LAMBRO: Crying ‘wolf’ over sequestration

The real threat is the Social Security and Medicare crunch

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These deficits are expected to mushroom after 2015 when millions of baby boomers begin applying for Social Security and Medicare. This will push debt levels higher than at any time in our history except for World War II — above 70 percent of the economy, the CBO says.

Mr. Obama blithely ignores the looming fiscal catastrophe that awaits us in the coming decade, and the Democrats in Congress continue to insist that Social Security and Medicare are doing just fine and that we needn’t worry about how to pay for them in the years to come.

However, we’d better start worrying about them before it’s too late. Both entitlements need to be reformed to ensure that they offer cost-effective, market-oriented options for future retirees. We are never going to be able to address either the government’s looming budget deficits or entitlement costs until we get America’s economy growing at a faster pace, creating more businesses that will drive unemployment rates down to normal levels.

Mr. Obama ignored the economy’s poor performance in his re-election campaign and has continued to ignore it in the first six months of his second term, hoping it will heal itself. It hasn’t, and it won’t.

Some in the long-compliant news media are starting to criticize his economic truancy more forcefully than at any other time in his presidency. Last month, New York Times economic columnist Paul Krugman, one of the president’s earliest supporters, said, “We’re still very much living through what amounts to a low-grade depression.”

This week, The Post’s chief political reporter, Dan Balz, bluntly observed that Friday’s employment report saying the economy created 195,000 jobs in June — much-ballyhooed by the White House — was “the latest example of a nation with lowered economic expectations.”

In a scathing indictment of the Obama economy, Mr. Balz bemoaned that “332,000 more people” were working part time because they couldn’t find full-time employment; that 4.3 million, out of 11.8 million jobless people, have been out of work for 27 weeks or more; and economic growth slowed to a crawl (1.8 percent) in the first quarter.

He was critical of “wage stagnation” and the declining labor force rate, as discouraged job seekers stopped looking for work, ruefully pointing out that “the economy isn’t employing nearly as large a share of the potential workforce as it once did.” Mr. Obama still gives lip service to the middle class, but as Mr. Balz rightly notes, “they have not been his principal focus.”

As economic analyst Neil Irwin, Mr. Balz’s colleague at the paper, pointed out last week in his midterm report card on the economy, “We [still] aren’t living up to our potential.”

Far from it. Economists say at our current job-creation rates, it will take at least five years before we return to prerecession unemployment levels of 4.7 percent. Maybe the president should stop trying to scare us about things that won’t happen and begin focusing on the things that continue to plague our country: persistently high unemployment, stagnant middle-class incomes and a chronically weak economy.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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