President Obama’s belief that “the private sector is doing fine” ranks as the most uninformed statement on the struggling American economy to date.
His patently false remark Friday at a White House news conference was compounded by his flat-out assertion that the people who have really been hurt are those who work in “state and local government.”
It shows the president is disconnected from the bleak everyday economic realities that still afflict our country, its businesses and its people. It shows he doesn’t possess even a minimal understanding of the statistical makeup of the nation’s workforce.
Tens of millions of workers can’t find full-time jobs, and millions more have stopped looking. The numbers of jobs being created plummeted last month to a pathetic 69,000. The economy is growing at less than 2 percent, economists say we are on the brink of another recession and Mr. Obama declares “the private sector is doing fine”? What planet is he living on?
Not only does it betray Mr. Obama’s fundamental ignorance of the size and weak performance of the private sector, but it shows how ideologically biased he is toward government-sector employment versus the private sector.
This is a guy who came into office brandishing a harsh hostility toward Wall Street, banks, corporations and businesses in general. One of his first proposals was to raise income-tax rates that would wallop small businesses when they were flat on their back, fighting for their survival and forced to lay off their employees.
Mr. Obama has got it backwards. Public-sector workers are doing much better than those in the private sector. “Since the beginning of 2008, the private sector has lost about 4.6 million jobs. During the same time, the public sector … has lost just 407,000 jobs,” writes U.S. News’ economics reporter Rick Newman. “The private sector employs more than five times as many workers as the public sector does, so it ought to be the main focus for anybody aiming to fix the economy,” he says. Not with the president.
On the contrary, private-sector blue-collar workers are the ones who are the hardest hit. Construction workers have lost 2 million jobs, and U.S. manufacturing has dropped 1.8 million or 13 percent. The president focuses on firemen, police and teachers, “but the people hurting the most are roofers, builders and assembly-line workers,” Mr. Newman points out.
Let’s take a closer look at the private-sector-dominated economy that Mr. Obama says “is doing fine.”
c Unemployment is rising, now at 8.2 percent nationally, but much higher in 17 states across the country, including New York, 8.5 percent; Florida, 8.7; South Carolina, 8.8; New Jersey, 9.1; North Carolina, 9.4; California, 11.2; Rhode Island, 11.2; and Nevada, 11.7. This is fine?
c 24 million workers are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work, pushing the jobless rate to 15 percent.
c In the 3 1/2 years of Mr. Obama’s presidency, nearly half of college graduates cannot find full-time work that is commensurate with their educational training, and many are forced to work part time, temporary or settle for low-pay counter work at places like Starbucks.
c High school graduates are having even a harder time getting work, according to a recent report from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. A stunning 1 in 6 were working full-time in Mr. Obama’s economy.
The study found that of those who have graduated in the last three years, only 16 percent had full-time jobs. Three out of five lived with their parents or other family members.
c New business creation, where most new jobs come from, has fallen to the lowest level in 30 years.
Apparently, Mr. Obama doesn’t read the newspapers, or his staff reports leave out all of the bad economic news. If he depends on the nightly network news shows, he will rarely see any report about the economy’s persistent weakness.
But the news is getting bleaker. “The U.S. economy is drifting toward recession,” University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici said Tuesday.
“Job creation slipped alarmingly in April and May. Wages, which were rising modestly through the recovery, have been virtually flat for three months. An already tough labor market is getting worse,” Mr. Morici said.
Manufacturing orders have fallen in the last two months, and the Institute of Supply Chain management says prices are falling. That’s a sign of declining sales and a precursor of future layoffs.
The Obama economy is weakening further and people are hurting, especially the middle class, for which Mr. Obama goes to great lengths to show he understands their economic plight. Telling them that the private economy is “doing fine” undermines that appeal.
The Gallup Poll reports that confidence in the economy fell slightly last week. Notably, “The decline was driven by Democrats, whose confidence dropped eight points from the previous week.”
White House strategists are hoping the damage from Mr. Obama’s gaffe will be forgiven, especially after his flip-flop a few hours later that the economy is definitely not fine.
But former Gov. Mitt Romney, who is running neck-and-neck with Mr. Obama this week, will be reminding voters how out of touch the president really is. He’s running an ad right now about Mr. Obama’s remark as the voters tell of their struggles to find work.
The Romney ad ends with this text scrolling across the screen: “No, Mr. President, we are not “‘doing fine.’ “
This has been a bad week for Mr. Obama. The White House is being investigated for national security leaks meant to burnish the president’s image, Mr. Romney and the Republicans are out-fundraising him, Democrats were beaten in Wisconsin, his attorney general faces a contempt of Congress charge, and his commerce secretary has been given a felony hit-and-run citation.
Now the voters are discovering that the president is out of touch with their daily struggles and that deep inside, he really thinks the economy “is doing fine.”
He’s going to get a reality check on Nov. 6.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.