Some Data on the Obama Economic Recovery

And on Democratic Party Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s policy impact on that recovery from the Panic of 2008, since Clinton has promised, proudly, to continue and extend President Barack Obama’s (D) economic policies.  These data are via Robert Barro’s (Harvard University economics professor and American Enterprise Institute visiting scholar) piece in The Wall Street Journal.  He and a colleague, Tao Jin, looked at

macroeconomic disasters in 42 countries, featuring 185 contractions in GDP per capita of 10% or more. These contractions are dominated by wartime devastation such as World War I (1914-18) and World War II (1939-45) and financial crises such as the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Among other things, they found that blaming the slow- to non-recovery on the Panic’s severity or on global financial crises, in their gentle phrase, “conflicts with the evidence.”

Among the specifics of their findings:

The growth rate of total nonfarm payrolls averaged 1.7% a year from February 2010 to July 2016, despite the drop in the labor-force participation rate. The post-2009 period is not a jobless recovery; it is a job-filled non-recovery.


[T]he drop in the unemployment rate—from 10% in October 2009 to 4.9% in July 2016—has been impressive, though overstated because of the decrease in labor-force participation.

Never mind that half the GDP lost during the contraction is typically recovered within two years of a recovery’s start.

So, what policies led to this failed recovery?  There have been lots, ranging from attacking hydrocarbon-based energy production and the destruction of jobs with the subset of the Democratic administration’s war on coal (and growing war on oil and natural gas), the Obama EPA regulations intruding onto private property (no cattle ponds on private ranches, recall), Labor Department’s and NLRB’s restrictions on non-union labor, and so on.  The primary policy, though, has been this administration’s increase in government transfer payments.

Federal social benefits to persons (things like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and food stamps) as a fraction of GDP rose from 8.7% in 2007 to 10.9% in 2015.  That’s a 25% rise in the fraction of GDP that’s money taken out of the private economy, washed through a middleman government, and the remainder then passed along to others.  In real dollar terms, that’s an increase from a skosh over $1.3 trillion in 2007 to a skosh under $2 trillion in 2015, an increase of more than 50%.

That’s money not applied to actual economy-stimulating and job-creating activities: free trade, rolling back inefficient regulations, fiscal discipline, and, yes, public infrastructure such as highways and airports.  That’s money not applied to enhancing productivity.

The growth rate of GDP per worker from 2010-15 was 0.5% per year, compared with 1.5% from 1949 to 2009.

Instead, Clinton not only wants more of the same.  She was for the Pacific and Atlantic free trade deals on offer (and one soon to be before Congress) before she lately found it politically expedient to be against them.  She favors increasing regulation—evil Wall Street and political speech are her targets du jour—not reducing it.

Her idea of fiscal discipline is increased spending, partially paid for with higher taxes.  She wants “free” education, paid for with higher taxes; reduced borrower liability for student loans, paid for with higher taxes; free day care, paid for with higher taxes; free health care—single payer, yet (never mind that contradiction)—paid for with higher taxes; free family leave from employment, paid for with higher taxes and higher prices since the employer must pay, also, if only through reduced output and so reduced sales; and on and on.

And that infrastructure work?  She is for that—so long as it’s done by Government approved union labor, and not by the most cost efficient contractors.

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