Includes a Report Card on the Economy Under the Obama Administration.
President Barack Obama spoke on the morning of July 9, 2014 in Denver's Cheesman Park to a select group of sympathetic citizens, who were there by invitation only. The President was packing a big smile for Colorado Democrats and a carefully crafted message to Republicans in Congress - "Do something." "Rather than engage in political stunts that waste time and taxpayer money, join me," President Obama said, in a clear call of action. "Let's build some roads. Let's give America a raise. Let's help families with childcare costs."
This message was clearly in response to Speaker of the House John Boehner's Op-Ed threatening to sue President Obama for using his executive power too loosely. In his Op-Ed on CNN.com entitled, "Why We Must Now Sue the President," Speaker of the House John Boehner accused President Obama of "not faithfully [executing] the laws when it comes to a range of issues, including his health care law, energy regulations, foreign policy and education." Speaker Boehner believes that President Obama is using executive actions to promote his own agenda, while ignoring the statutes he is "sworn to uphold." Those policies, according to Boehner, are responsible for "slow economic growth and high unemployment."
Democrats and Republicans are at opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to almost everything - including their claims on how well the economy is doing, and the future of America. President Obama admitted today that, rather than stand by and let gridlock prevent progress from happening, he's going to help middle-class Americans wherever and whenever he can. According to President Obama, "So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class."
While the President sounded sincere in his invitation to Congress to join him, offering a Democratic agenda to a Republican-led House smells of more gridlock, not compromise. Americans on both sides of the aisle want healthy, educated and employed families, and a robust economy. The difference, which even President Obama admitted, is purely "economic theory." Who picks up the tab? Can middle-class small business owners afford to offer health care, higher wages and family leave to their employees, or will that send them so far into the red that they'll have to take on more debt or fold the business? Can the U.S., which is already $17.6 trillion in debt, afford to write another check for infrastructure at this time, during a fragile recovery, when last quarter showed negative GDP growth of 2.9%? While consumers, including a lot of middle class small business owners, are carrying almost $12 trillion in debt, these questions cannot be ignored.
Boehner espouses that the American People are still wondering where the jobs are. Meanwhile President Obama boasts that, "By almost every measure, we are better off than when I took office."
So, who is right? Is America better or worse off today than it was on January 20, 2009, when President Barack Obama was sworn into office? And whose agenda is better for the economy going forward?
REPORT CARD ON THE ECONOMY UNDER THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
Where Are the Jobs?
The unemployment rate is currently 6.1% (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics), with 9.9 million Americans unemployed. The unemployment rate in January of 2009, when President Obama took office, was 7.6%, with 11.6 million Americans unemployed. President Obama has definitely created jobs.
Since January of 2009, household debt is lower, median household net worth is 39% higher, the stock market has more than doubled and dependence upon foreign oil is down by 46%. At the same time, the national debt in the U.S. is an alarming $17.6 trillion. And over seven million people have lost their homes - most under President Obama's watch.
Year: REO (Completed Foreclosures)
2007 : 404,849
2008 : 861,664
Grand Total: 5,321,835
*There were 2.2 million short sales, in addition to the REOs, over the same period.
Gas Prices, Energy Independence and Oil/Gas Production
The U.S. dependence on foreign oil fell from 60.3% in net imports (imports minus exports) in 2005, and 51.9% in 2009, to 32.8% in 2013, according to the Energy Information Association. Domestic oil production has increased to 2.7 billion barrels a year, from 1.954 billion in 2009. This is great news.
Unfortunately, that hasn't resulted in lower gas prices for the average American. Prices at the pump are back near all-time highs - at $3.766/gallon in June 2014 (source: Energy Information Association, EIA.gov).
On January 23, 2009, the S&P500 was trading at 831.95. On July 9, 2014, the S&P500 closed at 1,972.83 - more than double what it was when President Obama took office (+137% gains).
Credit Card Debt
U.S. households started deleveraging after the Great Recession ended. Credit card debt reached $866 billion in the last quarter of 2008, but is down to $699 billion, as of the first quarter of 2014 (sources: St. Louis Federal Reserve and New York Federal Reserve).
STEM & Education
There are currently 4.6 million job openings - many of which require STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and math). Why has STEM become the acronym of the decade and why is there such an emphasis on getting a college education? Because when you do you are less likely to be unemployed and more likely to earn a livable wage. President Obama wants to ensure that college graduates can limit the repayment of their student loan debt to 10% of their income, to encourage participation in teaching, social work and nonprofits. Education, beginning in pre-school, is a big piece of President Obama's agenda.
The Bottom Line
President Obama clearly has overseen an impressive economic recovery - one that Republicans rarely give him enough credit for. However, if the future of America were as easy as giving everyone a raise, offering universal health care and not worrying about the national debt, then Greece would be the world's economic leader.
With 1/3 of our population obese, over $3 trillion annually spent on health care (as a result) and a daily bill of almost a billion dollars spent importing oil, the solution for a healthier economy and population lies as much in the hands and habits of Americans, as in their wallets. Getting healthy, kicking our oil addiction and conserving energy are all nonpartisan red, white and blue messages that empower every American to roll up our sleeves and co-create a healthier tomorrow. These messages are just as important as taxes and raises, and deserve as much air-time in the speeches and blogs of our nation's leaders.