- - Thursday, February 20, 2014

President Obama was hit by two major reports this week that reinforced what many, if not most, of us knew about his economic policies: They are killing jobs.

The first report came Monday from Gallup, which confirmed what millions of Americans now think about the Obama economy that he and Democrats in Congress still insist is growing stronger. That’s not what a lot of our fellow citizens think, based on their personal situations in their families and in their communities.

“Americans have a new No. 1 problem,” Gallup reported on Feb. 17. It’s jobs, the polling organization said in a news release that was headlined “Unemployment rises to top problem in the U.S.”

Here’s what its nationwide survey found between Feb. 6 and 9 when it asked Americans to name the most important problem facing the United States today.

“Nearly one in four Americans mention jobs and unemployment as the most important problem facing the country, up from 16 percent in January,” Gallup said.

Prior to this poll, “The government and politicians had topped the list since the government shutdown” last fall, Gallup said. But that’s no longer what troubles them the most since Congress passed a yearlong budget to fund the government into next year.

It’s also important to point out, as Gallup does, that “[p]rior to last fall, either jobs or the economy had led the ‘most important problem’ list going back to February 2008.”

Now, with painfully weak job figures still plaguing us in the sixth year of Mr. Obama’s failed presidency, and millions of workers who’ve been unemployed for six months or more dropping out of the labor force (and uncounted among the jobless), the issue of jobs and the economy is reaching critical mass. The American people are fed up.

According to Gallup, 23 percent of Americans polled told them that unemployment and jobs was the most important problem in the country. An additional 20 percent said the U.S. “economy in general” was the most important problem.

More troubling for Democrats, who face another tough midterm election since their 2010 shellacking, Democrats, Republicans and independents all place unemployment and jobs at the top of their list.

“Mentions of unemployment and jobs as the most important problem increased among all three party groups this month,” Gallup said. “For Democrats, unemployment is clearly the top U.S. problem, with the economy, government dysfunction, and health care occupying a second tier of importance,” Gallup says. Republicans place their “highest importance on unemployment and the economy, with health care and government in the third and fourth spots, respectively.”

In an earlier column, I concluded that the passage of the debt-limit increase and a budget was refocusing the voters on the issues Democrats fear most: the sluggish economy, a weak job market and Obamacare.

Gallup’s poll, in part, confirms my analysis: “Now that the shutdown is over and the government has successfully passed a budget and avoided another debt-ceiling shutdown, Americans appear to have shifted their focus away from the government and back to the still relatively weak job market.” Dysfunctional government and health care are right behind.

The second report this week came from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which crunched the numbers on Mr. Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to more than $10 per hour. It wasn’t a report that the White House or the Democrats would have written.

The CBO’s analysis said the proposal would raise wages by $31 billion and lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty. However, it would also erase an estimated 500,000 jobs because the higher minimum would force struggling businesses to cut their payrolls or reduce future hiring.

While most of the news media focused on the two main jobs numbers — 900,000 gained versus 500,000 lost — a larger number of potential job losses, according to the estimates, got left out of many news reports.

The CBO actually estimated that job losses could possibly be as high as 1 million, but guessed that it would more likely be in the neighborhood of 500,000, pointing out that their figures were, well, estimates.

The fact of the matter is that no one can predict with any accuracy how many business would cut their payrolls. We only know, as the CBO attests, that many jobs will be lost, and in an economy where jobs are in short supply, that isn’t good.

“This report confirms what we’ve long known. While helping some, mandating higher wages has real costs, including fewer people working,” said Brendan Buck, House Speaker John A. Boehner’s chief spokesman.

“With unemployment Americans’ top concern, our focus should be creating — not destroying — jobs for those who need them most,” he said. Exactly.

An audit by the chief forecasting arm of Congress that concludes the Democrats’ jobs plan will add a half-million or more working Americans to the unemployment rolls in order to reduce poverty doesn’t make any economic or political sense.

No wonder Huffington Post economics blogger Dave Jamieson says the CBO’s “forecast of job loss may make it more advantageous to Republicans than Democrats in the ongoing discussion.”

There are plenty of ways to create jobs that do not put people in the unemployment line. How about cutting taxes for small businesses? Or lowering the income-tax rates for all Americans? Or slashing the capital-gains tax to unlock venture-capital investments in new enterprises?

The American people are smart enough to figure out that there’s something crazy about a party that says we have to kill jobs in order to create prosperity. Lawmakers who think that need to be sent home for treatment and a long rest.

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

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