Biden Blames High Unemployment on ‘This God-Awful Recession We’ve Inherited’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | March 29, 2012 | 11:22pm EDT

Vice President Joe Biden speaking at a campaign event in Davenport, Iowa, on Wednesday, March 28, 2012. (AP Photo)

( - At a campaign event in Iowa on Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden blamed the continuing high level of unemployment in the United States on what he called “this God-awful recession we’ve inherited.”

According to the non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research, the last recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009—just five months into President Barack Obama’s term in office.

In the 33 months since the recession ended, according to the NBER, the U.S. economy has been in a period of expansion. One of the current members of the NBER committee that determines when recessions begin and end is Christina Romer, who formerly served as chairperson of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.

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(Less than two weeks before Obama took office in 2009, Romer published a report saying Obama's stimulus plan, if enacted, would keep unemployment under 8 percent. In fact, unemployment has never been under 8 percent since then--even though in February 2009 Congress did enact Obama's stimulus plan, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated at that time would cost $787 billion.)

To explain what he believes is happening in the U.S. economy, Biden told the crowd at a campaign event in Davenport, Iowa, a story about his father.

“He said, Joey, you got to understand one thing, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck,” said Biden. “It’s about your dignity. It’s about your respect. It’s about your sense of yourself. It’s about your place in the community.

“And too many people have been stripped of their dignity as a consequence of this God-awful recession we’ve inherited,” said Biden.  “And we’re determined--we’re determined--I think all of us, Republican and Democrat--are determined to turn that around.”

The expansion that began in June 2009, when the last recession ended, has not seen the growth in real GDP and the decrease in unemployment that has occurred in other recent economic expansions.

In no quarter of Obama’s presidency, according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, has real GDP grown at an annual rate of as much as 4 percent. The most robust growth during the Obama presidency occurred in the first quarter of 2010 when real GDP grew at a rate of 3.9 percent.

In the last four quarters, real GDP has grown at a rate of 0.4, 1.3, 1.8 and 3.0 percent.

President George W. Bush also experienced a recession in the early months of his presidency. That recession, according to NBER, began in March 2001 and ended in November 2001. But by the third quarter of 2003, according to BEA, real GDP was growing at a rate of 6.7 percent. Over the course of 2004, the year that Bush sought reelection, real GDP grew at 3.5 percent.

During George W. Bush’s first term, unemployment peaked at 6.3 percent in June 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the election year of 2004, unemployment stayed below 6 percent, peaking that year at 5.8 percent in March.

The highest that unemployment went during George W. Bush’s presidency was 7.8 percent—the level it hit in January 2009, the month Bush handed over the office to Obama.

After January 2009, when Obama was inaugurated, unemployment has never been lower than 8.3 percent in any month. That is the level unemployment hit in February 2009, Obama’s first full month in the Oval Office. That is also the level it stood at in February 2012--after Obama had been president for three full years.

Prior to Obama’s presidency, the last time unemployment was as high as 8.0 percent was in January 1984, the year President Reagan sought reelection. In 1984, however, according to the BEA, the U.S. economy was booming, growing at a 7.5 percent pace for the year. From January to November of 2004, unemployment dropped from 8.0 percent to 7.2 percent.

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