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Fact-checking the Obama years

President Barack Obama
REUTERS/Jim Young
Since President Barack Obama first took office the economy has added 9.7 million jobs.

You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Is that a fact? Not exactly.

First of all, the saying above is often attributed to former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, although the saying appeared in print in a small New Mexico newspaper in 1950, long before Moynihan came to prominence. That paper attributed it to the once-famous financier Bernard Baruch, who also gets credit on the website BrainyQuote, although without a source. Anyway, the spirit of the Moynihan/Baruch/whomever quote is likeable, but arguable.

Here’s a factual-sounding statement, and one in which I believe: The United States has prospered during the presidency of Barack Obama.

That’s not exactly a “fact” by the most demanding meaning of that word. It’s more of a conclusion based on facts, or maybe, one should say, on a selection of facts. And most of us do select our facts for some purpose, often hidden from ourselves. Face this fact: It’s possible, it’s not even difficult, to compile a set of numbers tending to prove that things have gotten better during the Obama years, and a set of numbers that suggest the opposite.

‘Obama’s Numbers’

My favorite journalistic fact-checking operation is FactCheck.org, which is pretty close to being the granddaddy of the now widespread fact-checking sub-genre of journalism. So the other day, I opened an email from FactCheck which linked to the latest quarterly update of a series called “Obama’s Numbers.”

Here’s the summary, direct from FactCheck:

Since President Barack Obama first took office:

  • The U.S. trade deficit has shrunk by 24 percent; exports have grown faster than imports.

  • The number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally has gone down — by 3.4 percent according to one independent estimate and by 9 percent according to another.

  • The economy has added 9.7 million jobs.

  • The unemployment rate has dropped below the historical norm.

  • The buying power of the average worker’s weekly paycheck is up 4.2 percent.

  • Corporate profits are running 144 percent higher and stock prices have soared.

  • Federal debt has more than doubled, and annual deficits, after shrinking, are again on the rise.

  • The number of people lacking health insurance has gone down by nearly 15 million.

Or click through to this full list of the April 2016 installment of the series, which is nothing but numbers tracking various statistical indices of mostly economic measures of how the United States has fared during the Obama years, with the sparest and least politicized of commentary.

Note that I say during the Obama years. FactCheck, to its credit, goes out of its way to say:

“We leave it to our readers to judge how much credit or blame the president deserves for what has happened on his watch, and we caution that no single number or collection of numbers can tell the entire story. What we offer here are some key yardsticks from sources we consider solid and reliable.”

President’s influence

Bless you FactCheck and one of its founders, Brooks Jackson, who is semi-retired now but is still running the Obama’s Numbers feature, which he started early in the administration. He is all-but-acknowledging that no such enterprise can or should claim to know the correlation between what happened during a presidency and the actions of the president (not to mention that a president cannot even adopt many of his preferred policies without a cooperative Congress, which Obama has lacked since the midterm of his first term). It’s fundamentally ridiculous to think that everyone who was hired or fired or got a raise or had a good day on the stock market on the day after Obama was inaugurated was hired or fired or etc. because Obama was in the Oval Office that day. And it’s less stupid or crazy but still stupid or crazy to assume the same about every event in the economy even now, in Obama’s seventh year in office.

But some are more likely than others to be strongly affected by administration policy, Jackson said. For example, U.S. crude oil production is up 87 percent since Obama took office, which helped drive oil imports down 61 percent. But that is likely more attributable to improvements in fracking technology than it is to Obama policies. (Those energy numbers are not in the bullet items above, but you can see them if you click through to the actual FactCheck report.)

On the other hand, the last of the bulleted items above, the decrease in the number of Americans without health insurance, is surely heavily influenced by one of Obama’s signature policy initiatives, the Affordable Care Act. But, of course, critics of Obamacare believe that overall it has made the health-care situation in the country worse. They may be — oh, the heck with it, they mostly are — viewing the net effect of Obamacare through a prism of negative bias. But that argument will go on for a long time yet.

