If you’re looking at the country through the eyes of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Martin O’Malley, it’s hard to muster the fortitude to get up in the morning. Everywhere rapacious bankers, money lenders, plutocrats and health company executives are conspiring to enrich themselves off the labors, and dreams, of regular Americans.
When they held their Dec. 19 presidential debate, the three Democrats seemed as if they were gearing up for a revolution — as if they had forget their party has held the White House for the past seven years. According to the Democrats, Obama’s time in the White House has done little to reshuffle the economic deck to benefit Americans.
Vermont Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, who leads Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, said in his opening statement that he was running for President because,
our economy is rigged because working people are working longer hours for lower wages and almost all of new wealth and income being created is going to the top one percent. I’m running for president because I’m going to create an economy that works for working families not just billionaires.
Clinton, discussing the challenges facing the next President noted that, “if we don’t get the American economy moving and growing, we’re not going to recognize our country and we’re not going to give our kids the same opportunities that we had.”
The most difficult challenge for the candidates, though, is recognizing that their party has been in the White House for seven years.
The Great Recession officially ended in early 2009, just months after President Obama took office. The economic “recovery” under Obama, however, has been the weakest in modern times. Annual growth has barely kept pace with increases in population and inflation. The number of Americans not in the labor force is at the highest levels in almost 40 years.
The percentage of income going to the top 5 percent has increased during the Obama presidency, after falling during George Bush’s tenure. The share of the national income going to the Middle Class is lower now than when Bush left office.
While Sanders, Clinton and O’Malley all blasted large banks on Wall Street during the debate, it was the decision of Obama’s Justice Department not to press criminal charges on those responsible for the financial crash. Obama’s SEC has also failed to pursue aggressive oversight of Wall Street’s largest banks.
Even though President Obama only enjoyed two years with his party in control of both houses of Congress, Republicans haven’t rolled back any of Obama’s policies. The GOP even acquiesced on raising taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers and has funded all of the Obama Administration’s priorities.
Even as ObamaCare struggles with innumerable challenges, these are arising from the functioning of the law, rather than Republican repeal of defunding actions. Hillary Clinton, during the debate, decried “glitches” in the law, as premiums and deductibles rise higher than expected, but these are arising as the law works as envisioned.
ObamaCare was developed, promoted and implemented in close cooperation with pharmaceutical and health insurance companies. The drug companies spent tens of millions of dollars in advertising promoting the law. Obama gave health insurance companies a government-enforced mandate for all Americans to buy their products.
For their own political futures, the candidates on stage during the debate were correct to focus on economic issues. Democrats, far more than Republicans, list the economy as their top issue in the election. The biggest issue for Republicans is national security. For Democrats, though, national security is almost just the 3rd most important issue, only barely edging out eduction.
For his entire Presidency, Obama has argued that the economy is improving and getting much stronger. His fiscal policy has poured trillions into boosting the economy. The Fed’s monetary policy has pumped multiple trillions into the financial markets to grow the economy.
Yet, the economy is still the top issue for Democrats, even in the face of new terrorist attacks on American soil. To listen to the Democrat candidates on Saturday, one would think that the economy has become steadily weaker and more unequal over the last several years.
While that is definitely true, it does exactly make for a ringing endorsement of Barack Obama nor his policies.