In President Obama’s inaugural speech there was shockingly little about the economy, growth or jobs. That wasn’t an unintentional oversight — the administration really has nothing to say or offer on that front.
Jay Carney gave away the game at the White House press briefing on Monday in this back-and-forth:
Q Just one other quick question. You mentioned earlier that the President’s top priority is job creation, supporting the middle class. Does the President currently have any proposals on the table that he’s planning to advocate for soon to do that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, the President’s proposal that he put forward to Speaker of the House Boehner at the end of the year is a deficit reduction proposal that was designed to ensure that we continue economic growth. Remember, what people forget in the shorthand that it was written about and talked about at the end of the year is that avoiding sequester plus the tax hikes that would have occurred if we hadn’t taken action was a way of avoiding too much contraction, too much deficit reduction at once, because it would have potentially, at least according to some analyses, thrown us into recession.
So the President’s plan ensures that we would continue to reduce our deficit in a way that allows our economy to grow and create jobs. So that would be number one.
The President believes that action on immigration reform is, done right, helpful to our economy, increases fairness to our middle class, ensures that everybody is playing by the same set of rules, makes a level playing field for our businesses because it holds them responsible in terms of how they deal with these issues. These are all — would be healthy for our economy and healthy for job creation.
Everything that he does on the domestic side of the ledger is viewed through the prism of how does it help the economy grow, how does it help create jobs.
If you missed anything that would lower unemployment anytime soon you are not alone. The president wanted to spend more and raise more taxes. How does this create jobs or growth? It doesn’t, and the president (not to mention his press secretary) seems to have no understanding of what does spur private-sector hiring. And I am all for immigration reform, but in the short run this doesn’t lower unemployment. If he was doing everything to increase jobs he would approve the Keystone pipeline, raise taxes on no one, delay implementation of Obamacare, reform the tax code, rein in the Environmental Protection Agency and expand trade. And he’d call a halt to the defense sequestration, which will cost 1.2 million jobs.
But it was worse than that really. There was also this exchange:
Q Could it have been possible to craft a recovery that would have benefited the middle class more than the investors, more than Wall Street?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not an economist, Wendell, and what I can tell you is that having been there — working then for the Vice President — the efforts to move forward on the Recovery Act as it was, which included, in part because of insistence by Republicans, a third of the Recovery Act — a much unnoted fact — tax cuts, for example — and some of the other actions the President took in order to try to gain bipartisan support. I guess the point I’m saying is the idea that we would have somehow garnered more support in Congress for something different is a misreading of history.
The answer is nearly unintelligible, but I think the president’s flack is saying that because we didn’t get Son of Stimulus, the middle class is falling further behind. But the stimulus really didn’t create the jobs it was supposed to, and Son of Stimulus (e.g. hiring 100,000 teachers) wasn’t really going to do much of anything. As for the president’s decision to “cut” taxes, I must have missed his insistence on extending the payroll tax break this year. And no, preventing the middle class from getting a tax hike this year is not a tax cut. So what the heck is he talking about?
It is a little frightful, to be honest, how baffled the White House is when it comes to private job creation, investment and growth. Whatever the problem, Obama’s answer is always spend and tax more. But the answer to job growth is not more government spending and tax hikes. So naturally, they are stumped over there.
This is precisely why Republicans must start talking about their growth agenda (tax reform, domestic energy development, reasonable but not excessive regulation, expanded trade, etc.). The president has got virtually nothing to offer, and it shows. The GOP would be smart to start emphasizing what remains our biggest problems (sluggish growth, high unemployment) and what voters, unsurprisingly, care about most.