President Obama keeps economic ball in play, looking for a strong fourth quarter

By Ken Martin, chairman, Minnesota DFL

220px-President_Barack_ObamaShortly before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, he was quoted as saying, “My presidency in entering the fourth quarter. Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.”

Sports fans of all stripes can remember “the big game” where their team came from behind and made a stunning recovery to win the game. If you look at the U.S. economy and the President’s performance, it’s easy to see an analogy.

President Obama took office during the worst economic crisis since the Great Recession. The U.S. was losing 70,000 jobs a month and we were in the worst 6-month period for the price of goods and services in 60 years.

President Obama and his team were quick to draw up new plays and less than a month after the President took office, he signed the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

Now as President Obama enters the fourth quarter of his presidency, the unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent (the lowest in six years), the U.S. has the fastest economic growth in more than a decade, we have the fourth-longest bull market since World War II, and 11.2 million jobs have been created over 58 straight months of job growth (with 2014 the best year for job growth since 1999).

Under President Obama’s service we’ve also seen consumer confidence grow from 37.4 percent to 92.6 percent; our Gross Domestic Product go from -5.3 percent to 5 percent; and the federal budget deficit drop from $1.4 trillion to $506 billion.

That is quite a scorecard of accomplishments, but the President knows there is more work to be done to ensure the U.S. continues these economic gains.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama placed an emphasis on boosting the middle class. He is calling for tax increases on couples making more than $500,000 a year; tax breaks for couples making up to $210,000 a year; and boosting retirement savings for those without access to a workplace retirement plan.

To continue the country’s economic growth, President Obama is calling for free community or technical college for students going to school at least half-time and maintaining a grade point average of 2.5. Without efforts to make college more affordable and accessible, studies show the U.S. will fall short of 5 million workers with post-secondary education by 2020.

The President also proposes federal and local laws allowing workers to earn up to a week of paid sick time a year. Workers without paid sick time are often left in a bind putting their families’ economic security at risk or impacting the public’s health. Ensuring workers are healthy on the job is a positive for both the worker and his/her employer.

President Obama ended his State of the Union address and kicked off the fourth quarter of his time in the White House by saying, “A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter — together — and let’s start the work right now.” The President is calling on all leaders and Americans to get off the bench, get in the game and be part of the team that strengthens our nation and provides opportunity for all.