Friday, September 28, 2012

Democrats must love the poor, they make so many of them

As American voters move steadily toward the presidential election, the fundamental question that they must answer is whether Barack Obama deserves a second term as president. To answer this question, voters must look at the state of the nation as well as their own lives.

One of the most obvious statistics to examine is the unemployment rate. Although nationwide unemployment is down from its October 2009 high of ten percent, Politifact acknowledged earlier this month that under President Obama the unemployment rate has remained above eight percent for 43 consecutive months. This is the longest sustained period of high unemployment since the Great Depression.

The numbers behind the unemployment rate are even worse. The economy is creating jobs, but not enough to keep pace with the growing labor pool and population. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of Americans employed has fallen from 65.7 percent in January 2009 to 63.5 percent in August 2012. This means that in spite of President Obama’s claims that he has created jobs, the actual number of Americans working has decreased sharply since he took office.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population in August 2012 was 314 million. In January 2009 when President Obama took office the population was 305 million, an increase of more than 8 million people. According to the BLS figures, this means that 206 million people were working in 2009. There are currently only 194 million Americans working. In spite of an increase in the population of more than 8 million people during President Obama’s tenure, there are 12 million fewer Americans working.

The situation is not good for Americans who have not lost their jobs either. According to the Financial Times, the U.S. median income has fallen to 1995 levels. The decline started with the onset of the recession in 2008, but has continued to decline throughout Obama’s presidency, long after the recession officially ended and the recovery began.

The problems of unemployment and income have led to an increase in poverty. A year ago the New York Times reported that the U.S. poverty rate was at its highest level since 1993. In raw numbers, more Americans are living in poverty that at any time in the more than half century that the U.S. Census Bureau has been publishing figures on poverty.

The increase in poverty means that the government is spending more money on social safety net programs. Bloomberg notes that food stamp use is at an all time high. Spending on food stamps has more than doubled during Obama’s tenure with more than 46 million Americans now receiving the entitlement.

The increase in safety net spending is straining popular programs such as Medicare and Social Security. According to the Medicare Trustees report, Medicare’s hospital fund has been spending more than it takes in since the onset of the recession. The trust fund will be depleted by 2024. The situation is similar for Social Security. According to the trustees report, Social Security is also spending more than it takes in, a problem made worse by President Obama’s payroll tax holiday. The Social Security trust fund is estimated to run out in 2035. The insolvency of both programs has been accelerated by the recession and slow recovery.

The result of Obama’s spending binge is that the United States has run deficits of more than a trillion dollars in each year of his administration. These deficits have increased the federal debt by 40 percent according to the New York Times. The massive federal debt and the prospect of tax increases to pay for it have contributed to the slow recovery.

Perhaps what is most disturbing about these statistics is that even though President Obama often cites the economic difficulties that he inherited as an excuse for his administration’s difficulties, the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, less than six months into President Obama’s term. Even though he has annually proclaimed “summers of recovery” since then most Americans are not feeling that the economic situation is improving. The Obama recovery has been in full swing for three years. It doesn’t get any better under the current policies.

The Democrats claim to love the poor and it must be so. Their policies have created millions more poor people. The choice that voters have this fall is between more of these policies that provide the poor with subsistence but little else or pro-growth policies that will revive the economy through freer markets and trimming government.

Originally published on

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