The Obama Presidency
President Obama tours the General Electric plant in Schenectady, NY (Pete Souza/Official White House Photo)
Barack Obama entered the White House in January 2009 at the height of the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The bursting of America's housing bubble in 2007 was followed by a severe financial panic in 2008, and a sharp rise in unemployment from 5 percent in January 2008 to 7.8 percent a year later. The most pressing issue was to continue the Bush administration's belated effort to rescue the ailing American auto industry and restore lost confidence in the nation's large banks. Although he was criticized from the left for not taking more punitive actions against the banks and the financial services industry for causing the economic crisis, Obama did rely on traditional Keynesian measures to boost the over-all level of demand in the economy, spur consumer spending, and save jobs. Congress passed his $840 billion stimulus package in February 2009—supported by only three GOP Senators and no House Republicans—but its full impact on the economy would not be felt for another two years. Nationally, unemployment peaked at 10 percent in October 2009 and at 16.8 percent for African Americans in March 2010. Thereafter it declined month on month and year on year, dropping to 4.9 percent overall and 8.8 percent for African Americans by February 2016, seven years after the stimulus. The impact of the $80 billion auto bailout was more immediate and dramatic in manufacturing states like Michigan and Ohio, where General Motors posted a $7.6 billion profit in 2011.