At last Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, President Obama declared he was determined to “make the most of every moment” left in office, saying he had been working on a “bucket list” that included executive action on immigration and climate regulation. Aware that his critics believe he’s often acted lawlessly, Mr. Obama joked that the title for his list rhymes with “bucket.”
Regardless of what items Mr. Obama checks off, he will leave to his successor a staggering array of domestic problems, some he ignored and many he made worse.
Slow economic growth will be at the top of the list of problems. The pattern of American history has been that the more severe the recession, the stronger the recovery. Until now. In Mr. Obama’s recovery, average annual growth has been the slowest since the U.S. began compiling reliable economic statistics near the 20th century’s beginning—a feeble 2.9%. This year is off to an even slower start, with GDP growing 0.2% in the first three months.
The number of jobs also will be on that list. It took from June 2009 to April 2014—nearly five full years—to get back to having the same number of people working as when the recession began in December 2007. That’s a longer period of time to return to the starting point than in any recession in U.S. history. Meantime, roughly 14.7 million people came of age without a job available. The last time the job participation rate was this low was 1978. A third of Americans between 18 and 31 last year were living with their parents, the highest percentage in at least four decades.
The quality of jobs available will be another topic on that list. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 4.5 million Americans were working part time for economic reasons in December 2007, meaning they could not find full-time work. Last month the number was 6.6 million—a 46% increase. More part-time workers are getting fewer than 30 hours a week, in part probably because of ObamaCare.
Then there is the size of Americans’ paychecks. Inflation-adjusted median household income has dropped, from $54,059 in 2009 to $51,939 in 2013 (the latest year available), the only time this has happened during an economic recovery. The president who harps on inequality as a “defining issue of our time” has demonstrated that the middle class fares badly under progressive economic policies.
Mr. Obama will also leave behind a difficult economic climate in which to start a business. According to a recent Brookings Institution study, every year of his presidency more American businesses have died—closed, merged or gone bankrupt—than have been created.
The national debt has risen to 74.1% today from 40.8% the month he took office. This is the largest increase in a six-year period since World War II. The Congressional Budget Office says that within 25 years the public debt will exceed 100% of GDP unless Washington changes its policies.
The ballooning debt reflects the administration’s—and the Democratic Party’s—deficit spending. Mr. Obama compliments himself on reducing the deficit to 2.8% of GDP in fiscal year 2014, down from 8.7%, 8.5%, 6.8%, and 4.1% in the proceeding fiscal years. But 2.8% only matches the average deficit for the last 50 years, and the decline is attributable in large part to Republicans’ controlling the House since the 2010 midterms and slowing spending.
There’s more at the link. My take, for what its worth: The American public voted for this twice. And certain segments of American society – see Baltimore – have voted for this for decades. The only remaining question is whether or not these voters are now at critical mass, meaning that the entire country will become Baltimore. Baltimore isn’t about race, guys, it is about living in La-la-land and refusing to do what is necessary to improve your life. It is about expecting others to do it for you. It is about being so bored sitting around watching paint peel that you turn to mind-numbing drugs and/or alcohol. It is about needing money to support that habit, and, lacking job skills, taking what you need. Don’t get me wrong: Baltimore, our inner-city problems began with race. The white people, by and large, absolutely refused to let the black people participate in society – not at work, not in church, and especially not in the schools. But the remedy, which was badly needed, hasn’t panned out. I think it is because along with the necessary funding and integration laws, the message was defective. The culture allowed the sense of victimhood to replace a sense of agency, of belief in one’s own competence. Large parts of the money went to convincing people that they couldn’t ever make it on their own, that the deck was stacked against them.
Actually, I’m being too negative. The entire country won’t become Baltimore. Instead there will be an ever-widening, impassable divide between competent adults and folks who have chosen … whatever you wish to call it. You know the images of polar bears floating away on small ice floes, the kind the environmentalists use to terrify us all? Let’s mentally borrow the image. The country breaks apart into islands. The islands drift farther and farther apart. (Let’s drop the ice, let’s imagine warm islands with good beaches). Some islands have jobs, good schools, grocery stores, street lights, that kind of thing. Others have just about nothing. As the islands drift apart, those left on remaining mainland (aka the middle-class) will get to decide – quickly – which future they want. They will swim or canoe or glide to the island they choose.
The era when communities worked together to help everyone in need is slipping away, or perhaps already gone. We don’t live together; we don’t raise our kids together; we don’t share the same values. We can soberly tell our friends at the dog park or the coffee shop that we just feel terrible about this, but reality is that we can’t change it.