Obama, not Trump, fixed the U.S. economy

By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has been obsessed with either eliminating Obama’s impressive legacy or taking credit for it. Since the GOP renamed the Affordable Ccare Act (ACA) Obamacare, he could not take credit for a program with another President’s name. So his next best thing was to repeal Obamacare and end a program that had provided healthcare for millions of Americans who previously had none. Failing at that, he is now trying to kill the program by eliminating the health care subsidies on which Medicaid expansion and coverage for low-income Americans depend; making coverage even less affordable to Americans, hospitals, and driving carriers out of the healthcare markets, while blaming Obama for these actions to undermine the ACA.

Now Trump is trying to take credit for the stable economy Obama handed off to him, by claiming Obama left the American economy in a mess. He feels if he repeats false statements enough times, Americans will believe the lies are true. It is important to set the record straight, and give credit where credit is due. Last week, Trump bragged that the Dow Jones is at over 23,000; an all time high. But what he neglected to say was that President Obama inherited a Dow at 6,594.44 in 2009, and left office in 2017 with the Dow at 19,887. The growth trend that had already been established under Obama simply continued under Trump; with the Dow up by 3,441 since his inauguration, without his administration taking any specific action to spur additional growth.

When Obama was inaugurated in 2009, he inherited a recession widely thought to be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. The U.S. banking industry, stock market, and economy were near collapse. The unemployment rate was fast moving toward 11percent, with companies shutting down all over the country. Jared Bernstein, in a Washington Post article, stated_ “The economies inherited by Obama and Trump are as different as night and day”. If not for President Bush’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), signed into law on October 3, 2008 to bail out the nation’s banks and Wall Street, the economy would have been in total collapse when Obama was sworn in. Subprime mortgages at 100percent of the home value for borrowers with questionable credit, and the use of these bundled bad mortgages as collateral on investments_ mortgage-backed securities_ caused the financial crisis beginning in 2007. At the peak of the crisis, mortgage foreclosures and bankruptcies went through the roof, while banking and stock market CEOs were walking away with multi-million dollar bonuses. In other words, the same wealthy business elite that Trump’s tax plan will enrich even more with tax cuts were responsible for America’s 2007-2009 Great Recession. After they nearly destroyed our economy, the mess was dumped in Obama’s lap to fix.

President Obama wasted no time putting a plan in place to heal the economy and stop bleeding jobs. Barely a month after his inauguration, Congress approved President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to jump start the economy, consumer confidence and spending with business tax credits for each job saved or added, and federal funds to state and local governments to build schools and infrastructure for needed upgrades to community assets while creating jobs. It provided a middle-income tax cut, help with student loans, and grants to community based organizations for innovative job training and job placement programs. According to Patrick Gillespie, CNN Money, “There was a record 75 straight months of job growth under Obama”. He had added 11.5 million new jobs by the end of his second term. Only two other presidents, Clinton and Reagan, added more; and neither of them started with the worst recession in our history.

President Obama started his presidency with an unemployment rate of close to 10percent and left office in 2017 having brought the rate down to 4.7 percent. In addition, his stimulus plan created record corporate profits, steady job growth, and huge growth in the stock market. He had already done all the heavy lifting in creating a healthy American economy that simply continued that trend under Trump, without the Trump administration having to take any specific action to grow the economy. President Trump, by comparison, has not had a single bill passed by Congress that improves the quality of life for Americans, though he regularly tries to take credit for Obama’s hard won achievements.

We are yet to see what legacy Trump will leave besides the embarrassment from his almost daily scandals and Executive Orders that hurt rather than help Americans. For our sake, I hope there is better to come in the future.

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