- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2013


The jobless rate has risen to nearly 8 percent, economic growth has screeched to a halt, and there’s grumbling among President Obama’s most loyal voters about 14 percent black unemployment.

Mr. Obama swung into action last week to deal with it. He shut down his jobs council, an advisory group of top business people, labor leaders and other political cronies, with whom he rarely met during the group’s two years of existence.

Then Alan Krueger, chairman of Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, issued an incomprehensible, Orwellian statement, saying that the increase in unemployment was “further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression.”

Huh? Earth to Mr. Krueger, come in please. We do not read you. Say that again.

Mr. Obama’s executive decision to fire the business leaders on the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness — at a time when jobs are in short supply — was right out of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” in which the Queen of Hearts was frequently given to declaring “Off with their heads” when anyone displeased her.

Jay Carney, the president’s oily spokesman, insisted that “the work of the jobs council was very valuable” but added, “While the president didn’t agree with all of its recommendations, he agreed with many of them and acted on a number of them.”

That is not the way many on Capitol Hill saw Mr. Obama’s distant relationship with this underused council, which was put together during the 2011-12 election cycle to show that the president was doing something about unemployment when he really wasn’t doing anything at all.

“The president treated his jobs council as more of a nuisance than a vehicle to spur job creation,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

The council was window dressing from the start, and no substitute for economic growth policies to unlock venture capital investment, risk-taking, business formation and faster job creation.

Heading into the fifth year of his presidency, the hike in the annual unemployment rate to 7.9 percent was a cold shower for the administration and, especially, its allies in the news media. “At some point you begin to ask if we are ever going to have a real recovery,” Stephen Gandel, Fortune magazine’s senior editor, writes on the CNN Money website.

The puny number of jobs being created under Mr. Obama’s impotent economic policies “translates to a [future] job gain of about 125,000 jobs a month. That’s basically just enough to provide jobs for the number of people entering the workforce each month. Not much extra for the unemployed,” he writes.

While unemployed Americans were digesting the dreary job numbers Friday, scholars for the African American Economic Summit were meeting at Howard University to discuss the dismal circumstances facing the beleaguered black community.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that last month’s black unemployment rate stood at 13.8 percent, and there was little expectation that things were going to get better anytime soon, especially with Mr. Obama in the White House.

“As bleak as the economic picture is for black Americans, the immediate prospects for improving it are worse, many participants said,” writes The Washington Post’s Michael Fletcher.

Unfortunately, this is not the group where any answers are going to be found to deal with the economic plight of jobless blacks. One after another, the participants blamed racism for their community’s economic woes, or called for larger and more costly public jobs programs. “We are basically talking about an economic system that is shot through with discrimination,” said Bernard Anderson, a former assistant secretary of labor.

The key to black advancement and upward mobility is to enact tax incentives and to expand economic and educational opportunities in the black community. Doesn’t anyone in this group read Black Enterprise magazine?

The unemployment rate for blacks fell below 9 percent in the 1990s when the economy took off after President Clinton, during his second term, signed a Republican bill that cut the capital gains tax rate to 20 percent. The move unleashed a powerful shot of economic growth that pounded the unemployment rate below 5 percent. Last month, Mr. Obama raised the capital gains tax.

One of the worst economic legacies of the Obama years also will be the high unemployment rate among 18- to 29-year-olds, which stands at 11.5 percent, according to the Labor Department.

“Millennials are struggling with the worst sustained unemployment since the Second World War,” said David Pasch, director of the nonpartisan organization Generation Opportunity. “This is tragic. Almost 1 in 6 millennials did not go to work this morning.”

More than half of recent college graduates are unable to find employment commensurate with their educational and training skills, according to a 2012 Rutgers University study.

A more recent Pew survey of 2,500 adults found that more parents ages 40 to 59 are having to support their adult children. “The causes include the difficulty young adults have finding decent employment,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University.

In his inaugural address last month, Mr. Obama did not substantively address any of these economic troubles that confront millions of Americans. He has no plans to deal with them in his second term because he didn’t run on an agenda of job creation and economic renewal, our country’s two most pressing needs.

“It is remarkable that Democrats have been able to run from this issue, but it’s also shocking that Republicans have done so little with it,” writes Jennifer Rubin, a blogger at The Washington Post.

She is right. Republicans have to get more aggressive and vocal in attacking this issue, championing a bold, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda that needs to be conspicuously nailed to the door of the White House.

Americans are suffering out there, and Mr. Obama has been a bystander in what has become a national tragedy of epic proportions.

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

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