In the sixth month of his second term, President Obama is still putting his national security team together and trying to figure out what he wants to do during the remainder of his presidency.
So far, Mr. Obama, who spends much, if not most, of his time delivering speeches and not much else, doesn’t seem to have a clue. He has become the “podium president,” who has no policy-focused, comprehensive agenda to speak of, except that he knows he doesn’t want to deal with the economy, which is now clearly in decline.
While polls show the economy remains the No. 1 concern of the American people, it’s deliberately become “the quiet crisis” in Mr. Obama’s government — unheralded, unspoken, unnoticed and untreated. No one talks about it, least of all the Democrats up on Capitol Hill.
The question of where to find a well-paying, full-time job in this economy has become far less important in this administration than who can win the message wars on any given week, or how we can ride out the scandals that now threaten to engulf his presidency.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a battery of committees and subcommittees are holding hearings on a range of administration scandals that fall under the rubric of “abuse of power.”
House lawmakers heard testimony this past week from ordinary Americans who have formed local, conservative, good-government groups and who said the Internal Revenue Service demanded to know the names of political people with whom they’ve been in contact, and wanted copies of speeches they’ve given and a list of their donors. These were only some of the disturbing inquiries that seemed to threaten their constitutional right to freedom of speech and for “the redress of grievances.”
The IRS made no such inquiries into liberal nonprofit groups that were similarly seeking tax-exempt status.
Elsewhere, lawmakers are digging more deeply into Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s dubious claim that he had no role in the administration’s alarming search of a Fox News reporter’s emails — when numerous public reports say he signed off on the Justice Department’s order.
Now we learn that the government’s top-secret National Security Agency is collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of Verizon customers as a result of a court order issued in April.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is busily preparing to put into full gear next year the president’s health care program, which will authorize the IRS to slap tax penalties on millions of Americans who do not obtain health insurance. Small businesses that do not provide medical insurance for their employees will be liable, too.
Is it any wonder that 56 percent of Americans recently said in a Gallup poll that “the federal government today has too much power”? Look for that number to shoot up in the 2014 midterm congressional election campaigns.
A little more than a week ago, the national news media was hyperbolic over the news that home prices were rising in many metropolitan areas, as were home sales — declaring that this was proof-positive of a more robust economy.
Left unreported, though, was the fact that home sales remain far below their highs before the subprime home mortgage collapse, and that they have had only minimal impact on economic growth.
University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici reminds us that home sales at higher prices only impact [gross domestic product] and employment to the extent they drive up consumer spending and new home construction.
However, consumer spending is weakening, and even though homebuilding is up, “housing construction is only 3 percent of GDP,” Mr. Morici points out. “Bottom line: A more robust economy can drive housing, but surging housing prices are no panacea for what ails the economy and jobs market.”