President Obama regularly touts what he calls the “economic recovery” supposedly prompted by his policies, including the creation of 7.5 million jobs, consistent growth for more than three years and revitalization of the domestic auto industry. He recently told ABC’s “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos, for example, that during the Great Recession of 2008, “we came in, stabilized the situation. The banking system works. It is giving loans to companies who can get credit. And so we have seen, I think undoubtedly, progress across the board.”
It’s an upbeat talking point for the president, but the problem is most Americans don’t believe it. Rasmussen Reports said its most recent survey that only 22 percent of respondents rate the economy as "good" or "excellent." Similarly, the latest CNN/ORC International survey found that 39 percent believe the economy is still declining and only 24 percent believe it is recovering. The same survey in October found 59 percent predicting poor economic conditions a year from now, so there is precious little economic optimism out there.
It's not just the opinion polls that produce data indicating a sluggish economy. Thanksgiving holiday sales declined 2.7 percent, according to the National Retail Federation, despite herculean promotions by major retailers like Walmart, Macy's and others with special deals and deep discounts. More people shopped on Thanksgiving Day and online, but at the expense of Black Friday. Retailers are having to work harder and offer more deals just to entice customers to come look.
It’s not hard to understand why they aren’t buying. "Consumers are stressed. They're still under a lot of pressure from things like high unemployment. We see that in our business." GameStop CEO Paul Raines told The Wall Street Journal. Similarly, Stacey Welch of Plainfield, N.J., told the Journal that “it’s really rough right now, I’m earning less now” at her bakery because business is slow.
Consumers and employers simply do not see sufficient reason to be optimistic about the economy, despite Obama’s repeated attempts to persuade them otherwise. Unemployment remains around 7.6 percent and the labor participation rate — which measures how many people have jobs and how many have quit looking for jobs — is at its lowest level, 62.8 percent in October, in decades. Job creation has picked up slightly in recent months, but the 1.6 million positions created since January 2010 is far short of the 5.1 million lost during Obama’s first year in office during the recession.
One thing has increased spectacularly under Obama: federal regulation. “Completed rules reviewed in the federal Unified Agenda compilation of priority regulations went up 16 percent in the last year and 40 percent the year before,” according to the latest edition of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's annual study, Ten Thousand Commandments. With more regulations come greater compliance costs for businesses, and every dollar that goes to complying with federal edicts is one less dollar available to invest in job creation. It's not rocket science.