American Crossroads: “Backward”

President Obama’s opponents have spent more than three years blaming him for the economic mess the Bush administration left behind, but an ad from Karl Rove’s American Crossroads is particularly disingenuous. Taking aim at the Obama campaign’s slogan “Forward,” Crossroads cherry-picks several statistics to claim the country has moved “backward” under the president. However, the economic picture they paint only reflects the magnitude of the recession that started in late 2007, almost a year before Obama was elected. In addition to whitewashing the dismal Bush record, Crossroads conveniently ignores significant evidence of progress, such as the 4.5 million private-sector jobs added over 29 consecutive months of growth.

Under Obama: 29 Consecutive Months Of Private-Sector Growth, 4.5 Million New Jobs

Recession Officially Ran From December 2007 To June 2009, Making It The Longest Since World War II. From the National Bureau of Economic Research: “The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research met yesterday by conference call. At its meeting, the committee determined that a trough in business activity occurred in the U.S. economy in June 2009. The trough marks the end of the recession that began in December 2007 and the beginning of an expansion. The recession lasted 18 months, which makes it the longest of any recession since World War II. Previously the longest postwar recessions were those of 1973-75 and 1981-82, both of which lasted 16 months. In determining that a trough occurred in June 2009, the committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity. Rather, the committee determined only that the recession ended and a recovery began in that month.” [, 9/20/10]

  • Recession Resulted In 8.3 Million Job Losses. According to the Associated Press, “the Great Recession killed 8.3 million jobs, compared with 1.6 million lost in the 2001 recession.” [Associated Press via Yahoo! News, 5/4/12]

Bush Recession Was So Severe That Economy Was Still Shedding Over Three-Quarters Of A Million Jobs Per Month Through First Few Months Of President Obama’s Term. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy shed 839,000 jobs in January 2009, 725,000 in February 2009, 787,000 in March 2009, and 802,000 in April 2009, for a four-month average of 788,250 lost jobs per month. [, accessed 5/3/12]

Since The Recession Ended In June 2009, The Private Sector Has Added 3.3 Million Jobs While Public-Sector Employment Has Fallen By Over 640,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 107,933,000 private-sector jobs in June 2009, and 111,317,000 private-sector jobs in July 2012, an increase of 3,384,000 jobs. The BLS also reports that there were 22,570,000 Americans working in the public sector in June 2009, and 21,928,000 working in the public sector in July 2012, a decrease of 642,000 jobs. The private-sector gains and public-sector losses add up to a total increase of 2,742,000 jobs.

The following chart shows the cumulative private-sector job gains and public-sector job losses since the recession officially ended in June 2009:


[, accessed 8/3/12;, accessed 8/3/12;, 9/20/10]

  • Conservative AEI: The Public Sector Is Shrinking, But Private-Sector Growth Is Above Average. From American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark J. Perry: “In the second quarter of 2012, ‘public sector GDP’ decreased -1.44%, and that was the eighth straight quarter of negative growth for total government spending, averaging -2.88% per quarter over the last two years. In contrast, there have been 12 consecutive quarters of positive growth for private sector GDP averaging 3.07% per quarter in the three years since the recession ended, which is slightly higher than the 2.8% average growth rate in private real GDP over the last 25 years.” [, 7/31/12]
  • GOP-Favored “Government Downsizing” Has Been “A Drag” On Job Growth. From the Associated Press: “Conservative Republicans have long clamored for government downsizing. They’re starting to get it — by default. Crippled by plunging tax revenues, state and local governments have shed over a half million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. And, after adding jobs early in the downturn, the federal government is now cutting them as well. States cut 49,000 jobs over the past year and localities 210,000, according to an analysis of Labor Department statistics. There are 30,000 fewer federal workers now than a year ago — including 5,300 Postal Service jobs canceled last month. By contrast, private-sector jobs have increased by 1.6 million over the past 12 months. But the state, local and federal job losses have become a drag on efforts to nudge the nation’s unemployment rate down from its painfully high 9.1 percent.” [Associated Press, 10/25/11]

The Private Sector Has Added 4.5 Million Jobs Over 29 Consecutive Months Of Private-Sector Growth. The following chart shows the monthly change in private-sector jobs dating back to January 2008.


