The election is behind us, with President Obama’s strong victory over Mitt Romney. Mr. Obama did not do as well this time, winning by 3.3 million votes compared with 9.5 million in 2008. But he overcame a weak economy and some unpopular policies to win a second term, and that is no small feat.
Still, one could argue his greatest challenge is in front of him, because America’s economy continues to do very poorly. Employment levels are still 3% lower than before the recession that began almost five years ago, meaning our so-called recovery of the last few years is far below other recoveries dating back through the 1950s.
People of all income levels feel the impact of economic weakness. The number of people receiving food stamps has increased by 15 million, or almost 50%, in the past four years. The number of taxpayers earning $1 million or more per year was just below 400,000 in 2007 (having risen quite a bit from 170,000 in 2002), but it has plummeted and was only around 268,000 in 2010.
Things may get worse before they get better. Just a few days ago, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that the “fiscal cliff” we face in January, if the president and Congress don’t do something very soon, would push us back into recession and raise the unemployment rate above 9% by the end of next year.