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Dark days for the middle class
August 19, 2012 11:55 AM   Subscribe

What has Obama done to help the economy?

I'm visiting my parents and I got in a heated discussion with my mother about the upcoming presidential election. She wants to vote for Romney because "Obama hasn't done anything for the economy. I haven't gotten a raise in five years." (She's a state employee.) I tried to argue about the merits of the stimulus bill mitigating the effects of the crisis, but she dismissed me, and admittedly I didn't have any good concrete evidence, beside pointing out the jobs that clean energy has brought to Iowa. Can you give me some good talking points? Or is the crisis too complicated to even claim that Obama's work has had any positive effects?
posted by duvatney to Law & Government (33 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
The White House has a listing of every executive action that President Obama has taken to improve the economy.
posted by waldo at 12:01 PM on August 19, 2012


Politifact has the promises he's made in this regard and the ones he's kept.
posted by mkb at 12:02 PM on August 19, 2012


Well, I would not consider the White House's web site to be an objective record of any sitting president's job performance.

Politifact probably is (somewhat) more objective.

Personally, I would argue your last point, namely, that the financial crisis is too complicated (and global) for Obama's efforts to have had any appreciable effect.
posted by dfriedman at 12:04 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's a recent MeFi post: "Obama’s stimulus has been an astonishing, and unrecognized, success."
posted by zsazsa at 12:08 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I would not consider the White House's web site to be an objective record of any sitting president's job performance.

duvatney didn't asking for "an objective record," he asked for "good talking points," which is the opposite of an objective record. :)
posted by waldo at 12:09 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was going to post zsazsa's link, but I would focus on the data that shows how many public sector jobs have been cut due to Republican efforts, and how Romney's budget wants to cut more. As a state employee, she's mostly affected by what her own governor and legislature have done.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:12 PM on August 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Well, if I'm just wrong, I'd want to know that too. I vaguely remembered the post about the success of the stimulus but couldn't recall many concrete details...
posted by duvatney at 12:12 PM on August 19, 2012


You can directly refute the "no raise" thing by pointing out that the GOP drive to cut spending, cut funding, and cut taxes is why states have no money any longer. Their stated aim is to defund the government as much as possible. Therefore, no raise for her. She's lucky her job hasn't been cut, honestly.
posted by nevercalm at 12:19 PM on August 19, 2012 [19 favorites]


You can also show her this, which shows that economic health, incomes at lower levels and debt shrinkage all perform better under Democrats.
posted by nevercalm at 12:25 PM on August 19, 2012


The bailout of the auto industry saved not only the jobs of everyone at GM and Chrysler, but all the jobs that depend on them: suppliers, etc. It's easy to compare this to Romney, since he's on the record for letting Detroit go under. (The stimulus and TARP prevented a depression, but it's hard to argue that to someone who doesn't want to listen.)

But if your Mom thinks voting for Romney will somehow lead to state employees getting raises, she's probably beyond rational argument.
posted by spaltavian at 12:26 PM on August 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


duvatney, the only strictly factual thing that can be said about a president's effect on the economy is to recite the efforts that he has made to improve it. It's nearly impossible to divine the success of those efforts, because we don't have an alternate United States in which those policies or programs didn't go into place. There's no control group. Sometimes we get accidental control groups, though, such as when a presidential policy is implemented by only some states. Then we can compare how those two sets of states fare, insofar as we can control for other factors. For a perfect example of this, listen to Planet Money Episode 379 Does Medicaid Actually Help People? (Spoiler: Yes, enormously.)

Those pointing out that your mother's own lack of a raise is basically unrelated to the president's efforts are correct. Those who claim that we need an austerity program in the U.S. don't realize that we already have one, in the form of massive reductions in state and local spending in the past five years, a result of a commensurate loss of federal funding and, more severely, a reduction in state taxation revenues.

Disclaimer: I used to work for the White House. Now I'm a member of the White House Open Data Working Group, for which I am not paid, and which has nothing to do with the economy in any direct way.
posted by waldo at 12:31 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


This site was linked in a previous question about Obama's achievements.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:32 PM on August 19, 2012


You can directly refute the "no raise" thing by pointing out that the GOP drive to cut spending, cut funding, and cut taxes is why states have no money any longer.

...but I would focus on the data that shows how many public sector jobs have been cut due to Republican efforts, and how Romney's budget wants to cut more.

Ugh. See, this is the heart of the issue.

At 8.3% unemployment, Obama just doesn't have an unassailable economic record that he can run on. Which is why these "talking points," and the Obama campaign's economic message, will forever pivot back to "and Romney will make it worse."

If Obama had made real, substantive inroads as far as improving the state of the economy, you would already know about it, the campaign would be incessantly talking about it, and there would be no need for the question to be asked.
posted by lobbyist at 12:34 PM on August 19, 2012


He's just authorized the purchase of livestock from farms affected by the drought.
posted by brujita at 12:49 PM on August 19, 2012


Here's some.
posted by cromagnon at 12:54 PM on August 19, 2012


If Obama had made real, substantive inroads as far as improving the state of the economy, you would already know about it, the campaign would be incessantly talking about it, and there would be no need for the question to be asked.

Yeah, unless it took the least bit of sophisticated understanding. Here are unemployment levels for the US, the Eurozone, and Japan, since 2000. Where does US unemployment surge relative to theirs? Just after Bush took office and just before he left. Where is the sharpest decrease relative to theirs? Since Obama's policies took effect.

