01.18.2017 1

Closing the book on the Obama economy

By Robert Romano

There are less than 51 hours left in the Obama administration, which will end Jan. 20 at noon Eastern Standard Time.

So, what will President Barack Obama’s legacy of office be?

Obama will have headed the only administration in modern history that presided over an economy that never grew above an inflation-adjusted 3 percent. Such growth has not been achieved since 2005.

In fact, the Obama’s administration at 1.46 average annual growth so far — we’re still waiting on 2016 data — has marked the slowest economy since the postwar recession that followed World War II.

Obama left the civilian labor force participation 9.7 million workers short of what it would have been had the U.S. maintained 1997 participation levels of 16-64 year olds. That represents working age adults who either left the labor force or never entered on a net basis.

If they were included in the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly unemployment numbers, the jobless rate for 2016 would be 10 percent instead of the reported 4.9 percent for the year.

To put the number in perspective, the population of 16-64 year olds grew by almost 8.9 million since, but the civilian labor force that age only grew by 1.9 million, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meaning there are comparatively fewer opportunities to pursue the American dream. As a result, labor participation for that age group declined from 75.3 percent to 72.9 percent while Obama was in office.

All the while the Obama administration sat haplessly by, watching U.S. economic power declining for eight years. There was no robust recovery like had followed previous recessions.

All the while, the national debt doubled to $20 trillion. The only other thing that increased was regulations, making it even more expensive to do business in the U.S.

One silver lining of this relatively poor economic record is that it is now coming to an end. The slate gets wiped clean and now President-elect Donald Trump will have an opportunity to right the ship of state.

But the challenges facing Trump will not be easy. In truth, economic growth has been slowing and labor participation has been declining for two consecutive administrations, indicating many of the challenges facing the U.S. could be systemic.

Trump has attributed the slowdown in part to globalization. And now he will get his chance to prove his economic model, that through insourcing production back into the U.S. via America first trade deals and creating more jobs domestically, the economy will grow faster.

Trump promised to get the economy back to a real 3 percent growth rate and to increase labor participation, helping Americans to get back to work. In the end, that is how his record will be judged historically. It will be hard to do worse than Obama. It is clear is that if Trump succeeds, America succeeds.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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