[, accessed 8/3/12;, 8/3/12]

Poverty Rate Jumped Under Bush, Exacerbated By Recession

Poverty Rate Jumped From 11.3 Percent In 2000 To Nearly 13 Percent In President Bush’s Final Year, And Recession Pushed Rate Over 15 Percent. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “By 2010, the number of people in poverty had risen by 8.9 million since 2007, the last year before the economy turned down. These numbers largely reflect the struggling labor market. […] Adding to this gloomy picture is the fact that the poverty rate has increased significantly in seven of the last ten years, including most of the years from 2001 to 2007, a time when the overall economy was growing (see Figure 1). For the poverty rate to be higher at the peak year of an economic recovery (2007) than in the last year of the previous recession (2001) is unprecedented (and adds to the evidence that the economic growth of that period was not widely shared). Thus, even before the recession began, a growing number of Americans were already being left behind by the economy.


[, 9/14/11, citations removed, emphasis added]

Rise In Food Aid Recipients Is Result Of Recession. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “A primary driver of the recent rapid caseload growth is the increase in the number of eligible households because of the recession.  Poverty has increased substantially, from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 15.1 percent in 2010, resulting in more households qualifying for the program.  And, the deep and prolonged nature of the recession has led to record levels of long-term unemployment, extending the length of time that unemployed individuals have needed SNAP.  Between 2007 and 2010, as the unemployment rate more than doubled (from 4.6 percent to 9.6 percent), SNAP participation grew 56 percent.” [, 4/18/12, emphasis original]

Republicans Want To Cut Funding For Food Assistance

SNAP Keeps Millions Out Of Extreme Poverty. From the Center on Budget and Policy priorities:

SNAP plays a major role in helping some households lift themselves out of poverty.  By providing benefits that must be used to purchase food, SNAP [Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program] can be an important part of a low-income household’s budget. A CBPP analysis using the National Academy of Science measures of poverty, which counts SNAP as income, found that SNAP kept about 4 million people out of poverty in 2010, including about 2 million children.  SNAP also lifted 1.3 million children out of deep poverty (defined as 50 percent of the poverty line) in 2010, more than any other government assistance program.

SNAP is a powerful antidote to extreme poverty.  The number of extremely poor families — those living on less than $2 per person a day — more than doubled between 1996 and 2011, to 1.46 million.  The number of extremely poor children also doubled, to 2.8 million.  But, counting SNAP benefits as income reduces the number of households in extreme poverty in 2011 from 1.46 million to nearly 800,000.  And it cuts the number of children in extreme poverty in 2011 in half — from 2.8 million to 1.4 million. [, 4/18/12, emphasis original]

House GOP’s 2012 Budget Would Have Cut SNAP Funding By 20 Percent Over A Decade. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: ” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan would cut the SNAP program (formerly known as food stamps) by $127 billion — almost 20 percent — over the next ten years (2012-2021), which could throw millions of low-income families off the rolls, cut benefits for many households, or some combination of the two.” The budget passed the House on April 15, 2011, with 235 Republicans and no Democrats voting in favor. [, 4/11/11; H Con Res 34, Vote #277, 4/15/11]

  • Catholic Bishops Group Criticized House GOP’s 2013 Budget For Proposed Cuts To Food Aid. From The Hill: “The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is criticizing the House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan for cutting food stamps and other assistance programs for the poor. In a letter sent to the House Agriculture Committee on Monday, the bishops say the budget fails to meet certain ‘moral criteria’ by disproportionately cutting programs that ‘serve poor and vulnerable people.'” [The Hill, 4/17/12]

2013 Budget Features 17 Percent Cut In SNAP Funding Over A Decade. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan includes cuts in SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) of $133.5 billion — more than 17 percent — over the next ten years (2013-2022), which would necessitate ending assistance for millions of low-income families, cutting benefits for millions of such households, or some combination of the two.” [, 4/18/12, citations removed]

Homeownership Is Down Because Of Housing Bubble That Burst Before Obama’s Time

Housing Bubble Burst Prior To Obama’s Presidency, Causing Conditions Hostile To Homeownership. From Reuters: “The homeownership rate, which was measured at 66.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, peaked at 69.4 percent in 2004 at the height of a housing market boom fueled by cheap credit. The collapse of the U.S. housing market bubble triggered the 2007-09 recession. With house values tanking, many – especially the younger generation – are rethinking the so-called American dream of owning a home. House prices have dropped about 32 percent from their peak at the end of 2005, leaving millions of Americans with properties worth far less than their mortgages and forcing many others into renting.” [Reuters, 4/30/12]