Obama's campaign knows better than to try to get American voters to read a graph, though.
posted by nicwolff at 12:55 PM on August 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


Here's another accidental control group: 1929 & 1933.

In 1929, we had a really, really bad financial crisis. Financial crisis : unemployment :: earthquake : tsunami.

What happened four years after that financial crisis? 1933 was the nadir of the Great Depression, with unemployment at 25%.

1n 2008, we had a really, really bad financial crisis. But the tsunami never crested, as witness this well-publicized bar chart.
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:57 PM on August 19, 2012


This article was in the New York Times today. It talks quite a bit about how Obama's economic policies have impacted the poor, in particular. Although your mom may not really care about that.
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 12:58 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


voting against obama is not that same thing as voting for a raise, because as others have mentioned, that "raise" (in the form of tax cuts) ain't coming from romney unless your mom is a highly-paid state employee.

with that in mind, is fox news an unbiased enough source?

A June study from the Joint Economic Committee -- which is chaired by a Democrat -- claims middle-class married couples could pay at least an extra $1,300 under Ryan's plan, while those earning more than $1 million a year could see a nearly $290,000 cut.

According to an Aug. 1 study released by the Tax Policy Center, Romney's tax plan would also include cuts that "predominantly favor upper-income taxpayers."

It projected taxpayers making more than $1 million would see tax cuts averaging $175,000. Those making between $75,000 and $100,000 would see an average tax cut of $1,800. And those making under $30,000 would see an average increase of $130, according to the report.


also, i don't think the crisis is too complicated for the layman to understand, but it does require one to realize that the slash-and-burn playbook is entirely from republican and conservative/tea party rhetoric. the democrats are barely able to keep the lights on against this onslaught.

unfortunately, i don't know that your mother is actually looking for evidence, so there's that to consider... i understand not wanting to be caught unprepared, but that's more to protect you than to actually change her mind.
posted by twist my arm at 1:12 PM on August 19, 2012


I think it's a fundamental difference that your mother doesn't seem to understand. This article in a few lines points this out in just a few lines.
posted by MyMind at 1:15 PM on August 19, 2012


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has irked me nearly daily, due to detours around the various bridge repairs and other road projects it has funded. Each project has left an improved infrastructure (critical for business) and has created jobs for local people. It's been a tremendous success, despite slowing my progress to work. Well, actually, that's kind of a success, too.
posted by theora55 at 1:19 PM on August 19, 2012


Over the last 3 years or so, government employment at all levels is down over 600,000 jobs. Private sector employment is up. Your mother is in a situation where she's not likely to get a raise at all (as someone who just left the newspaper industry, I sympathize with her), because there is so much pressure on governmental agencies to cut costs more and more and more. The stimulus did save a lot of state and local government jobs, so that avoided even more pain. Romney's plan is more tax cuts, which will result in lower revenue for the government, and more government job losses. (The link upthread from MyMind actually encapsulates this far better than I have.)
posted by azpenguin at 2:16 PM on August 19, 2012


The answer is simple: Nothing.

Huh, you say?

The government is never able to help the economy. The government can only move resources away from one person to another person. It might look like this helps the economy, but really what it causes is all the huge highs and lows you see in the economy.

Don't think I'm beating up on just him. This includes every single politician in the world, present and past, and future.
posted by shepd at 2:17 PM on August 19, 2012


Kinda disagreeing with the 'only' part of shepd's answer - I mean, anybody who's played a game of Monopoly all the way to the end knows what happens to an economy without a mechanism to 'move resources away from one person to another person' like the rules for cashing out property improvements or jail fines.

Even if all the government did was re balance the economy to try and keep the game going, it would be an important function - I mean, lack of that function is what causes things like the French Revolution.

Most of Obama's efforts in this vein have centred around attempting to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire,
posted by Orb2069 at 2:54 PM on August 19, 2012


There's a meme going 'round that might help?
posted by anonymisc at 3:03 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some time back I offered this comment in response to a shepd-style comment, most of which I think applies pretty well to your question in light of the Obama administration's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards initiative.
posted by perspicio at 3:06 PM on August 19, 2012


I hope you pointed out that the feds have squat to do with state employees getting raises. That's under the control of the state legislature. Now...who's been controlling the legislature in the state your mom lives in?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:03 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


My job was initially a temporary position paid for with stimuls funds, and then it became permanent. Your mom may not care about the employment status of some random member of that nutty online group you beling to, but it is a data point.
posted by Rash at 6:24 PM on August 19, 2012


beling belong
sigh
posted by Rash at 6:25 PM on August 19, 2012


Slate has a good review of a book of Obama's accomplishments: The New New Deal: President Obama’s stimulus has been an astonishing, and unrecognized, success, argues Michael Grunwald.
posted by anadem at 6:38 PM on August 19, 2012


I'm going out on a limb here and guessing she's in Virginia (where we as state employees have not received a raise in 5 years).

You can blame her good friend Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) for that.
posted by kuanes at 4:10 AM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


technically obama cant directly do anything right since its the senate and house that does everything right?
posted by majortom1981 at 7:10 AM on August 20, 2012


dfriedman: Personally, I would argue your last point, namely, that the financial crisis is too complicated (and global) for Obama's efforts to have had any appreciable effect.
The market shows reactions when major policies are announced, so that implies you are wrong - there is an appreciable effect.

However, I'd agree that it's difficult to attribute major moves in the economy (not day-to-day changes) to one particular source, outside of calamity. IOW, the POTUS' actions may or may not have helped the overall economy; it's too complicated to say.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:55 AM on August 20, 2012


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