When Americans go to the polls in November to choose a new president, the economy will be the central issue in their decision.
The economy has slowed to a crawl, barely growing at an embarrassing 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter. Millions of Americans have dropped out of the labor force because they can't find a good-paying job. Millions more say they're forced to take part-time employment because they can't find full-time work.
Retail sales have slowed; the consumer confidence index is falling as hard-pressed consumers tighten their belts. New home sales are plunging. Hardly a day goes by that the news anchors on the CNBC business channel don't ask top economists and corporate CEOs if we are headed into another recession.
Many Americans think we are, and a large majority of Americans say the economy and the country are moving in the wrong direction.
Barack Obama was swept into office in the midst of a deepening recession, proposing a failure-ridden, 1930s-style big-spending plan to get our country back on its feet, only to see the economy struggle throughout his troubled presidency.
The president and his apologists, ignoring all of the data to the contrary, continue to maintain that the economy is doing great. It isn't, and they know it. That's one of reasons his lackluster job approval numbers haven't been able to break out of a mediocre 40 percent range.
Let's examine some of the most recent reports about Obama's sluggish economy, and you decide for yourself.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new home sales plunged 9.2 percent last month, with most of the decline in the Western states. Sales slipped in the Midwest, too, and in other parts of the country.
Meantime, the job market isn't as great as the network news anchors want us to believe.
In a study, MIT economist David Autor found that for many Americans over the past five years or so, "middle-wage occupations lost ground," writes Lydia Depillis in The Washington Post. "Overall between 2007 and 2015, low-wage occupations grew as a share of the labor market by 0.6 percent, middle-wage occupations shrank by 4 percent and high-wage occupations grew by 0.3 percent.
"And people are still mostly making less money than they were before the recession," Depillis adds. "Median wages for low- and middle-earning occupations sank 1.5 and 1.8 percent respectively, according to a breakdown by the Economic Policy Institute's Dave Cooper."
Says Cooper: (T)here's been poor wage growth across the board due to overall weakness in the labor market."
MIT's Autor told Depillis that the "main labor market challenge is not a lack of high-wage jobs; it's rather the weak or nonexistent wage growth in non-college jobs."
This is the sorry situation that Obama's anti-job creation, anti-capital investment, anti-economic growth performance has given us, no matter what the administration's dubious unemployment rate is right now.
And the future doesn't look any better under his failed economic policies -- the kind of policies that Hillary Clinton says she will follow if she becomes president.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics "projects that the service sector will capture 94.6 percent of the new jobs added through 2024. The bulk of those, positions such as home health aide and medical assistant, make below $35,540 a year," Depillis writes.
Little wonder that consumer confidence plummeted this month to the lowest level in seven months in the last year of Obama's presidency, The Associated Press reported this week. You didn't hear this on the nightly network news? Gee, I wonder why.
The Conference Board, made up of the nation's largest corporations and private organizations, said its confidence index fell to 92.2, the lowest level since last July.
Based on consumer assessments of the nation's overall economy, Americans gave low marks across the board. "The percentage of people saying business conditions were good fell to 26 percent, down from 27.7 percent," the AP reported.
Barack Obama can make all of the excuses he wants about the economy over these seven-plus years, but well-researched statistics don't lie, and the American people know when things aren't going well in their lives and in the country. And he can no longer say that he's made our economy significantly stronger when all the polls say otherwise.
Last month, a nationwide CBS/New York Times survey asked Americans this question: "Do you feel things in this country are generally going in the right direction, or do you feel things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?"
A whopping 65 percent said "wrong direction." Only 27 percent said "right direction." A mere 8 percent were unsure or had no opinion. The highly respected Gallup Poll has reported similar numbers on the same question, as have other polls.
Hillary Clinton is laying out an economic agenda that is almost a carbon copy of what Obama has proposed and pursued throughout his presidency, while expecting a different result. More big-government spending, tighter regulations on the economy and higher taxes.
This is the very agenda that has been holding our economy back with an anemic 2 percent growth rate, shrinking investment in new or expanding enterprises, fewer job opportunities and lower incomes.
The central question being asked in this election year is this: Are you satisfied with the last eight years of the Obama economy, or do you think we need to move in another direction?
The only question Republicans need to settle is who's the best, most unifying candidate to effectively offer a hopeful and persuasive answer to the broadest possible electorate.