Former President Obama speaks at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana on Sept. 7, 2018 (Cspan screenshot)

Former President Obama speaks at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana on Sept. 7, 2018 (Cspan screenshot)

On the campaign trail for Democrats, former President Obama seized on Republican celebration of the announcement Friday of 261,000 jobs added in August, contending the economic turnaround began under his administration.

President Trump, campaigning himself in North Dakota for a challenger to Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, mocked Obama’s claim.

“I think he was trying to take credit for this incredible thing happening to our country,” he said. “I have to say to President Obama, it wasn’t him, and if the Democrats got in with their agenda … instead of having 4.2 (percent GDP growth) up, you have 4.2 down, you’d be in negative numbers.”

Trump said Obama oversaw the “weakest recovery in the history of our country” while America is experiencing now “not a recovery, but a rocket ship.”

Obama has made the claim before, and the Wall Street Journal in January surveyed 68 business, financial and academic economists on the question. Most of the economists “suggested Mr. Trump’s election deserves at least some credit” for the upturn.

The White House’s push for lighter regulation and the tax bill was seen as critical to a pro-growth environment. More than 90 percent of the economists thought the tax bill would boost Gross Domestic Product expansion over the next two years.

The same survey one year earlier, while Obama was still in office, gave the Democratic president mixed grades. Most saw his policies as positive for financial stability, but neutral-to-negative for GDP growth and negative for long-term growth.

By contrast, the Wall Street Journal survey found, Trump was seen as neutral to positive for long-term gains.

The Labor Department announced Friday that wages climbed in August by the most since the recession ended in 2009 and hiring rose by more than forecast, with an additional 201,000 nonfarm payrolls.

The unemployment rate holding steady at 3.9 percent. Average hourly earnings for private workers increased 2.9 percent from a year earlier, exceeding all estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

On New Year’s Day of 2018, the New York Times described a “wave of optimism” sweeping over Americans business leaders, saying it is “beginning to translate into the sort of investment in new plants, equipment and factory upgrades that bolsters economic growth, spurs job creation — and may finally raise wages significantly.”

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Ellie Hockenbury released a statement after Obama’s speech contending the 2016 election was America’s verdict on the Obama economy.

“Just hours after a new report showed job growth yet again exceeding expectations, President Obama stepped back into the spotlight to make the case that our country is on the wrong track,” Hockenbury said.

She added that “2016 is over, but President Obama is still dismissing the millions of voters across the country who rejected a continuation of his policies in favor of President Trump’s plan for historic tax cuts, new jobs and economic growth.”

“Democrats may have a new resistor-in-chief on the campaign trail, but they’ll need more than a message of resist and obstruct to win this November,” the RNC spokeswoman said.

Obama takes credit

Obama was speaking Friday at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he accepted an ethics in government award.

He took credit for the turnaround after the “reckless behavior of financial elites triggered a massive financial crisis, 10 years ago this week, a crisis that resulted in the worst recession in any of our lifetimes and caused years of hardship for the American people, for many of your parents, for many of your families.”

He entered office, he recalled, when the country was shedding 800,000 jobs each month and millions of people were losing homes.

By the time he left office in January 2017, he said, “household income was near its all-time high and the uninsured rate had hit an all-time low and wages were rising and poverty rates were falling.”

“I mention all this just so when you hear how great the economy’s doing right now, let’s just remember when this recovery started,” he said to applause.

“I mean, I’m glad it’s continued, but when you hear about this economic miracle that’s been going on, when the job numbers come out, monthly job numbers, suddenly Republicans are saying it’s a miracle.

“I have to kind of remind them, actually, those job numbers are the same as they were in 2015 and 2016,” he said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, 221,417 jobs were added monthly on average for an annual total of 2,657,000. In 2016, it was 176,333 jobs added monthly on average with an annual total of 2,116,000.

Under Obama, annual GDP peaked at 2.9 percent in 2015. While 2018 is still under way, in the second quarter, under Trump, it reached 4.2 percent.

Charles Payne, a Fox Business Network contributor, argued Friday the Federal Reserve propped up the economy during the Obama administration by printing $4.5 trillion and raising interest rates only once.

“The Federal Reserve pumped so much money into this economy, you’ve got to put an asterisk on what President Trump has done,” he said on the Fox News Channel’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto.”

‘Rebuke’ to Democratic policies

Powerline blogger and lawyer John Hinderaker testified Thursday before the Joint Economic Committee on the effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Minnesota’s economy.

“Those effects have been magnificently positive, as they have been on the national economy,” he wrote, demonstrating a sharp rise in job creation and wage growth in his state.

Hindraker observed that a Democratic Congress never would have passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, noting not a single Democrat voted for it, and Hillary Clinton never would have signed it.

“The progress the U.S. economy has made since Donald Trump took the helm from the hapless Barack Obama is an ongoing rebuke to the Democrats anti-growth policies,” he said.

It’s one reason the Democrats are so anxious to regain control over the House in November, Hindraker observed.

“With the House in Democrat hands, they won’t be able to repeal the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but they will be able to guarantee that no more pro-growth, pro-worker legislation will be enacted. They will focus on impeaching President Trump instead.”

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