Perhaps we should have warned the candidates at the beginning of the 2012 presidential election: Be careful what you wish for.
Congratulations are in order to President Obama, who ran a tactically effective campaign to hold the White House. After a bruising campaign, he and his supporters are understandably cheered by Tuesday’s result. But there’s not going to be much of a honeymoon period, due to the depth and seriousness of our nation’s long-term challenges.
At the top of that list: restoring the battered economy, which continues to struggle more than three years after the official end of the 2008-2009 recession. After four years of misguided policy, aimless dithering, government-growth, and gridlock, the economy must be the top priority for the next administration and the next Congress.
The most recent unemployment figures, released just days before the election, illustrate what can only be described as stagnation: at 7.9 percent, the jobless rate remains essentially unchanged from when Obama was first elected in 2008. Worse, the actually unemployment rate—which includes those who have stopped looking for a job all-together—hovers at 14.6 percent.
Labor force participation is significantly lower than it was four years ago—which is why real unemployment is much higher than the reported statistics. Those Americans who are fortunate enough to still be working have seen little improvement in their own incomes and financial well-being.
The grim statistics portend a worrisome trend: the decline of the United States as a leading global power. In September, the World Economic Forum issued its 2012 report on global competitiveness, in which the U.S. ranked seventh. That marked the fourth straight year that the U.S. dropped in the rankings.
But numbers and rankings don’t fully capture the reality that things haven’t gotten better; most Americans can look around and see the evidence for themselves. They see friends and family members out of work, or underemployed in part-time positions with no chance for advancement; they notice businesses in their communities that have closed or are struggling; they have a sense of general anxiety that our proud nation has gone off-course.