The U.S. may not have “risen from recession” quite as rousingly as President Barack Obama suggested in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. Seven years after that severe downturn began, household income hasn’t recovered and healthy job growth is complicated by the poor quality, and pay, of many of those jobs.
It’s always problematic when a president takes credit for an improving economy, just as it is when he’s blamed for things going bad. A leader can only do so much, for better or worse, and there are two sides to every economy. But after an election in which Obama largely held off on chest-beating, he claimed credit in bold terms for what is going right.
Also in his speech, Obama skimmed over the cost to taxpayers of free community college tuition and invited closer scrutiny with his claims about U.S. support for Syrian moderates and about his record of public-lands preservation.
A look at some of his claims, and the facts and the political climate behind them, as well as a glance at the Republican response:
—”At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry and booming energy production – we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.”
THE FACTS: By many measures, the economy is still recovering from the deep scars left by the Great Recession.
Job growth has been healthy, but fueled in part by lower-paying jobs in areas such as retail and restaurants, which have replaced many higher-paying positions in manufacturing and construction. Part-time jobs also remain elevated: There are still 1.7 million fewer workers with full-time jobs than when the recession began in December 2007.
And the faster hiring hasn’t pushed up wages much. They have been growing at a tepid pace of about 2 percent a year since the recession ended 5 1/2 years ago. That’s barely ahead of inflation and below the annual pace of about 3.5 percent to 4 percent that is typical of a fully healthy economy.