In a phone interview, I asked Jackson how FactCheck had chosen which indices to track. His answer surprised me. He said that early in the Obama administration, he had seen a Facebook posting passing a list of a lot of ways in which America had gone to the dogs since Obama took office. He simply started checking (what FactCheck does to factual assertions) to see if they were accurate, and many of them were way off. So he wrote a typical FactCheck piece pointing out some of the errors and out-of-contextness of some of the assertions. That post was such a hit with readers that FactCheck decided to do a quarterly update, sometimes adding or subtracting indices based on whether there were fresh numbers and whether a particular measurement had been in the news.

The quarterly updates have continued to be among the site’s big hits.

Rise in debt

I asked Saint John’s University economist Louis Johnston to look at the latest quarterly report and react to my impression that the numbers showed a generally strong economy during the Obama years. He agreed.

I asked him specifically how much of a complication to the overall good numbers it was that the U.S. government debt had more than doubled (it was actually up 121 percent from Obama’s inauguration day). I said that critics would surely say that you can buy a lot of prosperity with borrowed money but the tale cannot be fully told without taking into account the impact of the added debt on future generations.

True enough, Johnston said, but if you believe (and Johnston generally does) that the Great Recession that Obama inherited from his predecessor is still in danger of slipping into a second Great Depression like that one in the 1930s, and if you believe that some of Obama’s costly policies helped decrease the odds of that happening, then you have to consider the likely possibility that the addition to the debt was worth it.

Those considerations, of course, take us a little further from the realm of facts into conjecture about what would have or could have happened if, oh, I don’t know, if Mitt Romney had been elected instead of Barack Obama. The answer to that mystery even time won’t tell.

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Comments (55)

Cherry picking

The real measure of a nation's economic performance is the measure of their economic freedom, which includes factors such as private property rights, government spending, investment freedom, etc.

Adam Smith reminded us in the Wealth of Nations that those nations that "protect the liberty of individuals to pursue their own economic interests result in greater prosperity for the larger society."

And according to the Index of Economic Freedom, fact-checking the the Obama years would have to include the metric that the United States has gone from the 5th freest nation on Earth in 2008 to the 11th freest nation in 2016. For historical comparison, the U.S. was 4th in 1995 and has never been ranked lower than 12th.

http://tinyurl.com/zabsz9v

"The existence of a free market does not of course eliminate the need for government. On the contrary, government is essential both as a forum for determining the “rules of the game” and as an umpire to interpret and enforce the rules decided on. What the market does is to reduce greatly the range of issues that must be decided through political means, and thereby to minimize the extent to which government need participate directly in the game." - Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom

who's #1?

So you'd be perfectly happy to live in those bastions of freedom Hong Kong (#1) or Singapore (#2) then? And as for #15, Google "Mauritius offshore company," or to save time, "Panama papers."

And then there's cherry picking by the Economic Freedom Index

The index cited is structured to value the economic freedom of corporate employers and wealthy individuals and not the economic freedom of employees or the general public. Lots of analysis and examples of this cherry picking if you search. For example, see article titled "What Economic Indexes Leave Out" 2/24/11 from the Foundation for Economic Education, the oldest free market advocacy group in the US.

Picking Cherries

Adam Smith never said "protect the liberty of individuals to pursue their own economic interests result in greater prosperity for the larger society." That is a gloss on the supposed thesis of the Wealth of Nations quoted by the Heritage Foundation.

The heritage Foundation also created the "Index of Economic Freedom," in partnership with the Wall Street Journal. It's interesting that these august and doubtless unbiased entities rank Hong Kong as #1 in freedom, even though it is not an independent nation, and even though it lives in the shadow and under the increasing control of the authoritarian government in Beijing. The number 2 spot (which should be #1 if we are considering only sovereign nations) is held by Singapore. Do you know what happens to people who continually grouse about the government in Singapore, Mr. Tester?

Yes, color me unconvinced.

According to whom?

"The real measure of a nation's economic performance is the measure of their economic freedom, which includes factors such as private property rights, government spending, investment freedom, etc."

