A big part of the public’s problems with the administration are the combination of deficits and lackluster job growth. It is likely that had the administration brought better job growth with its higher spending, the public could stomach the trade-off.
The trouble is not that the president has been responsible for only about a third of the 8.4 million jobs lost during the recession. The trouble is that about half of the $2 trillion increase in the five-year outlook for the deficit since January 2009 is the result of discretionary spending decisions by the president (the other half is mostly the decline in revenue resulting from the recession) and that the deficit surged while job and economic growth have been anemic.
In fact, assuming that the current recession ended in August 2009, this has been the most anemic recovery of the past three ones. GDP [growth domestic product] growth has averaged just 2 percent in the four quarters since the end of the recession, compared with 4.9 percent after the 1991 downturn and 2.7 percent after the 2001 recession.
Research into the history of financial crises by economists Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart suggests this is often the case. But the public, with a deep concern about the future, takes little solace in lessons of the past.
The 0.2 percent average quarterly decline in private-sector jobs is pretty much on par with the prior two recessions.
The bottom line is that the president can explain away about half the problems in the economy. And, in aggregate, about half the public blames him for the economy’s troubles.
Some political analysts have already concluded it is too late for the president to change people’s minds ahead of the November elections. But that won’t stop him from trying.
It will be interesting to hear on Monday how much he puts the blame on his predecessor, whether he tries to justify his actions relative to Wall Street and whether he nods towards Americans' deep and abiding concerns about jobs and deficits.