July 23, 2021

Five Years of the Obama Recovery

Considering the country’s weak economic growth of just 0.1 percent last quarter, it is worth reflecting on the recovery effort that President Obama and his supporters tout as a success.

Mostly, the defenders of the President’s economic policies note that main economic indicators—specifically gross domestic product (GDP), unemployment, and the stock market—have recovered a good deal since the recession hit rock bottom in 2009. This is true: Our economy is better off today than it was during the severe recession. But that is a low standard to meet; as an economy recovers from the end of a recession—especially a deep recession—economic indicators such as GDP and unemployment invariably improve.

What really matters is the strength of the recovery and how fast it propels economic growth. When compared with those in the past, the Obama recovery has been the slowest and weakest since the Great Depression.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, the average quarterly GDP growth for all post-1960 recoveries was 4.1 percent, with total growth of 21.1 percent. Compare that to the anemic Obama recovery, which posted an average of 2.2 percent quarterly growth and a total of just 11.1 percent—about half the historical average.

Even more marked is the difference between the Obama recovery and the 1982–1983 Reagan recovery, which resulted in GDP growth of 23.1 percent over 17 quarters (25.6 percent for the entire recovery). According the Joint Economic Committee, this translates to a growth deficit of $2 trillion between Obama’s recovery and that under President Reagan. That is $2 trillion more that would be in the hands of U.S. businesses and workers today, when—despite the Obama supporters’ cheery sentiment—many American families are still aching financially.

As the economy is stuck in a 2 percent growth rut, the difference in results between President Obama’s big-spending stimulus and President Reagan’s pro-growth agenda could not be starker. Although the economy is faring better, fostering the slowest post-war recovery should not be a point of pride—especially when it has come at the expense of hard-working American families.

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