Why Obama’s economic legacy is one of missed potential

By:  Senator David Perdue

Bloomberg Government regularly publishes insights, opinion and best practices from our community of senior leaders and decision-makers. This column is written by Senator David Perdue (R-GA). Senator Perdue is speaking at “At the Table with Bloomberg Politics” on June 23. 

President Obama is on a victory tour touting his economic legacy. He recently told The New York Times that anyone who thinks America is not better off than it was seven years ago is, “not telling the truth.” He also said, “we probably managed this better than any large economy on Earth in modern history.”

For millions of Americans struggling to make it from paycheck to paycheck, that is not their reality. Lofty rhetoric cannot hide that Obama’s economy has failed too many Americans.

The May jobs report shows our economy continues to be weak. Only 38,000 jobs were created, compared to a forecast that predicted 158,000, constituting the worst monthly jobs gain since 2010. The number of Americans working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job rose by almost half a million, now totaling 6.4 million. Nearly half a million more dropped out of the workforce altogether.

Altogether the evidence shows President Obama’s economic legacy is one of missed potential.

During President Obama’s first term, the stimulus, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank were all touted as vehicles to promote growth. All were passed by a Democratic supermajority, without Republican support.

Each of these sweeping policies contained new regulations and massive new spending by the federal government, adding to the national debt. While they were meant to protect middle-class Americans and stimulate the economy, they have demonstrably failed.

We have not experienced real annual GDP growth of more than 3 percent since Obama took office. The workforce participation is 62.6 percent, a low we haven’t seen since the Carter Administration. When adjusted for workforce participation, the percentage of job growth during Obama’s time in office lags behind six post-Great Depression recoveries.

In the Federal Reserve’s latest report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households, nearly one out of three adult Americans said they are “finding it difficult to get by” or “just getting by.” That’s roughly 76 million struggling from paycheck to paycheck.

Meanwhile, 22 percent of employed adults indicated that they are either working multiple jobs or doing informal work for pay in addition to their primary job. Some 32.5 percent of middle-class Americans, and 47.4 percent of the working poor, said they would work more hours if they were available.

Perhaps worst of all, 46 percent of all adults said they either could not cover an emergency expense of $400, or would have to resort to selling a personal possession or borrowing money to cover the expense.

At the same time, President Obama has ruled through executive orders and regulatory mandates to create over 20,000 new regulations in the last seven years. The price tag of the regulatory burden to our economy is higher than $2 trillion annually. This is sucking the very life out of our free enterprise system.

Because of the uncertainty coming out of Washington, overreaching regulations, and our archaic tax code, trillions of dollars are not at work in our economy.

Furthermore, both the Social Security and Medicare trust funds go to zero in less than 20 years, and this President has chosen not to address either for future generations. This is not a sustainable course for our nation.

The irony of all of this is that President Obama and his fellow Democrats claim to help working women and men in America. But clearly, their progressive agenda has failed the very people they claim to champion.

With four decades of business experience, I understand the frustration of people back home with the lack of results in Washington. In business, when something isn’t working, you acknowledge it and try something else. Instead, President Obama and his Democratic allies in Washington doubled down on these failed policies.

While President Obama promised fiscal responsibility, he is now on track to more than double the debt during his tenure. Our national debt surpassed $19 trillion this year and is projected to reach nearly $30 trillion over the next decade. This is totally unmanageable.

The weight of our debt is underpinning our ability to set the right priorities. If interest rates return to their fifty-year average, taxpayers would be paying almost $1 trillion in interest on the current debt alone.

We must change the direction of our country. To do so, we must honestly acknowledge that President Obama’s economic legacy is one that has failed to create sustained economic growth that lifts all Americans.

We cannot wait any longer to change course. In this moment of crisis, we also have a moment of opportunity.

If we return to the principles that sparked our nation’s economic boom, we can create economic results over the next few decades that could make the last 70 years pale in comparison.

The opinions presented in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Bloomberg Government or Bloomberg LP.