Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Obama Years in One Picture and Nine Charts

Here is an easy-to-understand graphic presentation of what the Obama years have done to America (H/T: Steven Hayward, Power Line Blog) -- click to enlarge:

Enough said. How the man's approval ratings continue to stay above 50% is a mystery that serves only to indict America's electorate.


  1. Yikes! Obama's approval ratings are only being propped up by the unpopularity of the two leading contenders for his job. Compared to Trump and Clinton, many people are starting to see Obama as not so bad after all.

  2. Those of us with knowledge of economics and politics knew that Obama would be a disaster for the economy. However, I think most of us believed he would help our country move further away from racial division. Unfortunately, he has stoked racial division. I am certain that those 50% either don't understand or don't mind his performance regarding the economy and race relations. I like to think that the proportion is small who prioritize LGBTQ+, socialism and similar issues over those two areas, which leads me to expect that most of the 50% who approve of Obama just don't understand.

  3. Charts are helpful, but they certainly don't tell the whole story. Imagine a similar set of charts for the time before and after Lincoln's election: "Annual service-related deaths," "National debt," and the like. They'd be flying off the charts, and you might think that Lincoln was a pretty bad president if you didn't realize that his election coincided with another event, the beginning of the Civil War.

    President Obama took office in early 2009. In 2008 there was a major financial crisis, the bursting of a housing bubble, the failure of a number of banks and brokerage houses "too big to fail." Before he took office, in late 2008, there were already bills, largely bi-partisan in nature, to shore up financial institutions, at an enormous cost. There were spikes in unemployment and mortgage foreclosures. Most of us--who make no claim to any particular economic expertise--remember friends laid off, family with business failures, and concerns about a more general collapse.

    So, when I see food stamps soaring, I think, "Well, at least people who couldn't buy groceries didn't starve" etc, Not that there's not a lot to criticize Obama about. We're still fighting wars in the middle of a Shi'ite/Sunni Civil War (and I don't have much hope of either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton reversing that momentum). The distance between upper and lower classes, and the shrinkage of the middle, continues apace.

    But if President Obama has a 50% approval rating, that seems very simply understandable in light of how pessimistic about the future we were in 2008, and how, if he's proven no messiah (as they always do), he's neither started a new war, nor crashed the economy. It's a pretty low bar, but that's kind of become par for the course.

  4. rick allen, thank you, as always, for your contrarian perspective.

    I can't disagree with any of your points, as far as they go. All I can do is point to the graphs: they show that whatever crises Obama was faced with at the start of his first term, he has not (after two terms) checked their effects. Under Obama, things instead have gotten still worse.

    Plus: There's not a hint in any of the graphs of any change in course. So if we elect someone who is committed to continue on the current course, then at least there will be no surprises.

    And really -- I think that was the point of the person who assembled the graphs. (At least that was my point, once I saw them.)

  5. Dad - with a topic as complicated and nuanced as the US economy, it's pretty important to realize that any collection of graphs that claim a single conclusion (i.e. that President Obama has been terrible by any economic measure) should be closely examined. Also, the raw file quality of the figure is pretty bad - it's static (no zooming in or out), I can't read the axes, and when I went to the source website to download the data, I couldn't find an index called "Worker's Share of the Ecoomy." I did find the Median Family Household Income index, and when you zoom in on the latter half of his presidency, the trend does start to reverse: Again, this isn't to say he doesn't have negative indexes - of course he does. But to cherry-pick 9 graphs without presenting the analysis is just one way to skin the cat, and I could make 9 graphs biased the other way just as easily. I know you read How to Lie with Statistics - you lent it to me when I was 12! - Myfanwy

  6. Well, Myfanwy, you're right, of course -- things by a few measures have turned up slightly in the last few years. I note that all of the graphs are captioned as "2013 research" of the St. Louis Fed; if you update, for example, the SNAP graph (food stamps), you will see a slight tapering off as of 2015, but it's still nothing to be proud of, given the huge increase shown from 2009 through 2013.

