July 16

A Gallup poll released today shows that one in six Americans thinks the No. 1 problem facing the country is immigration/illegal aliens. The issue is further turbocharged because it feeds into voters’ second concern, which is “dissatisfaction with government.”  This is a huge shift from just one month ago, when immigration ranked fifth on the list, behind the economy; dissatisfaction with government and poor leadership; unemployment and jobs; and poor, high-cost health care. The crisis on our border has caused immigration to skyrocket to the forefront of voters’ concerns.

This is bad for President Obama and the Democrats, as the border crisis could drive turnout of conservatives and older voters who will be critical to the Republicans’ success in the 2014 midterm elections. What we don’t know is what the half life of the border crisis will be. The outrage over the debacle may continue into the fall. It’s equally likely that the furor will subside, with the border breach becoming just another pot boiling over in the Obama kitchen – joining the Veterans Affairs scandal, the Internal Revenue Service scandal, the continuing problems with Obamacare, a host of frightening national security crises, etc.

But while everyone is focused on the border at the moment, the real trouble that could swamp the Democrats continues to be the economy.

President Obama and the Democrats continue to champion recent job creation and applaud lower unemployment rates, but the reality is that the state of employment in our country is abysmal. Job creation has not been keeping pace with the population growth. And in the last month, we saw full-time jobs drop by 523,000 – while part-time jobs increased by 800,000. That is not the sign of a healthy economy. One of the most troubling aspects of the lackluster economy is the number of Americans who have dropped out of the labor force.  Today’s labor force participation rate is only 62.8 percent — the same rate as in March 1978 — and is 1.8 percent lower than it was four years ago. Since June 2010, more than 8 million Americans have completely dropped out of the workforce. Think about that. To be clear, since the last midterm elections, 8 million people have quit working or looking for work, while only 7 million people have started working.

Bear with me, because this is important. If the 8 million people who have dropped out of the workforce in the past 4 years rejoined the workforce tomorrow and starting looking for work, the unemployment rate would shoot up from 6.1 percent to 11.2 percent. And guess what? If the unemployment rate today was properly adjusted to something like 11.2 percent, it would be almost 2 percent higher than the unemployment rate was in June 2010. Despite the cheerleading and parsing from the Democrats about our economic “recovery,” in many ways, the overall job picture in the United States is worse now than it was four years ago.

The worst possible position for a politician to be in is one in which he or she says things that are that inconsistent with what voters can see and feel for themselves. (Extreme example: Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada said yesterday that “the border is secure,” even while Gallup reports that more people are alarmed about illegal immigration today than have been at any point since President Obama was elected.) What drove the Republican resurgence in the 2010 midterm elections was Obamacare and the economy. Case in point: In the Gallup poll from May 2010, the economy and unemployment/jobs were numbers one and two, respectively, on the list of the top problems facing our country. Obamacare/health care was number three on the list.

While immigration may be taking over the headlines at the moment, our economic problems are still festering under the surface. Republicans need to pound away at the Obama economy between now and November.

Follow Ed on Twitter: @EdRogersDC