As others have pointed out, this index reflects the implementation of a set of values, one which is far from universally accepted in the U.S. or elsewhere. By all practical measures, we have done well in recent years. Some, including me, would argue that further restraints are necessary in some areas in order to preserve our progress.

Gee, Mr. Tester, just for

Gee, Mr. Tester, just for fun, check out the gun laws in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Lax labor and consumer protection laws OR easy access to guns ?

What's a conservative to do....

DT Always like your responses!

Ironically, just came from Singapore yesterday:
Want to drive a car? The permit to drive a car is ~ $100K Sing, (No that does not include the price of the car (That is the permit that allows you to buy one. And the permit expires in 10 years, and the car cannot be resold in Singapore. Do you want to own property in Singapore? No Chance! all the property is rented form the Government which by the way is called the "Lee Family" been running the country for ~ 60-70 years. Lets see my Hotel bill had GST @ 7%, and Room service charge at 10%, Any place you park, you pay parking (unless the restaurant etc. covers it) Got those little punch card sheets you better have in your windshield, and wherever you drive they have electronic tolls, especially down town, premiums for business hours. Singapore is a very "fine city" safe clean etc. however ~ 95% of the residents live in high rise flats, probably in the $200-300K area. The Country, island, state is ~ 35 x 17 miles ~ 6 Mil people. Smaller than metro Minneapolis, with 2X the population. From this perspective you are trying to compare radishes with fine wine. Nothing absolutely nothing moves or happens in Singapore W/O the "Lee Family" or one of its cronies approval. Singapore probably has the most efficiently and sophisticated form of benevolent dictatorial corruption on the planet. Feel free to ask any Singaporean, why is there only one company that does all the roadway projects?.

Facts

do not/should not imply attribution.

I know a retired banker, whose favorite phrase is "Here's the deal."

He basically puts consideration in terms of where one is now, not where one was or where one believes to be later.

"Here's the deal" is his non-judgmental basis for considering where one can be/wants to be/and sometimes cannot be.

Old Sgt. Joe Friday: "Just the facts, ma'am."

Thanks again

Eric, Thanks again for lessons in thinking beyond the superficial.

Oh boy, here it comes!

The Republicans in the crowd can't get off the couch quick enough to respond to Eric's article. There will be a flurry of all kinds of made-up fiction and Fox references. I challenge all of them to say how they are worse off today than they were 8 years ago as Bush finished up his conservative magic. Remember the Republicans were in lock step agreement with GWB, as he went about dismantling the country, so his legacy is their legacy. Who knows, maybe the Republicans won't be able to comment on the Bush years because they seem to have blanked that part of history from their memory. Because it happened on his watch, let's give President Obama a big gold star for making the Republican Party fall apart. Actually we need a Republican Party, just not this one.

How can they not line up?

Let's see. Obama promised to cut government deficit in half...after he more than quadrupled it above historic highs. So success in running deeper deficits than ever has been done.
On the ACA, costs will be cheaper where everyone will get to keep their same doctor and plan was the promise. Oops, that hasn't happened. Not only is all of that wrong, but the care level everyone has expected has worsened.
There was the promise of uniting the country. Buzz. Look at racial tensions now. He has fanned those flames at every chance. "Treyvon could have been my son" and the beer summit are just starters for someone with a mother who was Caucasian.
One of the facts is that worker's see 4.2% on average more per week. Over 8 years that's barely 1/2 of one percent per year on straight percentage, less when compounded. Inflation has been much higher than that. Hardly close to a success.
The promise to get out of Guantanamo right away? Prisoners are still there. Ones that were freed are back killing people again.
ISIS? Well if we helped the Middle East than cut and run, there would not be this problem that has spilled into Europe with some saying they are here in the US.
Back to the deficit, it's always easy to spend other people's money. The sad part is that generations to come have to pick up the mess long after we're and our 'glorious leader' is gone.
This list could go on and on for one of the worst Presidents we have had.
...or am I just sitting on the couch?

Where does one begin?