Financial Crisis And Hard-To-Obtain Credit Continue To Make Homeownership Difficult. From The Hill: “Despite gains on the jobs front and the stock market, among other areas of the economy, the housing market has consistently struggled to dig out from the financial meltdown and resultant recession. Even as home prices continue to slide across the country, the aftershocks of the financial crisis, including blows to consumer confidence and homeowners stuck with underwater mortgages, have made it difficult for the housing market to claw its way back. Further driving difficulties is the fact that banks have tightened credit requirements for home mortgages, making it more difficult for once-qualified borrowers to line up a home loan.” [, 4/30/12]

Young People Impacted By Recession Contribute Most To Low Rate Of Homeownership. From Reuters: “The homeownership rate for those aged 35 and under fell to 36.8 percent in the first quarter, the lowest since 1994. This group was seen as the hardest hit by the recession, driving many into their parents’ basements or to share lodging with friends and relatives. Although young people are starting to find employment as the economy gradually improves, many either just do not have the savings to put down a deposit for a home or feel too insecure in their jobs to make such a financial commitment.” [Reuters, 4/30/12]

There Are Indications That The Housing Market Is Improving Under Obama. From ABC News: “Recent housing and economic data have been encouraging, prompting some economists to predict a pickup in housing this year. But few believe the U.S. will ever return to its mid-decade peak. January and February made up the best winter in five years for U.S. sales of previously occupied homes, although sales fell in March. Still, a report last week tracking the number of signed contracts to buy a home rose to its highest level in nearly two years in March. That could point to improved sales over the next couple of months.” [Associated Press via ABC News, 5/1/12]

Rising Health Care Costs Are Due To Market Forces, And Are Slowed By ACA

Rising Health Care Costs Are Part Of A Long-Term Trend. The following chart from CNNMoney illustrates  increasing health care costs between 2002 and 2011:


[, 5/11/11]

Without ACA, Health Care Costs Would Rise Even Faster. From CNNMoney: “The individual mandate would help spread health care costs to a larger pool of individuals, thus potentially lowering costs. Should the Supreme Court strike down the Affordable Care Act, consumers can expect that percentage to increase even more as costs rise ‘very fast,’ [Mathematica Policy Research senior fellow Deborah] Chollet said. Without the law’s measures to promote preventative care and spread costs across a larger population, overall costs will rise, she explained. Those without employer-provided health care coverage … will likely pay more for their plans because there will be fewer restrictions on insurers. Individuals could be denied coverage altogether because of a pre-existing health condition or offered coverage only at a very high premium, both of which are prohibited under the Affordable Care Act, Chollet added. Those with insurance through their employer will also pay more to cover the growing number of uninsured, she said.” [, 3/29/12]

Domestic Energy Policy Has Little Impact On Gas Prices

Gas Prices Are Determined By Global Markets. From the Wall Street Journal: “U.S. gasoline prices, like prices throughout the advanced economies, are determined by global market forces. It is hard to see how Mr. Obama’s policies can be blamed. […] When Mr. Obama was inaugurated, demand was weak due to the recession. But now it’s stronger, and thus the price is higher. What’s more, producing a lot of oil doesn’t lower the price of gasoline in your country. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Germans over the past three years have paid an average of $2.64 a gallon (excluding taxes), while Americans paid $2.69, even though the U.S. produced 5.4 million barrels of oil per day while Germany produced just 28,000.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/10/12]

Energy Information Administration Head: “Globally Integrated Nature Of The World Oil Market” And Influence Of OPEC Means That Domestic Oil Drilling “Not Have A Large Impact On Prices.” At a hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Richard Newell, Administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, testified: “Long term, we do not project additional volumes of oil that could flow from greater access to oil resources on Federal lands to have a large impact on prices given the globally integrated nature of the world oil market and the more significant long-term compared to short-term responsiveness of oil demand and supply to price movements. Given the increasing importance of OPEC supply in the global oil supply-demand balance, another key issue is how OPEC production would respond to any increase in non-OPEC supply, potentially offsetting any direct price effect.” [, 3/17/11]

