- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Would you vote for a president seeking re-election with annual economic growth stalled at a feeble 1.3 percent, unemployment and underemployment at 14.7 percent and no plan to get America moving again?

Would you vote for him if he had presided over a deficit-spending binge that ran up four yearly budget deficits of well more than $1 trillion, and if his party in the Senate had refused to pass a budget in the past three years?

Would you vote for an incumbent who offered the voters no specific legislative agenda indicating what he hoped to achieve by 2017 if given another four-year term?

Would you vote for him, even though his campaign ads said nothing — and I mean, absolutely nothing — about the length of the nation’s still historically high unemployment rate; declining median income that’s 8 percent lower than in 2007; 46 million Americans living in poverty, the highest in two decades; an estimated 3.5 million people who are homeless, including 1.5 million children; and a record 46 million Americans on food stamps?

Home foreclosure starts grew this summer by 16 percent on a yearly basis, and 2.42 million people were delinquent 60 days or more on their mortgage payments.

Yet, despite this bleak economic, fiscal and social record, 47 percent of likely voters say they’ll vote for President Obama anyway, according to a Gallup poll. Its head-to-head voter survey shows Mitt Romney leading him by just 2 points at 49 percent.

How does one explain the closeness of this election when Mr. Obama has failed to deliver on his most important campaign promises? The president has not reduced unemployment to 6 percent, raised middle-class incomes, gotten our manufacturing base really growing again or cut the budget deficit in half.

After nearly four years of the Obama presidency, this economic recovery is still the slowest and weakest since the Great Depression. Economic growth over his term has averaged 2.2 percent. While the jobless rate fell only slightly below 8 percent last month, the decline was mostly due to millions of adults who were forced to take lower-paying, part-time work. Add millions of discouraged, long-term, unemployed Americans who’ve stopped looking for work and, therefore, are not counted in the unemployment column, and presto, unemployment declines. Pretty clever, huh?

Mr. Obama doesn’t talk about the underemployed, largely middle-class Americans in his stump speeches, nor do the nightly network news shows that spend far more time on “infotainment” stories, while ignoring the suffering of millions of Americans who are hurting as a result of his anti-growth, anti-job policies.

The White House touts the 7.8 percent unemployment rate, but it is really a statistical mirage at best, economists say. Factoring in part-timers and labor force dropouts, the jobless rate is 14.7 percent, writes University of Maryland economist Peter Morici.

This is a four-year record that cries out for a change in presidents by a landslide, yet the race is not only close, but Mr. Obama continues to have an edge in the swing states that will decide this election.

One reason for this widening gulf in the voters’ perceptions about the candidates is that they’re receiving incomplete information about the economy and inaccurate information about what Mr. Romney is proposing to get it functioning again.

One of the nightly news shows this week presented a piece that raised questions about Mr. Romney’s plan to overhaul the tax code by eliminating a raft of corporate loopholes and other tax exemptions that would broaden the tax base and lower the tax rates to boost investment, economic growth and job creation.

The piece deviously left an impression that it could only be done by erasing popular tax breaks like the mortgage interest deduction (not true), and seemed to suggest this is a plan that has never been tried before.

Nowhere did the report note that Mr. Obama’s presidential deficit reduction commission proposed this same idea or point out that it has been done before (despite Joe Biden saying it hadn’t in last week’s debate with Paul Ryan).

President Reagan tightened loopholes in 1986 without ending any of the popular tax breaks that are often mentioned, and with the support of House and Senate Democrats to boot.

There is, however, something much more fundamental going on here than the shallow, biased, incomplete reporting on the nightly news programs. Gallup suggests that this may have more to do with plain old partisanship. An average of 90 percent of Democrats so far in October (and 8 percent of Republicans) approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing. That’s making his ratings one of “the most polarized Gallup has measured for any president.”

“President Obama gets near-universal approval from supporters of his own party and near-universal disapproval from supporters of the opposition party as he seeks re-election,” Gallup reported last week.

Democrats have invested a lot of political capital in the inexperienced community organizer from Chicago, and for the most part, they’re sticking with him through thick and thin — no matter how weak the economy becomes, how many people have fallen into poverty, homelessness or despair, or how deeply he plunges our government into unprecedented debt.

Inexplicably, Mr. Obama is running almost dead even in a campaign in which he offers no vision of the future for the next four years and proposes no new remedies to nurse America’s chronically weakening economy back to health.

He offers only politically soothing words of sympathy for millions who are still suffering from his impotent economic policies, victims who were among the middle-class voters for whom he voices so much compassion and concern.

What they really need is leadership with policies that create jobs, a healthy economy and a strong America. But he hasn’t a clue how to do that.

All Mr. Obama can offer now is extended unemployment benefits, food stamps, welfare checks and homeless shelters. Add to these plenty of comforting words and excuses for the next four years.

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

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