How about if I simply ask for some citations to support your allegations? That seems fair enough to me.

Or you can simply continue to sit on the couch and follow the Fox Network and its brethren.

You have made several points

You also have to remember the party of "NO" is what the President has had to work with for the last 8 years. You should recall Mitch McConnell saying, shorty after President Obama was inaugurated, he was going to work to make sure the president was a one-term president. McConnell failed miserably, now he is the one with the 18% approval rating.

The ACA was essentially a Republican program if you remember correctly. They were for it before they were against it. Instead of working to try and fix that which bothers the Republicans they have chosen to go through the ceremonial effort, for the Republican base, to try and repeal it 6o+ times. Asked for 8 years what the Republicans would replace the ACA with, we still don't have an answer.

I can't remember what the Republicans have put forth to improve workers pay. Oops, I do remember. The Republican approach to better pay is work harder and longer. They have fought a minimum wage increase, which hasn't been increased in 15 years. They have fought to disband unions, which work to improve workers pay.

The Republicans have had a "not in my backyard" approach to Guantanamo when it comes to where to put the remaining prisoners. I don't recall any viable Republican suggestions. Maybe perpetual war is not the way to go. It hasn't worked out well for us the past 40 years. Time to change the philosophy if we want a different result.

I really do know how easy it is to spend other peoples money. I actually have a real good example of it. Check out the war of choice Bush and Cheney got us into and then put $2,000,000,000,000 on the US credit card. Heck, they didn't even have to sign for it. It was really, really easy to spend other peoples money. We are still paying for the Bush/Cheney mess.

I'm sure Presidents Reagan and two Bushs won't do as well with the historians as President Obama will. Time will tell.

Feeling your pain

"This list could go on and on for one of the worst Presidents we have had."

I'm gonna miss him too.

Fact GOP Falling Apart

They could hardly control more governorships and state legislative bodies than they do now. Add to that a historically large majority of the House and a solid majority of the Senate, and I'm just not seeing a party falling apart. What i am seeing is a lot of bills about bathrooms.

So we're seeing a party in the toilet

That's not a lot different from falling apart.

The real measure of a

The real measure of a nation's economic performance is the measure of their economic freedom, which includes factors such as private property rights, government spending, investment freedom, etc.

Is that something we really think? It seems to me there are lots of ways to measure economic performance. It's something that we can quantify in certain ways. But can we do that with freedom? How much does a liter of freedom weigh?

Data that measure the

Data that measure the economic soundness, or health, of our country consist of numbers, and that's what Eric focuses on here, with PolitiFact: numbers of employed, wage numbers, numbers of Americans with healthcare policies, numbers of dollars in a trade deficit or surplus, budget deficit numbers, and so forth.

They do not measure a subjective value like "freedom." People on the right seem to feel almost no freedom at all in the U. S. (judging from their complaints), and are so taken with that that they can't even look at the numbers that say that the country as a whole is a lot better off than we were at the beginning of 2009, when President Obama took office.

And, let's not forget: the Great Recession of 2008 was caused by the rampant greed that is always an inherent threat to an economy based on capitalism. Without proper--and very strong--governmental controls and restrictions on capitalism, capitalists will bring the economy to its knees in boom-then-bust cycles again and again. That's a fact (look at world economies from the mid-19th century on, for booms and busts).

as Mark Twain said...

"Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please." That is Washington and the extremes in a nutshell.

You brought out some worthy data, Mr. Black. You forgot to add:

Labor force participation down 4.3%
Real median household income down 2.3%
Food stamp participation up 39.5%
Home ownership down 5.2%

Now I would not claim Obama was all bad, or all good. Facts need context and historical perspective. A world economy, or a State's for that matter, don't fit into a tight and tidy little time frame of who is or was in office at the time. It's a lot more complicated than that.

Eric

please do not cast aspersion on the bias of others. Were it not for bias, you would lack followers. Right?

You are right about context

You have not specified what your baselines are. It is more informative to look at graphs over the past ten years.

