- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2011


The unemployment numbers came out last week, but they were not the nationwide 8.9 percent average that was announced with much hoopla earlier this month and captured all of the headlines.

These were the Bureau of Labor Statisics’ (BLS) state-by-state unemployment rates, which painted a much gloomier and more realistic picture of the failure of President Obama’s economic policies to create jobs for unemployed Americans. They were not reported on the network nightly news, but they should have been.

The BLS numbers showed that half of all the states, including the District of Columbia, had unemployment rates of 9 percent or higher, much higher. Seventeen of the states, including the largest, California (12.4 percent) and Florida (11.9 percent), had severe jobless rates between 9.5 percent and 14.2 percent.

States with 10 percent unemployment or worse included Nevada, 14.2; Rhode Island, 11.3; Michigan, 10.7; South Carolina, 10.5; Oregon, 10.4; Kentucky, 10.4; Georgia, 10.4; and Mississippi, 10.1.

No amount of “we’re doing better” than we were in the midst of the 2008-09 recession or “we’re moving in the right direction” can wipe away these unacceptable numbers.

Mr. Obama hasn’t been saying much about unemployment lately, and he has proposed no new initiatives to strengthen the American economy and spur increased job creation in the private sector, where most jobs are produced.

The president clearly has distanced himself from this hot political issue and has been AWOL in the latest battles on Capitol Hill and in the states to spur faster economic growth and new job creation. He is taking increasing flak even from Democrats for his failure to lead efforts to reduce the budget deficit and on other issues. He thinks “we’re doing better” will win him a second term in 2012.

But these problems are not going away, and, if anything, they could get worse, much worse. The biggest impediment to stronger growth is the unprecedented $1.6 trillion budget deficit forecast by the Congressional Budget Office and a mounting $14 trillion in debt.

President Clinton’s treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, speaking in a public forum this week, said the troubled Obama economy still faces “serious headwinds” that are blocking future economic growth. They include, he said, “our long-term fiscal trajectory,” which - not mincing words - he called “horrendous, unsustainable and dangerous.”

He added that those headwinds include state and local government deficits “that are going to have to be closed by their constitutions,” skyrocketing oil prices and high unemployment that he says is really 16 percent when discouraged workers who have stopped looking for jobs and workers forced to take temporary employment are added to the numbers.

“The probabilities are very unclear,” Mr. Rubin warned. “While the most likely outlook may be the more positive forecast that many forecasters now have, there is a very real chance that what actually happens could fall short of that.”

Mr. Rubin has a lot of credibility on these issues, especially on the budget, because it was largely during his service in the Clinton administration that he put the government on a fiscally sound path - with the help of the GOP, which cut spending in the late 1990s - that resulted in a budget surplus and led to much stronger economic growth and job creation.

This is the policy that is being fought over in Congress and in the states right now. Republican leaders and governors of deficit-ridden states are arguing that getting their fiscal houses in order will lead to no more debt and increased confidence in the business community that will, in turn, lead to more jobs.

Who is opposing this? Well, Mr. Obama, for one. He briefly entered the budget war in Wisconsin in opposition to its deep spending cuts, then fled from the battle when the going got hot. Then there are liberal Nancy Pelosi Democrats in the House and Harry Reid Democrats in the Senate, who say budget cuts will lead to job losses. Republican leaders have countered that view with a Joint Economic Committee report and independent economic studies that show cutting government spending and borrowing less produces a stronger private sector and more jobs.

House Republican leaders held a jobs-creation forum in the Capitol on Wednesday that drew business leaders and owners, explaining that a smaller budget means a stronger economy. “That’s what all of this is about right now … it is all really about trying to create an environment for job creation in the private sector,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor told The Washington Post.

Like many of his colleagues, newly elected Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio is taking his sweeping, budget-cutting plan on the road to public forums around the state. Ohio has been an economic basket case for the past decade or more as Democrats raised taxes and spent like there was no tomorrow. Well, tomorrow has shown up with a crushing $8 billion in debts.

Mr. Obama’s $1 trillion spending stimulus plan poured a lot of public works money into Ohio, a big electoral state he needs to win re-election, saying the money would create jobs. The unemployment rate there is 9.4 percent.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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