Harvey Golub in the Wall Street Journal:
All the available Keynesian levers for achieving economic growth have been pulled, yet the recovery is one of the weakest since World War II. The problem lies with the way the "stimulus" was carried out, the uncertainty of looming higher taxes, and the antibusiness rhetoric and regulatory strong-arming of this administration.
First, exactly how weak has this recovery been? The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis tracks economic performance for each recovery and compares gross-domestic-product growth and job growth, the two most important indicators of economic performance. Over the past 60 years, there have been 11 recessions and 11 recoveries.
Sadly, this recovery is near the bottom of all 11. Cumulative nonfarm job growth is just 1.9% 34 months into recovery, the ninth-worst performance and well below the average job growth of 6.5%. Cumulative GDP growth is just 6.8% 11 quarters into this recovery, less than half the average (15.2%) and the worst of all 11.
But wouldn't things be even worse without massive fiscal and monetary stimulus? It's true that monetary policy by the Federal Reserve has resulted in extraordinarily low interest rates, almost zero for the past three years. Normally, low interest rates would result in increased borrowing by individuals and businesses, generating increased economic activity. Its positive effects in this recovery, however, have mainly been to help the government borrow more cheaply, large banks recapitalize quickly, and homeowners refinance at low rates.
I would take issue with calling what Obama has wrought a "recovery." Market economies almost can't help themselves - they experience economic growth after a downturn even if there is an imbecile in the oval office. The anemic growth in the economy and jobs we are experiencing now is happening in spite of Obama's policies, which have done little or nothing to help.
Golub makes something of the same point:
President Obama, in speech after speech, proudly makes the following point: Although we inherited the worst recession since the Great Depression, we have generated net new jobs every month, and while we need to do more, we are going in the right direction.
Of course, recoveries always go in the right direction-that is, things get better over time. But merely going in the right direction is an incredibly low performance standard. Moreover, since deep recessions are generally followed by more robust recoveries, this should have been one of the strongest recoveries ever.
This is the case Romney has to make if he is to win.