President Obama’s high-water mark

President Obama at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Nov. 11, 2016.

President Obama at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Nov. 11, 2016.

President Barack Obama is leaving office on a high note. Many people might not remember what it was like when Obama took office in January 2009. The Bush Recession was underway, and America was losing 779,000 jobs per month. Stores were closing. Restaurants were empty. And our treasury was also empty (in fact, trillions in debt) from Bush’s disastrous Iraq War. Obama, with no help from the Republicans, turned things around to the point where he will be turning over a country that, by most objective measures, is doing very well. Let’s take a look at some of those numbers, so that we will have a comparison for the future:

Economic Growth — After an economy that shrunk under George W. Bush, President Obama turned Gross Domestic Product growth positive after just six months, in large part to his Stimulus which, you may recall, received no Republican support. U.S. economic growth remains steady to this day. Similarly, new service industries orders increased 4.6 percent last month to their highest level since August 2015.

Jobs — Under President Obama, the U.S. economy has created over 15 million new private sector jobs. The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6 percent, way down from the 7.8 percent George W. Bush handed over in January 2009, or the 10 percent that we had a few months later as the Bush Recession hit its depths. Moreover, jobless claims under President Obama just fell to a 43-year low.

Stock Market — During George W. Bush’s term, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 25 percent. The S&P 500 did even worse, falling 40 percent. And the NASDAQ fell by a whopping 48 percent. Americans who had stocks in their IRAs, 401Ks and other retirement accounts suffered badly. In contrast, during President Obama’s two terms, the Dow is up over 139%, and has hit record high after record high.

Deficit — Under President Obama, the federal deficit has plunged two-thirds, from the $1.4 trillion in George W. Bush’s last (2009) budget to $458 billion for fiscal year 2017. Obama is a small spender compared to numerous presidents..

Healthcare — Due to the Affordable Care Act, 20 million more Americans now have health insurance than under George W. Bush, bringing the portion of insured to a record 89 percent. Moreover, such Americans have extra protections, such as the prohibition on insurance companies penalizing or refusing to cover people with preexisting conditions. Lifetime limits on coverage are gone. And children can stay on their parents’ healthcare plans until age 26.

Gasoline prices — Since so many Americans drive, including for work, gasoline prices are something we all feel. Average gas prices right now are under $2.50 per gallon. Such prices have decreased since 2008, even more so if you factor in inflation. While many factors affect gas prices, some that we can attribute to Obama include ending the Iraq War, promoting hybrid and electric vehicles, and strengthening vehicle fuel economy standards.

Consumer Confidence — Just days ago, the Conference Board announced that the Consumer Confidence Index hit a 13-year high.

Auto sales — U.S. auto sales hit a record high in December. The previous record was set in 2015. These numbers validate President Obama’s 2009 auto industry bailout. Furthermore, strong auto sales also have a ripple effect on the economy and employment, as parts suppliers and workers do better when U.S. auto makers sell more vehicles.

Environment — In December 2015, President Obama helped push through a historic climate change agreement between 195 countries. The Obama administration also promoted clean renewable energy, such as by permitting solar power installations on federal lands. As a result, solar and wind power have come way down in price, and are responsible for significant job growth, as well as decreasing greenhouse gas pollution, increasing our national security, and lowering the chances that America would need to get involved in a foreign war over oil. Speaking of which:

Foreign Wars — President Obama has brought home more than 90 percent of the 180,000 troops who were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Obama brought Osama bin Laden to justice, after George W. Bush once again took his eyes off the ball.

This is but a partial list of President Obama’s accomplishments. Obama will no doubt touch on these and other achievements in his farewell speech to the nation on January 10. Donald Trump thinks he can do better? We’ll be watching.

Photo by Ash Carter, used under Creative Commons license.

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