The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Shared Misery

A common phrase among President Obama's spokespeople is that "there's no need to relitigate the past" but rather look "forward" to the future. They follow that comment by suggesting (as Bill Clinton did yesterday) that Mitt Romney's fiscally conservative approach to government spending would be "calamitous" for the country. That begs two questions.

First, if future austerity measures will be calamitous, how should we describe the profligate spending (by both Democrats and Republicans) over the past five decades? Government spending, coupled with loose control over financial institutions and unintended side effects associated with the desire for everyone to own a home lead to the worst financial crash since the Great Depression. Following the crash, feckless attempts by the Obama administration to properly establish mechanisms for creating jobs in the private sector, led to the worst economic recovery in history. I think that "calamitous" might properly be applied to President Obama's record.

Second, why is it that the President's record over the past 3.5 years doesn't matter? Investors Business Daily provides a sad litany of the results of what they call "Obamanomics:"
• The share of Americans who've been out of work a long time — now at 42% of the unemployed — is the highest since the Great Depression (source: Labor Department).

• The proportion of the civilian working-age population actually working, at 58%, is the smallest since the Carter era (Labor Department).

• Growth in nonfarm payroll jobs since the recovery began in June 2009 is the slowest of any comparable recovery since World War II (Hoover Institution).

• The rate of new business startups — the engine of job growth — has plunged to an all-time low of 7.87% of all businesses (Census Bureau).

• 3 in 10 young adults can't find jobs and live with their parents, highest since the 1950s (Pew Research).

• 54% of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 are jobless or underemployed, the highest share in decades (Northeastern University).

• Black teen unemployment, now at 37%, is near Depression-era highs (Labor Department).

• Almost 1 in 6 Americans are now poor — the highest ratio in 30 years — and the total number of poor, at 49.1 million, is the largest on record (Census).

• The share of Hispanics in poverty has topped that of blacks for the first time, 28.2% to 25.4% (Census).

• The number of Americans on food stamps — 45 million recipients, or 1 in 7 residents — also is the highest on record (Congressional Budget Office).

• Total government dependency — defined as the share of Americans receiving one or more federal benefit payments — is now at 47%, highest ever (Hoover).

• The share of Americans paying no income tax, at 49.5%, is the highest ever (Heritage Foundation, IRS).

• The national homeownership rate, now at 65.4%, is the lowest in 15 years (Census).

• The 30-point gap between black and white Americans who own their own homes is the widest in two decades and one of the widest on record (Census).

• Federal spending, now at 23.4% of GDP, is the highest since WWII (CBO).

• Excluding defense and interest payments, spending is the highest in American history, at 17.6% of the economy (First Trust Economics).

• The federal debt, at 69% of GDP, is the highest since just after WWII (CBO).

• The U.S. budget deficit, now at 9.5% of the economy, is the highest since WWII (CBO).

• U.S. Treasury debt has been downgraded for the first time in history, meaning the U.S. government no longer ranks among risk-free borrowers (S&P).
The President and his supporters vilify "trick down economics" and argue that "the rich" should pay their fair share. Maybe. But as the editors of Investor's Business Daily note, what we're actually seeing as Obama's first term comes to an end is "... Fiscal promiscuity. Trickle-up poverty. [and] Shared misery."