May­day over May un­em­ploy­ment num­bers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Pres­i­dent Obama went to Toledo on June 3 to boast about his “eco­nomic re­cov­ery,” but didn’t say a word about that morn­ing’s grim un­em­ploy­ment re­port show­ing only 54,000 jobs were cre­ated in May.

The worse-than-ane­mic jobs num­ber, down sharply from 232,000 jobs in April, in­creased the un­em­ploy­ment rate to 9.1 per­cent and left the pres­i­dent speech­less about the most po­lit­i­cally po­tent eco­nomic statis­tic the gov­ern­ment pro­duces each month.

It was the lat­est eco­nomic body blow his pres­i­dency has suf­fered in re­cent weeks. Ear­lier re­ports showed that home prices con­tin­ued to de­cline in nearly ev­ery ma­jor mar­ket in the coun­try, fall­ing to their low­est lev­els since the spring of 2009; the nation’s eco­nomic growth rate slowed to a snail’s pace — 1.8 per­cent in the first quar­ter; state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments were slash­ing jobs in the face of huge deficits and sharply de­clin­ing rev­enues; and em­ploy­ers from coast to coast were com­plain­ing of con­tin­ued un­cer­tainty in a lack­lus­ter econ­omy that pre­vented them from ex­pand­ing their work force.

If Mr. Obama’s eco­nomic ad­vis­ers truly be­lieve that a ma- jor­ity of Amer­i­cans think the econ­omy is do­ing bet­ter un­der his poli­cies, a June 7 Wash­ing­ton Post-ABC News Poll put that no­tion to rest.

The poll found “a broadly pes­simistic mood in the coun­try,” with 57 per­cent of Amer­i­cans say­ing the eco­nomic re­cov­ery “has not be­gun.” Even those who be­lieve the econ­omy has im­proved since the 2008-09 re­ces­sion com­plain that it re­mains weak.

Over­all, 6 in 10 give Mr. Obama fail­ing grades on the econ­omy, the bud­get deficit and the na­tional debt.

No­tably, nearly two-thirds of po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dents said they did not like the way he was han­dling the econ­omy and a ma­jor­ity ex­pressed strong dis­ap­proval.

The poll’s most re­veal­ing po­lit­i­cal find­ing: For­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney, the GOP front-run­ner for the 2012 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion who has made the econ­omy and jobs his top cam­paign is­sues, now leads Mr. Obama among reg­is­tered vot­ers by 49 per­cent to 46 per­cent.

While the pres­i­dent seemed un­able to face re­al­ity and talk openly about the bleak job sta­tis­tics, Demo­cratic strate­gists were more than ea­ger to lec­ture him on the No. 1 is­sue that threat­ens to top­ple his presi- dency.

“No in­cum­bent pres­i­dent since [Franklin D.] Roo­sevelt has won re-elec­tion with greater than 8 per­cent un­em­ploy­ment,” Demo­cratic poll­ster Stan­ley B. Green­berg said in a re­port for the lib­eral ad­vo­cacy group Democ­racy Corps.

“Cur­rent Demo­cratic nar­ra­tives too of­ten fail to meet vot­ers where they are in how they per­ceive and ex­pe­ri­ence the econ­omy and, even more im­por­tant, do not speak to vot­ers’ as­pi­ra­tions and goals when think­ing about the eco­nomic fu­ture. They do not take the vot­ers’ eco­nomic un­der­stand­ing se­ri­ously when, in­deed, they are dead se­ri­ous.”

Dur­ing Mr. Obama’s first two years, Democrats “have of­fered a jum­ble of mes­sages with­out a con­sis­tent frame­work that ex­plains why and what Democrats are do­ing,” Mr. Green­berg writes.

The dis­mal eco­nomic re­al­i­ties Democrats now face in­clude “a mid­dle class smashed and strug­gling, Amer­i­can jobs be­ing lost, the coun­try and the peo­ple in debt.”

Even those who worked within the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion were sharply crit­i­cal of the econ­omy un­der the pres­i­dent’s poli­cies.

“The pres­i­dent is go­ing to be run­ning for re-elec­tion in an econ­omy that’s still too weak,” Jared Bern­stein, Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Biden’s for­mer chief eco­nomic ad­viser, told The Wash­ing­ton Post.

The bleak re­al­ity of Mr. Obama’s eco­nomic trou­bles is that the White House has es­sen­tially been clue­less about what to do next to drive un­em­ploy­ment down to more nor­mal lev­els in the next year-and-a-half.

More than three-quar­ters of a tril­lion dol­lars in new pump­prim­ing spend­ing didn’t work. An un­prece­dented wave of costly gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions of the nation’s busi­nesses through Oba­macare and a thicket of new fi­nan­cial re­form laws have only raised busi­ness costs, par­a­lyzed job growth and cur­tailed new cap­i­tal in­vest­ment.

Mr. Obama has long been hos­tile to tax-rate cuts to spur eco­nomic growth but there is now be­hind-the-scenes talk in the White House about tak­ing a page out of Repub­li­can sup­ply­side tax cuts of the past.

“The pres­i­dent and his team have looked to Ron­ald Rea­gan’s pres­i­dency as a pos­si­ble tem­plate for their re-elec­tion for­tunes,” re­ported po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Dan Balz.

Nearly two years be­fore Rea­gan’s 49-state, land­slide re-elec­tion, the un­em­ploy­ment rate rose to 10.8 per­cent and his po- lit­i­cal fu­ture looked pre­car­i­ous at best.

But then his across-the-board in­come tax cuts be­gan kick­ing in and by the sum­mer of 1984, the job­less rate had plunged to 7.5 per­cent and a sense of op­ti­mism was rekin­dled through­out the coun­try.

What caused the job­less rate to plum­met was “strong eco­nomic growth in 1983 and 1984,” Mr. Balz pointed out, with the gross do­mes­tic prod­uct ac­cel­er­at­ing at quar­terly growth rates of 5.1, 9.3, 8.1, 8.5, 8 and, fi­nally, 7.1 per­cent in the sec­ond quar­ter of 1984 — ex­pan­sion rates that make the Obama econ­omy look like it’s stand­ing still.

There’s a les­son here for the White House that still be­lieves last month’s fee­ble job­less rate was just “a bump in the road,” hop­ing against hope that the econ­omy will even­tu­ally im­prove.

But Mr. Obama’s 1930s-era spend­ing poli­cies have been a com­plete and ut­ter fail­ure, leav­ing be­hind a legacy of high un­em­ploy­ment, a moun­tain of debt and a dispir­ited nation look­ing for a new leader to get Amer­ica mov­ing again.

Don­ald Lam­bro is a syn­di­cated colum­nist and for­mer chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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