- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2011

It says a lot about the sorry state of the U.S. economy when 404,000 people losing work is reported as positive news. Last week’s initial jobless claims came in “better than expected,” but there was nothing good about it for the hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed.

The unemployment rate remains lodged over 9 percent, with underemployment at nearly 17 percent. Job losses have been deeper and job recovery slower than in any post-war recession. The previous record for median duration of unemployment was 12.3 months, set in 1983. That record had more than doubled by June 2010. Currently, the median duration of unemployment is about equal to the president’s tenure in office. In other words, on average, those who lost jobs on President Obama’s watch are still looking for work, if they haven’t dropped out altogether.

Other indicators tell a similarly grim tale. Since May 2010, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence, present situation and expectations indices all have fallen. The ABC News consumer comfort index has fluctuated but remained essentially flat at very low levels since Mr. Obama took office. Gallup’s economic confidence index has varied week to week but not moved significantly. For two years, there has been no dramatic upward trend in public sentiment, just a plodding anxiousness.

In 2009, the White House predicted unemployment would be averaging 7.9 percent by now. However, stimulus spending and other debt-fueled gimmickry didn’t produce the promised jobs. Last year’s much ballyhooed “recovery summer” became the prelude to a bear market in Democratic futures that came due in the fall elections.

Suddenly, Mr. Obama admits the problem might be in federal regulations that have “gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business - burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.” He backed “a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.” This is part of a “look back” at federal regulations mandated in a new executive order.

Don’t count on this effort to produce positive results. Cass Sunstein, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, indicated there will be no new funding or manpower to help agencies conduct this lengthy and detailed review. And while bureaucrats are combing through regulations to find “outdated” measures to kill, they are authorized to identify “gaps” in regulation that need to be plugged. So for every “buggy whip” guideline that’s taken off the books, expect 10 new nagging regulations from overzealous government minders.

Mr. Obama has yet to realize that he is the problem. The president has no demonstrated business sense. He has never been involved with business either personally or professionally and has no idea how wealth is created. His intellectual instincts and career background tell him that government is the solution to all of life’s problems, and if the economy is sputtering, it must be because of insufficient federal intervention.

The potential for job growth exists. Businesses have been building up cash reserves that in other circumstances they would use to fuel expansion and job creation, but it’s too risky to spend or invest in the arbitrary age of Obamanomics. The past two years have seen a mammoth increase in federal business regulations, a job-killing health care law, crushing financial regulations, higher taxes, a government takeover of much of the auto industry, unelected regulatory “czars” operating without oversight, and vast new powers for the Environmental Protection Agency to impose its unreasonable will on American industry.

Recovery won’t take off under such a massive federal burden. It’s time for a little laissez faire.

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