- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2011


For millions of unemployed American workers, President Obama’s State of the Union proposals offered little hope that they were going to find a job anytime soon.

With few exceptions, this was an address filled with small, timid, long-term government spending proposals that won’t be fueling the 4 percent to 5 percent economic growth needed to bring unemployment down to even 8 percent in the next year or two. And we’re a long way from the 4.7 percent level we saw in 2007 before the recession hit.

In a White House empty of new ideas beyond its failed $1 trillion spending stimulus, Mr. Obama fell back on the same old proposals he’s been peddling for two years: more infrastructure spending on federal clean-energy subsidies, (wind, solar, battery, etc.), bigger federal research-and-development budgets for new-technology development and a line of public works projects for roads, bridges and high-speed rail lines. But these spending projects, which will add half a trillion dollars to our debt, are years from becoming economically viable (if they ever will be) or producing the large numbers of jobs we need now, if they ever do.

The public works projects end when the money runs out and take years to get into the pipeline, and thus do the jobs. High-speed rails come with huge upfront costs and past experience shows they are not self-supporting, and never will be.

While motorists wait for affordable clean energy, they are being soaked by $3 to $4 a gallon gas prices, because Mr. Obama has stopped drilling for new sources of oil, and that is imposing a brutal tax on all drivers, businesses and our economy.

He talked much about our economy becoming more competitive in the global economy, but until recently, he has been hostile to free-trade deals to open up new markets for American products and had shelved three trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama under orders from union bosses.

He allowed fast-track trade-negotiating authority to expire, thus making new market-expanding deals more difficult to achieve and pass Congress.

This is a guy who talked a lot about jobs, but whose economic policies ignored the promise of growing exports and trade to put more Americans back to work.

Apparently, he changed his trade tune in the face of a jobless rate that’s been stuck between 9 percent and 10 percent during the first half of his presidential term. Meanwhile, millions of jobless Americans have suffered needlessly as new job-creating export markets were being gobbled up by China, India and other competitors and U.S. trade policy was frozen.

Mr. Obama proposed, seemingly in passing, that competitiveness could be improved by lowering the 35 percent corporate tax rate, which is the second-highest in the world. But he said so little about cutting the tax by eliminating loopholes and broadening the tax base (the news media gave it short shrift), you have to wonder whether he is going make this a high priority, or whether this is part of a transparent 2012 political act that he is shifting toward the center. Despite signing the Bush tax-cut extension against his will, Mr. Obama is not a tax-rate cutter.

The corporate tax-rate cut idea did not come from the West Wing, but from Mr. Obama’s presidential commission on the budget. The panel called for simplifying the tax code, broadening the tax base by erasing a number of special-interest tax preferences that will help lower the top tax rates for businesses and individual taxpayers to 28 percent.

But Mr. Obama’s heavy focus was not on cutting taxes - he pointedly ignored small business altogether - it was all about more spending that he said would create jobs. Call his policy Stimulus II. And you all know how well Stimulus I worked.

He still sees government as the catalyst for jobs, not the spirit of free enterprise, where low taxes and as little regulation as possible produce and drive venture-capital investment, economic growth and payroll expansion.

Words like “venture capital,” “capitalism” and “free enterprise” are not in Mr. Obama’s leftist lexicon, and you didn’t hear them in his address to the nation Tuesday night.

Mr. Obama called on America to find that “Sputnik moment,” when the Russians succeeded in putting a satellite in space that was a wake-up call to the country that we’d fallen behind in science and space. He called on us to dream big things and pointed to John F. Kennedy’s initiative to go to the moon and back, pointing out that a decade later, it led to a multitude of new technologies, industries and jobs.

That was not what got the country’s lackluster economy moving again. It was Kennedy’s across-the-board income-tax rate cuts that accelerated economic growth and that led to budget surpluses to boot. He avoided that idea like the plague.

Mr. Obama desperately pleaded with the country to once again think big things. But there were few real growth incentives in Mr. Obama’s economic bag of remedies to open up opportunities for Americans to climb to the next plateau and realize big dreams once again. That challenge awaits a new leader in 2012.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist.

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