Reader disputes Obama, COVID-19 facts in PVT letter
Mr. Brotherton asks if he has the correct facts in his letter of Dec. 9, describing the economy during the Obama administration and COVID-19 in the recent past.
He states that, “with Obama the economy went stagnant.” If you search under “economic policy of the Obama administration, Wikipedia”, you can access its data on the economy in that period. Go down to “labor market” and you will see a graph comparing GDP growth during several administrations since President Reagan. During the Obama administration the economy GREW by 17%, being exceeded by only those of Reagan and Clinton.
Secondly, Mr. Brotherton says “millions of U.S. citizens lost their jobs.” Go to the first graph on “responding to the great recession.” It is headed “employment statistics for the U.S. 2009-2017.” The chart shows that Obama inherited an unemployment rate of 8% and rising, after the Bush administration, that it rose to about 10% and had dropped to 5% at the end of his tenure. All quarters from late 2010 to 2017 show positive gains in employment. And the civilian labor force grew from 142.1 million to 152.1 million. Hardly a stagnant economy.
Thirdly, he says “we became an oil exporting nation, when Trump entered the White House.” Well if you go to the U.S. Energy Information Administration website (search under EIA petroleum imports/exports) you will find the first graph shows oil production, imports, exports, and other data for the period 1950-2019 in millions of barrels per day. Note that petroleum includes crude oil and refined products. You can see that we have been exporting oil and refined products for decades. However, during the Obama and Trump administrations for the years 2008, 2016, 2019 oil exports were 1.8, 5.3 and 8.6 million barrels per day respectively. So the increase was about equal in the two administrations. It’s not something that happened only during Trump’s tenure. You can also see data for net import reductions, which supports a similar conclusion.
I also have to challenge the statement that the COVID-19 fatality rate is “minimal” to other “viruses”. It is true that when the COVID-19 death rate in the U.S. is taken as a percent of the total population, then it is small. However, that calculation includes at least 300 million persons who have not tested positive. If they become infected, and cases are increasing rapidly, it would certainly increase the deaths by a very large number and consequently the fatality or death rate. A better estimate of the fatality rate would be to calculate it as a percent of those infected, or testing positive. This data shows about a 2% death rate, (see Worldometer or CNN data). And don’t forget, that rate is severely skewed toward the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.
Another view, or perspective, is to compare COVID with the total American combat deaths in World War II. We have already exceeded, in less than a year, the deaths in five years of world war. (The Dept. of Veterans Affairs says it was 291,557.)
And I have to say what a terrible load this COVID-19 pandemic is on our health care workers. Perhaps Mr. Brotherton should volunteer in a hospital and experience just how stretched our doctors, nurses, and support staff are.