- Post 15 June 2012
- By Copy Editor
Few things are more difficult in politics than confronting failure and learning from it. It is especially difficult when a leader you have championed, and in whom you have placed your highest hopes, turns out to be less than he seemed.
Such is the dilemma facing liberals in the age of Obama. Barack Obama entered the presidency with his sights and standards very high, and many liberals believed he could be the transformative figure they had been awaiting for generations. But by now it is clear that, by any reasonable measure (including those set out by Obama himself at the beginning of his term), his presidency has been a failure.
Consider the economy. President Obama has overseen the weakest recovery on record. He is on track to have the worst jobs record of any president in the modern era.The standard of living for Americans has fallen more dramatically during his presidency than during any since the government began recording it five decades ago. As of this writing, unemployment has been above 8 percent for 38 consecutive months, the longest such stretch since the Great Depression. Home values are nearly 35 percent lower than they were five years ago. A record 46 million Americans are now living in poverty.
The economist Michael Boskin has listed some of the post–World War II records set during the Obama years: among them, federal spending as a percentage of GDP at 25 percent, the federal debt as a percentage of GDP at 67 percent, and the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP at 10 percent. The United States has amassed more than $5 trillion in debt since January 2009, with the president having submitted four budgets with trillion-dollar-plus deficits. (Prior to Obama, no president had submitted even a single budget with deficits in excess of a trillion dollars.) In addition, government dependency, defined as the percentage of persons receiving one or more federal benefit payments, is the highest in American history.
Add to this the fact that the president’s signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is among the most unpopular major domestic policies passed in the last century; and that the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, widely known as Obama’s stimulus package, is so unpopular that his aides have virtually expelled the word stimulus from their lexicon.
The president’s critics are eager to offer their explanations of his shortcomings, but what can his supporters say?
Three new books, each by authors favorably disposed to Obama, attempt to explain the declining arc of his presidency. Noam Scheiber’s The Escape Artists (Simon & Schuster, 368 pages) and David Corn’s Showdown (William Morrow, 432 pages) offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Obama White House. Scheiber focuses exclusively on the president’s economic team, and Corn covers everything from debt-ceiling negotiations to the killing of Osama bin Laden. In the third book, Overreach (Princeton University Press, 248 pages), presidential scholar George C. Edwards III provides a more academic and detached analysis of Obama’s failures and tries to put them in perspective. ... more...