Clinton with a straight face: “Obama gets an “A” on the Economy”

In an interview with the Boston Globe, Hillary Clinton said that Barack Obama gets an “A” for his work on the economy.  She said it with a straight face.  Crediting him with avoiding a “Great Depression”, she never mentioned what he actually did to avoid it.  The interviewer, obviously a fellow Democrat working for the Boston Globe named James Pindell (Twitter handle:  @JamesPindell) never bothered to follow up with the painfully obvious question:  “An ‘A’ for what?”  Clinton’s claim and others she made throughout the ten minute “interview” went unchallenged.  For example, Pindell, if he were actually going to commit journalism, might have asked, “Mrs. Clinton, do you really think most Americans think they are better off today than when Obama first entered office?”  But we don’t see those kind of questions because Democrats in the media are too busy fawning.  It is just so difficult to imagine how the media can manage to be so bad at doing their jobs.

An Analysis of Economic Growth

There are a number of metrics by which we can measure economic performance and there is no doubt that the economy is performing better now than the day Obama was inaugurated in 2009.  That’s hardly comforting.  The economy was still in a nosedive at the beginning of Obama’s term in office and his efforts to staunch the bleeding were ineffective according to most non-partisan experts.

But how does Obama’s economic performance stack up versus his most recent predecessors?  Here is a chart based on the revised GDP data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the Commerce Department.


GDP Chart

This chart shows Obama to have performed worse than any of his previous four predecessors.  Hardly worthy of an “A”.  To understand this chart, the vertical line represents the reported quarterly GDP growth rates from the highest to the lowest.  The horizontal rectangle represents the difference between the average growth rate for all quarters and the mid-point or median growth rate.  If the rectangle is white, it signifies a mid-point higher than the average.  This would imply either more quarters below or further under the average.  A black rectangle signifies an average higher than the midpoint, indicating  more quarters either above or further over average.

How does Obama Compare?

Obama’s average GDP growth rate is the lowest of any of the previous 4 Presidents.  Although he is tied with his predecessor in terms of average growth, George W. Bush, he has a median growth rate that is 14% lower than Bush’s.  Furthermore, economic growth has stalled under Obama.  The highest quarterly growth rate achieved under Obama has been 4.6%, lowest of all five Presidents and less than half the 9.4% peak of President Reagan.

Under this set of metrics, there is no way one can conclude that Obama has been anything more than a mediocrity with his gross domestic economic policy.

The Consequences of Low Economic Growth

Where would the country be right now, if instead of growing at the Obama average (1.8%), the economy were growing at the Reagan average (3.6%) or the Clinton Average (3.8%)?  First, the reader must understand if economic growth were essentially double than what President Obama has been able to deliver, it would mean millions of additional jobs.  It would also mean billions of additional tax revenues to the Federal government.  The deficit would not only be lower due to additional tax revenue, there would be less pressure on federal outlays for welfare, food stamps, unemployment insurance and the like.

To estimate what those dollars might be with a reasonable level of precision is not all that difficult.  Just between the years 2010 and 2015, the taxes that could have been collected had the economy grown at the Reagan or Clinton rates would have been at least $1.5 trillion higher.  The only assumption being that the overall tax rate on the economy would have remained stable at about 18%.

Grade reconsidered

President Obama deserves much less than the “A”, Hillary Clinton gave him.  Simply by using the facts, data and the performance of his predecessors in the job, Obama’s grade should be much closer to a D-.  The only reason he doesn’t get an “F” is because the economy isn’t worse off today than when he was first sworn in.  But there’s still time.

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