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Right Turn
Posted at 09:24 AM ET, 06/08/2011

The left’s phony ‘pivot on jobs’ excuse

The favorite meme throughout the Obama presidency has been that he has been perpetually poised to but never delivered on a “pivot on jobs.” He was going to do it after ObamaCare. He was going to do it this year. If you believe the liberal punditocracy, the problem has been that he never pivoted; in reality, he’s simply failed on the job front.

Arianna Huffington, for example, writes:

[T]he White House wasted precious time pointing at ghostly green shoots, and joining the leaders of both parties in shifting the nation’s focus from jobs creation to deficit cutting -- willfully ignoring the suffering going on across the country.

Now wait a second. Just when did Obama embrace deficit cutting? The centerpiece of his presidency has been the flurry of bailouts and stimulus plans. Are we to imagine that the itsy-bitsy savings obtained in the 2011 continuing resolution — budget dust in the grand scheme of things — is real“deficit cutting”?

Let’s be clear: He has focused on jobs, but his policies are misguided and counterproductive. Martin Feldstein writes in the Wall Street Journal: “The administration’s most obvious failure was its misguided fiscal policies: the cash-for-clunkers subsidy for car buyers, the tax credit for first-time home buyers, and the $830 billion ‘stimulus’ package. Cash-for-clunkers gave a temporary boost to motor-vehicle production but had no lasting impact on the economy. The home-buyer credit stimulated the demand for homes only temporarily.” Obama had better options but rejected them:

In fact, each dollar of extra deficit added much less than a dollar to GDP. Experience shows that the most cost-effective form of temporary fiscal stimulus is direct government spending. The most obvious way to achieve that in 2009 was to repair and replace the military equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan that would otherwise have to be done in the future. But the Obama stimulus had nothing for the Defense Department. Instead, President Obama allowed the Democratic leadership in Congress to design a hodgepodge package of transfers to state and local governments, increased transfers to individuals, temporary tax cuts for lower-income taxpayers, etc. So we got a bigger deficit without economic growth.

It is more accurate to say that Obama has never pivoted to effective pro-jobs policies. Feldstein suggests a few:

The economy will continue to suffer until there is a coherent and favorable economic policy. That means bringing long-term deficits under control without raising marginal tax rates—by cutting government outlays and by limiting the tax expenditures that substitute for direct government spending. It means lower tax rates on businesses and individuals to spur entrepreneurship and investment. And it means reforming Social Security and Medicare to protect the living standards of future retirees while limiting the cost to future taxpayers.

All of these things are doable. But the Obama administration has not done them and shows no inclination to do them in the future.

But for the left, such talk is an anathema, for implicit in that analysis is a rejection of the Keynesian economics that failed in the New Deal and failed again under Obama. Better to label the biggest spender in U.S. history as too frugal, than to own up to the failure of the liberal economic playbook.

And a final note: The same left-leaning pundits that decry the lack of focus on jobs have been cheering the entire Mediscare gambit. Why, if they are so concerned about a lack of a positive growth agenda, did they swoon Obama’s George Mason University speech. It made them proud to be Democrats, they gushed. It seems that the left punditocracy, not unlike the White House, leaps from one gambit to the next, trying to rebut its ideological opponents but never quite owning up to the failure of a philosophy that imagines the more government spending and the higher tax rates on the rich, the better off we will all be?

By  |  09:24 AM ET, 06/08/2011

Categories:  Budget, Economy

 
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