We are Not Better Off, by Derryck Green

August was the 43rd straight month in which the overall unemployment rate remained above eight percent. While officially reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as 8.1 percent, the U-6 unemployment rate — totaling all potential workers (including those who stopped looking for work) — was a much more sobering 14.7 percent.

For blacks, August unemployment remained above 14 percent. It was above ten percent for Hispanics. Women had an overall unemployment rate in August of 7.3 percent. For teenagers, it was close to 25 percent.

In August, the economy added only 96,000 jobs while 368,000 people chose to leave the workforce altogether.

With sincere respect for the office of the presidency, the latest data regarding employment nonetheless adds further proof to the notion that the policies advocated by the Obama White House — and have been championed as successful by the President’s supporters — are grossly ineffective in solving America’s economic stagnation.

Adding to the depressing economic situation, the number of Supplemental Nutritional Allowance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) enrollees reached almost 47 million in June — costing over $6 billion for that month alone. The average monthly benefit per enrollee is around $133.

Currently, one out of every seven Americans depends on food stamps. It’s the highest-ever level of dependency for the program. In the last four years, food stamp spending doubled — to a record $75.7 billion in the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2011.

Is this Obama’s hope and change made real?

Additionally, this past Labor Day saw the national average for the price of a gallon of gas reach $3.80 — a record high for that holiday weekend. The yearly deficit was over a trillion dollars for the fifth straight year, and the national debt just topped a record-setting $16 trillion dollars.

For those keeping score, debt has increased $5.4 trillion dollars since President Obama took office.

What is the President’s response to this economic calamity? Obama’s apparent answer was given at a speech last month in Colorado. While extolling the “benefits” of the auto bailout, which may lose American taxpayers over $25 billion dollars, Obama said in a moment of frightening candor: “I believe in American workers, I believe in this American industry. And now the American auto industry has come roaring back… Now I want to do the same thing with manufacturing jobs — not just in the auto industry, but in every industry.”

With American manufacturing, Obama wants to repeat what he did with General Motors.

Oh God, no!

This continued bad habit of the President to double down on his failed economic schemes indicates that, when it comes to understanding free market principles, he must be economically ignorant. It reinforces his ineptitude — an ineptitude steeped in arrogance.

Obama may indeed have “inherited,” as he likes to say, an economic crisis when he took office. But signs that the economy was in trouble were very obvious in 2008. As such, fixing the economy should have been his first priority when he assumed office. It wasn’t.

Despite having the legislative branch stacked in his favor for the first two years of this term, Obama could have passed a number of bills to reduce regulation, reduce corporate taxation and made the current tax rates permanent to encourage investment and psychological stability. He didn’t. He essentially did the opposite.

In simple terms, Obama mismanaged a serious problem — making it exponentially worse.

True leaders take responsibility for their actions. President Obama hasn’t done so. Quite frankly, Obama has not just failed Americans when it comes to his promise to improve the economy — he’s made things worse.

Thus, to answer the question that has attempted to be spun for his advantage: no, America is not better off.

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Derryck Green, a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network, received a M.A. in Theological Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing his doctorate in ministry at Azusa Pacific University. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

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