Center for American Progress

RELEASE: CAP Issue Brief Sets the Record Straight on President Obama’s Economic Legacy
Press Release

RELEASE: CAP Issue Brief Sets the Record Straight on President Obama’s Economic Legacy

Washington, D.C. — This week will see the fourth U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment situation release of the Trump era, an occasion that—regardless of the number of jobs added last month—will surely spark a renewed discussion of President Barack Obama’s economic legacy. While President Donald Trump and his White House have said that the current president inherited “a mess” of an economy, a new issue brief from the Center for American Progress seeks to set the record straight on President Obama’s legacy.

“It’s on policymakers to build on a strong economic record to address key issues such as massive inequality,” said Christian E. Weller, CAP senior fellow and co-author of the brief. “We are in real danger that the Trump administration and Congress will make things worse, not better.”

“The economy has made a great deal of progress since the dark days of 2009—something for which President Obama deserves full credit. Despite an unprecedented level of obstructionism from Congress, the policies of the Obama administration are responsible for the robust job growth we continue to see today,” said Brendan Duke, associate director for economic policy at CAP and co-author of the brief. “There’s more we need to do to boost wage growth and reduce inequality, but the policies of the Trump administration would do nothing to address these challenges and could, in fact, make them worse.”

The economic data for President Obama’s two terms show unambiguously good trends on all key economic indicators, CAP’s brief explains, and President Trump inherited an economy and labor market headed in the right direction on all of these indicators. Economic growth accelerated over time, job growth logged its longest winning streak, employment opportunities expanded, wages and incomes were on the upswing, and household debt levels fell as employment opportunities and wages went up. In addition, government finances improved during the Obama years; measures to stabilize financial markets supported the economic recovery; and the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2009 greatly expanded health care coverage, decreasing the share of Americans without health insurance to an all-time low.

Much work remains to be done with regard to the economy—especially when it comes to increasing the share of working-age Americans with a job, boosting wage growth, and reducing income inequality. But early indications show that President Trump runs a very real risk of frittering away the economic progress made during the Obama administration. As CAP’s brief notes, the policies that Trump and his administration have advanced so far endanger economic and job growth by creating massive uncertainty for businesses. Moreover, Trump’s policies are likely to worsen inequality by weakening wage and benefit growth for middle-class Americans and possibly undoing the progress of the past few years.

Click here to read “Obama’s Legacy on the Economy Is Anything But a Mess” by Christian E. Weller and Brendan Duke.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at or 202.478.6331.