As U.S. President Barack Obama begins his re-election campaign in earnest, he can only show voters a middling report card. Despite good marks for stabilizing the banks, he barely passes on debt and jobs. All told, his performance since 2009 warrants a C-minus grade. Mr. Obama needs to show he can do better in fiscal math, improve on business basics and play well with Republicans.
The former Illinois senator, who is due to headline the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week, can be graded a bit on the curve. He took office at a terrible time. In the first four months of 2009 alone, the U.S. private sector shed 3.2 million jobs and the financial industry was only just beginning to calm.
The banking sector stabilization is arguably the President’s chief economic accomplishment. And by his administration aggressively supporting, regulating and stress-testing financial institutions, they endured. The success has come at a cost, though. Despite Herculean financial reform efforts, the rules have been slow to come and there’s no certainty future bailouts won’t still occur.
Mr. Obama’s stimulus package also helped keep the unemployment situation from getting out of control. Though the jobless rate has ticked down from its 10 per cent peak, virtually all of the improvement came from Americans exiting the labour market. What’s more, July’s 8.3 per cent rate remains where it started 2012.
The President also did poorly on his MBA coursework. Businesses complain that Mr. Obama’s health-care law creates higher costs and regulatory uncertainty. He didn’t push hard for new trade deals to boost exports. Excessive borrowing and a breakdown in negotiations over the debt ceiling last year caused a downgrade to U.S. debt.
Fortunately for him, he usually aces public speaking. When he takes the stage on Thursday, he’ll be under pressure to make a persuasive case about how to deliver a better grade in the next four years. A clear plan for job creation, restoring confidence to chief executives and a commitment to finding common ground and compromise with the GOP, particularly on taxes, would be a start. Failure may leave Mr. Obama joining the nearly 13 million Americans looking for work.