If we hadn't done it, government debt would be about 67% of GDP instead of 72%. My guess is the opposite of Obama's economic advisors: unemployment would have been one percentage point lower without the stimulus -- or 8% now instead of 9%. The stimulus was bad, but not the Apocalypse.
Is ObamaCare that terrible? Health care was already a mess. Now it is a bigger, costlier mess -- maybe 1% of GDP more costly. And trust me, Republicans will not end it. If we elect a Republican in 2012, within six months in office, if not before, his message will become some version of "mend it, don't end it." Wanna bet?
You might have read about various budget proposals. At one extreme we have Obama's proposed budget for 2012, which the CBO scored as costing 24.2% of GDP in 2021. At the other "extreme," we have Rep. Paul Ryan's plan, which the CBO scored as costing 20.25% of GDP in 2022. Obama's Deficit Commission proposed spending 21% of GDP.
That's it. This entire debate is about a difference that is less than 4% of GDP. According to IMF figures, government in the US is spending 41% of GDP in 2011. The current debate is about whether government spends 40% or 44% of GDP. That is, whether we should be more like Luxembourg (39%), Canada (42%) or Norway (44%).
Nine advanced economies, of 34, have smaller government than we have right now:
- Singapore (19% of GDP)
- Taiwan (20%)
- Hong Kong (21%)
- South Korea (21%)
- Switzerland (34%)
- Australia (36%)
- New Zealand (36%)
- Slovak Republic (38%)
- Luxembourg (39%)
We are already a "European" country. In fact, we are more European than Switzerland and Luxembourg. We are to the European side of our English-speaking cousins of Australia, New Zealand and Canada. If we are anti-Obama because we don't want to be like Europe, that horse has already left the barn.
None of this changes my mind about Obama. I think he is a doctrinaire Marxist. I think he is one of the stupidest people to hold that office. And for my money he is by far the most obnoxious (the I-me-my president) in my lifetime, and perhaps history.
But that does not make him Satan. It makes him merely European. More precisely, 1980s European. Obama is behind the curve. He wants us to go where Europe has already been.
The real choice seems to be between East and West. If you look at the above international comparisons, we should become more like the Asian Tigers, Australia, New Zealand or even Canada. And we should be befriending China and India as they climb out of socialism and into freedom.
Obama is going in the other direction: imitating Europe (failing) and befriending the Middle East (failed).
I think that is the real choice: East or West. Unfortunately, there is really nothing to energize voters here, including me. It's not much comfort to know we're not too much worse than Canada.
Randall Hoven can be followed on Twitter.