The current favorite pastime of media pundits and the political class is to criticize President Obama as a weak leader whose policies have inflicted great harm. While this is to be expected from extreme partisan corners such as Fox News, even the president’s “friends” are piling on (e.g., Leon Panetta). And with a presidential approval rating hovering around 40 percent, the impression that the president is a failure seems overwhelming.
But do the facts support such a dismal assessment of the president’s accomplishments?
Let’s look at the record.
The Economy: In the fourth quarter of 2008, just before President Obama took office, GDP decreased by a stunning 8.2 percent. In the first quarter of 2009, GDP decreased another 5.4 percent. The economy was in a free fall.
The president’s Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the “stimulus”) successfully stopped the downward spiral, and the economy turned the corner in July of 2009. While the recovery has been sporadic, today the U.S. economy is one of the healthiest in the world, with GDP growth in the second quarter of 2014 equaling a robust 4.6 percent. The European Union, following a path of austerity advocated by opponents of the president’s stimulus, is facing a third recession since 2008. The president’s success was accomplished despite repeated obstructions by his opponents — refusal to pass a jobs act, debt ceiling threats, government shutdowns and sequesters.
Unemployment and Inflation: When the president took office in January 2009, the unemployment rate stood at 7.8 percent and rose to 10 percent by October. Unemployment now stands at 5.9 percent — an impressive 40 percent decrease. Inflation has remained below 2 percent.
Richard D. Coe is a Professor of Economics at New College of Florida.

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