- - Thursday, October 24, 2013


The hallmark of Barack Obama’s zigzag presidency is that he never focuses on a problem for very long. He shifts from one to another in a desperate search for an issue that will save his legacy.

One moment he’s threatening to bomb Syria’s poison-gas depots. The next, he’s embracing a sneaky delaying strategy from the Kremlin, letting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad freely resume his brutal attacks on his own people.

Remember Syria? A mere two months after Mr. Assad gave the go-ahead to launch a grisly sarin-gas attack on Syrian civilians, “the episode appears to have been forgotten” in the Oval Office, The Washington Post observed last week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered a deal to begin long-term negotiations that would eliminate Mr. Assad’s stocks of chemical weapons. Negotiations are to begin late next month in Geneva. But this deal, which Mr. Putin and his pal Mr. Assad put together, will take many months if not years to achieve — as Mr. Assad proceeds with his deadly suppression of Syria’s rebellion.

Mr. Assad has resumed bombing the civilian population in urban centers, and has been blocking food supplies in an attempt to starve his people in a brutal effort to put down Syria’s rebel uprising once and for all.

The deal that was so eagerly embraced by Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry is accomplishing just what Russia and Syria wanted: time to finish their evil deeds without a peep from Washington.

Of course, nothing will come from the meeting in Geneva, which is likely to turn into a lengthy exercise in diplomatic mumbo-jumbo. Mr. Assad has made it clear he does not plan to leave office, and the United States has no serious proposals that could force him to step down. Meantime, the bloodbath continues.

For the Obama administration, that was yesterday’s crisis, and it has moved on to other problems, such as the approaching collapse of Obamacare.

First came the bungled rollout of the online sign-up process that prevented untold thousands of people from completing the complicated and lengthy application forms. Then came revelations that the sign-up system failed to pass test runs just days before its official launch. A mere 2,000 test users tried to finish the first step, but the system crashed. Incredibly, the administration went ahead with its rollout anyway.

That has forced the White House to extend the deadline to purchase health insurance through online market places for six weeks before the government penalty kicks in for those who do not obtain coverage.

Moreover, it’s another example of a deeply flawed national health care law that critics have long said cannot work and should be repealed. It will lead to higher health care premiums in the insurance market, force businesses to drop their employee plans or lay off workers to cut their costs, and erode the kind of quality health care we have come to expect in our country.

While the White House was frantically attempting to tape together a plan that was rapidly coming unraveled, other issues were looming on the horizon that will define the Obama years.

There’s the lackluster, part-time Obama economy, in which it has become harder than ever to find high-paying, full-time jobs in our country. Businesses are not hiring the way they did in previous administrations.

During the past five years, Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he does not understand what produces jobs and a healthy economy. He is still pushing the same old public-spending snake-oil medicine for what ails the economy — remedies that he was peddling back in 2009.

Last week, with his job-approval polls sinking into the low 40s, he offered some suggestions about how to reshape the budget to “create jobs.” It was the recipe he has offered again and again to a Congress that has ignored his recommendations, including the Democrats who run the Senate.

He called for closing “corporate tax loopholes that don’t help create jobs, and frees up resources for the things that do help us grow — like education and infrastructure and research.”

However, enormous expenditures on roads, bridges and rail projects have had no permanent impact on our economy, and neither have growing education or research and development, which are very long-term investments, anyway.

This economy needs a strong booster shot of capital investment, and that can come from closing tax loopholes and using the savings to cut the tax rates for businesses and individuals. Democrats and Republicans are working on this idea right now, but Mr. Obama has ignored their plan, which has always worked in the past.

There are similarly large economic and social disasters looming ahead for our country, but the president is oblivious to them, too.

A new economic report out this week finds a majority of Americans who have 401(k)-type investment accounts are going deeper into debt faster than they’re saving for their retirement.

Before the Obama years, 46 percent of such workers were piling up debt faster than they were building their savings. That figure has now risen to 64 percent. A Gallup Poll reported Thursday that 43 percent of Americans surveyed said they were “struggling” in this economy.

When will Mr. Obama get around to that problem, or even acknowledge it exists?

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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