    On the other hand, the chart for Total Public Debt shows that the last few years have gotten even worse than they were in 2013. So it is a mixed bag. But the point remains: as a snapshot in 2013 of nine specific measures of the country's well-being, the picture shows a startling disconnect between the state of that well-being and the state of Obama's popularity as President.

  7. Dad - I can certainly agree that the state of the country's well-being and the state of national politics are out of sync (egads, what an understatement that is!). Totally apart from presidential cycles, the long-term, rolling trendlines of some of these indices are very intriguing to me. The Home Ownership one you mentioned, for example - home ownership rose steadily beginning in 1994, peaked around 2004, and started declining. I would have expected it to peak right before the housing crash, but it was in decline before that. As a millennial who is putting off home ownership as a personal financial choice (although my choice is not as linked to student debt as I'm sure many of my compadres' currently is), it does not surprise me that it's still in decline. Interestingly, while almost every index I looked at displayed the ups and downs you would expect of a complex economy, Real Disposable Income has an almost perfect positive linear trend (thought I did not look at them all).

    My main point was simply that in matters of faith, we can embrace a single message with our whole hearts, as we have God's peaceful and divine assurance. Anything touched by man, we must remember, is always, always, always a "mixed bag."

    - Myfanwy

  8. I have followed economic opinion writing particularly closely over the past 8 years and I have seen two clear sides to the debate. On the one side (free economy) are those who would generally agree with Milton Friedman; they recognize that individual freedom begets broad-based prosperity. A rigorous examination of historical data supports this view. On the other side of the debate are those who believe that a "just" economy requires strong government control (collectivist) to enforce equality of outcome across the population. These collectivist "economists" write the vast majority of relevant newspaper articles and routinely paint an optimistic or apologetic picture of Obama's economy. They are not discouraged by the declining productivity and median income, so long as their priorities are being addressed (e.g. larger federal budget, increased regulation of business). They do decry income inequality but don't connect the dots between that and Obama administration monetary, tax, regulatory, welfare, and fiscal policies.

    It frustrates me greatly that the Wall Street Journal, the only hope for a non-collectivist bent among major newspapers, has printed consistently collectivist articles about economic events (see over the past 8 years. Only their opinion page and editorial staff stand generally on the free economy side of the argument. All of the other pages are filled with stories written upon collectivist assumptions.

    However, there are many economists infrequently published in the major papers who carry forward the free economy message. But the general public do not hear that message in their daily media fare. I find it both amusing and sad that the Republican Party is split between free economy and collectivist policy ideas, while the Democratic Party is of course thoroughly collectivist.

    There are a vast number of statistics that are being used to disguise or distract from the economic destruction caused by recent federal policies. However, a thorough and honest look at the statistics without collectivist goggles, shows the miserable performance of these policies (for a free economy grounding, at least read _Free to Choose_ by Milton Friedman). I encourage anyone trying to pursue this study to read opinions of respected economists on both sides (e.g.John Taylor ( or Greg Mankiw vs. Paul Krugman (NYT) or Alan Blinder), rather than trying to parse through specific data sets independently. Carefully examining the guiding principles/norms of these econonomists reveals their priorities (freedom and prosperity vs. justice). A nice site exploring economic freedom by country is at, showing America's decline since 2008 or so. The linked site shows that policies began shifting away from freedom during Bush's time.

    The relevance to Anglican issues? The collectivist world-view is consistently anti-Christian, as is the related philosophy of Marxism.

  9. The charts alone are enough to convince any non-lobotomized person that Lucifer's work in what looks to be a vineyard has born fruit. The surprise will be when the dolts learn that the wine produced by the fruit is actually hemlock brandy.

    Excellent article, by any standard.
    El Gringo Viejo

  10. To take the first example I looked at, that Food Stamp graph looks much less dramatic when you allow for population growth and inflation: