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Are We Better Off Today Than We Were Three Years Ago? Uh, Yeah!


Three years ago tomorrow (1/20/09), Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s famous question, “Are we better off today than we were three years ago?” Short answer: yes! Longer answer: yes yes yes! How about some evidence? Here you go!

1. Jobless claims: According to Reuters, “The number of Americans filing for new jobless benefits dropped to a near four-year low last week, pointing to some building up of momentum in the labor market and the economy.” The Labor Department reports that “Initial claims for state unemployment benefits plunged 50,000 to a seasonally adjusted 352,000, the lowest level since April 2008” — and also “the largest drop since September 2005.” Back when Barack Obama took office (on January 20, 2009), new unemployment claims were around 600,000. Thus, today, new unemployment claims are down about 40% from three years ago.

2. Factory output: As this article points out, “U.S. factories are roaring back from the depths of the recession, cranking out more machinery, vehicles and energy. Factory production has surged 15 percent above its lows of 2½ years ago and is helping drive the economy’s recovery.”

3. The stock market: On January 20, 2009, the Dow closed at 7,949.09, while the S&P was at 805.23. Yesterday, the Dow closed at 12,578.95 (up  58% from 1/20/09) and the S&P was at 1,308.04 (up 62% from 1/20/09).

4. Unemployment rate: This is a trickier one, as we’re now at 8.5% unemployment, up slightly from 8.3% in February 2009 (the first full month of Obama’s presidency). However, given that there was tremendous negative economic momentum built in/baked into the cake from the Bush/Republican Recession when Obama took office, that the American Recovery Act wasn’t signed into law until February 17, 2009 — and didn’t fully kick in for many months — it seems a lot more fair to look at the unemployment rate perhaps 6-9 months or so after Obama took office. At that point, we were at 9.5% unemployment. Thus, today, unemployment is down 1 percentage point from 2 1/2 years ago, a relatively fair point to start measuring President Obama’s performance (unless you’re totally, wildly biased against him, in which case you’ll ignore economic reality, etc.).

5. U.S. auto industry: When President Obama took office, the U.S. auto industry was teetering on the verge of ruin, with estimates that “Closing the Big Three would mean loss of 240,000 very highly-paid jobs at the Big Three,[42] a loss of 980,000 highly-paid jobs at the suppliers and local dealers, plus the loss of 1.7 million additional jobs throughout the economy-a total loss of 3 million jobs.” Disaster, in other words. Today, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Obama administration, the Big Three U.S. auto companies – GM, Ford, Chrysler – are booming, and this growth is buoying all of the U.S. economy. Yeah, I’d say that’s “better off than three years ago!” 🙂

6. Housing market: U.S. housing prices peaked in early 2006, then started falling — “On December 30, 2008 the Case-Shiller home price index reported its largest price drop in its history.” Today? According to this CBS Money Watch report, “CoreLogic’s latest MarketPulse report, released Wednesday, suggests 2012 could be the year of the housing turnaround. Improved unemployment figures, low mortgage interest rates and inexpensive homes could be just the kick the housing market needs to begin a recovery.” Again, huge, huge improvement from January 2009. As in, not even close. We are wayyyy better off than three years ago in this area.

7. The Economy: Bottom line — when Barack Obama took office three years ago, the economy was in free fall, in danger of descending into another Great Depression. Today, the worst has been avoided, and we’re growing again, with 22 straight months of private sector job growth, a healthy stock market and auto industry, a stabilizing housing market, and all the other indicators listed above. Not too shabby, especially given the hole we had to dig ourselves out of following 8 years of wildly irresponsible Republican policies.

8. Energy: According to EIA, U.S. net oil imports today are down sharply from January 2009 (8.2 million bbl/d in November 2011 compared to 11.2 million bbl/d in January 2009). Also according to EIA, U.S. oil production is up sharply, from 6.9 million bbl/d in January 2009 to 8.1 million bbl/d in November 2011. That’s right, far from killing U.S. oil production, the Obama administration has presided over a spike in output. Same thing with natural gas, with U.S. dry gas production up from 1.8 trillion cubic feet (tcf) in January 2009 to 2.0 tcf in October 2011. Note that U.S. natural gas production has now increased more during President Obama’s three years (+221 billion cubic feet – bcf) than during President Bush’s 8 years in office (+110 bcf). What about renewable energy? U.S. wind power production in 2011 will end up around 1,000 Btu, nearly double the 546 trillion Btu of U.S. wind power produced in 2008. Solar PV production is also up in 2011 compared to 2008, although not as dramatically as wind. Finally, energy prices: natural gas prices are down sharply from late January 2009 (about $4.70 per million Btu) to mid-January 2012 (about $2.97 per million Btu); gasoline prices are up slightly, from $3.30 per gallon in 2008 to about $3.45 per gallon now, mostly due to the fact that the economy’s recovering and demand is picking up.

