Slip slidin’ away . . .
Why does America seem to be slouching? Multiple measures have found this country going down, down, down since President Obama’s inauguration.
• The Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF) stages an annual pow-wow for top global leaders in Davos, Switzerland. It also ranks nations on competitiveness. When Obama came to power, America had dominated this contest for at least three years. The U.S. quickly stumbled from first place in 2008 to second in 2009, fourth in 2010, fifth in 2011, and seventh today.
Here is how the WEF described the U.S. economy among the 134 countries it evaluated in 2008:
Notwithstanding the present financial crisis, the United States continues to be the most competitive economy in the world, a position it has held for several years. This is because the country is endowed with many structural features that make its economy extremely productive and that place it on a strong footing to ride out business cycle shifts and economic shocks. Thus, despite rising concerns about the soundness of the banking sector and macroeconomic weaknesses, the country’s many other strengths continue to make it a very productive environment.
But after nearly four years of Obama, WEF’s outlook on America had soured dramatically. After examining 144 nations, it concluded on September 4:
The United States continues the decline that began a few years ago, falling two more positions to take 7th place this year. Although many structural features continue to make its economy extremely productive, a number of escalating and unaddressed weaknesses have lowered the US ranking in recent years. . . . The business community continues to be critical toward public and private institutions (41st). In particular, its trust in politicians is not strong (54th). . . . Business leaders also remain concerned about the government’s ability to maintain arms-length relationships with the private sector (59th), and consider that the government spends its resources relatively wastefully (76th). A lack of macroeconomic stability continues to be the country’s greatest area of weakness (111th, down from 90th last year).
• After Standard & Poor’s humiliating downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt on August 5, 2011, America has suffered two more demotions. Egan-Jones, one of nine rating agencies “nationally recognized” by the Securities and Exchange Commission, lowered America’s debt from AA+ to AA last April, and from AA to AA- last September 14. Egan-Jones previously had chopped America’s longtime AAA debt status to AA+ on July 16, 2011, foreshadowing by more than a fortnight Standard & Poor’s higher-profile downgrade.
Egan-Jones explained that the Federal Reserve’s Argentine-style money printing — most recently via its $40 billion–per–month exchange of mortgage-backed securities for freshly printed cash — threatens to pound the dollar as thin as phyllo dough. “The Fed’s QE3 will stoke the stock market and commodity prices but, in our opinion, will hurt the U.S. economy and, by extension, credit quality,” observed Egan-Jones’s statement on the Fed’s “quantitative easing” policy. “The increased cost of commodities will pressure profitability of businesses, and increase the costs of consumers thereby reducing consumer purchasing power.”
Bloomberg columnist William D. Cohan believes that the SEC has thanked Egan-Jones for its candor by suing the 20-person shop, based in Haverford, Pa.
• America has deteriorated from a debt/GDP ratio of 76 percent when Obama took office to 104 percent today. This ties directly to Obama’s 52 percent expansion of America’s national debt, from $10.63 trillion at his inauguration to $16.17 trillion today. (GDP simultaneously grew just 11 percent, from $13.97 trillion to $15.58 trillion.) This burgeoning indebtedness reflects Obama’s shattered promise to “cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office.”
• The Bureau of Economic Analysis on September 27 revised second-quarter GDP growth downward, from 1.7 to 1.3 percent. America’s growth now trails that of Cuba, which advanced by 2.1 percent between April and June.
• While the U.S. economy supposedly is in recovery, inflation-adjusted median household income is shrinking. As the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, that figure stood at $53,718. By last August, the estimable Jeffrey H. Anderson notes, such a typical household saw its income shrivel to $50,678, a 5.7 percent reduction totaling $3,040 in lost buying power.
Some of these trends predate Obama. The big-government Bush-Rove administration cravenly ballooned the state. In an unprincipled and quixotic effort to create Rove’s “durable Republican majority,” he and Bush deployed new entitlements, boondoggles, pork projects, and other “compassionate conservative” outlays. These fools’ errands beggared the nation while costing the GOP control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. Nice work, George and Karl.
Obama correctly blames Bush-Rove for this fine mess. Alas, Obama exacerbates it. He is like a firefighter who finds a house ablaze and denounces the arsonists who ignited the inferno. But then Obama shovels coal onto the flames.
After four years of inhaling President Obama’s smoke, Americans finally may be ready to breathe normally again under Romney-Ryan.
— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a Fox News contributor, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.