State of the Union Preview: Obama to Face Nation in Economic Decline

President Barack Obama will deliver his 2013 State of the Union Address to a nation facing a bleaker economic future than it did the year prior. 

In his 2012 State of the Union address, Obama laid out his blueprint to achieve an “economy built to last.” Yet based on a host of economic indicators--economic growth, gas prices, collegiate jobs, the national debt, workforce participation--the nation is worse off today than it was last year.

Economic Growth

When Obama delivered his last State of the Union Address, fourth quarter GDP had grown at an anemic 2.8%. This time, Obama will take the rostrum as the nation suffered its first negative economic growth slump in over three-and-a-half years, contracting -0.1% last quarter. 

College Graduates

In his 2012 State of the Union Address, Obama told a moving story about a single mother named Jackie Bray who attended a community college and later found work as a plant operator at Siemens. “I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did,” said Obama. “Join me in a national commitment to train 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job.” 

This year, however, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union Address to a nation where 48% of recent college graduates are in jobs that do not even require a bachelor’s degree, and 37% hold jobs that require just a high school diploma. A full 5 million college graduates now work in jobs that did not even require a high school diploma to apply. 

The unemployment rate for Americans ages 18-29 has increased sharply in the last several months, climbing to 13.1%.

Gas Prices

In his last State of the Union speech, Obama boasted that his Administration had aggressively expanded oil and gas exploration: “Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources,” said Obama. 

“Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right--eight years. Not only that--last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years.” 

Obama has also spent billions pursuing green energy projects, many of which have gone bankrupt, resulted in layoffs, or are losing money. 

The result for the average American? Last year when Obama delivered his State of the Union, gas was $3.39 a gallon. Today it’s $3.59 a gallon.

Unemployment & Labor Participation

One seeming bright spot for the president would be the fact that unemployment is down from 8.3% last January to its current rate of 7.9%. Yet these figures are no cause for celebration: the reason the number appears lower is because 1,084,000 have left the U.S. labor force altogether since his 2012 State of the Union Address. 

Indeed, throughout Obama’s first term, 8,500,000 fewer Americans were in the work force than were four years ago. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record 89,868,000 Americans no longer work.

Since delivering his last State of the Union Address, Obama has increased the national debt from $15.23 trillion to over $16.4 trillion today. On the first day Obama was sworn in as president, the federal debt stood at $10.6 trillion.

Food Stamps

Food stamp enrollment figures offer an economic shorthand into poverty trends. Since Obama’s last State of the Union Address, the number of individuals on food stamps has grown 1,243,159. Under Obama, food stamp participation rates have skyrocketed from 31.9 million to 47.6 million today.

President Barack Obama will deliver his 2013 State of the Union Address Tuesday evening.


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