Obama’s Legacy is Safe
Obama and his defenders have said endlessly that, if nothing else, Obama deserves credit for saving the country from a second Great Depression. It’s a claim without foundation. The recession was ending even as he was sworn in, and was over before most of his “stimulus” policies took effect. Even liberal economists admit that the Fed’s actions, along with the TARP program enacted under Bush, prevented a further meltdown.
The Economy: Obama’s Recovery
If Obama’s economic performance is to be judged, it must be on the strength of the recovery, which began just a few months after he took office. And on that score, he fails miserably. Despite repeated promises that his policies would produce growth rates of 3% to 4% a year, annual GDP growth never reached 3% once — making it the worst recovery since the Depression. Had Obama’s recovery been merely average, GDP would be $2 trillion bigger and there’d be millions more with jobs?
The Middle Class:
Obama, like every Democrat running for office, claimed to be the champion of the middle class, and that instead of “trickle down” economics, he’d growth the economy from the “middle out.” Instead, middle-class wages stagnated throughout Obama’s term in office, with real median household income today exactly where it was when Obama took office.
And despite Obama’s constant bragging about the “longest” stretch of private sector job growth, the 15.5 million private sector jobs added since February 2010 hasn’t even kept pace with population growth — which climbed 17.5 million over that time. As a result, more than 14 million people have dropped out of the labor force since Obama took office. In fact, without the huge decline in labor force participation under Obama, the unemployment rate would be more like 10%, rather than the official 4.9%.
ObamaCare was supposed to be Obama’s grand legacy, showing how a government could be a force for good. Instead, it’s become an epic failure that will have to be dealt with by the next president. The reforms Obama said would repair a “broken” health system have themselves broken it. Premiums in the newly government-run individual market are up an average 22% nationwide, and at rates of 50%, 60%, even 113% in some states — increases unheard of before ObamaCare. Insurance markets that were once vibrantly competitive are now dominated by one or two carriers. ObamaCare has made Medicaid, an already terrible health program, worse by dumping millions more into it. ObamaCare’s taxes, mandates, and regulations are suffocating businesses.
Obama came to national prominence promising that he could bridge racial and political divides and bring the country together. From the moment he stepped into the White House, however, Obama stoked racial tensions and governed as a bitter divisive partisan. Does anyone dispute that the country is more divided than it was eight years ago?
The National Debt:
When it came to the federal budget, Obama promised a “new era of responsibility.” Eight years later, the national debt is now 127% bigger, annual deficits are on track to top $1 trillion again, and the Congressional Budget Office says that Obama’s policies have put the nation on a course toward fiscal ruin. Under current law, publicly held debt will soar by over $9 trillion to $23.1 trillion between now and 2026, rising from its current post-World War II high of 77% of GDP to 86% in a decade — a level that most economists agree will damage the economy’s growth by siphoning vast amounts of money from the productive sector into the far less productive government sector.
The War On Terror: Obama’s legacy
Since Obama took office, nine radical Islamic terrorist attacks — each of which came with plenty of warning signs — have claimed 91 lives and injured about 400. Obama acted as if this scourge can be defeated with kind words, gun control, shuttering Guantanamo, and civil trials. Because he walked away from his duties as commander in chief and refused to recognize the ongoing threat, the U.S. faces an increased risk of a major terrorist attack for years to come.
Sold initially by President Obama and congressional Democrats as “financial reform” and an end to the “too big to fail” doctrine, the 2010 Dodd-Frank law has instead become a straitjacket for lending and the economy. It’s a massive law, at 2,300 pages, and few fully understood it at the time it was passed. Now they do. A report by the American Action Forum in 2015 estimated that, over 10 years, Dodd-Frank’s spate of restrictions on lending and financial innovation will cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion in output. What’s worse, it’s still in place, doing its damage. As Peter Wallison, a financial industry expert with the American Enterprise Institute who was part of the government’s financial crisis investigation, put it: “It is likely that, without the repeal or substantial reform of Dodd-Frank, the U.S. economy will continue to grow only slowly into the future.”
In his first inaugural speech, Obama said that the country was “ready to lead once more,” and that he would be “ushering in a new era of peace.” The next president will take office with nation’s global leadership dangerously diminished, while instability has grown and more wars are being waged than when Obama took office.
A list of Obama’s foreign policy failures would fill a volume, but here are just a few: Obama in 2011 prematurely removed troops from Iraq, creating a power vacuum later filled by ISIS; he let Iran’s covert nuclear weapons program continue, starting a nuclear arms race in the Mideast; after Obama called ISIS a “jayvee team,” it grew in clout and territory as a result of Obama’s neglect; Obama’s intervention in Libya during that country’s civil war led to the country becoming a terrorist haven, with no real government; he and Hillary Clinton pushed the “reset button” with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Russia launched hostile actions against its neighbors in Crimea and Ukraine, and threats to the Baltic states; Obama has signaled ambivalence over protecting traditional allies in Asia, leading to China arming up and bullying it neighbors. With massive defense cuts Obama put in place, it’s safe to say the U.S. hasn’t been this weak since the Carter years.
Obama’s legacy is secure. “It’s one of abject failure.” The only question of importance now is whether the next president can repair the damage.