With Donald Trump’s inauguration tomorrow, and what promises to be a controversial presidency ahead, we wanted to look back at Barack Obama’s two terms and see Mr. Trump’s starting point. Republicans have sharply criticized the economy’s performance under Obama, while Mr. Obama has claimed himself that Americans are better off at the end of his presidency than they were at the beginning. I do want to remind readers at the outset that Presidents can have a profound impact on the economy, but the effects can take years to manifest and are hard to nail down. What follows is not an evaluation of Obama, but merely a look at what has happened while he was president.
Trump at one point claimed that he was going to be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, he does not have a lot of growing room to work with.
The unemployment rate began to sharply rise in late 2007 and continued to rise until it topped out at about 10% in October of 2009. For the remainder of Obama’s term, the unemployment rate has steadily dropped to around 4.5%. For reference, the median unemployment rate since 1948 is around 5.5%. According to Marketplace.Org, “The Federal Reserve considers a base unemployment rate (the U-3 rate) of 5.0 to 5.2 percent as ‘full employment’ in the economy.” The labor force participation rate has dropped by about 3.5 percentage points from January 2008 to December 2016. The decline in labor-force participation seems to result from the lower participation of working-age people in addition to retiring baby-boomers and other demographic factors. In addition, during Obama’s presidency, real weekly earnings for Americans have increased by about 6%. The poverty rate increased during the first part of Obama’s presidency from 13.2% in 2008 to 15.1% in 2010. Since then it has been steadily dropping, hitting 13.5% in 2015.
Another significant part of Donald Trump’s agenda is law and order. According to FBI data, the violent crime rate in the United States has been steadily dropping for some time. It has dropped from 458.6 per 100,000 people in 2008 to 372.6 per 100,000 people as of 2015. That is roughly a 19% decrease over the course of Obama’s presidency. It should also be noted that some large urban areas are seeing rises in their murder rates.
Mr. Trump has also spoken frequently about illegal immigration. The Pew Research Center estimates a 5% decrease in the number of people living in the United States illegally from 2008 to 2014, but the Center for Migration Studies has estimated a more substantial 9% drop. Both former-President George W. Bush and President Obama increased the number of agents stationed at the border between the United States and Mexico, topping out at 18,611 agents in 2013. According to information gathered from www.cbp.gov, the number of unauthorized immigrants caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border fell to 331,333 in fiscal year 2015. In short, illegal immigration from Mexico has been on the decline during Obama’s presidency.
Many conservatives are concerned about abortion rates. The rate has declined under President Obama, though it should be noted that the rate has been on the decline since the early 1980s. It is currently the lowest it has been since the Roe v Wade decision in 1973.
For more facts and figures related to Obama’s presidency, check out this infographic from www.factcheck.org. Click on the picture to go to their site for more details and analysis.