'Labor force participation' is dependent upon the demographics that determine the current size of the labor force. The number of jobs is still up.
Same for median household income.
There is no longer any such thing as 'food stamps', so that is zero.
I take it that you're referring to SNAP, which is up because of the Recession which started before Obama was in office.
Home ownership is down compared to the private lender-driven housing bubble. That's a good thing; fewer repossessions and bankruptcies.

Some Missing Facts

Obama did not prosecute one Wall Street banker. Liz Warren and William Black give great details on his failure.
Obama punishes whistleblowers worse than any administration ever.
The ACA is a tragic failure in that the main problem was and is American healthcare is far more costly than other countries which enjoy better results. People still have crushing debts after medical care and tens of millions still have no care.
Obama personally promised Pharma that there would be no drug re-importation or ability for Medicare to negotiate drug prices. (Cover extensively in the NY Times by Kirkpatrick in 2009)

Some missing numbers

Of course, the ACA wasn't signed into law until 2010, and most of it didn't take effect until 2014, so it's not surprising that it wasn't working in 2009.
I agree that the sort of national health care system that most advanced countries have would be a great improvement. Tell me again which Republicans have advocated it? But tens of millions have gained coverage due to the ACA.
I suspect that if it could be done by executive order without Congressional approval, Obama would have done it.
Elizabeth Warren might have prosecuted Wall Street money managers (most of the abuses were not by bankers per se), but then she chose not to run.

You didn't read

I said Obama as reported in the NYTimes promised there would be no drug price competition to Pharma. What I said is completely separate from when the ACA was passed and went into effect. You should go back and read the Kirkpatrick article from 2009. There is no chance in the world that Obama supported drug price competition.

Whether or not Liz Warren ran has nothing to with her being an expert on Wall Street's crimes and the Obama administration's willful negligence in their job and prosecute. William Black use much harsher words and if anyone should know it would be him.

And you didn't read

what I said about Congressional approval.

Note to liberals

Don't try to convince the readers of Minnpost and the few conservatives who post here, try convincing the 60% of Americans who in a recent Gallup poll felt the economy was getting worse and leaving them behind. I am fairly certain all of the 60% are not us misguided conservative souls you find here.

How recent

is the Gallup poll that you cite?
The most recent one on their Web site (05/10-12/2015) shows 43% feel that things are getting better, and 50% feel that they are getting worse.
By comparison, in March 2008 15% felt that things were getting better, while 73% felt that things were getting worse. The overall trend between those points has been converging.

April 6-10 2016 poll

As I stated, don't try to spin us few conservatives on this site, have Eric tell the people of America that it is all peachy. Hell, Bernie and Hillary and Bill Clinton have been dogging the Obama economy on the democratic campaign trail steady, yet we are told it is all good by liberals here in Minnesota. Must be some sort of disconnect.

Nothing there

Gallup April 6-10 does show increase job confidence, though.

The lead paragraph from that poll

"Americans in April continue to cite the economy as the single most important problem for the U.S, with mentions holding steady at 17% over the past several months. Dissatisfaction with the government also retains the second-place spot, with 13% of Americans naming it as the leading U.S. concern."

...and statistics

If one looks at economic improvements (numbers), the Soviet Union had prospered during Stalin’s years (at least from 1924 to 1941… and Stalin’s influence was much greater than Obama’s. Of course, I do not compare Obama to Stalin; I am just saying that statistics is one of the three types of lies, as we all know. On the other hand, if one looks at the rise of terrorism and violence in the world, it is hard to see America’s prospering…

Pretending that vetted

Pretending that vetted statistics are a lie is a lie in itself.

It is self-reinforcing to ignore facts in favor of your illusions.

All Presidents

enter office with predisposed plans for their first term. Then a little (or a lot) of unpleasant (often unexpected) reality falls upon the Lincoln desk.

Each leader makes a choice: to defer that original agenda to deal with those urgent issues, or to move forcefully ahead with the planned agenda, leaving those intrusive matters to subordinates. Herein lies the critical need to elect proven leaders rather than competent managers.

