Throughout the six years President Obama has been in office, many on the right predicted that his policies would lead to economic catastrophe. But as we prepare to hear the president's 2015 State of the Union address, it's clear that the prophets of doom were dead wrong.
The president's critics were not only wrong about the future; they were wrong about the past. They conveniently forget that when President Obama took office, our country was in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, shedding jobs at a rate of about 750,000 jobs per month. In the last quarter of George W. Bush's presidency, real GDP shrank 8.2 percent. The banking system teetered on the brink; millions of homeowners were "underwater" and facing foreclosure. The United States was facing the possibility of a second Great Depression.
Immediately after he was inaugurated six years ago today, President Obama started passing measures to help revive the economy -- over Republican opposition: the Recovery Act, the auto rescue, and significant investments in our education system. His opponents and their allies predicted that his policies would lead to further economic disaster, but they were wrong.
Rather, by almost any measure, the state of our economy is far stronger than it was six years ago. The economy has grown in 13 of the last 14 quarters, and GDP growth in the most recent two quarters was the strongest in more than a decade. The growth is driving job creation.
We added 252,000 jobs in December, wrapping up what was a banner year for job growth. 2014 was the strongest year for private-sector job creation since 1997. The unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent, down from a high of 10 percent in October 2009. The number of unemployed persons per job opening is near its pre-recession level. Household and business optimism has risen sharply over the last year. The stock market has nearly tripled and is near its record high.
The federal budget deficit has declined from just under 10 percent of GDP in 2009 to under 3 percent last year. The Congressional Budget Office attributes much of that improvement in the deficit picture to the growing economy, just as Democrats had projected.
Inflation is tame, gas prices are low, banks are lending, and the economy is growing.
My Republican colleagues have tried to claim credit for recent improvements in the economy. But evidence clearly shows that the economy improved in spite of them. In fact, Republicans opposed much of what President Obama and congressional Democrats did to jumpstart America's economy. Republicans even shut down the United States government and nearly forced us to default on our debt.
The big question now is: With Republicans in charge of both chambers of Congress, will they work across the aisle and with the president to move our economy forward?
Unfortunately, the first few weeks have not been encouraging. We have spent hours debating whether or not to build a pipeline that will create only 35 permanent jobs, according to the State Department. We are now preparing to debate legislation that will put the government in between a woman and her doctor, restricting her right to choose. Republicans say that jobs are their number-one priority, but this bill won't create a single job.
If Republicans are serious about their desire to create jobs and boost our economy, they need to work with the president on some of the common-sense policies he has put forward. We should work together to find common ground on closing unfair loopholes in our tax code, fixing our broken immigration system, and investing in our nation's aging infrastructure.
It's time for the prophets of doom to admit that they were dead wrong. And it's time for those who have opposed the president's policies to stop the obstructionism and start working to make sure we don't squander this opportunity.