On anniversary of recession, Obama set to herald economic record
September 15th, 2013
08:00 PM ET
8 years ago

On anniversary of recession, Obama set to herald economic record

Washington (CNN) – Five years after the economic collapse that defined the first 100 days of President Barack Obama's presidency, the White House is taking credit for "strengthening" the economy, with the president preparing to embark on a week of events aimed at making that argument.

Gene Sperling, a senior economic adviser to the president, said Sunday that while the economic decisions the Obama administration made in 2009 were controversial – citing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the auto bailout and revamped banking regulations – all have outperformed their original forecasts.

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"These very difficult, bold and politically controversial measures that the president took in 2009 have uniformly performed better than almost anyone could have projected," Sperling, the outgoing director of the National Economic Council, said on a call with reporters.

After Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in 2008, the U.S. economy went into freefall in the final days of the George W. Bush presidency. After Obama took office in January 2009, he took controversial and expensive steps to stabilize the U.S. economy.

In a flurry of economic policy, the Obama administration pumped $250 billion into banks both large and small to shore up their capital, known at the TARP program, and pledged $85 billion to rescue the insurance firm AIG from collapse.

Economic security and the Obama administration's decisions appear to be the White House's focus in the coming week.

On Monday, the president will use a Rose Garden speech to herald his economic decisions. To hammer home the point, a White House spokesperson said Sunday that Obama will be flanked by people who represent different sectors of the economy aided by Obama's decisions.

Obama will sit down for an interview with the Spanish-language news channel Telemundo on Tuesday, and on Wednesday and Thursday he will deliver remarks at two different economic meetings.

On Friday, the president will take his message to the road, traveling to a Ford production plant in Kansas City, Missouri, where he is expected to tout the 2009 auto bailout and his next economic steps.

A White House report released Sunday, which Sperling previewed on the call, credited Obama with making these tough decisions, stating that "America has fought our way back" largely because of these steps.

"Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we've cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis and begun to lay a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth," reads the 49-page report.

Expectedly, not everyone agrees that Obama's economic decisions have strengthened the economy.

Republicans, such as House Speaker John Boehner, have long criticized Obama for "mediocre" job growth and growing the national debt.

"The sooner President Obama starts working with both parties to … solve Washington's spending problem, the stronger our economy will be for all Americans," Boehner said earlier this month.

But it isn't just Republicans who doubt the stability of the U.S. economy.

Six in 10 Americans told Gallup in August that economic conditions are getting worse, and earlier this month, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, found that 95% of income gains from 2009 to 2012 went to the top 1% of earners.

In short, the study found, the slow economic growth the United States has experienced since the economic crash of 2008 has primarily favored top earners, while incomes for the vast majority of people have stagnated.

While Sperling acknowledged on the call that the United States has not fully recovered from the economic downturn, Obama said in an interview with ABC on Sunday that the rich have fared far better than the poor during his time in the White House.

"The folks in the middle and at the bottom haven't seen wage or income growth, not just over the last three, four years, but over the last 15 years," the president said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

Sperling argued on Sunday that things would have been worse if auto companies had not been bailed out and the president's scheduled visit to the Ford plant signals that the White House plans to tout its accomplishments with the auto industry.

In 2008 and 2009, General Motors, Chrysler Group and Ally Financial, the finance firm then known as GMAC, received $79.7 billion. While some of that assistance came in the form of loans, most of it was given to the companies in return for their stock. Stock sales, dividend and loan payments together have returned only $52.7 billion to the government, leaving a $27 billion deficit.

Sperling argued, however, that they were a net positive.

"Autos is striking," Sperling said on Sunday. "The president made the right and very politically difficult call. I don't know that anybody at the time would have predicted that by the first quarter of 2011, the big three would not only have survived by have been profitable for the first time since 2004."

Obama's handling of the auto bailout was controversial at the time and became a flashpoint point in the 2012 election.

Some Republicans – including the GOP nominee, Mitt Romney – argued that the White House should have allowed the auto companies to go into a structured bankruptcy and criticized Obama's decision to use government money to prop up the industry.

Filed under: Economy • President Obama
soundoff (296 Responses)
  1. Jkk

    He sure loves to take credit for anything that can be spun as remotely positive, while blaming others for the problems. More people dependent on government handouts than ever before....junior high school foreign policy behavior....forcing a signature health care bill on us that NOT ONE of our elected officials actually read....promised refreshing government transparency....the list goes on. Yes, it is a tough job, but I grow weary of the lack of humility displayed by this one and his inability to be honest with himself. What a disappointment.

    September 15, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  2. Leftcoastrocky

    Considering the economies of the EU and of China are acting as headwinds on the U.S. economy, we are doing pretty well. Also, the sequestration is a headwind, and needs to be quickly repealed.