Our history tells this tale of many a White House leasee. Some got a goodly share of both accomplished, others not so much of one or the other. Evaluation of performance must include those choices made and those forgone.

Historians eventually can truly tell the tale with some certain perspective.

In this regard, Eric is quite presumptive today, as are those of us demonstrating our usual reflexes.

Presumptive?

In what way is Eric being presumptive? Virtually his entire article consists of quotes and attributions from others (FactCheck.org, Brooks Jackson, Louis Johnston). If you feel compelled to level charges of presumption based on the contents of the article, at least level them at the correct targets.

There is perception and then

There is perception and then there are facts.

The is huge pressure from certain segments of the media to view the Obama terms as an economic disaster.

On the other hand, during the Obama term the US economy out-performed ALL of the other modern developed economies in the world every year from the Bush recession to now.

And now, look at the chart of predicted GDP growth--

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-11/meet-2016-s-worst-econ...

The US is still on top of the pack of modern developed economies.

Yeah, people don't have all the wages and jobs they want.

But it is better here than there.

We live in a world of mostly worse choices than in Obama's America.

Perception vs reality

The reality is most Americans feel they have been left out of the Obama economy. When the 1%, Big Banks, big business, elected officials, lobbyists, special interest groups, select other connected groups and DC elites do better under a President that campaigned to change all of that, you have a major disconnect. Very hard to admit it if you are a liberal but that is REALITY. PERCEPTION is looking at charts of predicted GDP growth. Remember when Obamacare was going to save you $2,500 a family and you could keep your Doc, another perception vs reality. The folks have had enough of that.

The best fall back for liberals now is the ole "better here than there" or "America has always been great"- I love that by the same folks who complain about America steady. Of course America is better than anywhere else, our form of Government is far superior to any other. Many of us want to get back to having a representative Republic with capitalism instead of crony capitalism, an out of control, power hungry Washington DC.....

Basic economics

First, see my post above about the current Gallup numbers.
Second, there is definitely a shortage of good jobs.
However, this is do mostly to corporate decisions about automation and outsourcing, which have reduced the number of private sector jobs in the United States, while the supply of labor (number of people in the work force) has increased.
When you increase supply relative to demand, price goes down relative to demand. So median wages have been flat.
Remember, when Obama tried to stimulate the economy he was blocked by Republicans. The $7 billion package was about one third of what economists said was necessary, so it only had a small (but real) effect.

Joe: you live in the world

Joe: you live in the world you have.

We don't live in some pretend world where benevolent capitalists freed from the fetters of governmental regulations will treat the ordinary workers like valued people instead of as disposable costs to be minimized.

Name me the country in the world, any time in history, where benevolent capitalism has existed with freedom and justice for all.

Your pretend world ain't going to happen with any of the current crop of humans or the current crop of Republicans or Democrats.

Face it, you're more an unrealistic dreamer than Obama ever was.

Perception is thinking that you live in a hell-hole because your life doesn't meet some imagined standard of what it should be. Reality is knowing that you have a better life than 98% of the rest of the world.

Neal you have the wrong guy

I believe our system of governance is far superior than any on the planet. I am disgusted in crony capitalism however and the harm it does to regular working folks. American capitalism has lifted more people out of lower classes to middle and upper class than any other system. I come from the Range with parents that didn't finish High School and have become one of those evil guys who made money. I am happy that along the way i was able to employ many folks and never once thought of them as "disposable Costs to be minimized". I am now older and want the same opportunities that I had for all Americans and I don't see that happening due to governmental intrusion into every part of our lives including job creation.

Sorry wrong guy, I am 100% behind America just need to clean the cupboards a bit.

Well, if you're from the

Well, if you're from the range you might remember that it wasn't the benevolence of Carnegie, Oliver and US Steel that made a middle class from the manual labor of a miner. Unions--free associations of workers opposing the predations of their employers--had something to do with that.

