Boosted by recent economic gains, President Barack Obama
is sounding more bullish about the nation's recovery from
the Great Recession and the White House is encouraging
Democrats to show similar optimism as they head into the
November mid-term elections.
are reasons to feel good about the direction that we're
headed," Obama declared last week.
turmoil in the Middle East and along the Ukraine-Russia
border, the top issue with Americans remains the economy.
And while consumer confidence appears to be improving, the
public remains anxious over the recovery's reach and
Monday, Obama will deliver a Labor Day speech in
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he is expected to promote the
economy in a state that was the epicenter of a fight over
the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
White House officials say he will draw attention to the
economic advances while also calling for a federal
increase in the minimum wage — a top issue for
now, Obama and his White House aides had been cautious
about drawing too much attention to positive economic
trends, worried that some may prove illusory or that, even
if true, not all Americans were benefiting from them.
House aides still insist they are not declaring full
victory over the lingering effects of a recession that
ended five years ago.
House officials believe it is time to highlight recent
improvements, in part to strengthen what is a difficult
political environment for Democrats and to counter public
perceptions that are eroding the president's public
approval. Officials say Obama's most compelling case is to
compare the economy now to what he inherited in 2009 in
the aftermath of a near Wall Street meltdown.
one thing that I can say is that because of the incredible
resilience and strength of the American people, but also
because we made some good decisions even though they were
tough at the time, we are better off as a country than we
were when I came into office," Obama said at a
August memo to House and Senate Democrats, Obama's top two
economic advisers underscored the positive news: More than
200,000 jobs created per month for six consecutive months,
a six-year high in auto sales, second-quarter economic
growth that exceeded expectations and an expanding
unemployment rate stands at 6.2 percent, dropping 1.1
percent over the past year. The rate reached a high of 10
percent in October of 2009.
economy grew at a rate of 4.2 percent in the second
quarter of the year, though a weak start in the first
quarter has lowered projections for the entire year.
stock market has rallied, nearly tripling in the past five
years. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed above
2,000 for the first time Tuesday.
same time, public perceptions appear to present a muddle
of confidence and anxiety about the economy.
month, the Conference Board's consumer confidence index
rose to its highest reading since October 2007, two months
before the Great Recession began. But a survey released
last week by Rutgers University found that Americans are
more anxious about the economy now than they were right
after the recession ended.
still negative signs:
number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or more remains
elevated, accounting for nearly 33 percent of the 9.7
million jobless workers. While the rate of long-term
unemployed has dropped significantly from its peak in
2010, White House economic advisers Jason Furman and Jeff
Zients noted in a blog post Monday, "The long-term
unemployment rate remains roughly double its pre-recession
average, and ... accounts for essentially all of the
remaining elevation in the overall unemployment
hourly wages fell from the first half of 2013 to the first
half of 2014 for all income groups, except for a small
2-cent increase for the lowest income level, according to
the liberal Economic Policy Institute. That minor increase
was attributed to minimum wage increases in states where
40 percent of workers live.
parties are seeking to exploit those weaknesses and draw
contrasts for voters. Republicans argue that the long-term
unemployed and the flat wages are the result of Obama
administration policies, ranging from health care to the
Democrats are pointing to the lack of wage growth as a
reason to push for a higher federal minimum wage.
we've got a Congress that cares about raising working
folks' wages, it's up to the rest of us to make it
happen," Obama said in his radio and Internet address
things to know about Obama's visit to Wisconsin
- President Barack Obama will speak to union members and
others Monday in Milwaukee. Here are five things to know
about his visit:
IT'S A PARTY: The president is speaking at about 2
p.m. at LaborFest, a festival complete with musical
acts, a classic car show, bingo and lots of fried food.
The festival runs from noon to 5 p.m. and is preceded by
an 11 a.m. parade in downtown Milwaukee. LaborFest is
held on 75-acre festival grounds along the shore of Lake
REWIND AND REPEAT: Monday marks Obama's second
appearance at LaborFest. He spoke there in 2010, months
before Republican Gov. Scott Walker set off fervent
protests with his proposal to eliminate most public
employees' union rights. Anger over Walker's signature
legislation lingers in heavily Democratic Milwaukee.
THE PRESIDENT'S POPULARITY HAS WANED: Obama won
Wisconsin in 2008 and 2012, but his popularity is
declining. A Marquette Law School poll released
Wednesday put his approval rating at 49 percent
statewide. An earlier law school poll found the
president's approval rating was much higher in Milwaukee
than statewide - 71 percent to 47 percent in July 2013.
UNION MEMBERSHIP IS FALLING TOO: About 15 percent of
private and public sector workers in Wisconsin were
represented by unions during Obama's last visit in 2010,
according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In
2013, union membership was about 13 percent as Walker's
union law took effect and public employees dropped out.
The national average is 12.4 percent.
WALKER WILL GREET HIM, BURKE WON'T SHARE STAGE: The
governor changed plans with his family so he could greet
Obama at General Mitchell International Airport. The two
also met there in January, discussing a propane shortage
before Obama left to give a speech in Waukesha and
Walker returned to Madison. Walker's Democratic
challenger Mary Burke is meeting privately with Obama,
but won't share the stage.