It’s been five years since the banking and credit crisis rocked the U.S. economy, causing markets to plunge, unemployment to spike, housing values to crumble and placing more Americans in financial peril than at any time since the Great Depression.
On Monday, President Barack Obama touted his administration’s successes in helping to turn things around even though national economic growth remains sluggish and millions of people have given up looking for work.
Obama said government’s response “put a floor under the fall” and his policies set the stage for an end to economic contraction and created an environment for the economy to grow again.
The president specifically pointed to the impact of the economic stimulus, creation of seven million jobs, the resurgence of the bailed out Detroit automakers, higher taxes on the wealthiest earners and an increase in exports.
“We’ve cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis and we’ve begun to lay a new foundation for economic growth and prosperity,” Obama said.
Although Obama paints a rosy scenario, there are still key questions on the economy.
Larry Summers, a leading name to become the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, withdrew his name from consideration on Sunday, clearing the way for Janet Yellen, who serves as vice chairwoman at the Fed, to become the leading candidate.
Also, the White House announced last week that top economic adviser, Gene Sperling, will step down as head of the National Economic Council and be replaced by Jeffrey Zients, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.
There is also the looming showdown with Congress on funding the government, raising the ability of the nation to borrow money to pay its bills, and continuation of the drastic budget cuts that took effect earlier this year absent a deal in Washington to reduce the deficit.
There is also the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping health care law backed by Obama that is taking effect this year and remains a political flashpoint with Republicans.
It’s the economy, stupid
That motto was made famous by political strategist James Carville during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, and rang true for Obama’s first presidential campaign as well.
And the American public agrees. In poll after poll, fixing the economy is a stubborn No. 1 when it comes to the issues the voters most care about.
A CNN/ORC International poll conducted this month indicates that 41% of the public says the economy is the most important issue facing the country right now, with health care at 16% and the crisis in Syria at 15%.
Soon after taking office, Obama signed a massive economic stimulus bill, led the charge for Wall Street reform and accelerated the bailout of the U.S. auto industry, which threatened to collapse and take more than 1 million jobs with it.
Some began to compare Obama to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who transformed the fabric of American society in the face of the Depression with aggressive government intervention.