I'm not sure what "crony capitalism" you are referring to and "what direct harm it does to workers". Is that the part where companies twist the arms of municipalities and states to give tax breaks and threaten to move if they don't get them, thereby increasing the taxes on the ordinary citizen ? Or is it where there is constant and powerful lobbying to prevent investigating fraud by companies billing Medicare ? Or is it the decades of suppression and minimizing the harms of pollution and climate change by the fossil fuel industry ? How about the tobacco industry that gets subsidized from growing the tobacco to burying the coffin? Or is it Medtronics committing medical fraud year after year and have a culture of kick-backs to doctors and regulators, charge 10 times as much for the same device in the US as elsewhere in the world, and then move to Ireland to evade taxes ? Is it where big finance knowingly sold failing mortgage-backed securities to pension companies while representing them as AAA bonds?

Seems to me that you are making the argument for more oversight, not less.

Giving credit where it is due

I fault President Obama for a lot of things, such as failing to prosecute a single one of the malefactors responsible for the 2008 financial debacle, his HAMP program, which arguably made the predicament of millions of underwater homeowners worse, and failing to deliver on his campaign promises of a public option in health care. But to claim, as the Right has loudly done, that he is the worst President in history is just ridiculous to any reasonable and fair minded person. I say this in light of the political climate in which he was attempting to govern. Has any other single President in history faced an opposition party as determined from the first day of his administration to oppose by whatever means possible any measure offered by him?

I agree that many, maybe not most, Americans feel left out of the economy and have good reason to expect much more from the people who govern us. But how is Obama responsible for that? How many of these who feel left out have voted for the Party which has done everything in its power for the last 40 years to disable the government from preventing that from happening?

So has President Obama been a failure in some respects. Certainly. But he is also certainly entitled to credit where it is due. I think the areas identified in this article identify some areas where he is entitled to credit for his achievements.

Thank you

Rational observations are most appreciated here.

I recently heard Pres. Obama note his reasons for not pressing a single-payer health plan: basically, pragmatic observation of American circumstances and structure.

It might help discussion if more people acknowledged the fact that many issues, particularly international affairs, run on some sort of celestial calendar rather than specific election cycles.

So, Obama and others do receive both credit and blame within their specific terms; however, retrospection from future analysts usually clarifies responsibility...long after it probably matters much, either way.

Again, thank you.

I'm from the Government and I'm here to help.... RUN

For many of us who are old and lived through the 60's where many of these same issues were on the front page of news papers, we've seen the results of Govt help. After 50 years of "Govt help", the war on poverty has created more folks than ever on Govt assistance, blacks doing worse than ever in public schools, the poor having lower wages and higher unemployment. That by the way, after 20 TRILLION tax dollars spent. Besides the fact the Govt has no clue how to help folks in need, (just throw money willy nilly at the problem) they create more problems for all of us. Folks need good paying jobs, schools preparing their children for life after age 18, flat taxes with no loop holes for individuals and corporations, reduced regulations to help job creators and an end to crony capitalism not an over intrusive Top Down Big Govt. I am waiting for a party to disable the Govt, I will vote for that party. Problem is both parties grow the incompetence that is DC.

Being old has also allowed many of us to see the backlash vs Nixon and G W Bush's last 4 years to say that yes, we have seen Presidents face opposition by the other party that surpassed that of President Obama. When you have 60-70% of folks feeling left out of the American dream I would say that is most, not many of us.

Presidential opposition

"we have seen Presidents face opposition by the other party that surpassed that of President Obama"

Cites, please.

When else has a member of Congress gone on record at the beginning of a new President's term and publicly stated that "job one" was making sure the new President would only serve for one term?

Wow, so Nixon was picked on

Wow, so Nixon was picked on (downright common criminal acts by a sitting President)? And criticism of Bush is unwarranted despite a preventable attack on the US, followed by a failure to effectively deal with international terrorism, plus 2 failed wars and the second worst crash in the US economy ?

