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Hindsight: A Retrospective on the Presidency of Barack Obama

By: Chris McManigal

Part 1: The Good

It’s no secret that people have highly charged opinions about Barack Obama and his Presidency. Ask some and they’ll say they already miss him, ask others and they’ll say he’s the worst thing to ever happen to this county.

So what is the reality? That answer can be subjective, of course, either somebody likes the guy or doesn’t, but Obama’s term, like any other, can be summarized by the numbers.

First, let’s define terms. Two markers are commonly used to take the national temperature as it relates to the health of our economy, the Gross Domestic Product and the Unemployment Rate. Why? Because the GDP measures what we as a nation produce, our collective “product,” and the Unemployment Rate-when seen as the inverse or the Employment Rate-measures how many people are producing it. More people working equals more product made. More product made equals more money we earn.

So, bearing that in mind, what are the numbers? According to the US Department of Commerce, at the at the end of 2008, before Obama took office, the GDP was -6.2%, meaning that we as a nation produced 6.2% less stuff to sell than the year before.

Nearly 8 years later, as Obama’s term is ending, our GDP is 2.9%. That said, 2.9% as a stand-alone figure doesn’t sound like much. It’s only when you consider that the spread between -6.2 and 2.9 is almost 10 points that one can really gage how much our economy has healed during Obama’s term.

And then there are the unemployment figures. On day 1 of his term in January 2009 the Unemployment Rate was bad, 7.8%. But it didn’t end there. The backlash from the Great Recession that Obama inherited reared its ugly head throughout the first year of his term pushing the Unemployment Rate up as high at 10% in mid-2010. That’s 1 in 10 American adults that are able and willing to not being able to find a job.

Compare that to 4.9%, the Unemployment Rate now as Obama’s term is nearing its end. On its face a more than 50% reduction in the raw number sounds impressive. But more than sounding impressive, it actually is impressive when you consider that just 1/10 of a percent represents millions of Americans having a job now that didn’t 8 years ago.

Love him or hate him, the numbers don’t lie. But they aren’t always good…