What will the job-starved Obama economy look like during the next few years if he were to win re-election in November?
Not much different than it does today: slow, sluggish, subpar economic growth, higher than historical average post-recession unemployment across the country, increasing poverty, and a line of record-breaking deficits and debt as far as the eye can see.
Mr. Obama is running an empty re-election campaign that does not offer any new agenda to boost our economy. He is not proposing any broad initiatives to spur faster growth or higher levels of private-sector job creation. The nearly $1 trillion stimulus he enacted in 2009 has been spent, most of it ending up in the hands of federal, state, county and local bureaucrats with little if any long-term impact on the economy, which is slowing down, not speeding up.
Few economists see his chronically weak economy markedly improving in the years to come. The Federal Reserve Board forecasts slow growth this year, next and possibly into 2014, if not beyond. That is the reason why it has said it will maintain interest rates of nearly 0 percent for the foreseeable future.
For all intents and purposes, the Obama economy is on automatic pilot, with no visible policies or leadership at the controls, and with the White House blindly hoping that the economy will improve on its own. It won't. "It is increasingly apparent what the economy will look like when President Obama faces voters in November: pretty much what it looks like today," the New York Times reported in its lead, front page story last month.
Most economists do not expect longer-range improvement, either, without a sweeping change in policy. "This economy has no forward momentum and little help from monetary or fiscal policy," said Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis at the Conference Board.
The network news shows responded to last month's mediocre jobs numbers with hyper-exuberant rhetorical somersaults that suggested this was the breakthrough everyone has been waiting for. While the economy added 163,000 jobs in July, it was still an impotent number that didn't come close to what is needed to lower unemployment rates to normal levels.
Total unemployment climbed by another 45,000, boosting the jobless rate to 8.3 percent, and 348,000 workers gave up seeking work and thus were not counted in the jobless equation.
"In the weakest recovery since the Great Depression, nearly the entire reduction in unemployment since October 2009 has been accomplished through a significant drop in the percentage of adults participating in the labor force -- either working or looking for work," writes University of Maryland business school economist Peter Morici.
Though monthly employment growth rose from 80,000 in June to 163,000, it was hardly a blip in a workforce that numbers 150 million Americans -- tens of millions of whom are still looking for a full-time job.
Let's be honest here. The economy would have to add about 13.3 million jobs between now and 2015, or about 370,000 jobs a month, to lower the unemployment rate to 6 percent. To do that, the lackluster Obama economy would have to start growing by 4 percent to 5 percent a year, instead of the weak 1.5 percent it was growing in the second quarter.
Economist Heidi Shierholz at the left-wing Economic Policy Institute told The Washington Post last week that at the average rate of job growth we are experiencing now, it would take a decade for the economy to return to full employment.
This is the grim, jobless future we face under Mr. Obama's economy. Until now, Mr. Obama and his friends in the news media have managed to keep much of the nation's focus away from these troubling statistics that threaten our solvency and even our continued status as the world's largest economic power.
But in the weeks and months to come, Mitt Romney is preparing an avalanche of TV ads to remind voters how bad things have really gotten under Mr. Obama's leaderless presidency. Among them:
Forty-two consecutive months of unemployment of more than 8 percent and it's climbing again.
More than 6 in 10 Americans say the country is moving in the wrong direction, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The same poll in July said that 54 percent of Americans surveyed disapproved of Mr. Obama's handling of the economy -- and 41 percent strongly disapproved.
A Gallup poll reported last week that 60 percent of Americans now say the economy is getting worse.
Younger Americans, including college graduates, are finding it increasingly difficult to find full-time work and one-fourth of 18- to 34-year-olds have returned home to live with their parents again.
The unemployment rate among 18- to 29-year-olds was nearly 13 percent last month. If you count those who have stopped looking for a job, their jobless rate is nearly 17 percent, according to the youth advocacy organization Generation Opportunity.
An Associated Press survey of economists, think tanks and academics last month projected that the official poverty rate will climb from 15.1 percent to 15.7 percent this fall.
There's growing evidence that the daily economic life of ordinary Americans -- the people Mr. Obama says he's concerned about -- is getting worse. Gallup's tracking poll says that 42 percent of Americans say they are "struggling," and 4 percent says they are "suffering."
Mr. Romney's job is to tell their story and explain how his policy changes will put our economy back on the road to recovery and prosperity again. Look for him to take the gloves off in the TV ads he is about to run in the coming weeks. It will be no more Mr. Nice Guy from here on out.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.
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