America’s economy – before and after Obama
The 2008 elections in the U.S. were more about the economy than all the other factors combined.
To call the post-Bush state of affairs disastrous would not be an overstatement. However, for all his talk about hope and change, it is curious to see how much has president Obama actually accomplished in terms of economy. Simple comparison between the economy he inherited from his predecessor and the one he aims to leave behind seems like a good way to start.
George W’s economic policy relied on tax breaks (mostly for the rich), letting the private sector have their way without too much meddling and of course, winning the war, at no heed to the cost. In hindsight, it is hard to even imagine how this could have been passed off as a sound plan, and how in the world was this supposed to work? His motto seems to have been “less government, less taxes” or something along those lines. But years of war have left a huge bill to pay and the country amassed some serious debts. Bush cut taxes across the board, and this was supposed to give the economy the boost it needed, but only the rich profited and his “trickle-down” economy proved disastrous. The whole thing exploded in 2008 and there was a huge recession, whose aftermath marked the early years of Obama’s presidency.
One of the first things Obama did was to implement a $787 billion stimulus package to the faltering economy in order to stabilize it. However, it wasn’t until 2012 that some real, tangible results were felt. It took the Obama administration two years to start creating actual jobs to make up for those that were lost, and four years to drop unemployment below eight percent, from 10% limit that was hit back in 2009. A large chunk of lost jobs were in the car manufacturing sector, so GM and Chrysler had to be bailed. Progress was slow, but it was happening. Having said that, a lot of people felt betrayed or at least fooled, as the promises made during the campaign and what was actually being accomplished were worlds apart. The debt ceiling had to be raised several times, to $17.2 trillion last year. Besides, even if the stimulus made some impact, it was not being felt. For the last few years, Obama also had to deal with a gridlocked Congress where the Republicans had the majority; that didn’t help. He also had to stop the Keystone pipeline last February, which was probably a good thing to do, given the recent oil prices and the environmental damage it would have caused.
As for trade, all three bilateral trade agreements Obama signed were actually negotiated by the previous administration. You could safely say that trade has not been one of Obama’s priorities, given the lack of success regarding major trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement which is yet to be signed. If successful, it should ameliorate this aspect of Obama’s presidency, even though the service sector would profit the most, and it constitutes but a fraction of U.S. economy. Free trade should be high up on the next president’s to-do list. Whoever succeeds Obama will have to lead a far more aggressive policy in all aspects, and that includes the economy. The fate of Obamacare remains to be seen, although it appears to be doing some good after all. His stands on corporate governance and labor rights may have improved positions for some, but many jobs were moved abroad and loopholes can still be found whenever needed. Raising the minimum wage by extra $5 an hour and accounting for the inflation may not have solved the problems of the common workers, but at least it made their situation more bearable.
Obama also raised taxes for oil companies and offered incentives for alternative energy sources, so that aspect has been relatively successful. Oil consumption has dropped, and reliance on ethanol has increased, despite criticism that the raw materials needed to fill one gas tank with ethanol could feed an average person for a year. Needless to say, this policy did not help with the food prices. At one point, even Obama was reportedly having second thoughts about this policy. Most tax increases targeted people
whose annual income exceeded $250,000, while everyone else got a tax relief or at least a deduction.
When it comes to immigration, the next president will face some 12 million illegal aliens, who Obama tried to deal with as best as he could, but the immigration itself was not stopped. The Obama administration made efforts to steer the immigrants to the legal procedure for obtaining citizenship, but results have been mixed. Mass deportation was never an option, and neither was mass naturalization.
All in all, U.S. economy that Barrack Obama inherited from George Bush and the one he will leave behind are, sadly, not that different. The economy is still in trouble and reeling from the war and recession. Whoever comes next, is going to have their work cut out for them.