    September 15, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  3. Ancient Texan

    "Autos is striking"-yeah, the Unions appreciate the gift and the investors that owned stock in the auto companies were really thrilled to donate their stock to the Federal Government and the very entities that put the auto companies into receivership to start with...the unions. Obama does need to take credit for the current economic disaster, but will blame someone else.

    September 15, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  4. Leftcoastrocky

    U.S. corporations (aside from financial institutions) are sitting on $1.7 trillion - if they only released 10 or 20% of that and invested in expanding existing businesses or in new businesses, the U.S. economy would explode and the unemployment rate would plummet.

    September 15, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  5. John Citizen

    Feckless leadership trying to change American intention by showing us something shiny in his other hand. And to boot, what he says is shiny is actually very tarnished.

    September 15, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  6. RobL

    This guy is a deluded more-on. There is nothing in his record that spells 'success'. Every measurement is either 'fixed', or worse than five years ago.

    September 15, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  7. don

    This has to be a joke. We have a $17 trillion dollar national debt and $85 trillion in unfunded government liabilities relating to SSA, Medicare and pensions. We have a current year deficit of $1 Trillion. I can not believe that anybody would say HOORAY over this. It is insanity.

    September 15, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  8. T. Lee

    Wait and watch – the two time losers Republicans and those who think as they do will soon be appearing here – muttering and carping that Obama and Democrats have been terrible for the country, the economy, etc., but they ignore that WE haven't forgotten when THEY ran the country over the fiscal cliff and got us into a totally unnecessary war when they held the reins of administrative power.

    Hopefully the majority remembers their that the Republican economic model is based on the old "Horse & Sparrow" which has never worked as planned – and in fact cannot because it is a flawed system that favors only the wealthest of Americans. It always fails – always.

    September 15, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  9. MarkW

    It's about time he took credit for this. And people should remember that he did this in an environment where the other political party openly and unapologetically announced they were rooting for him (and America, btw) to fail. True to their word, they did everything they could to keep him from enacting anything to help the country.

    I wouldn't grade every one of his moves as brilliant, far from it. But considering the hostile, almost psychotic atmosphere they were conducted in? A+

    September 15, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  10. Ryan

    Mr. Sperling should check his facts before giving the Obama Administration credit for the TARP program.

    September 15, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  11. BriHudson

    My town (very historic – Rev & Civil Wars) is economically collapsed, and shows zero signs of getting better. Our youth, 18-26, are vastly under and unemployed. Small businesses, retail, specialty, food, and manufacturing are STILL closing down. If America is building – you folks are leaving my community in the dust.

    September 15, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  12. Fubarack

    I don't think the unemployment rate is even back to where it was when Bin took office. lol

    September 15, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  13. Rick

    Why is he bragging about the auto bailout at at Ford factory? Ford didn't receive any money.

    September 15, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  14. Stan Yer Ground

    The economy is recovering in spite of Obama, not because of anything he has done.

    September 15, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  15. BigFoot

    Go Mr President,

    A good man, doing a good job.

    September 15, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  16. Mike

    Unemployment was supposed to be back to typical levels by now.

    September 15, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  17. Terry

    He is utterly delusional.

    September 15, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  18. penguin

    Yeah, the top 1% claim that 47% are government freeloaders. That's ironic considering the fact that the top 1% obtain their money from the labor of others

    September 15, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  19. ALinoge

    Oh brother. CNN, must you BAIT the trolls this way? It doesn't help whose of us trying to keep order among men.

    September 15, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  20. William York

    The President has done a great job during difficult times. The jobs (7.5 new jobs to date) are coming back (we need more high tech jobs obviously). As a country we had a deep hole starting back in 2003 in reality. We are starting to get back – although I think it will be 2-3 years before it truly back! Income gains need to stop going to the 2% of wage earners. The middle class (MUST) be re-built as well as getting our fellow Americans out of the poverty level that they exist in today (and for way too – over 5 decades the poverty level in this country had gone up- enough is enough). But yes, at the end, our President has done a great job in my eyes and I pray for him. The President has a tough job, one I would not wish on anyone. Just my thoughts. God bless POTUS!

    September 15, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  21. mike

    Wow people who believe that any of his policies have done anything to strengthen the economy particularly in the long run must be out of theirs as well

    September 15, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  22. Guest

    yeah, for doubling food stamp usage and for all the new part-time jobs, for the 2500.00 drop in family income. yeah, right.

    September 15, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  23. Susan

    He might be better off going to play golf.

    September 15, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  24. Walter

    The left will have to do even more spinning than usual to convince anyone but delusional libs that we are in even a "strengthening" economy. The correct word is moribund.

    September 15, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  25. Ryan

    I think I've just seen it all. There's nothing left to amaze me.

    September 15, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
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