The Obama family has been working hard to show their indifference to the plight of middle America. Whether it’s the president’s golfing fetish, private air transportation for family dog Bo to a Maine vacation, or Michelle Obama’s taxpayer subsidized trip to the Spanish Riviera, the gulf between the White House leisure class and the American middle class has grown to unprecedented proportions.
Everyone is entitled to some R & R, though Mrs. Obama’s jaunt is her eighth holiday this summer. Tone-deaf White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs defended vacation numero ocho by saying, “The first lady is on a private trip. She is a private citizen and is the mother of a daughter on a private trip. And I think I’d leave it at that.” Note to the flack: Most private citizens don’t have access to $150,000 in taxpayer funds and exclusive use of a jumbo jet.
The Riviera Romp coincided with a dose of bad news on the economic front. The economy shed 131,000 jobs in July, and the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.5 percent. This is a continuing source of embarrassment for the O Force because the White House promised the almost $900 billion stimulus package would cap unemployment at 8 percent. The rate of growth in U.S. gross domestic product has declined two quarters in a row. Last week, Goldman Sachs lowered their growth projection for 2011 to 1.9 percent (below the current 2.4 percent rate), and raised projected unemployment to 10 percent. According to a new poll by longtime Democratic operative James Carville’s Democracy Corps, only 41 percent of voters believe President Obama’s policies helped avert a worse economic crisis, while 52 percent believe they have slowed growth and job gains. Two-thirds of the way through what Vice President Joe Biden loudly billed as “Recovery Summer,” the recovery is faltering and a majority of voters sees the administration as the problem, not the solution.
Christina Romer, stimulus architect and chairman of Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, is leaving her job to return to the ivory tower at Berkeley. That can be taken as an admission of defeat. Details continue to emerge of frivolousness in stimulus spending, such as a study of monkeys on crack and $1 billion to the FutureGen Alliance in tiny Mattoon, Ill., to work on a planned carbon-dioxide containment system.
The administration seems unconcerned about the perception that it’s looting the public treasury and running up record amounts of debt, but the electorate has noticed. Mr. Obama’s Gallup weekly approval rating has dipped to 45 percent, and key traditional voting blocs - independents, those with middle income, married, over 50 and those who attend church regularly - rate the president from 44 percent to 35 percent. The Democracy Corps poll revealed that voters prefer Republicans to Democrats on economic issues by a 13-point margin. And according to a July Quinnipiac University poll pitting Mr. Obama against an unnamed Republican challenger, if an election were held today, the president would be a private citizen just like his wife.