If not for all the Obama campaign antics, more focus might fall on to more meaningful domestic matters and a foreign policy debacle in the making in Syria.
O the economy, the New York Times (“God love ‘em!” as VP Joe Biden would say) tries desperately to present some economic news. Instead we get this unintentional hilarity:
Despite the recent run of disappointing economic data, a broad range of experts and forecasters expect the economy to improve slightly in coming months, thanks to lower oil prices and new signs of life from sectors like automobiles and housing.
Call it a firming up, if not quite a comeback.
Economists at many of the most-watched forecasting organizations, both public and private, expect growth to pick up through the summer and into the fall, although only to a pace broadly considered sluggish, if not dismal.
Umm, this is “improvement”? Let’s put it another way: The economy is lousy and it’s virtually inconceivable things will be much better by Election Day. (The Obama camp’s wild accusations about Mitt Romney may be mendacious but they aren’t dumb.)
Jim Pethokoukis explains where we stand and why Obama’s anti-business tax and regulatory plan are so harmful: “Indeed, business investment is down $1.4 trillion from where it would be if the economy had been recovering at a normal pace in recent years. Yet not only is consumer spending just as big a part of the economy as it was pre-Obama, people again seem to be borrowing just to keep up. . . . What this economy really needs is more investment and innovation and sustainable growth.” Obama seems to be clueless on this score, and we are paying the economic price.
The other big news of the week was Obama’s nearly unfathomable eradication of welfare reform. The Heritage Foundation’s blog explains:
The imperial Presidency has overturned Congress and the law again. Not content to stop at rewriting immigration policy, education policy and energy policy, yesterday, President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an official policy directive rewriting the welfare reform law of 1996. The new policy guts the federal work requirements that were the foundation of the Clinton-era reform.
While this real news occurred yesterday, most of the media remained fixated on political ads and speeches, letting a major and unilateral shift in America’s welfare system go nearly unreported. . . .
Now, Obama’s HHS is claiming that it can waive those work requirements that are at the heart of the law, and without Congress’s consent.
When it established TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ], Congress deliberately exempted or shielded nearly all of the TANF program from waiver authority. They explicitly did not want the law to be rewritten at the whim of HHS bureaucrats. In December 2001, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service clarified that there was no authority to override work and other major requirements: “Effectively, there are no TANF waivers,” it reported.
But that did not stop the Obama Administration, which has been increasing welfare spending at an alarming rate already. President Obama has added millions to the welfare rolls, and his Administration has come under fire lately for its efforts to expand and add more Americans to the food stamp program.
The Romney team put out a statement condemning the move. “President Obama now wants to strip the established work requirements from welfare. The success of bipartisan welfare reform, passed under President Clinton, has rested on the obligation of work. The President’s action is completely misdirected. Work is a dignified endeavor, and the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life.”
Obama’s move is noteworthy on several levels.
First, it’s another in the long list of bait-and-switch routines by the president. (“Obama certainly didn’t tell people he was going to gut welfare reform when he was running for president in 2008 — and why would he?”) He ran once as a moderate, but he won’t be able to pull that off a second time.
Second, this is another ill-conceived move for a presidential candidate struggling with working-class voters struggling to make ends meet. They aren’t on welfare and are working — in some cases, more hours for less pay. This is just a dead-bang loser with these voters.
And finally, it’s bad policy that isn’t going to help either the economy or Obama’s economic record. Heritage concludes:
In the past, state bureaucrats have attempted to define activities such as hula dancing, attending Weight Watchers, and bed rest as “work.” These dodges were blocked by the federal work standards. Now that the Obama Administration has abolished those standards, we can expect “work” in the TANF program to mean anything but work.
The new welfare dictate issued by the Obama Administration clearly guts the law. The Administration tramples on the actual legislation passed by Congress and seeks to impose its own policy choices—a pattern that has become all too common in this Administration.
The result is the end of welfare reform.
If those domestic news developments weren’t enough, Syria has gone from horrible to atrocious, the result of the Obama administration's determination to do nothing effective to hasten Bashar al-Assad’s departure. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Syria has begun moving parts of its vast arsenal of chemical weapons out of storage facilities, U.S. officials said, in a development that has alarmed many in Washington.
The country’s undeclared stockpiles of sarin nerve agent, mustard gas and cyanide have long worried U.S. officials and their allies in the region, who have watched anxiously amid the conflict in Syria for any change in the status or location of the weapons.
American officials are divided on the meaning of the latest moves by members of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Some U.S. officials fear Damascus intends to use the weapons against the rebels or civilians, potentially as part of a targeted ethnic cleansing campaign. But other officials said Mr. Assad may be trying to safeguard the material from his opponents or to complicate Western powers’ efforts to track the weapons. . . .
Whatever the motivation, the evidence that the chemical weapons are coming into play could escalate the conflict in Syria, some fear. “This could set the precedent of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] being used under our watch,” one U.S. official said. “This is incredibly dangerous to our national security.”
The Obama administration’s refusal to recognize the confluence of humanitarian and national security interests in Syria is having expected, and dangerous, results.
So let’s sum up: The economy is rotten and not significantly improving. Obama gutted Clinton-era welfare reform, a significant achievement that was both a human and political success. And Obama’s lack of leadership in Syria (not to mention Iran) has turned the Middle East into a tinderbox, one already claiming thousands of victims and on the verge of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Obama fatuously suggests that his biggest mistake “was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. And that’s important. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.”
No wonder Obama is calling Romney a criminal.