- The Washington Times - Friday, February 12, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama certainly can identify politically with what has been happening lately in the nation’s capital: Both have been hit hard by a blizzard of unwanted storms.

But as official Washington dug itself out from under a massive snowfall that shut down the government (good news for many fed-up Americans) Mr. Obama and the Democrats remained buried under a blizzard of icy polls showing increased voter unhappiness with their job performance.

Last week’s Gallup poll showed the president sinking to new lows on his handling of the economy and health care, both drawing the approval of just 36 percent of Americans. Sixty percent disapprove of his approach to health care, while 61 percent don’t like how he’s handling the economy. Among independents, just 29 percent approve of his economic policies.

The numbers were as bad, if not worse, for the Democratic-controlled Congress, with a Washington Post-ABC News poll showing more than seven in 10 Americans disapproving of the job it is doing.

That spells bad news for Mr. Obama and his party in November because the Post-ABC survey showed the Republican Party making a political comeback from its devastating losses in 2008. When Americans are asked how they would vote in the midterm House elections, they are split right down the middle, 46 percent to 46 percent. Democrats led Republicans by 51 percent to 39 percent four months ago.

Significantly, registered independent voters, who likely will decide the outcome of this fall’s elections, say they will vote Republican by 51 percent to 35 percent.

This represents a dramatic change in the political landscape from just a year ago and underscores my earlier reports in this column that the Republican Party is poised to pick up as many as 30 House seats, possibly closer to 40, and six to eight seats in the Senate.

The economy remains the dominant issue driving voters away from Mr. Obama and the Democrats and increasingly toward the Republicans. The latest jobless numbers have only further deepened dissatisfaction with the president’s economic stimulus program. They only thing it has stimulated is more government spending and increasing federal debt.

As Mr. Obama’s poll numbers have fallen, the administration has frantically escalated its claims that its jobs program is working. Vice President R. Joseph Biden Jr. said the stimulus was “responsible for over one million jobs so far,” either saved or created.

However, few economists believe these claims, and the employment numbers do not support them. Businesses slashed 20,000 more jobs in January, and the Labor Department reported that the economy actually lost 150,000 jobs in December, not 85,000 as it previously reported.

The White House tried to make much of the unemployment rate’s drop to 9.7 percent, but that was largely because of a sharp increase in the number of Americans who have given up looking for work. It rose to 1.1 million last month.

“Each week, more than 450,000 Americans apply for new unemployment benefits, and 17 percent of adults can’t find a full-time job or have quit looking for work altogether,” said University of Maryland economist Peter Morici.

Desperate to show that they are refocusing and redoubling their efforts to reignite new-job creation, administration officials have been cooking up every half-baked, back-burner idea they can find. But their spending ideas have yet to stoke the Great American Jobs Machine, and they aren’t going to, either.

Mr. Obama’s plan to transfer $30 billion to a few favored community banks to lend to small business is like pouring a thimbleful of water in the ocean or, in this case, a $14 trillion economy. It will have no macro-effect.

There is less confidence among Democrats on Capitol Hill that another $100 billion or so in stimulus spending will work, either, but Democrats are ready to throw more money at it in the absence of any better proposals coming out of the White House.

The administration’s latest act of desperation is to increase the Export-Import Bank’s funding for small businesses from $4 billion to $6 billion to subsidize foreign purchases of U.S. exports with low-interest loans. The money also will hire more workers at the Commerce Department. Taking more capital out of the U.S. economy, which this program does, weakens capital formation and economic growth.

The signal all of this sends is that the administration has run out of new spending ideas to boost the economy, which was never going to work in the first place. The voters instinctively realize this, and it is dawning on the stock market, which has tumbled in the past week, a clear sign that it has lost confidence in this presidency to “fix what is broken in the American economy.” Mr. Morici says.

Now, more Democrats are beginning to complain. Last week, former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, who endorsed Mr. Obama, urged him to get rid of the political advisers who are running the White House as if it were just another campaign and replace them with “others more capable of helping him govern.”

“The West Wing is filled with people who are in their jobs because of their Chicago connections” but have no experience in governing at the executive branch level, Mr. Wilder wrote on the Politico Web site.

The much deeper problem, of course, is that Mr. Obama doesn’t have any executive experience, either.

Donald Lambro is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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