By Barbra Streisand
In the wake of the financial crisis, President Obama took the helm of a sinking economic ship and help to right it. The unemployment rate is now once again at pre-recession levels — the lowest in seven years (5.5%).
President Obama’s Administration, with only opposition from the Republicans, has steadily help put more than 11 million Americans back to work in the private sector. In the strongest period of American manufacturing job growth since the 1990s, the sector has added more than 750,000 jobs since February 2010. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman notes, the economy is “now adding jobs at a rate not seen since the Clinton years.” The dollar is on its fastest rise in 40 years; its value has increased 14% in this first quarter alone and it’s the strongest it’s been in 12 years compared to the Euro.
Maybe most important, the number of long-term unemployed is down by 1.1 million. Why are the Republicans so silent about the good news? They claim to be the party of “jobs.” Perhaps they knew their history.
PBS pointed out a study from the “strictly non-partisan National Bureau for Economic Research” that shows “under Democratic presidents, per capita GDP has been higher; job creation has been stronger; decreases in unemployment have been greater; the S&P 500 stock index has been higher; corporate profits have been bigger; and real wages and labor productivity have increased.”
As Brad Plumer also noted in the Washington Post, “Since World War II, there’s been a strikingly consistent pattern in American politics: The economy does much better when a Democrat is in the White House… the U.S. economy has grown at an average real rate of 4.35 percent under Democratic presidents and just 2.54 percent under Republicans.” If one drops the Eisenhower years, it is far worse for the GOP.
This pattern holds true under President Obama. The conservative Wall Street Journal had to admit, “American families have made major progress cutting their debt burdens, putting them in a stronger position to drive spending and growth. Total U.S. household debt was about 107% of disposable income in the fourth quarter, down from 108% in the previous quarter and well over 130% before the recession.” Under President Obama, the deficit continues to fall even more since being cut in half by 2013 from 2009. In his first term, the president also cut taxes by $3,600 for the average middle-class family.
The frustration now is the lack of wage increases — an obstacle that must be overcome both by raising the minimum wage and our corporations rewarding the increase in productivity among our workers. Of course there’s not been an encouraging word from the GOP, which opposes any increase in the federal minimum wage. In fact, their 2016 frontrunner, Jeb Bush, does not think there should be a federal minimum wage.
The GOP does not care to understand the late Senator Paul Wellstone’s maxim, “We all do better when we all do better.” Increasing wages means more economic demand for more goods and services, and boosts the economy. Somehow, Republicans remain intent on cutting taxes for the already rich and devastating domestic spending.
The House once again just proposed the “Ryan” budget full of unexplained and mysterious trillions of dollars in savings while cutting revenue, savaging domestic spending and proposing vouchers to purchase insurance instead of traditional Medicare. As Krugman writes, if it “were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.” With the budget deficit radically dropping under President Obama and the increasingly better jobs reports, why would we believe these GOP austerity measures would help average families? We don’t because they won’t. Krugman again: “The simplest way to understand [the GOP budget proposals] is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.”
They’re also intent on misrepresenting the economic facts of the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to the ACA, 16. 4 million previously uninsured adults now have health care coverage under the ACA. The Brookings Institution pointed out in March that “more than 4.2 million households, or 7.5 million people, are likely to qualify for both the [Earned Income Tax Credit] and [ACA’s] premium tax credit” – – this in addition to improved, comprehensive health care coverage. Over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office projected the ACA will actually cost $109 billion less than previously anticipated. And last year, the LA Times reported, “Insurance premiums are lower than anticipated, the Affordable Care Act will cost $9 billion less than previously estimated and the provision designed to buffer insurance companies from risk will actually raise revenue, not function as any sort of federal government bailout.”
The Republican response to how the ACA is helping Americans and heath care costs is to try to repeal it (56 times as of February) and attempt to hobble it with litigation. GOP presidential candidate, Senator Ted Cruz, who this week vowed to “repeal every word of Obamacare,” hypocritically receives health insurance for his family through the Federal “Obamacare” exchange.
Are Republicans who control both houses of Congress interested in governing or will they remain stuck in their ideological corner? Their current approval rating of 11% does not seem to faze them, so the signs are not encouraging. In an unprecedented move, 47 Senate Republicans just signed a letter deliberately undermining both our President and important allies’ in the negotiation to halt nuclear arms proliferation by Iran.
So it looks like the facts be damned, the GOP has decided that the ideological corner is where they will remain. The voters will have a chance next year to change this.