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Friday, December 31, 2010

2009-2010: Has President Obama Really Been That Bad?

Another year has passed, and if we are to believe some media outlets, the US economy is going to hell in a hand basket and President Obama is the root of most of our problems. The data, however, don't support such a conclusion. Take, for instance, the chart below, which maps the DJIA (i.e., the Dow Jones Industrial Average) since President Obama has taken office:


I don't think it takes a statistician to see that the trend is decidedly upward. In point of fact, since January of 2009, the DJIA has climbed 39.8%, and since January of 2010, it has climbed 11.02% (If you're wondering, the NASDAQ Composite Index was up 17% and the Standard and Poors 500 Index was up 13%). Moreover, in inflation-adjusted terms, the U.S economy is now back to where it stood at its peak prior to the 2008-2009 recession (see the following article, "Real GDP now at pre-recession levels"), and far fewer people are applying for unemployment benefits as the year ends (see the following article: "Unemployment benefit applications drop sharply") and more firms are saying they plan to hire full-time, permanent workers in 2011 (see the following article, "More firms say they’ll hire in 2011"), raising hopes for a healthier job market in 2011.

To be sure, this is not to suggest that everything is hunky-dorrie (technical term that we sociologists use). Unemployment is still at extremely high levels (approximately 9.7%), and if we take into account those folks who have simply stopped looking for jobs, it is even higher.  That said, let's not even pretend that things are worse than they were two years ago -- they aren't.  That doesn't necessarily mean that President Obama should receive credit for the economy's improvement (as I pointed out in an earlier post, the economy is the one area over which Presidents exercise the least influence), but he certainly shouldn't be blamed for its current state. The data simply don't support such a view.

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