Reporting annually on the “State of the Union” is one of the few founding principles U.S. President Barack Obama has bothered to honor over his first four years in office.
Article II Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states that the President “shall from time to time give Congress information on the State of the Union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” To his credit, Obama has done that each year he’s been in office – eloquently, even.
“The time to take charge of our future is here,” Obama said four years ago in his annual address to Congress. “Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.”
No one will dispute Obama’s “boldness” — but what has come of his promises for economic revival and securing our future prosperity?
Despite the President’s lofty rhetoric — and an unprecedented explosion of government spending and regulation — the state of the American union is slipping. Our economy has not recovered, our financial situation has not improved and Obama’s anti-competitive policies are poised to do even more damage moving forward.
First let’s look at jobs: According to the latest data from Obama’s own Labor Department, 12.3 million Americans are currently unemployed (including 4.7 million who have been without a job for more than 27 weeks). Even worse, America’s employment-population ratio is only 58.6 percent — while its labor participation rate is just 63.6 percent. Both of those numbers remain stuck at or near 30-year lows — in spite of the Obama stimulus, numerous bailouts and endless money printing by the Federal Reserve.
This chronic joblessness — along with a paucity of decent-paying positions with benefits – has severely depressed income levels. According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, annual household income fell for the fourth straight year in 2011. After adjusting for inflation, median annual household income stands at $50,054 — or 8.9 percent below its 1999 peak of $54,932. Meanwhile roughly 46.2 million Americans — 15 percent of country — are living in poverty.
Does that sound like a recovery to you?
Want more data on the state of Obama’s union?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a record 47.7 million Americans are currently using food stamps.
According to the National Employment Law Project, 26 million Americans received unemployment insurance in 2011.
According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a record 70.4 million Americans — or 22 percent of the nation’s population — received Medicaid benefits in FY 2011.
The costs associated with this welfare explosion are staggering — and unsustainable. According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, federal spending on various welfare expenses topped $1 trillion in FY 2011 — a 32 percent increase from four years earlier.
No wonder the federal government blew through $2.1 trillion in new deficit spending over the last seventeen months alone — pushing the national debt to a scarcely fathomable $16.5 trillion (or $146,151 for every American taxpayer). Even after Obama’s $630 billion “fiscal cliff” tax hikes are factored into the equation, debt held by the public is still projected to reach 200 percent of GDP by 2040 according to a report issued last month.
The fiscal cliff deal “did very little to improve our long-term budget outlook,” the report’s authors concluded, adding the agreement “did not make meaningful progress toward the primary goal of a sustainable fiscal policy — stabilizing the debt as a share of the economy and putting it on a downward path.
In fact the report found the deal “improved our long-term budget outlook by only about one year.”
High unemployment. Low incomes. Soaring dependency. Staggering debt. Such is the true state of Obama’s union – and based on the tax hikes and entitlement expansions coming down the pipe, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
This is why Republican elected officials in Washington must resist the Obama agenda as opposed to continuing to accommodate it — and start embracing the sort of fiscal reforms put forward by the Republican Study Committee and U.S. Senate leaders like Rand Paul.
Otherwise America’s descent will soon approach terminal velocity.
Bill Wilson is the president of Americans for Limited Government. Follow him on Twitter at @BillWilsonALG.