The Big Q: Why are Americans so Angry at Barack Hussein Obama II?
Americans are angry at the political establishment, both Republican and Democrat.
Many are now in the “camp” of Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump and others in the “camp” Democrat disrupted Bernie Sanders, who have framed powerful indictments of the political and economic status quo, that has been brought on and fostered by the Clinton-Bush tie-up that some have dubbed a “dynasty.”
Early this month US President Barack Hussein Obama speaking in Indiana tried to explain Americans anger that is fueling perhaps the most unpredictable political climates in modern times.
Professor Robert J. Gordon of Northwestern University, a macro-economist and economic historian, presents some data that helps us to understand why the political contours of Y 2016 are being framed in the current troubled context.
At that Indiana venue PBS moderator Gwen Ifill (it is no secret the Ms Ifill is an admirer of Mr. Obama) asked Mr. Obama why there is such a disconnect in a county where the jobless rate fell from 19% to 5% during his 2 terms in office, by the way that Q was asked to make Mr. Obama look good, the real unemployment rate is the US is about 20%. The 5% is skewed to those people who are still looking for work, and does not take in consideration the millions who just dropped out of America’s workforce because they could not find a job they were qualified for.
Mr. Obama’s answer: “Here’s what has changed in the economy over the last 20 to 30 years, right after World War II, America was ascendant. It was dominant around the world because Europe was blown up, Japan was digging itself out of the rubble, China was still a backwater, Eastern Europe was behind the Iron Curtain. There wasn’t much competition. We were the only folks who were seriously making cars and trucks and appliances. We had strong unionization, which meant that workers had leverage so that they could get a good share of a growing pie. And people saw, each year and each generation, their standards of living going up pretty rapidly.”
For sure growing up middle class immediately after WWII the promise of the “American Dream” was the notion that each successive generation would do better than the last, my at 7 yrs old in Y 1946, my father sat me down and told me, Paul you have the “World with a Fence around It, what you make of it is Yours.”
By the time Barack Hussein Obama took office in January 2009, not only was the jobless rate up, but home values had tanked and mortgage foreclosures were rampant.
The $400-B budget surplus under President Wm. Clinton had ballooned to an almost unfathomable $1-T. “What started happening is you started seeing foreign competition,” Mr. Obama continued. “Unions started getting busted, so workers had less leverage, which meant their wages didn’t go up quite as fast.” And that happened because George HW Bush introduced his New World Order aka globalization.
Notably per capita income in Indiana had fallen by more than 10% in the prior decade.
“You started seeing the end of defined benefit pension plans,” Mr. Obama explained. Work place health plans were cut. “College costs started going up because the public university system, which used to be generously funded by state governments so that tuition was low” were cut to build prisons and cut taxes. On that front, Hoosier taxpayers are now funding less than 10% of the annual budgets of Indiana and Purdue Universities. Students are picking up the difference.
“You add all those things together and people then start feeling more stressed,” Mr. Obama said.
This is where Prof. Gordon picks up. As the Baby Boomers entered into adulthood, he cites what was essentially the end of a historical anomaly, the termination of what he calls the “Special Century” from Y 1870 to Y 1970. I was well on my way to success in 1970, and had served in the USMC in my 20’s
“The Century of Revolution in the United States after the Civil War was economic, not political, freeing households from an unremitting daily grind of painful manual labor, household drudgery, darkness, isolation and early death,” Professor Gordon writes in his book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth.
A Century later, there was air-conditioning, instant dinners, appliances and color TV that connected the masses to the world. Life expectancy rose from 45 to 72.
“The economic revolution of 1870 to 1970 was unique in human history, unrepeatable because so many of its achievements could come only once,” Professor Gordon writes.
And there are choppy times ahead.
Professor Gordon observes, “The problem created by the computer age is not mass unemployment, but the gradual disappearance of good, steady, middle-level jobs that have been lost not just to robots and algorithms but to globalization and outsourcing to other countries, together with the concentration of job growth in routine manual jobs that offer relatively low wages. It combines disappointing productivity growth over the past decade with a steady rise of inequality over the past three decades.”
Professor Gordon predicts “4 Key headwinds,” citing income inequality; education deficits that have produced lower college graduation rates and decreased vocabulary levels of poor preschoolers, and more than $1-T in college loan debt; demographics with the Baby Boom retirement bubble and a declining labor force; and government debt with unsustainable entitlement expenditures, something Purdue University President Mitch Daniels described in Y 2011 as the “New Red Menace.”
So far our Presidential candidates, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and “hanging in for my piece” Bernie Sanders have not discussed entitlement reform.
“The combined effects of growing inequality, a faltering education system, demographic headwinds, and the strong likelihood of a fiscal correction imply that the real median disposable income will grow much more slowly in the future than in the past,” Professor Gordon said. “When all the headwinds are taken into account, the future growth of real median disposable income per person will be barely positive.”
In reviewing Professor Gordon’s book, NY-T’s Columnist and Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman observed, “Perhaps the future is not what it used to be.”
What this means now is this the anger, read “rage,” is gathering in Y 2016, as Mr. Obama ran on Hope, he has failed, and will go down as perhaps the worst President in the history of our Republic.
Have a terrific weekend.