Fox News Narrative: President Obama Made The Economy Worse

Is that true, or did you hear it on Fox News? - image by Occupy PostersI’m not interested in fulfilling a narrative, I want to gets facts correct, but I will admit that I have biases like anyone else. However, I don’t consider politics to be a game like some do. Maybe I could be blamed for taking things too seriously but this country faces challenging issues and hard facts matter. The truth matters.

So let’s talk about the Republican argument that President Obama has made the economy worse. Honestly, I’m flabbergasted that otherwise intelligent people cannot understand the idea of context. Fox News likes to display graphics that show a snapshot of the unemployment rate in January 2009 compared to now. They display it as proof that the economy is worse. But do intelligent people actually buy this? Do intelligent people just sweep aside context? I guess they do when they are trying to fulfill a pre-existing narrative. It’s completely disingenuous to say Obama has made the economy worse because the unemployment rate is higher now than when he took office. If that’s all you told people, then sure, sounds like a damning indictment.

But here’s the problem, for this logic to make sense it would require all presidencies to occur in a vacuum where existing budgets and existing economic conditions of the previous president (and the presidents before him) have no impact. Of course this is silly. And it’s not about blaming President Bush. I’m tired of hearing that. People who level this charge are likely playing fast and loose with the facts and reality. Like Bill Clinton said during his Democratic National Convention speech, no president, not even Clinton himself could have turned this economy completely around in four years. It took most of two decades to recover from the Great Depression. It’s not unreasonable to think it may take a decade or longer to fully recover from the Great Recession. It’s ridiculous to believe the moment a president takes over he can instantly turn the economy around.

The economy was worse in early 2010 than in January 2009, and it’s better now than it was in early 2010. The important context is the trajectory of jobs. When Obama took office, we were losing over 700,000 jobs a month. So the trajectory was down. Now we are gaining jobs each month, for the past 30 months. So the trajectory is up. The reason the unemployment rate is slightly higher now than it was in January 2009 is because we haven’t recovered all the lost jobs yet. The unemployment rate is still high, after creating 4.5 million jobs over the past 30 months, not because Obama has failed, but because of just how bad it got by late 2009, early 2010. When Obama took office, the economy was contracting and it was going to find a bottom no matter who became president. There is an argument you can make that the recovery since that point could be better, but the Fox News version of the argument that posits Obama made the economy worse, is simply a distortion of the facts. It’s using numbers to paint a false picture that is easy to explain with a simple graphic and it’s easy for people to understand. But it’s not the whole picture. It’s not in context. But they don’t care, because it sells the narrative they want to sell. / image by Occupy Posters

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