NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Obama's Economic Burden

October 14, 2011

Democrats contemplating Obama's reelection search for hope despite the economic atmosphere.  In doing so, they are tempted to look to Ronald Reagan's first term, where he presided over a serious recession only to win 49 out of 50 states in 1984.  Additionally, President Obama still has a whole year to help the economy rebound.  However, this hope is ill-founded -- while the situations of the two presidents might seem similar, popular sentiment and real economic indicators tell a completely different story.  The disparity in these facts explains Reagan's success and reins in much of the optimism regarding Obama's electoral prospects, says Steve Chapman, a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

  • The first and second quarters of 1983 saw growth of 5.1 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively, while the economy in the first and second quarters of 2011 grew only 0.4 and 1.3 percent, respectively.
  • The number of people employed in the United States dropped by 2 million in the Reagan recession, while that population plunged by 8.6 million during this recent downturn.
  • Before the contraction hit, 66.4 percent of all adults had jobs or were looking for them while only 64.2 percent still are currently, showing the largest exodus out of the workforce in 60 years.

In addition to facts on the ground, popular feelings over the current recession are different from those in the early 1980s.  While the public seemed willing to brace the pain of recession in order to check the roaring inflation that had consumed the Carter administration, the nation seems far less understanding in the current debacle (the fact that little success has been had and there remains little optimism in sight exacerbates this frustration).

Source: Steve Chapman, "Obama's Economic Burden," Reason Magazine, October 10, 2011.

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