Rahm: Obama deserves the "incomplete"

Who knew that an “incomplete” was such a good grade?  Democrats continue to push the notion that voters should reserve judgment on Barack Obama’s performance on the economy for another four years today, with Rahm Emanuel making the pitch on NBC’s Today.  In doing so, Emanuel explicitly admits that the middle class doesn’t feel any security yet after four years of Obamanomics, but doesn’t offer any new information on how a second term will improve on that situation, either:

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“I think it would be a true statement which is until the middle class feels like their economic security is where it should be, the president should have an incomplete, in the sense of being able to afford a college education, save for retirement, afford healthcare, own a home and have the security of their jobs and the skills to grow and maintain a middle class life,” said Emanuel on NBC’s “Today” show.

He added that the president’s “incomplete” remark was a “proper grade.”

Emanuel said Obama wanted to “make sure the American people know he has not given up working day in and day out from the moment he wakes up to the moment he sleeps, every time in that office that he is making progress for this, so they can achieve what they can for themselves.”

The interviewer asks why voters should accept an incomplete when Obama and his campaign haven’t offered any indication of a second-term agenda that will change the three-year status quo of stagnation.  Emanuel promised that the President would reveal his second-term agenda at some point, but didn’t seem to have any idea what it would be, either.

The problem for Emanuel is that the first term made the middle class even less secure.  According to a new Pew survey and reported by National Journal last night, the middle class slide that Obama decried in 2007-8 continued through the Obama recovery:

The middle class in America today is not better off than it was four years ago, not better off than it was at the end of the Great Recession in 2009, not even better off than when President Clinton left office in 2001.

This is the truth that Democrats must confront as they anchor their national convention theme in Charlotte on vows of support for American workers: The middle class has been declining for more than a decade, including through the Obama recovery.

Inflation-adjusted median income fell by 2.3 percent in 2010 (the last year for which official statistics are available) and dipped below $50,000 per year for the first time since 1996, the Census Bureau reports. Real median weekly wages last quarter were lower than at the same time in 2002—and down 1.5 percent from the second quarter of 2010.

In the past decade, the middle class has endured a real-estate bust that wiped out two-fifths of median household wealth; seen millions of traditional middle-class jobs vanish as the nation hemorrhaged “middle-skill” manufacturing and service work that does not require advanced training; and watched as the income gains from expanded foreign trade and increased labor productivity accrued largely to a small group of Americans at the top of the income distribution.

Nearly all those trends continued after the Great Recession, even though President Obama cut taxes and offered new deductions and credits for middle-class families, among other legislative and rhetorical initiatives aimed at reversing the middle-class decline.

Since 2000, the Pew Research Center reported recently, “the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some—but by no means all—of its characteristic faith in the future.”

Last month, another study by Sentier Research reached the same conclusion, and said that it continued all the way through 2012:

Household income is down sharply since the recession ended three years ago, according to a report released Thursday, providing another sign of the stubborn weakness of the economic recovery.

From June 2009 to June 2012, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 4.8 percent, to $50,964, according to a report by Sentier Research, a firm headed by two former Census Bureau officials. …

Incomes have dropped more since the beginning of the recovery than they did during the recession itself, when they declined 2.6 percent, according to the report, which analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The recession, the most severe since the Great Depression, lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.

Overall, median income is 7.2 percent below its December 2007 level and 8.1 percent below where it stood in January 2000, when it was $55,470, according to the report.

That’s not an incomplete.  That’s a failing grade.