It is no secret that we have yet to get the robust economy President Obama has been promising since he took office.
Disappointing economic and corporate-earnings reports in recent weeks have dashed hopes that the U.S. was at last entering a phase of solid, self-sustaining growth. Instead, while economists expect a modest second-half pickup in growth, few are predicting the kind of substantial rebound needed to quickly bring down unemployment, raise wages and insulate the U.S. from economic threats abroad.
There also are signs that consumers—whose spending has helped prop up the economy for much of the past year—are beginning to tighten their belts. Retail sales grew a paltry 0.4% in June, Commerce Department figures showed, and would have been even worse if higher gasoline prices hadn’t forced drivers to spend more at the pump.
So what does the president do? He does what he does when things are going poorly: He hits the campaign trail with recycled rhetoric. The Post reports, “President Obama will deliver a series of speeches this week designed to push the economy, and his proposals to ensure its long-term growth, toward the center of the national political debate after months of focus on other issues.”
In the same don’t-think-I’m-responsible-for-anything tone the administration uses to deflect responsibility for most problems, the White House’s communication director pronounced, “The president thinks Washington has largely taken its eye off the ball on the most important issue facing the country.” Washington has, has it?
Maybe Obama’s useless crusade against guns, his prevaricating about the sequestration apocalypse, his European trip to deliver a no-nukes message, his Africa jaunt and his administration’s useless obsession with the “peace process” had something to do with it.
But don’t count on the president to try to unstick the stuck economy. “White House officials said the three speeches will not offer new proposals or approaches, including the use of executive actions to sidestep congressional opposition. Instead, officials said, Obama will outline in broad terms his view of the economic debate ahead.” It is rather lame in the fifth year of an administration to still be blaming Congress and recycling the same unpopular proposals, especially tax “reform” that amounts to tax hikes.
An adviser in Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office sent a pointed e-mail today: “The President gave his first economic speech at Knox College in June 2005. At the time, the unemployment rate was at 5 percent with 7.5 million unemployed. When he gives his latest economic speech there on Wednesday, it will be with an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent and 11.8 million Americans unemployed.”
And Republicans continue to hammer away at one obvious impediment to job growth, Obamacare. Republicans point to reports, such as one from Bloomberg this weekend, that tell us full-time work is falling, part-time work is increasing and small business hiring is slowing because of the new law:
Employer uncertainty surrounding the health-care law “is having a dampening effect” on full-time hiring, said Ken Mayland at ClearView Economics LLC in Pepper Pike, Ohio. He said he has “a strong suspicion” that it contributed to the recent increase in part-time workers.
Of about 75 manufacturers surveyed by the Philadelphia Fed, 5.6 percent said they have shifted from full-time to more part-time workers to avoid health-care rules and 2.8 percent have refrained from hiring or fired workers, based on results released July 18. Over the next year, 8.3 percent plan to have more part-time workers and 5.6 percent plan to fire or refrain from hiring workers because of the law.
And with Americans seeing health-care premium rates soaring, they are less inclined to make big purchases, further depressing the economy.
Obama’s routine is as tiresome as it is predictable. First, he ventures into non-economic matters. When those fail, he “pivots” back to the economy. But he won’t offer anything new (e.g. substantial domestic energy development) or touch one big thing that might make a difference (Obamacare). And he keeps hawking policies that would make the economy worse (e.g. an energy tax, an income tax hike).
Now wonder Democrats are in a glum mood. They’ve accomplished very little, the economy is dragging and they face the very real possibility of loss of the Senate majority. Oh yes, and all the incumbent Democrats (every incumbent senator) who voted for Obamacare will have some explaining to do when voters suffer the massive confusion and disruption expected at the onset of 2014.
You’d think that just to spare his Senate allies, Obama would postpone the rest of Obamacare. But his “signature” achievement was always more important than the election or his congressional allies’ re-election prospects.