Another nugget from Barack Obama’s interview with 60 Minutes is making the rounds today, but it’s less surprising than one might think. Steve Kroft challenged the President to make a midterm pitch for his party, and Obama responded by insisting that the nation is better off today than it was six years ago. He acknowledged, though, that most people don’t “feel” it:
Steve Kroft: You’ve got midterm elections coming up. Are you going to get shellacked?
President Obama: Well…
Steve Kroft: Or do you think that, I mean, are you optimistic? What are the issues and what are you going to tell the American people?
President Obama: Here’s what I’m going to tell the American people. When I came into office, our economy was in crisis. We had unemployment up at 10 percent. It’s now down to 6.1. We’ve had the longest run of uninterrupted private sector job growth in our history. We have seen deficits cut by more than half. Corporate balance sheets are probably the best they’ve been in the last several decades. We are producing more energy than we had before. We are producing more clean energy than we ever had before. I can put my record against any leader around the world in terms of digging ourselves out of a terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis. Ronald Reagan used to ask the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” In this case, are you better off than you were in six? And the answer is, the country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office, but now we have to make…
Steve Kroft: Do you think people will feel that?
President Obama: They don’t feel it. And the reason they don’t feel it is because incomes and wages are not going up. There are solutions to that. If we raise the minimum wage, if we make sure women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work, if we are rebuilding our infrastructure, if we’re doing more to invest in job training so people are able to get the jobs that are out there right now, because manufacturing is coming back to this country. Not just the auto industry that we’ve saved, but you’re starting to see reinvestment here in the United States. Businesses around the world are saying for the first time in a long time, “The place to invest isn’t in China. It’s the United States.”
The reason that people don’t “feel” the recovery is because it hasn’t been much of a recovery at all. The supposedly historic streak of private-sector job growth has barely kept pace with population growth for the last five-plus years of the technical recovery. We still have millions of workers sidelined, and job growth hasn’t gotten out of the 200K monthly range. Economic growth, which should have spiked after a sharp recession, has been in the 1.8%-2.2% annual range ever since. Obama takes credit for cutting deficits in half, but neglects to mention that it was his budgets that had to be cut from the $1.5-trillion deficit range, and that the deficit reductions for the next few budget cycles are based on wholly unrealistic expectations of economic growth. Our energy production growth has mainly come from the Bakken extraction in North Dakota and natural gas production from fracking, neither of which this administration supports; they just can’t do much about the former, and the EPA’s still working on the latter.
Still, though, this is the same sing-song argument that Obama made in 2010, 2012, as well as 2014. It didn’t work in either of the first two cycles. Obama got shellacked by his own admission in the first midterm election, and he won in 2012 by demonizing Mitt Romney rather than on his own merits — which is why he ended up with millions of votes fewer the second time around, the only President to win re-election while doing so. He’s not going to admit that people don’t feel the recovery because it’s been mostly stagnation in place since the Great Recession. The real question is why Kroft didn’t challenge Obama on some of those claims during the interview, although he did offer a rather skeptical statement at the end:
Steve Kroft: You think you can sell this.
Obama thought he could sell it in 2010, too, and look how that turned out. He ended up underestimating the anger over Democratic policies, and when that happens again this time, look for him to blame Debbie Wasserman Schultz for failing to alert him.