LAMBRO: Lowered expectations for the Obama economy

Five years later, the numbers remain at anemic levels

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Senior White House advisers say Mr. Obama will remind Americans in his speeches this week that he has sent up proposals to fix the economy, but Congress hasn’t acted on them. Did you miss these proposals? Does anyone know what they are? And whose fault is that? Hint: They are the same ideas he’s tried before, without anything to show for it.

“The president thinks Washington has largely taken its eye off the ball on the most important issue facing the country,” presidential adviser Dan Pfeiffer said in a mass email Sunday announcing that Mr. Obama has gotten the message and will refocus his attention on the economy.

That raises the question: When did he realize that the foremost concerns of the American people in every poll were the economy and jobs? It isn’t as though this could have escaped the White House’s notice. Political pundits and economists and newspaper reporters have been writing about his economic truancy for sometime now.

“We may never — or at least not anytime soon — regain ‘full employment,’ meaning an unemployment rate between, say, 4 percent and 5.5 percent,” says economic columnist Robert J. Samuelson. “It is now four years from the recovery’s start, and the number of jobs is still 2.2 million below the prerecession peak. Since World War II, this has never happened.”

“In the Great Recession, [hiring] took a bigger hit than in any previous recession — and has still not recovered,” University of Maryland economist John Haltiwanger said at a conference of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The 1981-82 recession pushed unemployment to 10.8 percent — higher than it got under Mr. Obama — but the economy recovered in just two years under President Reagan’s pro-investment, pro-jobs agenda.

The economy was soaring at an 8.5 percent annualized growth rate in the first three months of 1984 when Reagan was preparing to seek a second term. Mr. Obama’s economy was limping along at 1.8 percent in the first three months of this year.

The network news media tries to make Mr. Obama’s job numbers, about 200,000 a month, sound great. But that’s not enough to keep up with labor force growth, let alone reduce unemployment levels. Mr. Samuelson says at that rate, even with faster growth, we might reach full employment by 2018. But that’s a fantasy at this point.

New York Times economic columnist Paul Krugman, one of Mr. Obama’s earliest supporters, recently wrote, “We’re still very much living through … a low-grade depression.”

The Washington Post’s chief economic analyst, Neil Irwin, says “We [still] aren’t living up to our full potential.”

This economy is capable of full employment, but not with Mr. Obama’s retro-1930s road-repair agenda.

We need to scrub loopholes from the tax code and use some of the savings to cut the corporate tax, lower taxes for all other employers, investors and workers, expand our export markets, build the Keystone XL pipeline, enlarge oil and coal development, and slam the brakes on wasteful federal spending. Then watch this economy take off.

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

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

About the Author
Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is the chief political correspondent for The Washington Times, the author of five books and a nationally syndicated columnist. His twice-weekly United Feature Syndicate column appears in newspapers across the country, including The Washington Times. He received the Warren Brookes Award For Excellence In Journalism in 1995 and in that same year was the host and co-writer of ...

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