WASHINGTON – U.S. President Barack Obama used his final State of the Union address to deliver an optimistic message about his country, where it stands today, and the opportunities ahead.
He chided the negativity of some politicians, in a presidential campaign season marked by populist anger. So how has the U.S. actually fared in the Obama era?
Some facts and figures:
—GDP up. U.S. economy grew 17.8 per cent from early 2009 through 2014. That’s much better than the U.K. (11 per cent) and the Eurozone (12 per cent), but not as good as Canada (20 per cent) through 2014. In 2015, the U.S. outperformed Canada too. Source OECD.
—Unemployment rate down. From 7.8 per cent in January 2009 to 5.0 per cent in December 2015. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
—But labour-force participation dropped, too. From 82.9 per cent in January 2009 to 80.9 per cent in December 2015. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
—Wages up, generally. National average wage index grew from $40,711 in 2009 to $46,481 in 2014. Source: Social Security Administration.
—But inequality has grown. The Gini inequality ratio grew from .468 in 2009 to .482 in 2013. It edged back to .480 in 2014, but remains far from the more even distribution rate of 1968 — .386. Source: U.S. Census Bureau.
—Homelessness down. From 651,000 homeless in 2007 before the recession, to 578,424 in 2014. Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness.
—More Americans have health care. Uninsured rate dropped from 16.1 per cent of Americans in early 2009, to 11.9 per cent in late 2015. Source: Gallup.
—Life expectancy up: 77.9 years in 2007, 78.8 in 2013. Source: Centers for Disease Control.
—Tiny increase in number of 18-to-24-year-olds in post secondary, degree-granting institutions. Was 39.6 per cent in 2008, increased, then declined in 2013 back to 39.9 per cent. Source: National Centre for Education Statistics.
—Soldier deaths per year in Afghanistan and Iraq — 469 in 2008 and 466 in 2009, 28 in 2015. Source: iCasualties.org.
—U.S. military spending down — 47 per cent of global total in 2010, 38 per cent in 2014. Armed-forces personnel down — 1.56 million in 2009, 1.43 million in 2015. Source: International Institute for Strategic Studies.
—Americans killed in terrorist attacks, worldwide: 14 in 2008, 32 in 2014. Source: Global Terrorism Database.
—Guantanamo detainee decline. In January 2009, there were 242 detainees. Despite Obama plans to close the facility, 104 detainees remained in October 2015. Sources: U.S. Justice Department, ACLU.
Crime and punishment:
—Violent crime down. In 2008, 1.394 million violent crimes in U.S. — murders, rapes, robberies, assaults. Down to 1.165 million in 2014. Rate down, from 458.6 per 100,000 to 365.5. Source: FBI.
—Prison population down. Reversing a generational trend, prison population decreased from 1.62 million in 2009, to 1.56 million in 2014. U.S. still has the world’s largest prison population — which skyrocketed from just 329,821 in 1980. Source: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Energy and the environment:
—Carbon emissions down from 6.9 million metric tonnes in 2010, to 6.5 million in 2012, followed by increase to 6.67 million in 2013. Obama has since introduced clean-power regulations, in plan to cut emissions up to 28 per cent by 2025. Source: U.S. EPA.
—More energy produced at home. Domestic share of U.S. energy supply has grown since 2005, from just 69 per cent to 84 per cent in 2013. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.
—Growing solar-power industry: From 93,502 jobs in 2009, to 173,807 in 2014. Source: National Solar Jobs Census.
—Oil production skyrocketed. From 5.3 million barrels per day produced in U.S. in 2009, to 8.7 million in 2014. Source: Energy Information Administration.
—National debt surged. From $11.87 trillion in 2009, up to $17.79 trillion in 2014. As percentage of economy, debt grew from 82.4 per cent in 2009 to 103.2 per cent in 2014. Source: White House.
—Deficits shot up, then dropped. From a $458 billion deficit in 2008, to $1.4 trillion in 2009, back to $484 billion in 2014. Source: White House.
World opinion of U.S.
—Views of U.S. improved in many countries in 2009, according to Pew’s annual global survey. In 2015, 69 per cent abroad expressed favourable view of U.S.. Since 2007-08, views have improved in Canada, Germany, Spain, U.K., South Korea, Japan, Argentina, Israel, Turkey. They’ve worsened in Russia, Jordan and Lebanon.
© 2016 The Canadian Press