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LAMBRO: Lowered expectations for the Obama economy
Five years later, the numbers remain at anemic levels
In the fifth year of Barack Obama's presidency, America's job-starved economy remains weak, insecure and undernourished.
That's not the economic picture reported on the nightly network news where anchors report only "good" numbers and ignore the bad ones.
But the painful reality is that the economy is slowing down, even from its widely acknowledged anemic levels.
The economic growth rate (as measured by the gross domestic product) has fallen, and many economists have lowered their GDP forecasts to a snail's pace of 1.5 percent annualized rate of growth for the past three months. Some say it's slowed to less than 1 percent.
The national jobless rate has risen to 7.6 percent, but is still near or well above 8 percent to 9 percent in 18 states, including some of the most highly populated (New York, California, Michigan, New Jersey and Illinois).
Americans aren't feeling so good about the economy and its future prospects, either. Gallup released the results of its consumer confidence poll Tuesday, showing that the nation's economic confidence has fallen.
"Americans are less upbeat about the economy than they were in May and June," Gallup reported. "Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index held steady at minus-12 last week, but the current score is substantially lower than the five-year weekly high of minus-3 reached in late May and early June."
"The U.S. economy appears to be weaker than many economists had thought after a [Commerce Department] report ... showed consumers spent cautiously in June at retail businesses," The Washington Post reported last week.
While the nightly news shows have done their best to keep any of this bad news out of their broadcasts, the American people know better. They see the evidence all around them. This economy isn't getting any better, as the president and his party want us to think.
With stagnant wage levels, gas prices rising to near $4 or more for a gallon of regular, higher tax rates and the looming impact of higher Obamacare taxes and penalties for businesses that will curtail jobs, Americans are being squeezed left and right.
Last week, President Obama's job approval polls fell into the middle 40 percent range, according to Gallup, and worried White House advisers announced the president is going to give some speeches on the economy.
Senior advisers say he's going to place all of the blame on Congress for not acting on his "job-creating" agenda, as if anyone has a clue about what that still contains.
For the first six months of his second term, Mr. Obama has been talking about everything (in between his global sightseeing trips) from the environment to immigration to gun control.
Everything, that is to say, except the economy, which has become the unwanted orphan of his presidency. Uncared for, unacknowledged and all too often cruelly unnoticed.
But that's not how the excuser in chief sees things. It's not his fault that after more than four years, the economy is still in rehab and on the Fed's life-support systems. It's those big, bad Republicans in Congress who are to blame.
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.
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