Most Read: Opinions

direct signup

Join a Discussion

Weekly schedule, past shows

Right Turn
Posted at 08:45 AM ET, 06/12/2012

Path to the White House

President Obama must have gotten bored just blaming Congress and President George W. Bush for the economy. Friday’s press conference, before it went off the rails with the suggestion that our real problem was too little government borrowing and hiring, was intended as a “blame Europe” exercise. He went on about it at some length:

Right now, one concern is Europe, which faces a threat of renewed recession as countries deal with a financial crisis. Obviously this matters to us because Europe is our largest economic trading partner. If there’s less demand for our products in places like Paris or Madrid it could mean less businesses -- or less business for manufacturers in places like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee. . . .
Over the longer term, even as European countries with large debt burdens carry out necessary fiscal reforms, they’ve also got to promote economic growth and job creation. . . .
The bottom line is the solutions to these problems are hard, but there are solutions. The decisions required are tough, but Europe has the capacity to make them. And they have America’s support. Their success is good for us. And the sooner that they act, and the more decisive and concrete their actions, the sooner people and markets will regain some confidence and the cheaper the costs of cleanup will be down the road.
In the meantime, given the signs of weakness in the world economy, not just in Europe but also some softening in Asia, it’s critical that we take the actions we can to strengthen the American economy right now.

That was just part of his woe-is-me-because-of-Europe routine. Did he come up with his own plan to bolster the U.S. economy despite the European slump ? No. His spiel was not a predicate to new policy. It was an excuse for why our own economy is in the doldrums.

But it is a pathetic, counterfactual excuse. Bret Stephens reminds us:

Over the longer term, even as European countries with large debt burdens carry out necessary fiscal reforms, they’ve also got to promote economic growth and job creation. As some countries have discovered, it’s a lot harder to rein in deficits and debt if your economy isn’t growing. So it’s a positive thing that the conversation has moved in that direction, and leaders like Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are working to put in place a growth agenda alongside responsible fiscal plans.
The bottom line is the solutions to these problems are hard, but there are solutions. The decisions required are tough, but Europe has the capacity to make them. And they have America’s support. Their success is good for us. And the sooner that they act, and the more decisive and concrete their actions, the sooner people and markets will regain some confidence and the cheaper the costs of cleanup will be down the road.
In the meantime, given the signs of weakness in the world economy, not just in Europe but also some softening in Asia, it’s critical that we take the actions we can to strengthen the American economy right now.

Of course, we can prosper even if Europe is in hard times. As Stephens points out, Europe is not our largest trading partner (“Canada is. Followed by China. Followed by Mexico. Followed by Japan.”) Even a steep decline in trade with Europe would be far less damaging than the “fiscal cliff,” which Obama doesn’t want to address.

As for Congress, Obama is irate that it didn’t pass parts of his 2011 stimulus plan: $50 billion in highway construction; $45 billion in school building funds; and $35 billion to pay for local teachers and firefighters. That’s a $130 billion spending (actually, borrowing) plan in a $15 trillion economy (already with a deficit over $1 trillion and over $15 trillion in debt.) It’s not even designed to funnel money where it is needed.

Anyone honestly buy that this is the only thing between our current economy and prosperity? (By contrast, Obama said he’d be prepared to let the Bush tax cuts expire, taking about 2.6 percent of gross domestic product out of the economy.)

There is doubt that Obama and crew are in full panic mode. As my colleague Dana Milbank writes, “In Washington, there is a creeping sense the bottom has fallen out and there may be no second term.”

Nevertheless, Obama’s blame-casting is silly and counterproductive. The “culprits” (Congress, Europe) would account for no more than a sliver of the economy. But more important, Obama’s constant accusations suggest he can be successful only in optimal conditions. Do we need a president who can better cope with international and domestic “headwinds”? It seems so.

Nevertheless, we certainly have a choice for president. Obama wants to borrow more to spend more to hire more government employees. Romney wants to cultivate private-sector growth by tax and entitlement reform, reduced regulation and opening up domestic energy exploration. No wonder liberals are glum; they are figuring out that what they want to do (expand government) is a nonstarter with most Americans.

By  |  08:45 AM ET, 06/12/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign, Economy

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company