Sometimes a presidential candidate manages to sink his campaign with a single sentence. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., did himself in on Sept. 15, 2008, when, on the same day Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, he said, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong." The economy promptly fell into the deepest recession since World War II.
For Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the moment came on March 16, 2004, when he explained his vote against legislation funding the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by saying, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against." President Bush's resolute support for the surge in Iraq eventually changed the course of the war.
For Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., it came on May 7, 1988, when he dared the national press, "Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored." Turns out the Miami Herald already had. That same day, it published a story reporting model Donna Rice, not Hart's wife, had been seen leaving the residence early the previous morning.
Now President Obama has added his own game-changing statement to presidential campaign history. Asked Friday to defend his economic record, without blaming Europe, Obama responded, "The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine."
No, Mr. President, the private sector of the U.S. economy is not doing fine.
Since Obama became president, the U.S. economy has lost 1 million construction jobs, 599,000 manufacturing jobs, and unemployment has been above 8 percent for a record 40 months. An estimated 46.2 million Americans are now living in poverty, the most ever. Food stamp spending has more than doubled since Obama took office. There are 23 million Americans who are either unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work all together. And as of March, there were 5.6 million mortgages either delinquent or in foreclosure.
Yes, the private sector has added an average of 105,000 jobs over the last three months. But that isn't even enough to keep up with population growth, let alone bring down the nation's unemployment rate. By contrast, during the Reagan recovery, private-sector jobs increased by an average of 292,000 a month. According to the American Enterprise Institute's James Pethokoukis, that number is more like 375,000 private-sector jobs a month when it's adjusted for population. By this point in the Reagan recovery, unemployment had been reduced nearly 4 points to 7 percent.
Meanwhile, private-sector gross domestic product grew just 2.6 percent in the first quarter of this year, after rising a measly 1.2 percent last year. By contrast, under the Reagan recovery, private-sector GDP rose 3.8 percent in 1983 and 6.5 percent in 1984.
"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem," President Reagan said at his First Inaugural Address. "It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the federal government and those reserved to the states or to the people," Reagan continued.
Reagan followed through on his promise and delivered a Second Inaugural Address. If Obama wants another four years in the Oval Office, he'll need to reassess his own economic record.