State Of The Union – We Are Better Off Now Than We Were 7 Years Ago

Last week was a big week for the Nebraska Democratic Party and Nebraska in general.  President Obama came to Omaha the day after his State of the Union Speech to discuss his accomplishments and the path ahead for the U.S.  The President gave an outstanding speech – punctuated with his usual soaring rhetoric – to a full capacity and appreciative crowd at UNO’s Baxter Arena.  While President Obama was in Omaha, he also met with Kerrie Orozco’s family and a school teacher who had written to him about her baby’s future.

President Obama had many significant accomplishments to talk about at his State of the Union Speech and at Baxter Arena.  One of his least known accomplishments is the progress he has made in reducing the deficit since he took office.  According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), President Obama inherited an annual deficit of $1.3 trillion from then President George W. Bush.  Since he has taken office, the President has reduced the deficit by 75%.  This is the fastest rate of deficit reduction since the late 1940s.  According to Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal: “The U.S. budget deficit ended last year at its lowest level since 2007, marking the sixth straight annual drop.”   The deficit has been reduced from 9.8% of GDP when Obama took office to 2.6% of GDP.

The Republicans talk a good game on the deficit but the recent historical record indicates that the Democratic Party is the party of fiscal responsibility.  The last three Democratic Presidents starting with Jimmy Carter have all reduced the deficit.  In contrast, no Republican President has reduced the deficit or balanced the budget since Eisenhower did in 1960.  As a matter of fact, the last five Republican Presidents have all increased the deficit.  For example, Reagan and Bush41 quadrupled the national debt and Bush43 doubled the national debt.  The only time the GOP has been “serious” about the deficit in the last half century was when Clinton and Obama were President.

One of the factors behind this dramatic reduction in the deficit is the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  In a recent report, the CBO indicated that the ACA  will lower the deficit by $118 billion by 2025.   This in part due to the fact that the ACA has reduced medical inflation to it’s lowest level in 50 years.  Due to this reduction in medical inflation, the taxpayers will be saving billions of dollars in future Medicare and Medicaid costs.

The ACA hasn’t only reduced the deficit, it has also insured 18 million additional Americans, saved senior citizens thousands of dollars on prescription costs and done away with pre-existing condition clauses.   Thanks to the ACA, the rate of uninsured Americans has fallen from 18% of the population in 2008 to 9% in 2015.  That is the lowest uninsured rate in the history of the country.

The GOP reaction to the successes of the ACA have been simply disgraceful.  The Republican in Congress – including the GOP members of the Nebraska delegation – have voted over 60 times to repeal – but not replace – the ACA.  These reckless votes have followed on the heels of decades of Republican in-action on health care.  During the Bush43 Presidency, the GOP did nothing when 8 million Americans lost their insurance policies.  The GOP hasn’t made a good faith effort to expand coverage to the uninsured since the 1970s.  Simply stated, providing insurance to the uninsured isn’t a priority for the GOP.  Philosophically, the GOP simply opposes spending tax payer dollars to insure the sick, the poor and working families.

The dramatic successes we’ve seen in expanding insurance coverage is also mirrored by the explosive job growth we’ve had since 2010.  When President Obama took office, the economy was losing 800,000 jobs per month and the country was teetering on the brink of a Depression.  Since those dark days, the economy has made a remarkable turnaround.  As President Obama said in his State of the Union address: “In these past seven years, our businesses are now on a 70-month streak of job creation, with more than 14 million new jobs in all.”  Over the last three months, the economy has created an extraordinary 284,000 new jobs per month.  This is the best job growth since President Clinton’s second term.

We have accomplished a lot since 2009 but there is still unfinished work to do.  Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this economic recovery is that wages and income for most Americans have remained flat.  The GOP would like you to believe that this problem began on 1/20/09 but this is a long term trend that began during the Reagan Administration and has largely been caused by conservative economic policies.  The forced break up of the unions, lax anti-trust enforcement, deregulation of big business and tax cuts for the wealthy have created this problem.

Nevertheless, there is now good news on the earnings front.  According to  Sentier Research – which measures income – household income has grown at the rate of 3-4 percent a year since 2014.  This was a long time coming but the recovery really does seem to finally be showing up in higher earnings for many Americans.

The Republicans told us none of these positive developments would ever happen.  Instead, John Boehner predicted that the ACA would cause “Armageddon” and “ruin our country. ”  Candidate Sasse made the silly prognostication in 2013 that the ACA would cause America to “cease to exist.”  Not to be outdone by Boehner and Sasse,  right wing entertainer Rush Limbaugh predicted that the the U.S. economy would “collapse” if Obama was re-elected.

What’s even more bizarre than these wildly inaccurate predictions from prominent Republicans is that the GOP’s leading presidential political candidates are so divorced from reality that they believe this dystopian “Armageddon” they predicted is actually happening!  For example, Jeb Bush recently said that: “The idea that somehow we’re better off today than the day that Barack Obama was inaugurated president of the United States is totally an alternative universe.”  Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson contended that: “It’s the evil government putting all these regulations on us so that we can’t even survive.”  Marco Rubio – who was once declared by the media to be the “savior” of the GOP – who went so far as to say: “If we don’t get this election right, there may be no turning back for America.”

We must continue to build on President Obama’s successes.  The best – and the only – way to build on those successes is to elect a Democratic President in 2016.  All of the GOP Presidential candidates have pledged to bring back the policies of George W. Bush that wrecked the economy and got the U.S. embroiled in two fruitless foreign wars.  A Republican President would destroy all of President Obama’s progress and hurt the American people.   Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than eight years ago?