The news that U.S. GDP expanded at 5% is welcome indeed—and confirms the bullish outlook that many of us at Breitbart News have shared for the past several years. At the same time, the economy remains tough in many respects. Record numbers of Americans have abandoned the workforce, median income has fallen sharply, and today’s youth tend to believe they will not be as well off as their parents. It is a more somber picture than record-high stock prices suggest.
President Barack Obama has tried to take credit for the recovery. Yet there is a good reason that many Americans are reluctant to oblige. That is because most of his economic policies are aimed, intentionally or not, at constraining the economy instead of growing it. Obama has raised taxes, placed onerous new restrictions on the energy industry, added a thicket of regulations in the financial sector; and given labor unions greater power at the expense of employers.
The most damaging of Obama’s policies has been Obamacare, which has shifted jobs from full-time to part-time, discouraged innovation in the medical field, and discouraged small businesses from hiring new employees—all without delivering the cost savings or insurance discounts that were expected, and while breaking repeated promises that patients would be able to keep their insurance and their doctors. Unless repealed, Obamacare will remains a drag on the economy.
Obama and his ideological supporters claim that massive government spending also helped the economy. Yet growth and employment increased most rapidly after Republicans in Congress checked the Democrats’ ability to spend. The dreaded “sequester”—the modest trimming in federal spending to meet targets agreed after the debt ceiling crisis of 2011—has had no ill effects on the economy, even if its defense cuts have created new challenges for our military.
Progress has come in spite of Obama’s economic policies, not because of them. The key has been the energy industry, which developed new fracking technologies that propelled the U.S. to become the number-one oil producer in the world, and exploited natural gas that drove energy costs down. Another factor has been the Federal Reserve’s qualitative easing programs, which have driven equity prices higher (though critics charge the boom is a bubble waiting to burst).
There are only two areas in which Obama deserves credit. One is the Jumpstart our Business Startups (JOBS) Act of 2012, one of the few bipartisan achievements in recent years. That act made it easier for small businesses to attract investors and list their shares for public trading, undoing some of the regulatory blocks that the Obama administration had placed in their way. The new startup boom, which has spread far beyond Silicon Valley, has been a direct result.
The other area is trade. Obama is now talking up the possibility of free trade deals with the EU and Pacific nations. He also—albeit slowly, and reluctantly—enacted free trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia, and Panama in 2011. Those deals were a rare ideological reversal for Obama, who opposed free trade agreements throughout his brief career as a U.S. Senator. If the U.S. moves ahead with new agreements, more economic growth will be the likely result.
Encouragingly, Obama is now talking about tax reform as a possibly area of compromise with the new, Republican-controlled Congress. Yet the overall lesson that he, and his likeliest Democratic successors, seem to have drawn from the past six years—the slowest postwar economic recovery—is that they should have spent more, taxed more, and regulated more. Those who celebrate economic growth, and want far more of it, will have to push back hard.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak