- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2010

As the nation’s economic engine continues to sputter, Americans are wondering when the administration’s promised “recovery summer” is going to start. From a peak annual growth rate of 5 percent last autumn, the measure of gross domestic product slid to 3.7 percent in the first quarter of 2010 and was down to 2.4 percent by the end of June. With 561 days as president under his belt, Barack Obama no longer has the luxury of passing blame for the situationto his predecessor, George W. Bush.

That’s a troubling thought for congressional Democrats who, in just three months, face midterm elections at the hands of a public dissatisfied with the state of affairs. According to an Angus Reid survey released last week, 86 percent of Americans rated the economic conditions as “poor” or “very poor,” while a mere 11 percent found the conditions to be “good” or “very good.” The positive responses are down from 15 percent in April. As if that weren’t bad enough, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told ABC’s “Good Morning America” yesterday that things are likely to grow worse in the short term. Mr. Geithner predicted that unemployment would rise, which is an obvious consequence of the lack of growth in the private sector.

This bleak outlook stands in sharp contrast to what the Obama administration insisted we would see following last year’s enactment of the $862 billion stimulus bill. Larry Summers, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, promised in January 2009 that the economy would start improving “within weeks” of the spending plan’s adoption. A few months later, in May, President Obama declared that the unprecedented fiscal binge was “already seeing results.” As recently as this April, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. said, “Some time in the next couple of months we’re going to be creating between 250,000 jobs a month and 500,000 jobs a month.” Joe’s utopia hasn’t arrived; the unemployment rate is stuck at 9.5 percent, and some economists are predicting it could be 2015 before the jobless rate returns to a more normal 5 percent.

Democrats defend their record by claiming joblessness would have been even higher had the stimulus not passed. The problem with this argument is that economic growth would not be slowing if the stimulus had worked. The fact is, most Americans see their personal economic situations worsening.

America will continue to head down the wrong road as long as Mr. Obama steers the economy on a course of reckless spending, punitive taxation and excessive regulation. These are the forces that have conspired to choke growth. The way to restart the economic engine is to provide certainty about the country’s direction by slashing government spending and allowing the public to keep more of its own money in these troubling times.