- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2011


“One of the great mistakes,” Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once remarked, “is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” But that “great mistake” is exactly what the Obama campaign hopes Americans will make come November 2012.

No doubt, the presidential election is a referendum on Barack Obama’s record. With the economy struggling and 14 million Americans unemployed, he has to make the election about something other than the results of his policies. So he is desperately hoping the road to re-election is paved with good intentions.

That means it’s up to Republicans to hold President Obama accountable for his record. When we make the comparison between what he’s promised and what he’s produced over the next year, we will win. Americans are wise enough to see the stark contrast.

For the president, his three largest legislative accomplishments were the stimulus, Obamacare and regulatory reform. Based on their intentions, our economy should be thriving. Unemployment should be below 8 percent. Health care costs should be falling. Businesses and consumers alike should be prospering from a well-oiled economic machine.

We wish. Unemployment is stuck above 9 percent. Health care costs continue to rise despite the passage of Obamacare. And the economy is stuck in neutral as businesses are handcuffed by onerous mandates and ambiguous regulations.

Intending to jump-start the economy, the president instead spent trillions to construct massive bureaucratic roadblocks to job creation.

Now he’s at it again, offering up enticing, unrealistic promises that would have equally costly results. Stimulus 2.0 - or the American Jobs Act - met bipartisan congressional opposition for precisely that reason.

But that’s what the president wanted. He wanted Republicans on the record opposing his jobs plan so he has something to run against. That’s what you do when you have no record of success to run on. Since unveiling his jobs act in early September, he’s made at least 27 speeches in the following two months, lobbing attacks at Republicans all the while.

In reality, though, he’s waging a campaign against an army of straw men. He wants Americans to think that Republicans oppose bridges, teachers, veterans and everyone else that he promises he could help right away. But once again, his intentions would not be borne out in the results.

This week, the president’s focus has been on infrastructure. Pass his bill and we’ll get construction workers on the job right away. But of the $56 billion that his Rebuild America Jobs Act would cost, less than 8 percent would be spent this fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And less than half would be spent by the year 2015. Shovel-ready? Hardly.

To claim that this bill - or any of the other pieces of his jobs act - would be an immediate boost to our economy is misguided at best and intentionally dishonest at worst. If the president were truly interested in job creation more than his own job security, he would end the charade and work with Republicans on initiatives that could actually jump-start the economy.

In fact, since January, House Republicans have passed 18 bills that would directly spur job creation by freeing companies from excessive regulations, helping small businesses, keeping taxes low and ramping up domestic energy production, among other things. But the one thing they wouldn’t do is provide the Obama campaign with 2012 talking points. Unsurprisingly, that makes them a nonstarter with the White House.

Even the president’s recent executive orders are little more than campaign props. As such, they were given their own slogan: “We Can’t Wait.” Once again, the intentions don’t match the results. From the size of his public relations blitz, you’d think he’d single-handedly solved the housing crisis and lifted the burden of student debt. In reality, about one-tenth of homeowners whose homes are “underwater” will be affected. And the student loan reforms will save the average graduate less than $10 a month.

With this record of consistently overpromising and underdelivering, the president has no choice but to make this election about someone else. So he and his campaign will eschew the hope and change of 2008 and opt for misrepresentation and distortion to win the White House in 2012. But no number of straw men will blind Americans from his record, nor will it lead them to make the great mistake of a second term of disappointment.

Reince Priebus is chairman of the Republican National Committee.

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