Obama Isn't Working

President Obama has presided over the most anemic economic recovery on record. As of the second quarter of 2011, two years after the Great Recession officially came to an end, GDP still has not recovered to its pre-recession level. Compare the 1990-91 or 2001 recessions: within two years of their end, GDP exceeded the pre-recession high by 5 percent. Two years after the double-dip recession of the early 1980s, GDP exceeded its pre-recession high by more than 12 percent.

With no recovery in economic growth, there has been no recovery in the job market. Post-recession periods of the past have been marked by dramatic increases in employment. In the two years following the 1973-75 recession, more than four million full-time jobs were added. The two years after the 1981 recession saw more than seven million new jobs. Even the relatively shallow recessions of 1990-91 and 2001 were each followed by significant job growth. President Obamaís recovery, by contrast, never even started. In the two years after the end of the recession in 2009, the economy has actually shed additional jobs.

The Jobless Recovery

The absence of recovery has transformed the tragic occurrence of high unemployment into the far more catastrophic phenomenon of long-term unemployment. At the end of the recession, the average duration of unemployment was 24.1 weeks. Now more than two years later, that number has spiked to a shocking 40.4 weeks, the highest number since the Department of Labor started tracking the statistic in 1948. Indeed, the percentage of people whose period of unemployment exceeds two years has grown so large that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has had to change from two years to five years the maximum amount of time a person can list him- or herself as unemployed on its Current Population Survey.

Unemployment Without End

President Obamaís agenda in his first three years in office have set back the American economy and contributed significantly to the high levels of unemployment we are now enduring. The stimulus, Dodd-Frank, and Obamacare are the administrationís signature achievements. But they represent only a few of the highest-profile ways in which the administration has expanded government and injected a huge amount of uncertainty into the economic arena. Threatened tax increases, impending environmental regulations, special favors for politically connected interest groups and labor unions, stalled trade agreements, draconian restrictions on energy exploration, and out-of-control spending undermining the nationís fiscal position also took their toll.

Standard & Poorís August 2011 downgrade of Americaís sovereign credit rating was almost an inevitable outcome of a set of policies that produced massive year-in, year-out deficits, a national debt that approached the total size of U.S. GDP, and a stalled economy. It will take a long time to repair the damage, restore consumer and business confidence, return to economic growth, and thus ultimately restart job creation. Obama just isn't working! It will also take presidential leadership of a very different kind from what Barack Obama has offered.


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