Facts and statistics

Mr. Rovick, I guess I need to explain: statistics is a lie by that famous maxim not because it is incorrect but because it is either misleading or shows just a part of the picture. If I ate two stakes and you ate none, we both had our dinner since there is one stake per person… And how was 9/11 preventable? Really, Mr. Black cites the fact so let’s keep it this way…

Now, there is no doubt that it is possible to find indicators by which economy has improved – the same as the ones by which it got worse. Economy is bad but it is not a disaster. But the reality is that presidential policies make little difference for economy which has ups and downs in any capitalist economy. What presidents have a lot of influence upon is foreign policies and social engineering and this is where Obama’s policies are a disaster: terrorism, Middle East, ISIS, refugees, EU falling apart, Iran… race relations are worse, college students don’t want to learn, minimum wage is doubled (yes, it is a very bad thing)…

Statistics is about populations, not individuals

From the Oxford dictionary (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/statistics):

"the practice or science of collecting and analyzing numerical data in large quantities, especially for the purpose of inferring proportions in a whole from those in a representative sample."

Take special note of the term "large quantities" in the definition above. If you don't get this basic concept of statistics so that you understand that it doesn't properly apply to your wood-eating example above, then you don't actually even understand how statistics works and you are unqualified to comment on the validity of the science when it is properly used and applied.

Large quantities

Sorry for misspell… Anyway, statistically the average household income in America is over S50,000 which means that we do not need to worry about the poor, minimum wages, and income redistribution because we are all well off… Yes, I do understand statistics.

It is really amusing how

It is really amusing how Trump's candidacy has screwed with the Republican outlook.

Now a deep and abiding concern because there are people who are below the average.

It's like they discovered Lake Woebegone, where everyone should be above average.

It is liberals who are

It is liberals who are worried about minimum wage and inequality but if statistics is all they go by, they do not need to worry because statistically everyone is OK.

Slight correction:

Where all the children are above average. GK did not include adults there.

Wrong again

Statistics characterizes trends based on large numbers. That in no way gives one license to ignore individual effects.

My chance of being killed by a bear while visiting Yellowstone National Park may be only in 2.1 million, but if I am killed by a bear while visiting Yellowstone National Park, I am still dead. The vanishingly small chance of it happening negates neither the reality of the statistic nor my individual death.

Sure, but you would not use

Sure, but you would not use that statistics (1 in 2 million deaths is still statistics) to make a choice of not going to Yellowstone. In fact, except maybe some obscure government agency no one cares about that piece of statistics… But if you are indeed killed by a bear, you are still dead, as you said, so the fact that you didn’t eat anything for dinner matters for you, which makes my example perfectly legitimate. All the statistics Mr. Black cited doesn’t change the facts for unemployed and those who now work for minimum wage rather than factory wage. My point that I have made already was that statistics may be easily misused, misinterpreted, and manipulated and in many cases, especially complicated ones of country development, it becomes almost useless and serves only political goals.

UFF-Da

Its about what was and what was not accomplished: If not statistics then what? Duck entrails? It appears there is a penchant to twist and turn for a statistic that should provide a clear definitive solution for a personal situation. Exactly what statistics don't do. It is clear that the comprehension of what statistics do for Industry, business , finance, process control, population distribution, Cpk distributions etc is not clearly understood. Yes, people use statistics to decide where they want to live, "Crime rates are statistics, income distribution is a statistic, employment, unemployment is a statistic, flying on Malaysian Airlines and accidents is a statistic! Probability of getting audited is a statistic, your insurance premium is based on statistics. Property tax bill is based off statistics.

From George Vreeland Hill

You can post all the great numbers you want, but the country is still not in great shape.
Here are a few more important numbers ...
Obama is the only U.S. chief executive in history not to preside over even a single year with 3 percent GDP growth.
During the Obama years, the number of Americans below the poverty line is up 3.5 percent.
Real median household income: down 2.3 percent. Americans on Food Stamps — 33 million then, 46 million now: up 39.5 percent.
Americans who own homes: down 5.6 percent.
National debt — $10.63 trillion then vs. $19.19 trillion last Wednesday: up 80.5 percent.

George Vreeland Hill