Earlier this month, Chris Matthews of MSNBC wondered on air, “When is President Obama going to get some credit—and this is like Rodney Dangerfield—when’s he going to get some credit for this amazing economy that’s coming back?”
I felt that to be an odd request…to give credit for the economy to Obama.
For the entire Obama term in office it has been standard policy that when government officials say the economy is bad to blame George W. Bush…or the is Euro-crisis…or Bush…or big business…or Bush. Anybody but the current administration. It has been the policy to, when government officials say the economy good, to give all of the credit to Obama.
We are in Obama’s second term, so they have to skew the data to make it look good and then give President Obama full credit.
I want President Obama to accept the much deserved credit for this failing economy. However, I understand it’s not just Obama. It’s his entire team, including the media and even many on the Republican team who should share the credit.
So let’s get down to it and take a look at the Obama economy and at Matthews’ insistance, give the credit to President Obama.
The report that had just been released causing the Matthews request was the February jobs report which contained some encouraging news. National Journal’s Michael Hirsh wrote that the BLS numbers gave President Obama “what he’s wanted for four years: an unemployment rate that’s below where he started as president, 7.7 percent.” But Hirsh was guarded in his optimism, also acknowledging that “things are not really as good as the numbers suggest, and they are all but certain to get worse.”
No such considerations entered into the mind of Chris Matthews when he wondered aloud on “Hardball” when Republicans were going finally make sure that Obama got “credit for this amazing economy that’s coming back.”
Reality, however, is not quite as clear cut as the cheering Matthews would have Americans believe.
The report itself quantifies how grim things are.
While 236,000 Americans found jobs in February, 296,000 stopped looking. Once an unemployed person has run through 99 weeks of unemployment compensation, moreover, he no longer exists in the eyes of the Labor Department’s statisticians, and is thus no longer counted as unemployed.
A record 89.3 million Americans are no longer counted as unemployed. That includes people who have retired, but it also includes people who have simply given up looking for work. Millions of people are in this category. When millions have given up looking for employment because not many businesses are hiring anymore, that indicates that the economy is not doing well at all, and that in reality, the unemployment rate is higher.
Still, Matthews wants Obama to get credit for this amazing economy, so we give him credit for the facts reported above.
But wait, there’s more!!
The United States Department of Agriculture quietly released new statistics related to the food stamps program, officially known as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The numbers reveal, in 2012, the food stamps program was the biggest it’s ever been, with an average of 46,609,072 people on the program every month of last year. 47,791,996 people were on the program in the month of December 2012.
The federal government also says that in a given month in 2012, the number of households on food stamps was 22,329,713.
On top of that, every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government.
The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. Yet people relying on disability payments are often overlooked in discussions of the social safety net. People on federal disability do not work. Yet because they are not technically part of the labor force, they are not counted among the unemployed.
In other words, people on disability don’t show up in any of the places we usually look to see how the economy is doing. But the story of these programs — who goes on them, and why, and what happens after that — is, to a large extent, the story of the U.S. economy.
But wait, there’s even more!!
The U.S. economy is teetering further on the edge of recession, with revised numbers showing economic growth clocking in at an anemic rate at the end of 2012.
Analysts expect the numbers to pick up this quarter, but a succession of revisions for the final months of last year give a bleak picture. The Commerce Department estimated Thursday that the gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services, grew at an annual rate of 0.4 percent in the October-December quarter. That was just slightly better than the previous estimate of 0.1 percent, and an estimate before that showing the economy actually contracted in that period.
Technically, the economy has been in recovery since 2009. But for many, it doesn’t feel like it — recent public opinion surveys reflect the dour mood several years after the last recession’s end.
To be completely fair, the bright spots at the moment appear to be in the financial markets, where the Dow is still riding a surge, and in real estate. Sales of previously occupied homes rose in February to the highest level in nearly three years, while builders broke ground on more houses and apartments. Annual home prices jumped in January by the most since June 2006, according to a closely watched measure.
So, yes, this is absolutely Obama’s economy now and he should get all of the credit for it…the good as well as the bad.