9. Health care: Thanks to Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress, every Americans is benefiting from health care reform. Among other things, we now have a closure of the “doughnut hole” for seniors, “free screenings for cancer and other diseases” for seniors, young people covered under their parents’ plans until they turn 26 years old, no more lifetime limits on benefits, no more pre-existing condition restrictions for children, access to insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, and no more of the “abusive practices whereby health insurance companies rescind existing health insurance policies when a person gets sick as a way of avoiding covering the costs of enrollees‟ health care needs.” Oh, and so-called “Obamacare” will also reduce the budget deficit substantially, according to the non-partisan CBO. Plus, we’re on track for providing tens of millions more Americans with access to affordable health care coverage that they didn’t have when President Obama took office. Again, I’d say we’re not just better off than we were three years ago, but greatly so! (note: for now at least we’ve stopped the absurd, destructive Keystone Big Oil Boondoggle)

10. Taxes: In short, 95% of Americans have had their taxes lowered by President Obama and the Democrats since January 2009. The other 5% haven’t seen their taxes go up, either. Damn socialists! LOL

11. Iraq: There were about 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq when Barack Obama took the oath of office, three years ago. Today, there are zero. Which do you prefer? 🙂

12. GLBT: If you’re a GLBT American, or if you simply support equality for GLBT Americans and believe our country is greatest when we live up to our ideals, then we’re much better off than we were three years ago. Today, GLBT Americans can serve openly in the U.S. military. Also, the Democratic Congress passed – and President Obama signed – the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded existing United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — the first positive federal LGBT legislation in the nation’s history.” The HIV entry ban’s been lifted, benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees have been extended, etc, etc. Again, as a nation, we are MUCH better off than we were three years ago because of all these positive actions on behalf of GLBT Americans. Thank you, Democrats, and thank you President Obama!

13. Consumers: We are all much better off because we now have Richard Cordray on the job, heading up a new consumer watchdog agency, part of “an effort to protect the interests of middle-class Americans who have suffered as a result of the Great Recession, which stemmed in part from abuses in the financial system.”

14. Wall Street Reform: We are all better off due to passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which “brought the most significant changes to financial regulation in the United States since the regulatory reform that followed the Great Depression…representing a significant change in the American financial regulatory environment affecting all Federal financial regulatory agencies and almost every aspect of the nation’s financial services industry.” Should we go even further? Yes, of course. But this isn’t a bad start, certainly much more than we had three years ago!

15. Torture: Ending the Bush/Cheney policy; our country now has a no-torture policy, and as such is in compliance with the Geneva Convention. It’s hard to believe we ever strayed from that, but thankfully, we’re significantly closer now to where American should always have been.

16. Terrorism/Al Qaeda: The Obama Administration has essentially wiped out Al Qaeda, killing or capturing most of its leadership – including, most spectacularly, Osama bin Laden – and decimating its ranks. Perhaps not coincidentally, there hasn’t been a significant, successful terrorist attack on the United States in over 10 years. Again, we are much better off than we were three years ago with bin Laden dead and Al Qaeda nearly wiped out.

17. Illegal Immigration: This isn’t a huge issue for most Americans, but for many on the right it is. Well, they should be happy, because today, illegal immigration is at a historic low point. Again, if you’re concerned about this issue, then – if you’re honest about it, anyway – you’ve got to admit we’re significantly better off than we were three years ago (and no, it’s not all due to the economy, which again, is recovering).

18. Crime: Crime rates in the U.S. are at their lowest levels since…wait for it…1963. In other words, we’re not just better off than we were three years ago, we’re better off than we were 48 years ago.

OK, look, we could go on and on with this all day,  but it’s almost starting to feel like bragging. Not that there aren’t still problems in our country – of course there are, and there always will be – but today, almost every trend is moving in a better direction than it was three years ago, when George W. Bush left office as the Worst President Ever. In contrast, today, we have real leadership in the White House, and until November 2010, we had real leadership in Congress as well.  The question is, will the American people be sensible enough to give Democrats control of Congress again, and of course (no brainer here) to reelect President Obama? I mean, this really doesn’t take a rocket scientist, but Republican’ts and their Koch brother/dirty energy/right-wingnut allies are going to spend the next 10 months spewing out disinformation, lies, slanders, etc. Still, I’m hopeful that the tremendous accomplishments of the past three years, and the fact that we’re so much better off than we were then, will carry the day. How about you?

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