As President Barack Obama ceremonially marks the beginning of a second term in office, are we better off than we were four years ago? The answer depends on the statistics you pick. There are plenty of numbers that suggest the economy is on a more solid footing than it was when Obama was first sworn in.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up more than 5,500 points, just shy of the 14,000 mark. The economy is growing rather than contracting; in the first quarter of 2009, the Gross Domestic Product shrank 6.1%, it grew 3.1% in the third quarter of 2009, when last measured. Consumer confidence has nearly doubled. And a larger percentage of Americans–35% according to NBC News’ last poll–believe the country is headed in the right direction, up from 26% in January of 2009.
On the other hand, there is also plenty of data to support that idea that the country isn’t much better off than it was four years ago–and that the struggling economy continues to take a toll on families. Median household income is lower than it was in 2009. And to further mar his image, 46 million American live below the poverty line, several million more than four years ago.
The federal public debt has increased from $10.6 trillion in January 2009 to $16.4 trillion now.
But one number that is exactly the same as it was four years ago: the unemployment rate of 7.8%, though it’s down from a high of 10% in October of 2009.
In his first inaugural address, the president said “our power grows through its prudent use,” promising to “begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan.” The number of U.S. troops in Iraq has dropped from nearly 140,000 in January of 2009 to just 200, as the president fulfills that promise to end the Iraq war. The U.S. presence in Afghanistan has increased from 34,000 to 66,000 troops now, though the president recent announcement that most of those troops will leave Afghanistan after 2014.
One more thing, there are now fewer Democrats serving in the U.S. House than there were when President Obama was sworn in: then it was 257, now 201 are serving. The Democratic caucus in the Senate, which includes independents, is down from 58 to 55 members. In 2009, there were 28 Democratic governors, now there are just 19.
For more, check out First Read’s full statistical look at the past four years.