Rising layoffs, falling home sales and slowing manufacturing activity are sparking fears that the economic recovery is headed for a springtime stall for the third year in a row.
New data Thursday provided fresh evidence that the job market is losing the momentum it built earlier this year, which could pressure fragile housing markets that have been showing signs of life. Separate reports this week suggested that the factory sector, a source of strength in the recovery, now is being hurt by weak growth overseas.
The Journal quotes economist David Rosenberg: “It’s been the weakest recovery in the post-World War II period, and that hasn’t changed.”
That’s rotten news for the American people and even worse for President Obama, whose economic “recovery” perpetually seems to be just over the next hill.
In Ohio (sure to be a swing state), Romney was making this precise point: The recovery is pathetic. He attributes this to the president, making the case that a closed factory in Lorain is “still empty and it underscores the failures of this president’s policies in regards to getting the economy going again.” It is a message that will have some currency in Ohio, where unemployment is at 7.5 percent.
The president has said the recession was worse than he thought. He has blamed the Republican Congress (although Democrats had majorities in both houses for two years). He says he’s had “bad luck” (e.g., the euro crisis). But that is pretty weak gruel. And it fails to explain why Obama didn’t devote more time to the economy and take alternative measures when his agenda did not bear fruit.
Romney’s argument, by contrast, is at least coherent: The continued debt, Obamacare, the threat of new taxes and a slew of new regulations have paralyzed investors and employers and slowed the recovery to a crawl. The problem is a negative and uncertain business climate, he argues, that flows directly from Obama’s policies.
Economists and partisans can debate the merits of those two explanations, but from a political point of view Obama is in serious trouble if he continues to blame external factors. Voters usually blame the president for the economy, fairly or not. (This president promised the moon and the stars.) Moreover, by blaming others, Obama merely reinforces the perception that he is a prisoner of events, too passive and too ideologically stubborn to adjust to worsening circumstances.
With each passing the month, the window closes a little more for robust improvement in the economy and in the unemployment situation before the election. At some point in the next few months, voters will make a decision: Has Obama’s handling of the economy shown him to be deserving of another four years? You see the problem.