In attempt to move beyond the rhetoric, attached is a series of charts with a brief commentary on each that I found on CNN Money, which does a good job of showing economic results under President Obama’s tutelage. These charts are updated through December, 2013. They do a nice job of taking some complex topics and boiling them down into 17 charts. It will not take too long to wade through them. I will let you draw you own conclusions.
I would love to hear your thoughts after you have perused these charts. What surprised you? What gives you concern? How do we address some key issues which may cause other measures to get worse before they get better?
Some of my takeaways (comments added February 3, 2014)
On the positive side, while a president gets too much credit and blame for the economy, the steady job growth numbers over three and a half years is telling. The President and Congress passing the first stimulus bill (which did not fail per six econometric firms) as well as the bailout of the US automakers aided the recovery. The echo effect of not bailing out the automakers would have been significant. Also, the President has not gotten the credit he deserves on some community college retraining investment. What we needed was (and still do) an additional stimulus, but since the GOP opposition was using “failed stimulus” as campaign rhetoric, it precluded that as the legitimate course of action. Note a tax cut for the wealthy is not a jobs bill, as Trickle Down economics has been proven several times over not to work. We already have companies sitting on cash, so giving them more, won’t trickle down. If it would, the plan would have a better name.
The economy has also turned the corner. What is of interest is every governor running for office is touting a turned around economy in their state. The economic growth, corporate profits and stock performance (in part) charts show evidence of the improving economy. The stock performance is largely due to the Federal Reserve stimulus under Ben Bernanke. This money supply stimulus aided the economy. What Congress needs to realize is Bernanke felt a need to do something, since they were failing to do their job. Thank goodness he did.
On the concern front, I point to several measures which indicate the poverty problem in our country. The growth in food stamps, the stagnant wage and the unemployment number charts which mask the true rate of unemployment with so many not looking anymore, are indicative that our recovery is not being experienced by every one. Here is where I would add, while some fraud exists, the data shows there is not significant misuse of the food stamp program. So, the increase is a good indicator of poverty rising in this country.
This is where we need combined efforts to address the problem. We need to push job retraining, minimum wage increases, and infrastructure investment. We should likely push out the extended unemployment benefits for a little longer, as we have a number of long term unemployed who will drop deeper into poverty. The infrastructure investment costs money which gets into the next topic, but is much-needed and is the best jobs program out there.
The major concern is the increasing debt. This is one area where the Tea Party has it right, although they are myopic on the remedies. The deficit is coming down, but we need to get the annual budget back into a surplus position which is what President George W. Bush inherited. We need to look hard at the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan, which I fault the President and Congress for putting on a shelf, more so the President. We need both tax revenue increases as well as cuts.
While the Tea Party and GOP are touting tax cuts, that strategy is ill-founded, as we need more revenue as well to solve our problem. This is why Bush/ Dick Cheney fired Secretary of Treasury Paul O’Neill, as he openly disagreed with the Bush tax cuts. Here is where I like to add, any idiot can get elected talking about tax cuts, but we need to pay for some things, like infrastructure investment. And, truth be told, we have enough idiots in office.
Our country is falling apart and we must get deeper harbors on the east coast or the bigger ships passing through the bigger/ deeper Panama Canal will sail to Canadian ports. For example, LaGuardia airport, one of our nation’s busiest is the second worst airport structure in the country. Plus, per the Simpson-Bowles plan, we can cut more on defense rather than building vehicles and planes that fight older wars that are sitting unused on tarmacs. This is similar to China building huge cities that no one lives in.
So, if we really want to deal with the deficit and debt, we need to listen to folks like Simpson and Bowles. Cut defense even more along with some other cuts, reshape taxes to gain more revenue and invest in our infrastructure. As I mentioned in a post of a few weeks ago, borrowing to build or improve an asset is different from borrowing to pay for operational cost. Plus, the direct and indirect jobs around our infrastructure improvement projects will be felt in many places where needs exist.
That is my two cents. Some good comments are made below by readers. I would welcome others.