An­other swing and a miss for the pres­i­dent

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Pres­i­dent Obama’s lat­est swing of the bat to get the econ­omy grow­ing again looked a lot like his pre­vi­ous at­tempts when he couldn’t come through with a base hit.

He has had nearly three years to score in an econ­omy that re­mains in a re­ces­sion but has struck out re­peat­edly, los­ing voter con­fi­dence and rais­ing doubts about his chances for re­elec­tion in 2012.

Even the lib­eral New York Times called his nearly $500 bil­lion jobs plan a “mix . . . of ex­ten­sions and ex­pan­sions of ex­ist­ing poli­cies,” with a few new ideas thrown in to hood­wink vot­ers into hop­ing that this one could be a home run. Don’t hold your breath.

“The plan — for the most part — is a con­ven­tional stim­u­lus, much like the one passed at the be­gin­ning of the pres­i­dent’s term,” The Washington Post says.

If all the pre­vi­ous in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing and tem­po­rary busi­ness pay­roll tax cuts didn’t work, why would more of the same yield a dif­fer­ent re­sult — es­pe­cially when his lat­est scheme costs about half of what was spent on the 2009 stim­u­lus?

If you’re keep­ing count of what Obama’s eco­nomic stim­u­lus ex­per­i­ments cost, the num­ber is some­where near $1.5 tril­lion, all of it adding to the debt and very lit­tle of it pro­duc­ing the jobs he said it would. In fact, the econ­omy has got­ten much worse, with zero net new jobs cre­ated in Au­gust, and the econ­omy barely grow­ing at 0.8 per­cent this year.

The plan he pro­posed be­fore a joint ses­sion of Congress failed to ex­cite Wall Street or the stock mar­ket, which has been in a nose­dive; failed to move his job ap­proval scores, which are run­ning at about 40 per­cent; and failed to boost the coun­try’s de­pleted con­fi­dence in his pres­i­dency.

In his over-in­flated rhetoric, Mr. Obama made the plan sound like the Sec­ond Com­ing. But noth­ing in his plan — even if it were to be­come law — would have much of an ef­fect this year or next.

His $140 bil­lion in in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing would take a long time to get into the con­tract pipe­line, with no per­ma­nent im­pact on job cre­ation.

Repub­li­cans like parts of his $245 bil­lion in pay­roll tax cuts, which would ex­tend this year’s em­ployee tax cut for an­other year, low­er­ing it to 3.1 per­cent in 2012 and cut­ting the 6.2 pay­roll tax that com­pa­nies pay to 3.1 per­cent. Still, the tax cuts would rise to their former rate at the end of next year, hit­ting work­ers and busi­ness at a time when the econ­omy may still be slug­gish.

But there’s lit­tle if any GOP sup­port for Obama’s mi­cro­manag­ing plan to of­fer a pay­roll tax hol­i­day for busi­nesses that hire more work­ers or give their ex­ist­ing em­ploy­ees raises, or give tax cred­its of up to $4,000 to em­ploy­ers who hire peo­ple who have been out of work for more than six months. Job­less for five months? Sorry, pal. In a sur­vey by the New York Times, many firms said their hir­ing de­pends on their sales, not on tax cred­its.

“Busi­ness de­mand is what drives hir­ing,” said the owner of Nut­son­line, an e-com­merce com­pany in Cran­ford, N.J., that sells nuts and dried fruits.

Oth­ers said that, all too of­ten, the tax cred­its go to busi­nesses that were plan­ning to hire any­way.

An of­fi­cial of Ch­e­sa­peake En­ergy, a ma­jor ex­plorer of oil and gas, said the Obama tax credit “does not drive our hir­ing.” Roger Tung, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Con­cert Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals in Lex­ing­ton, Mass., said the credit wouldn’t cover the costs of hir­ing one additional em­ployee af­ter ben­e­fits were fig­ured in.

Hir­ing would pick up only when in­vestor con­fi­dence grew so his firm could raise more cap­i­tal, Mr. Tung said.

Repub­li­cans who fa­vor per­ma­nent in­come tax cuts for busi­nesses, in­di­vid­u­als and in­vestors say that Mr. Obama’s eco­nomic poli­cies have failed in part be­cause they are tem­po­rary and lack cap­i­tal in­vest­ment in­cen­tives that af­fect ev­ery level of the econ­omy and ev­ery busi­ness, large and small.

Many, if not most, of Mr. Obama’s tax cuts come with strings at­tached, which is the hall­mark of govern­ment eco­nomic cen­tral plan­ning that never works.

As for his in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing, once the con­tracts are com­pleted, the jobs will end, just as they did in the first 2 1/2 years of his pres­i­dency.

An­other key part of Mr. Obama’s “new” eco­nomic pol­icy was un­veiled Mon­day when the White House an­nounced it would raise taxes this year by $467 bil­lion on cor­po­ra­tions, in­vestors, in­vest­ment fund man­agers and peo­ple earn­ing more than $200,000 a year and end or limit a num­ber of tax breaks, in­clud­ing char­i­ta­ble de­duc­tions.

Our econ­omy has vir­tu­ally stopped grow­ing. Job cre­ation has stalled. The govern­ment says the job­less rate likely will re­main at about 9 per­cent this year and next.

Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans owe more on their mort­gages than their homes are worth, and ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions have an­nounced tens of thou­sands of lay­offs in the months to come. And the pres­i­dent’s an­swer is to raise taxes on the econ­omy by nearly half a tril­lion dol­lars?

Mr. Obama’s plan is go­ing nowhere in this Congress. It’s time to let a sea­soned eco­nomic player step up to the plate — some­one who can hit some big growth and jobs numbers to re­place the ze­ros on the score­board.

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

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