Becker of the Becker-Posner blog pretty much nails what has happened since Obama took office and the reasons for the weak GDP growth and persistent unemployment:
In addition to repeated attacks on American business, especially banks (some of the attacks on banks were well deserved), Congress passed an expensive stimulus package that did not stimulate much. The health care bill Congress passed seems likely to increase the cost to small and large businesses of providing health insurance for employees. Congressional leaders proposed high taxes on carbon emissions, large increases in taxes on higher income individuals, corporate profits, and capital gains as part of vocal attacks on "billionaires". Many in Congress wanted to cap, or at least control, compensation of executives. Proposals were advanced to make anti-trust laws less pro-consumer, and more protective of competitors from aggressive and innovative companies. Congress passed and the president signed a financial reform bill that is a complicated and a politically driven mixture of sensible reforms, and senseless changes that have little to do with stabilizing the financial architecture, or correcting what was defective in prior regulations.
It is no surprise that this rhetoric and the proposed and actual policies discouraged business investment and slowed down the recovery. Yet, I had expected the recovery to speed up after radical approaches to the American economy were repudiated in the 2010 Congressional elections, when many of the more liberal members of Congress lost their seats. For a while the economy did began to pick up, as unemployment declined quite rapidly from hovering around 10% to about 9% at end of 2010, and GDP started growing faster. But then the economy stalled. The challenge is to explain the drift in the unemployment rate during the past several months, and the rather tepid growth in GDP that have raised fears of a "double-dip".
Liberal Democrats continue to be reluctant to agree to big cuts in government spending. Many Republicans have come out against increasing any taxes, even though sensible tax reform toward a flatter and broader based income tax would raise the taxes paid by some taxpayers. The most attractive reform of Medicare put forward by any member of Congress is Paul Ryan's proposal to provide grants to the elderly to buy health insurance, with the size of the grant falling with the income of the recipient (see our discussion of his "Roadmap" in posts for April 4, 2011). But Ryan's Medicare proposal has been rejected not only by Democrats, but also by leading members of his own party.
To many investors, the future of the American economy looks dim and also uncertain. I am a perennial optimist about America, but even I have moments of serious doubts: not about the ability to solve these problems, but about the will to do so. The best way to get American fiscal and other economic problems under control, and thereby "stimulate" the economy, is to institute growth oriented policies that would increase the long-term growth rate beyond the 3% average annual GDP growth rate of the past 130 years. These policies include tax reform, cuts in entitlement spending, and more sensible regulations that are less dependent on discretion by regulators (see my post for December 6, 2010 for a discussion of these and other proposals).
It is puzzling why Obama and the Democrats would pursue anti-business policies and regulations and then act perplexed when the economy falters.