Five months into his improvisational second term, a sluggish economy and severe jobless rate seem to have vanished from President Obama’s agenda.
That is, if he had a substantive second-term agenda to begin with. He certainly didn’t focus on the economy in his re-election bid. He didn’t run on any bold new initiatives to create millions of new jobs and get the economy growing at a stronger, faster pace. The economy was on autopilot.
The Washington Post took the White House and Capitol Hill to task Tuesday, complaining that “Washington has all but abandoned efforts to help the economy recover faster. … There are no serious negotiations under way between the White House and congressional leaders on legislation to spur growth and no bipartisan ‘gangs’ of senators are huddling to craft a compromise, job-creation package,” The Post said.
You don’t hear anyone in the Obama administration addressing this matter, even though the economic-growth rate remains critically anemic by historical standards. More than 11.5 million Americans are still searching for a job. Some 4 million people have been jobless for six months or more. A nationwide Washington Post-ABC News poll this month found that two-thirds of Americans surveyed said jobs were hard to find where they live.
However, Mr. Obama continues to ignore the economy. He won re-election when it was barely growing at 0.4 percent in November, so he figures it can’t hurt him now. Instead, he’s been zigging and zagging, making up an agenda of sorts as he goes along.
One day, the White House remembers that the Senate is working on an immigration bill and puts out a statement urging its passage — though the West Wing has had nothing to do with designing its key provisions or moving the process along.
Earlier this month, it dawned on Mr. Obama’s advisers that he hadn’t said much about the economy for quite a while. So he made a photo-op, fly-by visit to Texas to talk about jobs, but uttered no new ideas about how to create more of them.
The president’s handlers chose a politically convenient state to visit. The jobless rate in the Republican-run Lone Star state — where taxes are low and regulations tame — is a low 6.4 percent. Republican Gov. Rick Perry told the president that if he wants to see how jobs are created, “he came to the right state.”
Why didn’t Mr. Obama visit his Democrat-run home state of Illinois, where the unemployment rate is 9.3 percent? In his hometown of Chicago, it’s 10 percent. Why not drop in on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s state of Nevada where the jobless rate is 9.6 percent?
A Gallup Poll recently asked Americans which issues should the government be making its top priorities. The two top concerns were “creating more jobs” and “helping the economy grow.”
The issues that Mr. Obama has focused on in the past several months — gun control and immigration reform — were ninth and 10th, respectively, on Gallup’s list.
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines “improvise” as “to make, invent, or arrange offhand,” or to “fabricate out of what is conveniently on hand.” That’s what Mr. Obama has been doing this year.
He has been responding ad hoc to events or cherry-picking issues that appeal politically to his base, but not leading or shaping them. This isn’t a dynamic agenda for change, and he makes no pretense he has transformational ambitions to enact one.
“My intentions over the next 3 years are to govern,” Mr. Obama told a Democratic Party fundraiser in New York City last week. To what end? For what purpose? Where are his big ideas? Alas, he has none. He certainly learned nothing about job creation in Texas.
He wants his party’s base to know that while he’s not willing to grapple with the large economic issues that still endanger our country’s future, he is very focused on the election in 2014, when a number of vulnerable Democratic seats are up for grabs.