[See update here]
The GOP is on a roll right now, doing a rather effective job at combining all the flaws of the Obama second term into some kind of comprehensive damnation. Readers know I’m dismayed by the latest twists in foreign policy, but I am not buying the current establishment Washington consensus about a “failed presidency”. This president saved us from a second Great Depression and brought universal health insurance to America. He has presided over a civil rights revolution in marriage equality and the biggest social change in a generation in the accelerating legalization of cannabis. He has somehow slowed the rate of the escalating cost of healthcare – perhaps the most fiscally important achievement, if it holds, since the 1993 tax hike. He has dramatically shifted the equation on climate change with the regulation of carbon as a pollutant by the EPA and by much tougher fuel emissions standards. He has also presided over America’s near-energy-dependence, one critical way in which we can extricate ourselves from the lose-lose proposition of governing the ungovernable Middle East.
The economy still has to recover from the catastrophe of the Bush years, just as the world has yet to recover from the indelible disaster of the Iraq War. But it has been true from the beginning that without the GOP’s fantastic and near-unprecedented policy of total opposition from Day One, his achievements would have been much broader and harder to ignore. In particular, if the Republican-led states had not forestalled Medicaid expansion, millions more would now have access to healthcare; and if the states and the federal sequester had not cut public sector jobs on an unprecedented scale, and imposed austerity as a way to sabotage the president’s policies on a national level, the employment picture would be far better. As it is, the US now has a lower jobless rate than any other Western country save Germany, even as the federal budget deficit has fallen faster than anyone expected.
But look at the graph above, elaborated upon here by Bill McBride. And imagine if Obama were a Republican. Can you imagine how aggressively the GOP would be touting the recovery as one uniquely fueled by the private sector? I know the dismal facts of median wage stagnation and soaring inequality that make this recovery far from ideal – but still. Obama beats Reagan in private sector job growth? How on earth do the Republicans manage to spin that one away? How is it that an allegedly “socialist” president has spawned a higher level of private sector job creation than the patron saint of private enterprise?
Sometimes you get to see the steaming, cynical pile of ordure that is the GOP’s propaganda. But rarely do you see it to exposed in a single chart.