- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Do Democrats care about the dismal economy that is now in the fourth year of Barack Obama’s jobless presidency?

Despite mounting evidence the sluggish economy is slowing further, unemployment is climbing, and the Democrats’ core voting blocs are suffering the most under Mr. Obama’s economic policies, he still holds a slight overall lead over likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the latest Gallup poll.

Even though Mr. Obama’s approval-disapproval numbers are poor (45 percent-47 percent), Gallup shows him with a 46 percent to 44 percent edge over the former governor.

Recent polling in three critical battleground states - Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio - gives Mr. Obama relatively healthy leads in each of them.

Gallup surveys show Mr. Obama has maintained strong support among the Democrats’ most loyal constituencies - African-Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, and in the party overall.

Nearly one-third of Obama voters say the chief reason they are voting for him is because he has done a good job overall. Another 10 percent, believe it or not, say they will vote for him because of the economy and his economic recovery plan.

Another 40 percent say they will support him because of what he has done for job creation and employment, are part of “the working/middle class,” generally agree with his views, or just because they always vote Democratic.

Only 1 percent of Obama voters in the Gallup poll say the president is “doing a poor job” and “want [him] out of office.”

Much of the Democratic Party is made up of “working class,” low- to middle-income Americans and, of course, minorities. These groups have arguably suffered most from Mr. Obama’s policies, which have resulted in mediocre job creation, falling incomes and the weakest recovery since the Great Depression.

The overall jobless rate among African-Americans, who overwhelmingly support Mr. Obama’s re-election, was nearly 14 percent last month. For black men it was 15 percent, up from 14.6 percent, and for black women it was 12.3 percent, up from 11.7 percent.

Unemployment for black teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 was a future-threatening 36.5 percent.

The job market for Hispanic men was also bleak and showed little or no signs of improvement: 11.1 percent, up from 9.8 percent in April.

The overall youth job market is a national catastrophe that goes unnoticed in the White House or in Mr. Obama’s campaign speeches. Fewer than 3 in 10 work-eligible teenagers hold jobs. The rest can’t find one or are working only part time.

Job creation has plunged to nearly negligible levels in recent months, from subpar levels in the past three years. A mediocre 69,000 jobs were created last month when we have added hundreds of thousands of jobs month after month in previous recoveries.

Unemployment is particularly severe among middle-age Americans between the ages of 45 and 64. The jobless level among this group “remains near its highest rate in 70 years,” the Wall Street Journal reported last weekend.

“More than 3.5 million Americans” in this vulnerable age group “were unemployed as of May, 39 percent of them for a year or more - a rate of long-term unemployment that is unprecedented in modern U.S. history, and far higher than among younger workers,” the Journal reported.

The long-stalled economy barely grew by 1.9 percent in the first three months of this year, the economic equivalent of barely breathing. It grew by only 1.7 percent in 2011.

The Federal Reserve Board projected last week that our economy will grow this year by between 1.9 percent and 2.4 percent - half a point slower than they forecast in April.

The Fed also projected that high unemployment levels will persist at 7 percent or higher until the end of 2014.

The story of the Obama economy has been a litany of one bad report after another. In a story about the further downgrading of U.S. and global banks by the financial ratings agency Moody’s, The Washington Post flatly said that economic conditions in the United States were “stagnating.”

Yet in a breathtaking remark that revealed how deeply uninformed and disconnected he is from all of this, Mr. Obama said, “the private sector is doing fine.” The public sector is the one that needs financial assistance, he said.

Knowing this was patently false, the Heritage Foundation rechecked the employment numbers at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for the last five years and here’s what it found:

“Private-sector employment is nearly 4 percent lower than it was when the recession began - worse than the declines in state and local government employment, and far worse than federal employment.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Obama is out on the hustings telling his party base what they want to hear but isn’t true: The economy is improving, jobs are being created, things are getting better and the recovery is on track.

Democrats who know better want him to stop talking like that and start dealing honestly with the American people.

“I’m worried that when the White House or the campaign talks about the progress that’s being made, people take that as a signal that they think that things are fine and people don’t feel they ought to believe that,” Democratic strategist James Carville said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” earlier this month.

Meantime, don’t look for any major changes in Mr. Obama’s tricky campaign rhetoric. He wants Democrats to believe things are better when they’re not, and his party’s base wants to believe it, too.

But when the economic numbers worsen over the next four months, as they will, even some of the most die-hard, jobless Democrats are going to say enough is enough.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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