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The Obama recovery that wasn’t

Families are no longer fooled by ‘hope and change’ happy talk

By Stephen Moore     •     Washington Times

Photo by: Seth Wenig In this July 9, 2015 file photo, a Wall Street sign is seen near the New York Stock Exchange in New York. U.S. stocks moved lower on the last day of the year as the market headed for a sluggish end to 2015. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

The stock market closed down for 2015 reversing one of the few positive accomplishments under the Barack Obama presidency. This has been a pretty prosperous time for the top two percent. For most Americans though — not so much.

A new report from Sentier Research based on Census data finds that median household income of $56,700 at the end of 2015 stood exactly where it was adjusted for inflation at the end of 2007.

That’s eight years of virtually zero income gain. And President Obama and his Washington political pundits wonder why voters are in such a cranky mood.

Last week the Joint Economic Committee of Congress issued a report on the Obama recovery loaded with even more dismal news. On almost every measure examined, the 2009-15 recovery since the recovery ended in June of 2009 has been the meekest in more than 50 years.

Start with the broadest measure of economic progress: growth in output. The chart below compares the Obama growth pace with that of the average recovery coming out of the last eight recessions and with the Reagan recovery and over the same number of months (77). Democrats used to disparage the Reagan expansion as nothing special, yet the growth rate over the first 25 quarters under Reagan was 34 percent versus 14.3 percent under Obama.

How much does this matter? If we had grown at an average pace, GDP in 2015 would have been about $1.8 trillion higher. Under the Reagan recovery growth would have been $2.7 trillion higher.

It is certainly true that every recession is different in cause and consequences, so the JEC dug deeper into the numbers. It examined GDP growth on a per-capita basis. The Reagan recovery was abnormally strong in part because it happened when millions of baby boomers swept into the work force adding to growth. But even on a per-capita basis, real GDP has grown only 9.0 percent versus 18.8 percent for the average recovery. That is the lowest of any post-1960 recovery.

Next the JEC measured job market trends. Again we see a failing record. Yes, official unemployment of just over 5 percent today is very low. But that’s the biggest lie in America — right up there with “we’re from the government and we’re here to help.”

The distortion is due to the fact that 94 million people in America over the age of 16 aren’t in the labor force. If job growth had been the same as the average recovery we would have at least 5 million more Americans working — which is nearly the size of the workforce in Pennsylvania.

Amazingly, if we had had a Reagan-paced job recovery we would today have at least 12 million more Americans working. Job creators are still on strike and it’s a result of EPA rules, Obamacare, tax hikes, and other assaults against business.

When fewer people are working and wages are stagnant, incomes don’t grow. That’s the real sorry story of the Obama era. If the Obama recovery had been just average, in other words a C grade, JEC calculates that “after-tax per person income would be $3,339 (2009$) per year higher,” families can no longer be fooled with happy talk about “hope and change.” They feel the tough times.

The JEC’s dreary conclusion tells the whole story of the era of Obamanomics: “On economic growth the Obama recovery ranks dead last.”

One other statistic that stands out on the Obama record as we begin his last year in office. The debt is up to $16.5 trillion and by the he leaves office our indebtedness will be almost double where it was when he entered the Oval Office. Just the interest payments alone cost half a trillion dollars a year. This is the Obama legacy and if liberals want to take ownership of this bleak record — it’s all theirs.

Stephen Moore is an economic consultant with Freedom Works and a Fox News contributor.