INDIANAPOLIS — For only the second time in American history, we’ve witnessed the conclusion of a third consecutive two-term presidency as President Barack Obama hands the levers of power to Donald Trump eight years after George W. Bush completed the same task. The other trifecta occurred between 1809 and 1825 with Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe.
And, for a third time in my career as a political analyst, I took a long, statistical look at a departing presidency and its impacts in Indiana.
When President Obama took office in January 2009, the U.S. was teetering on the brink of a depression. As he told folks in Elkhart in February 2009, the U.S. had lost 3.6 million jobs since September 2008 after the Wall Street meltdown. The U.S. had a 7.8 percent jobless rate, Indiana stood at 10 percent and Elkhart County stood at 15 percent, one the way to 19.5 percent later that April. Kokomo would see its jobless rate hit 18.9 percent. As Obama leaves office, Indiana now stands at 4.2 percent, Elkhart 3.3 percent and Howard County at 4.1 percent.
Gross domestic product was -5.4 percent when Obama took office and stood at 3.5 percent this month. Consumer confidence went from 37.4 to 113.7. The Dow Jones Industrial went from 7,449 to 19,855. U.S. median household income went from $54,988 to $56,516. Americans below the poverty line went from 43.6 million to 43.1 million and those on food stamps went from 33 million to 46 million. Mortgage delinquency in Indiana went from 9.6 percent to 3.7 percent.
The federal budget deficit declined from $1.4 trillion to $438 billion in 2016. The national debt skyrocketed from $10 trillion to $20 trillion. Americans without health insurance declined from 49 million to 29.8 million and in Indiana, it went from 18 percent uninsured to 9 percent.
From the Indiana perspective, the two catalytic impacts for Hoosiers under Obama were the 2009 rescue and restructuring of the domestic auto industry and the Affordable Care Act. Neither helped him politically in a state he carried in 2008 by less than 1 percent, but lost 54.3-43.8 percent to Mitt Romney in 2012. When Obama announced the auto restructuring on March 30, 2009, he said, “We cannot, and must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish. This industry is like no other – it’s an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America’s success. It’s what helped build the middle class and sustained it throughout the 20th century.”
Obama would pump $57 billion to stabilize GM and Chrysler. Between the Obama and Bush presidencies, $80 billion was spent on the auto rescue and $70 billion was repaid, including all funds given to Chrysler/Fiat.
Politifact noted that the Center for Automotive Research, an independent research, predicted harsh outcomes if GM and Chrysler went belly up. Beyond the immediate jobs lost, there would be a partial collapse of the supplier industry that includes hundreds of Indiana companies that would lead to a 50 percent drop in production at Ford and the American-based foreign car plants for Honda in Greensburg, Toyota in Princeton and Subaru in Lafayette. Imports would replace 70 percent of the lost GM and Chrysler production, the group predicted.
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, then a congressman whose district included Kokomo, observed, “You would have seen a depression here. It would have caused extraordinary damage to our state, not only for families but also for state tax revenues, city and county tax revenues.”
Indiana is now second in auto production in the United States. The GM plant in Fort Wayne has seen its workforce grow from 2,400 to 4,000. Almost $5 billion have been invested in plants in Kokomo, Tipton, Bedford, Marion and Fort Wayne.
While Hoosiers loathe Obamacare politically, the fact is that far more people have access to health insurance now than eight years ago. Former Gov. Mike Pence’s innovative Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 (which is part of Obamacare) has seen enrollment increase from 193,573 in 2015 to 359,612 in 2016 and a projected 457,739 in fiscal year 2020.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1,489,805 people in Indiana are covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. An estimated 224,000 Hoosiers have health insurance today because Indiana expanded Medicaid under the ACA. In the individual market, HHS says 168,884 people in Indiana have coverage through the ACA marketplace. Up to 2,796,375 people in Indiana have a pre-existing health condition but have access to insurance.
The irony here is that politically, a majority of Hoosiers hated the ACA individual mandate. Republicans and Democrats chafed at the medical device tax. Passage of the ACA in 2010 gave rise to the Tea Party movement and in just two years it essentially ended the Senate dynasties of Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar. The Indiana Democratic Party has been routed from rural Indiana.
When Obama returned to Elkhart last June, he said, “By almost every economic measure, America is better off than when I came here at the beginning of my presidency. That’s the truth.”
It will be many of these statistics that President Trump will be measured with over the next four to eight years.
— The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.