In 2009, the President inherited an economy that by many measures was collapsing as fast or faster than at the start of the Great Depression. 800,000 Americans were losing their jobs per month. That’s a staggering number – the equivalent of laying off the entire workforce of West Virginia or the entire Milwaukee area each month. Our financial sector was imploding, foreclosures were skyrocketing, and the auto industry had broken down. We were on the brink of a second Great Depression and global leadership was up for grabs.
That’s where we were then. Here’s where we are now:
Today, American businesses have added 14 million new jobs over 71 straight months of private-sector job growth, extending the longest streak on record. The unemployment rate has been cut by more than half to 4.9 percent. And we’ve gotten to that level four years earlier than economists predicted just a few years ago. Wages for hardworking Americans have risen at the fastest pace since the crisis over the past six months. Home prices have risen for four straight years, restoring trillions of dollars of wealth to middle-class families. Deficits are down three-quarters. And auto sales are at record highs. When the President took office, business leaders ranked China the number one place to invest. Now, we've reclaimed the top spot for three years straight. As the President said in the State of the Union a month ago, we’ve got the strongest and most durable economy in the world. America is leading again.
None of that progress was inevitable. It was fought for and hard-won.
Upon entering the White House, the President was determined to act quickly and aggressively to rescue and rebuild our economy on a foundation for long-term growth and prosperity. That’s what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a historic growth and job creation package, was all about. And that’s why – against near unanimous opposition from Republicans in Congress – the President fought to get it done in the face of short-sighted, partisan attacks.
Republicans in Washington spent most of their time trying to turn “stimulus” into a bad word. They trashed the President’s plan to dig us out of recession before dusting off their gold shovels and oversized scissors to take credit at groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings when his work paid off in their communities. At times, it may have been an effective political strategy, but it wasn’t the right thing to do.
Guided by policy over politics and less than one month into his first term, the President signed the Recovery Act into law seven years ago. And he didn’t stop there: Despite fierce opposition from Republicans in Congress, and even with the majority of Americans at the time opposed, the President took action to rescue the American auto industry. In the face of dire economic predictions that taxpayers would lose billions or trillions in our effort to stabilize the financial system using Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds, the President pressed forward. And against entrenched interests, powerful lobbyists and resistant Republicans, he took on Wall Street – implementing commonsense reforms through Dodd-Frank and creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to hold financial institutions accountable and protect consumers from the types of abuses that preceded the crisis.
And while the process was messy and the decisions tough, today it’s clear: the President’s decisions worked.
Just six months after the President took office with an economy collapsing at Depression-like rates, our economy returned to growth. Domestic auto production has more than doubled. TARP generated a positive return for taxpayers. And Dodd-Frank continues to help ensure that Wall Street follows the rules of the road while the CFPB is working to protect consumers every day.
But the President’s fiscal response to America’s crisis was about more than quick fixes. He kept an eye to the future, which is why the Recovery Act made the largest single investment in clean energy in history; why it began the work of rebuilding our roads, bridges and airports; why it catalyzed education reform, dramatically expanded broadband Internet, and made big investments in electronic health records – because President Obama knows that our future success is rooted in the investments we make now.
This Friday, the President will travel to Jacksonville, Florida to see first-hand the good jobs of the future that the Recovery Act helped make a reality today. He’ll visit Saft, where Americans go to work every day in a facility funded by the Recovery Act building the lithium-ion batteries that help integrate renewable energy into our grid and power our hybrids. And he’ll talk about the tough choices he faced early in his first term to right America’s course.
Seven years ago, the President bet on the American people. From making college more affordable to ramping up support for clean energy and offering tax relief to boost incomes for middle-class families, the Recovery Act invested in the ingenuity and hard work of our entrepreneurs and teachers, our scientists and inventors. While some in Washington may have considered it a bad bet back then, it’s clear today that, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people and the critical decisions the President made during the financial crisis, we’ve seized a better future.