Throughout his economically troubled presidency, Barack Obama has had as a governing strategy political distraction: blaming his failures on others in an attempt to convince enough Americans that he's not at all responsible for an underperforming, jobless economy.
His latest, duplicitous shell game is to raise the issue of income inequality, which he blames on heartless business people and Republican lawmakers who refuse to buy into his dubious, job-killing plan to raise the nation's minimum wage and enact a bundle of new big-spending programs to help the unemployed.
He's trying to shift our attention from the real reasons behind the growing income gap: weak economic growth and the nationwide dearth of full-time jobs. These are the issues he campaigned on in 2008, but now he says it is long-term income inequality — not jobs — that is "the defining challenge of our time."
The liberal news media has bought into his sleight-of-hand sideshow, producing a rash of stories about low-income Americans to prove that his new diagnosis is the right one.
The Washington Post ran a front-page story on Thursday with the ominous headline: "Climbing economic ladder as hard as ever, study finds." It said a group of academics led by a Harvard economist has discovered the real reasons behind "income inequality."
It found that children growing up in the United States today were "just as likely — no more, no less — to climb the economic ladder as children born more than a half century ago."
In short, that study concluded that if you are growing up poor today, "you appear to have the same odds of staying poor in adulthood that your grandparents did."
It was the sort of study that the White House must have been cheering, because it fit right into Mr. Obama's blame-shifting strategy.
Wiser economists who know better, though, say that poverty and lower incomes are the symptoms of the disease that Mr. Obama and the Democrats never talk about: a relentless, subpar, job-cutting, underinvested, overtaxed economy.
Perhaps no economist has focused more on Mr. Obama's failure to lift our economy out of its chronic lethargy than Peter Morici, a University of Maryland School of Business professor who doesn't pull his punches.
In a bluntly worded analysis this week — which should be read by network news reporters who swallow Mr. Obama's economic claptrap and then regurgitate it on the nightly news — Mr. Morici lays out what the president and his administration refuse to acknowledge: "Inequality is replacing the American dream because the U.S. economy, thanks to Washington's mismanagement, is underperforming," Mr. Morici writes in his latest broadside.
In other words, our lackluster, job-starved economy isn't caused by the rich, big business, Wall Street tycoons or by Congress' reluctance to spend evermore money. If $3.5 trillion a year in federal spending hasn't improved the U.S. economy, another trillion more in higher taxes won't do it, either.
To the contrary, higher taxes and more government are not the solution to the high unemployment that plagues our country; rather, they're the source of the problem. The cost of creating jobs is being driven up by harmful tax rates and government regulation, Mr. Morici says.
"Simply put, the bureaucratic quagmire created by complex and ineffective business regulations makes it easier to produce in Asia than in America. The highest corporate-tax rates among major industrialized countries make the cost of investing here too high," he writes.
In many other ways, Mr. Obama's big-spending agenda during the past five years has contributed to income inequality, he says. Government-subsidized loans have driven up tuition costs. Obamacare "is making health insurance more expensive for many middle-class families and driving up the cost of health care. That makes income disparities worse, not better."
As for Mr. Obama's latest attempt to convince the base of his party that businesses such as Wal-Mart are the cause of income inequality, Mr. Morici replies: "A slow-growing economy is the cause of increasing inequality. The best way to reverse [this] is to clear a path for investment and entrepreneurs ... streamline regulations, simplify and cut taxes, open up offshore energy production ... and make exports and jobs America's No. 1 foreign-policy priority."
Don't let anyone tell you that lower corporate-tax rates — which are now at 35 percent — will worsen the deficit. A full-employment economy that is growing at 5 percent and producing its own energy would increase federal tax revenues, he says.
Mr. Obama's record on economic growth is a poor one, and is not showing any long-term evidence that it will get any better. Yes, the economy grew by 4.1 percent in the third quarter, but the lives of the long-term unemployed are not measured in three-month periods, but in years and better incomes.
Mr. Obama's depressed economy has been slumbering in the 2 percent growth range, year over year — far too slowly to lower the unemployment rate to 6 percent anytime soon.
At the midpoint in Ronald Reagan's presidency in 1984, we saw quarterly economic growth rates of 8.5 percent. The monthly number of jobs created was measured in the hundreds of thousands.
Mr. Obama's economy created 74,000 jobs in December, many of them part-time positions, and Gallup reported last week that only one in four Americans said they were "satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. at this time."
Meantime, the president and his advisers are frantically searching for new excuses to convince Americans that the persistently weak, jobless economy is not his fault. A band of liberal economists are now coming up with studies to help him make his case.
The American people are not fooled, and neither is Mr. Morici. Mr. Obama's programs and policies are to blame for this dreadful economy, which has plunged millions of our fellow citizens into lives of quiet desperation.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.