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What a Difference Four Years Makes

By the numbers.

Jun 18, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 38 • By JEFF BERGNER
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Barack Obama has said on many occasions that he inherited a very bad economy from George W. Bush. He has blamed the Bush economy for every shortcoming and disappointment of the past four years. If inheritance is a fair standard, let’s ask the obvious question: What will Barack Obama leave to his successor?

Chart below

President Obama contends that he has put in place the building blocks for a new, sustainable economy. It is unclear who inhabits this mythological new economy and what are the economic principles that govern it. But here in the real world, employment is down, debt is up, poverty is up, commodity prices are up, home ownership is down, fewer Americans are covered by health insurance, and education scores are flat (or down slightly). The picture is poor (see table below) whether you take as the point of comparison June 2008, the equivalent point in the presidential campaign four years ago (before the financial crisis); or the situation facing the voters as they made their choice in November 2008 (with the financial crisis full-blown); or January 20, 2009, when Barack Obama took office.

Amazingly, all this has been accomplished with the federal government growing by only 77,000 employees and with just 1,719 more pages of regulations being added to the Federal Register than were added in 2008.  

What have we bought for the enormous new debt with which we have saddled future taxpayers? What new energy sources have we developed for the billions of dollars of “investments” in renewables? What health benefits have emerged from Obamacare, whose massive costs have just begun to take hold? What educational improvements do we enjoy for the enormous sums expended on education?

The Obama reelection campaign calls on Americans to join the president in moving “forward.” If what we have seen in the last four years is moving forward, what would moving backward be?

Ironically, a second-term President Obama would be better off inheriting George W. Bush’s economy than his own. So would Mitt Romney. Whichever man wins, I wonder if he will be as inclined to blame as our current president has been.


Jeff Bergner has served in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. He recently coauthored a book on the 2008 presidential election entitled Branding the Candidate (Praeger).

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