October 19, 2021

As Obama’s Economy Falls, White House Excuses Boom

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Economy: They must be getting pretty desperate in the White House economic shop these days. When the revised GDP numbers showed a first-quarter decline of 0.7%, they started blaming the estimates themselves.

On the list of excuses for President Obama’s ongoing failure to produce decent economic growth, we hadn’t heard this one: A “seasonal adjustment” problem at the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which compiles the GDP estimates.

White House chief economist Jason Furman says that, despite its seasonal adjustments, the BEA might not be accurately accounting for the effect of winter weather on growth.

But as the chart below shows, there’s not much of a difference over the long term between economic growth from January through March and growth for the same year as a whole. Some years it’s higher, some lower.

It’s true that in recent years, growth in Q1 has tended to be subpar. But the problem isn’t a lack of proper seasonal adjustment; it’s that growth under Obama has been so tepid that even the slightest bump can knock it off stride. Just look at the numbers.

Since the Obama recovery started in June 2009, there have been four quarters where GDP was either flat or negative (compared with only three where growth exceeded 4%).

The overall growth in the 23 quarters of the Obama recovery has been 13.3%. That’s less than half the average 26.7% growth rate achieved at this point in the previous 10 recoveries since World War II. Looked at another way, had Obama’s recovery been merely average, GDP would be $1.9 trillion bigger today. That translates into $16,000 per household.

And over the years, Obama has blamed everything but his own no-growth policies.

In 2011 he pointed to the “Japanese tsunami, the Arab Spring” and “problems … in Spain, Italy and Greece.” In 2012, it was “high gas prices” and “a crisis in Europe’s economy.” Then it was House Republicans’ budget cuts, the government shutdown and the sequester.

Before all that, Obama said that recoveries from a financial crisis are always more sluggish, even though several studies dispute this. And, of course, Obama would reliably try to pin the blame on President Bush.

At least he appears to have given up on that excuse.