Gas Price Expert: Speculators Are Driving Current Rise In Gas Prices. From Businessweek: “Strangely, the current run-up in prices comes despite sinking demand in the U.S. ‘Petrol demand is as low as it’s been since April 1997,’ says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service. ‘People are properly puzzled by the fact that we’re using less gas than we have in years, yet we’re paying more.’ Kloza believes much of the increase is due to speculative money that’s flowed into gasoline futures contracts since the beginning of the year, mostly from hedge funds and large money managers. ‘We’ve seen about $11 billion of speculative money come in on the long side of gas futures,’ he says. ‘Each of the last three weeks we’ve seen a record net long position being taken.’” [Businessweek, 2/14/12]

GOP Economist Holtz-Eakin In 2011: Rising Gas Prices Were “Inevitable” Component Of Recovery From “Massive Global Recession.” On CNN’s State of the Union in March 2011, Republican economist and former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin said: “I think there are three lessons on the oil and gas front. Lesson number one is we have oil at $140 a barrel in 2008. And it went down not because we somehow discovered a lot more oil. No, it went down because we went into a massive global recession. As economies recovered, it was inevitable that prices were going to rise. And this was utterly foreseeable. Second piece is that Libya’s not really the concern. That’s not what markets are pricing. It’s the broader Middle East. Libya is 2% of oil supplies. That’s not our problem. It’s what happens in the rest of the Middle East. And the third is, something like this is always going to happen. There is always some piece of bad news out there. So, the key should be to build an economy that’s growing more robustly, it’s more resilient to bad news that inevitably will happen.” [State of the Union3/27/11]

Bush Policies And Recession Caused Deficits To Skyrocket

Prior To President Obama’s Inauguration, President Bush Had Already Created A Projected $1.2 Trillion Deficit For Fiscal Year 2009. From the Washington Times: “The Congressional Budget Office announced a projected fiscal 2009 deficit of $1.2 trillion even if Congress doesn’t enact any new programs. […] About the only person who was silent on the deficit projection was Mr. Bush, who took office facing a surplus but who saw spending balloon and the country notch the highest deficits on record.” [Washington Times1/8/09]

NYT: President Bush’s Policy Changes Created Much More Debt Than President Obama’s. From the New York Times:


[New York Times, 7/24/11]

Recession Added Hundreds Of Billions In Deficits By Increasing Spending On Safety Net While Shrinking Tax Revenue. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) explains: “When unemployment rises and incomes stagnate in a recession, the federal budget responds automatically: tax collections shrink, and spending goes up for programs like unemployment insurance, Social Security, and Food Stamps.” According to CBPP: “The recession battered the budget, driving down tax revenues and swelling outlays for unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other safety-net programs. Using CBO’s August 2008 projections as a benchmark, we calculate that the changed economic outlook alone accounts for over $400 billion of the deficit each year in 2009 through 2011 and slightly smaller amounts in subsequent years. Those effects persist; even in 2018, the deterioration in the economy since the summer of 2008 will account for over $300 billion in added deficits, much of it in the form of additional debt-service costs.” [, 11/18/10;, 5/10/11, citations removed]

Over The Coming Decade, The Bush Tax Cuts Are The Primary Cause Of Federal Budget Deficits. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities prepared a chart showing the deficit impact of the Bush tax cuts (orange), the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the recession itself, and spending to rescue the economy:


[, 5/10/11]

CBPP: Bush Tax Cuts And Wars Are Driving The Debt. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

The complementary chart, below, shows that the Bush-era tax cuts and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — including their associated interest costs — account for almost half of the projected public debt in 2019 (measured as a share of the economy) if we continue current policies.


[Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 5/20/11]

[NARRATOR:] Under President Obama, is American moving forward or backward? Under Obama, 45 percent more people are on food stamps. Three-quarters of a million fewer Americans have jobs. And homeownership is the lowest in 15 years. It’s getting more expensive for health care, more expensive for gas, more expensive overall. The only thing moving forward under Barack Obama? Our national debt – up $5 trillion. Four years of Obama moving America backward. [American Crossroads via, 5/3/12]