This article is the final installment of a three-part series preceding the 2012 Presidential Election. Each article focuses on a particular promise Barack Obama made as a candidate in 2008 which has now been broken.
For my final article regarding the promises of candidate Barack Obama, I decided to set it a little more closer to home. My previous pieces discussed healthcare reform and government spending. While the president’s decisions in these areas do have an impact on everyone’s lives, healthcare and deficits do not directly effect us as much as college students, at least not yet. Instead, the most important aspect of this election to students should undoubtedly regard the economy. Of any issue of this election, nothing is as directly related to students as jobs.
Looking back at the 2008 election, the failing economy was very obviously the primary concern of this country, and I daresay that Obama easily defeated John McCain precisely because of the situation of the economy, and the fact that it began to crumble under a Republican presidency (although it should also be noted that Democrats controlled congress at the time).
It is quite clear that President Obama won the election largely because of his plans for a quick economic recovery. But, after four years, have those plans been fulfilled as promised? Or have we been fooled? Let’s take a look.
One of the first things Obama and his Democratic congress proposed and passed was his American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The plan for injecting a stimulus of $787 billion into the economy “guaranteed” that the unemployment rate–7.5% and climbing at the time–would never pass 8%, and would be as low as 5.6% by now.
Well that sounds fantastic! Did it work?
No. Unfortunately. The unemployment rate spent 43 months above 8% under Obama, reaching as high as 10%. Only now is it below 8%.
But that statistic doesn’t account for the size of the labor force participation rate, which has, incidentally, gone down. Considerably. And unfortunately, ever since the 1960s, marginally attached workers (those who give up looking for jobs, such as discouraged workers) are not counted in the official unemployment rate. So according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate including these workers is actually 9.3%.
Yet, there is even more to consider. What about the workers who were forced by the recession to settle with part-
time work, despite desiring full-time jobs? Isn’t that still a sign of the condition of the economy we’ll soon graduate into? Absolutely. And if we account for that, we find that currently 14.7% of workers are unemployed or underemployed.
What about college students specifically? How have they faired? According to the Census Bureau and the Department of Labor, 53.6% of college graduates are currently unemployed or underemployed. Furthermore, about 53% of 18- to 24-year-olds (“Boomerang kids”) are currently living at home with their parents. I don’t think moving home is in any of our life plans… But it’s not all Obama’s fault; of course we have to move home, as the current high gas prices prevent us from affording to drive away.
However, I’m certain Hurricane Sandy will help change that…
Furthermore, none of this even accounts for the Cash for Clunkers failure, which destroyed wealth while not producing any positive economic results, and the corporatist bailout of large companies, which furthered the government’s connection to Wall St., a system liberals tend to denounce (exception: not when Obama does it).
We’ve had four years of promises for hope and change, and we’ve had four years of the best possible intentions. But we’ve also had four years to realize that sometimes the change isn’t what we had hoped for, and that good intentions in theory can and have become bad ideas in practice.
So you have to ask yourself: are you willing to risk graduating into a crippled economy only to move back in with your parents to try to pay off your massive student loans and the public debt you’ve inherited? I’d rather not find out the hard way. I’m voting for jobs and a better future, and I hope you’ll do the same.