Economy & Budget

Obama’s long job recession is unprecedented

Obama's long job recession is unprecedented

Compare the Obama employment numbers for May with Ronald Reagan in the same month of his first term or with Mitt Romney at the end of his four years as governor of Massachusetts and you will see why the president is in such deep trouble with the American people.

On Friday, we learned that the economy added just 69,000 jobs in May — disappointing by any standard and absolutely unprecedented this far into the “recovery.” The numbers meant that all but a tiny fraction of the nearly 13 million Americans officially counted as unemployed continued in a state of personal crisis last month, unable to find jobs in the Obama economy. We know that millions more have simply stopped looking for work.

Americans haven’t experienced such severe and prolonged unemployment in generations.

One chart from Calculated Risk shows how alarming today’s employment situation is. Not only has this recession meant the most staggering job losses since WWII, but the recovery has also been excruciatingly slow:


While the other deepest recessions regained in two years or less about as many jobs as had been lost, we are now more than four years into the current crisis and still nowhere close to such a recovery. The Congressional Budget Office predicted earlier this year that unemployment would remain above 8 percent until 2014.

What the charts and statistics don’t show is the immeasurable human cost of this extended unemployment. It’s hard even to comprehend just how many 12.7 million people are. The largest stadium in the United States is at the University of Michigan, with a capacity of 110,000 people. It would take 115 Michigan Stadiums to seat everyone counted as officially unemployed in America. And if they all stood shoulder-to-shoulder, they’d stretch 4,000 miles — the distance from New York City to Berlin.

Nearly half have been unable to find a job for 6 months or more. Some have been struggling for more than a year.

So many  of the costs have been unseen — putting enormous strain not only on their personal finances, and on their ability to save for retirement or their children’s education, but also on their health, their self-esteem, and their families.

Two more years of high unemployment is a status quo we can’t afford to accept. We can do better than this.

Yet with the economy faltering and these millions out of work, President Obama has nothing to offer. He has no plan to help get the economy growing again. He has no ideas to create jobs. His initiatives are largely rhetorical.

His model for job-creation has been miserably inadequate from the start, because it relied on the government to fund particular projects and companies — regardless of their merit. That model can succeed in spending a lot of money, but with 12.7 million people out of work, it’s far too narrow to make a dent in the unemployment problem.

There are only so many green energy companies to throw taxpayer money at. There are only so many bridges to visit for a photo op.

But in addition to a jobs plan and economic stimulus that did nothing to create jobs or stimulate the economy, nearly all of the President’s other policy initiatives have actively hindered recovery and killed jobs. His health care law raised costs for businesses to hire new employees and introduced uncertainty about the costs they faced for current employees. His financial reform thrust a heavy burden onto community banks which fund small businesses, drying up a primary source of capital. And in addition to the legislation, he’s spent much of his presidency campaigning to raise taxes on job-creators. These are not the efforts of a president whose primary concern is getting the millions of unemployed Americans back to work as soon as possible.

Now that his bureaucratic model of job creation has failed, the president appears to have given up, hoping to run out the clock talking about divisive irrelevancies until after the election. That’s tragic, because we do know how to solve these problems. We’ve done it before, by unleashing the American people from an overbearing government to let the free economy do what it does best: grow and create jobs.

This was the Reagan plan, and it worked. As Callista and I explain in our documentary, Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny, Reagan took office in 1981 facing the hangover of the Carter years — a bad economy, an energy crisis, and runaway inflation. He responded by cutting income taxes across the board, offering major relief to job creators. When he took office, the highest income bracket was taxed at a rate of 70 percent. Within two years, it was down to 50 percent. By the end of his administration, it was just 28 percent.­­­

The result was rapid job growth. In 1983, the economy added nearly 3.5 million jobs. While under President Obama the economy added only 69,000 jobs in May, there were more than 300,000 created during the same month of the Reagan administration.


In fact, at this point in his term, the economy under Ronald Reagan had grown by more than 3 million jobs.

If the president had followed this proven playbook instead of forcing through a health care law that most Americans opposed and attacking job creators, the charts above might look very different.

Almost certainly, millions more Americans would have jobs. If economic recovery under Obama were even average, 4.3 million more Americans would be working today. We’d be well on our way to full employment.

And if President Obama had matched the unemployment rate Mitt Romney achieved in Massachusetts, 5.2 million more Americans would have jobs, with unemployment at just 4.7 percent. That would be full employment.

That’s why the most recent weak jobs report is more than disappointing. For a president who has ignored the lessons of history and given up on the American people, it should be disqualifying.

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