Decline and Fall

The arc of the Obama presidency bends towards failure.

Aug 29, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 46

Now more than halfway through his third year in office—with the economy flat-lining, American prestige evaporating, and public anxiety spiking—Barack Obama is the most vulnerable incumbent president since Jimmy Carter. The election is still 14 months away, but it’s not too early to see the broad outlines of the GOP’s case against the president.

No sweat—I’ll just make a speech.

Economic Malpractice: Obama inherited a tough economy, but his stewardship has in many respects made the situation worse.

The unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent (it was 7.8 percent the month Obama took office). July marked the 30th consecutive month in which the unemployment rate was above the 8 percent level that the Obama administration said it would not exceed as a result of its stimulus program. Chronic unemployment is worse than during the Great Depression, while the share of the eligible population holding a job (58.1 percent) has declined to the lowest level since the early 1980s.

The housing crisis is also worse than in the Great Depression. Home values are worth roughly one-third less than they were five years ago. Consumer confidence has plunged to the lowest level since the Carter presidency. And from the first quarter of 2010 through the first quarter of 2011, we experienced five consecutive quarters of slow growth. America’s GDP for the second quarter of this year was an anemic 1.3 percent; in the first quarter, it was 0.4 percent. Even more problematic for the president, there are virtually no signs that things will improve anytime soon. He now has to hope for an economic miracle.

Given this atrocious record, Republicans should repeatedly affirm what Obama’s senior counselor, David Plouffe, has acknowledged: The president “owns