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Picturing the Recovery: The Path to US Economic Improvement

We need to focus on the economic recovery, too.

The economy added 151,000 private sector jobs last month.

Shortly before the midterm elections, the White House released the good news. In fact, Obama's Chief Economic Advisor, Austan Gools, took pains to document, month-by-month, just how steep the depression was and when it actually began: January 2008, a full year before President Obama was sworn in.

On the chart, with the red columns detailing President Bush's final year in office, one can see, quite clearly, catastrophic job losses, including four million jobs lost in the months just before Obama was sworn in.

Within 30 days of being in office, Gools reminds us, the Obama Administration passed the Recovery Act, which provided tax relief to more than 110 million working Americans.

If you think Obama's policies have been disastrous for America, as many have claimed over the past few months, take a good look at the evidence before you, including the columns in red (Bush) and the columns in blue (Obama).

Nine straight months of private sector jobs growth in blue. Unambiguous evidence in red of just how disastrous Bush's economic policies were for the country.

At the New York Times, Timothy Egan summed up the irony in a superb article called "How Obama Saved Capitalism and Lost the Midterms."

All of which begs the question: Did Obama and the Democrats really deserve the "shellacking" they received from voters, given the hole that the economy was in during Bush's final year in office? Voters understandably were frustrated by the slow rate of improvement and recovery. But I've a hunch many of them really didn't know how deep a crisis Obama and the Democrats had to avert.

Doubtless, President Obama deserves both credit for his policies, which are working, and some of the blame for failing to reach his audience with such facts. But keep in mind that his opponents were busy stepping on every improvement he broadcast; refusing to pass the Small Business Act; casting scurrilous reports about his religion and place of birth; and even accusing him of exhibiting "anticolonial behavior." That's partly because Sarah Palin strategically released her twits or tweets just as the good news was hitting the press.

Back to those steep columns in red: The tax cuts that George W. Bush enacted, including for the least needy, were given a sunset because his administration came up with no provision to pay for them. So one wonders why the GOP's first and most-urgent priority this coming January isn't to help Obama pass the Small Business Act or to give him credit for the Hiring Act, which gives incentives to employers to hire those who've been laid off. No, the GOP's most-urgent point of business is to ensure that the least neediest 2% of the country continues to receive tax cuts that Bush never budgeted for, adding nearly $700 billion to the deficit. Does that sound fiscally prudent? Yet they're going to the mat with it, according to press reports over the weekend, refusing any form of compromise.

As to re-enacting policies guaranteed to return us to what got us into the deep trough in the first place, common sense tells us that wouldn't be a very good idea.

christopherlane.org Follow me on Twitter @christophlane

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