As a legitimate question, and not as a defense of Bush II/Republicans, how long is a long enough period of time for the Obama Administration to have had a fair opportunity to:
- Clear up enough of whatever political encumbrances were left behind by Bush?
- Get his own policy-balls rolling?
- Get a reasonable idea of whether Obama's policies are effective or not?
While I'm not an American and am only indirectly affected by U.S. politics, the most obvious observation I can make is that popular opinion among many Americans (red and blue) is that Obama inherited the Oval Office not with a clean slate, but with an ailing economy, and the political encumbrances left behind by Bush II. Further, that this is the cause of their relatively ineffectual 4.5 years in office (with respect to the economy). And that's not to say that Obama is ineffectual in all facets of government...but his economic policy efforts just seem to amount to a labour in vain.
A stunning example of this is the number of Americans using food stamps. When Obama took office, ~12% of the population in the U.S. was using food stamps. As of his re-election, that number is closer to 19.5% of the population. I don't necessarily attribute the increase to his policies, but it is perfectly reasonable to ask why none of his policies appear to be helping the situation. In absolute numbers, that's 14M households in 2008, and 23.5M households in December 2012. The average value of foodstamps received per household is about $280/month.
The fiercest Obama supporters, (those who identify as a Democrat as if for sport) point to job gains and the lower unemployment rate as a sort of report card for Obama on the economy. There are a few major observations that can be made about the labour market:
i.) The decrease in unemployment that has come from individuals leaving the labour market (I can't find the exact figure right now, but will share it when I do).
ii.) The increase in food stamp/disability recipients relative to job gains. From Obama's first election to his re-election, 3.6 million jobs NFP jobs were gained (net). Impressive, but an incomplete picture. One way of completing the picture for gauging how people are doing is the change in the number of foodstamps/disability recipients compared to the increased jobs during the same time period. From the time Obama took office until his re-election, 21.8M *additional* individuals began receiving foodstamps/disability.
All of a sudden, that jobs statistic that looked pretty good on its own looks a little less rosy. Just to reiterate the point here: 3.6M jobs were gained, but during the exact same time period, 21.8M *started* using food stamps. At $280/month/household and about 2.5 people per household, that costs the U.S. government an additional ~$29.3 billion per year. To completely offset the cost of new foostamp users, the average federal income tax generated by each of those 3.6M new jobs would have to be about $8,140 per year... and that's just to stay flat.
iii.) Most of the private sector jobs gains are in the healthcare, education and defense industries...the most heavily subsidized industries.
I'm not suggesting that these morbid statistics were caused by Obama's policies (correlation is not necessarily causation). However, I am suggesting that on issues like these, he should have more to show for being in office for 4.5 years. The average complete economic cycle is 8-10 years and he's got 3.5 years until he will had 8. In that time frame, one should expect things to correct gradually, and we're nowhere near where we need to be to be on track.
Anyway, sorry for the longer post. But NotSouthBeach makes some very important points worthy of serious discussion. My point is that on economic policy, Obama's policies are turning out to be a labour in vain and eventually, people are going to have to stop blaming Bush and whatever else. Eight years is long enough for anyone to enact real change, address secular issues, and instigate major change. With just 3.5 yearsto go, it appears we're still at the starting line when it comes to his economic policy.
Lastly, a disclaimer so as to avoid being sucked up into whatever banter may arise: I don't hate Obama. He advanced a lot of very important social frontiers in his first term. The job of the president is not 'run the economy,' it's 'run the country,' and those social issues are important. It just seems that the state of the economy is a more pressing issue for a greater number of people right now than are social issues. Also, I will openly say I'm not a fan of Obama's economic policies, but that does not always imply endorsement of Republican policies... And finally, there seems to be some back and forth about whether its socially acceptable on RJ to voice an opinion on the politics of another country based on whether or not you live in that country. Some of them are quite mature in their handling of it, others less so. My message to the latter: News is available everywhere and the world is globalized and integrated enough that the politics in every major country have some significance beyond domestic borders. Canada is the U.S's single largest trading partner and foreign oil supplier - expect some of us to pay attention to what goes on south of the border.