Obama’s Claim That Growth in 2017 Is a Result of His “Green” Policies Is Misleading
President Barack Obama wants you to thank him for the apparently strong economic growth in the United States now. Obama said as much during a mayors conference in Chicago on December 5. That he was pleased with himself was especially evident in the way the former POTUS spoke about strong employment numbers.
The real clincher was the reason he chose to explain such remarkable growth: climate change policies—specifically, his own climate change policies. Obama addressed the esteemed audience noting, and without much irony, “We saw the longest streak of job creation in American history by far, a streak that still continues by the way…. Thanks, Obama.” (Source: “‘Thanks, Obama!’ Former president credits himself for strong economy,” The Washington Times, December 6, 2017.)
Yes, he actually thanked himself, making a point as to who he thinks should get the praise for the Dow at 24,000-plus points—that’s 30% higher than it was on January 20, 2017, President Donald Trump’s inauguration day—and allegedly healthy employment numbers. Gross domestic product (GDP) has also seen remarkable growth at three percent for the past two quarters and the lowest unemployment numbers since 2000 at 4.1%. (Source: Ibid.)
So, who should take credit for the economic recovery? Trump, or Obama and his green jobs? It’s too early to give full credit to Trump. Yes, the stock market is way up, but that trend began in 2009 with Obama, after the biggest financial crash since 1929 and in the midst of the biggest recession since the Great Depression.
Job Creation Under Obama
Let us first consider job creation in the Obama years. It’s true that when Obama made his oath of allegiance in 2009, the unemployment rate was over 10%. It’s also true that statistics show that same rate dropped to 4.7% by the time Obama left office and Trump set foot in the Oval Office.
But the problem of relying on the unemployment rate is that the workforce participation rate has actually been much lower than in the years before the so-called “Great Recession”—about 62% versus 66%.
The unemployment rate is something of a dishonest indicator. It measures only the number of unemployed people who are actively seeking re-employment. So, it gives an idea of what those who have recently lost their jobs are doing. It does little to account for the ones that have stopped looking, who have given up on the economy altogether. Estimates suggest that some eight million people may have stopped looking for work in 2014 alone. (Source: “How many jobs were added under Barack Obama?,” TIME, last accessed December 7, 2017.)
But, let us consider the actual value of green jobs. It’s true that solar energy, in particular, has created jobs. The U.S. Department of Energy noted that some 43% of all electric power generation workers—some 374,000 people—owed their living to some aspect of solar power. The work comes from either making, assembling, installing, or selling solar panels. By comparison, coal-powered electricity accounted for 187,000 jobs.
At first glance, Obama’s job creation claims gain substance. Still, the latter number does not include all the jobs involved in mining, processing, or transporting coal. The numbers also don’t include all the workers who work in oil and gas, who are also involved in coal extraction. Secondly, green energy jobs rely on a significant disbursement of taxpayers’ money to prime the so-called “green energy.” (Source: “The left’s misleading green jobs claims,” The Washington Times, July 6, 2017.)
And the Stock Market Records?
As for the stock market, Trump should be careful to take any credit. It’s been flying off any reality for too many months—if not years—and it gets its fuel from the quantitative easing at the Federal Reserve. The moment interest rates move back to pre-2008 crash levels, the market will run out of gas. Moreover, only some 50% of Americans own equities. Thus, to measure economic growth and success on the stock market is misleading.
Certainly, no longer adhering to the restrictions of the Paris Climate Accord—since President Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement—has avoided much additional and unwelcome red tape and regulatory requirements that allow most businesses, green or any other shade of the rainbow, to save costs. Perhaps, had Hillary won and upheld Obama’s green economy, the additional bureaucratic problems would have slowed growth prospects and kept the market down.
But, beware the market. Gravity is not just for physics….