By Jill Schlesinger
Tribune Content Agency
With President Obama's departure from office, it's time to reflect on how the economy fared during his tenure.
But first, a caveat: Presidents often get too much credit or blame for what occurs on their watch. In many cases, good luck or bad can play a larger role in a particular president's economic performance than actual policy. The U.S. economy is too large and complex to make such judgments accurate or fair.
Obama entered office at a particularly perilous time for the economy, and we've come through that adversity. Here's a quick accounting of the part he played.
-Bailouts: The Obama Administration worked with the financial services industry (some would say the relationship was a bit too cozy) to ensure that companies adhered to the strings attached to TARP, which was passed under President Bush. The much-hated bank bailout remains a hotly contested topic, but considering how close these companies were to the abyss, most economists agree that allowing them to fail would have caused a much deeper and longer recession.
There were two major flaws associated with the bailouts: First, taxpayers had to foot the bill, while shareholders reaped the rewards of bank stocks' quadrupling in value since 2009. Secondly, government did not assist underwater homeowners adequately; both versions of the Home Affordable Refinance Program failed to help enough.
-Regulation: The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, enacted in July 2010, forced banks to keep more capital on hand and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Unfortunately, the nation's largest financial institutions are still overly leveraged, complicated and interconnected, which makes them prone to inflict damage on the overall financial system ... and they are still too big to fail.
-Stimulus: Just a month after being sworn into office, Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was meant to jumpstart the economy and to save and create millions of jobs. The effectiveness of the act has been disputed, but along with TARP, these actions likely saved the country from enduring a much worse outcome.
-Economic growth: In Q1 2009, GDP sank by an annualized 5.4 percent, and for the full year the economy contracted by 2.8 percent. There was progress from that low point, but pace of growth during the Obama years, 2.1 percent, has been slower than the average of about 3 percent seen over the past 50 years.
-Jobs: In January 2009, the U.S. economy lost 741,000 jobs and the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, on its way up to 10 percent. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the economy added more than 15 million new positions and the unemployment rate is now 4.7 percent. Of course there are still problems - too many people have left the labor force and many remain underemployed - but the situation is far better than it was.
-Income: Median annual household income declined to an inflation-adjusted $54,478 in June 2009, according to Sentier Research. As of November 2016 incomes had increased to $58,221, just below the January 2000 level of $58,410. Although average incomes have inched higher, income inequality continues to plague the economy.
-Stocks: At the close of trading on January 20, 2009, the Dow stood at 7,949, the S&P 500 was at 805 and NASDAQ settled at 1,440. Stocks did not bottom out until two months later, but since then have soared.
-Housing: After peaking in 2006, housing prices finally bottomed out in early 2012. In the most recent Case-Shiller home price report, the national index was reported as being at a new nominal high, but when adjusted for inflation it is still about 15.3 percent below the bubble peak.
Contact Jill Schlesinger, senior business analyst for CBS News, at askjill@JillonMoney.com.
This was printed in the February 5, 2017 - February 18, 2017 edition.