- - Thursday, March 6, 2014


The Obama economy continues to sink deeper into a recessionary abyss, where full-time jobs are in short supply, incomes are flat and life for many millions of Americans is a daily struggle.

We learned this month that the economy barely grew in the last three months of 2013, by a minuscule 2.4 percent, a dismally anemic number that shows the once-powerful U.S. economy remains bedridden under President Obama’s ultraliberal tax-and-spend policies of the past five years.

“The new figures indicate that the recovery has less momentum heading into the new year and add to concerns that recent lackluster economic data could signal even weaker growth in the first quarter,” The Washington Post reported last week.

The Obama administration announced in January that the nation’s gross domestic product grew by an exaggerated and erroneous 3.2 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter. That figure captured front-page headlines and made the nightly network news broadcasts, giving the White House a chance to brag that Mr. Obama’s policies were working and moving the economy forward.

The revised, sluggish 2.4 percent growth rate never got the same high volume of news media treatment.

Outside of the Republicans, who pounded Mr. Obama for his impotent policies, Democratic leaders were as silent as a tomb about the nation’s paralyzed economy — as they have been for the past half-decade.

Don’t hold out any hopes that the first three months of this year are going to be any better. One top Wall Street economist said the first quarter “is unlikely to be anything to write home about.”

Most Americans probably don’t pay much attention to quarterly GDP statistics, which are hard to understand. Low numbers in the 2 percent range, though, mean the economy isn’t growing at a rate that will significantly boost business investment, incomes and job creation.

The U.S. Labor Department announced last month that the economy created only 113,000 jobs in January, the second straight month of mediocre hiring.

Forecasters expect the economy produced 150,000 or so net new jobs last month, a pathetic figure in a nation of 160 million adult workers, many of whom are either jobless, forced to accept part-time jobs or have stopped looking for work entirely.

Surveys by the payroll-processing firm, Automatic Data Processing, said Wednesday the February job number will likely be around 120,000. The ISM service-sector jobs index this week plunged below 50 for the first time in more than two years.

Some in Mr. Obama’s camp of economic apologists say we may have entered an era in the economy’s history when slow growth, weak job creation and poor incomes are “the new normal.”

Northwestern University professor Robert Gordon just issued a response to criticism of a paper he published in August 2012 titled “Is U.S. Economic Growth Over?” He thinks it is for the foreseeable future.

“The fact that the employment-to-population ratio has not risen during the four years of the recovery is incredible,” Mr. Gordon told The Washington Post last week. “Baby boomers are being forced to retire. The rest of it is prime-age males and females and young people who can’t find work,” he said.

The declining workforce could turn itself around “if the economy grew faster,” he added. That still wouldn’t bring it back to its high point in 2007 before the recession began. “We are so far below where we were in 2007. If you asked how many jobs would have to be created to get the employment-to-population ratio back to 2007 [levels], the new number is still around 11 million jobs,” he said.

That’s not going to happen under Mr. Obama’s chronically weak economy.

Despite disastrously low economic growth rates and a shrinking workforce, Mr. Obama has not proposed any plan to get us out of this mess.

Instead, he wants to raise the hourly minimum wage to $10.10 to deal with rising poverty and, in his latest budget, is asking Congress to spend billions of dollars more on new job-training programs.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says raising the minimum wage will result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs at a time when small business are still struggling to survive with the payrolls they have now.

As for job training, the government is already spending nearly $20 billion a year on 47 job-training programs under nine separate agencies, some of them duplicating the work of the others.

The Government Accountability Office, Congress’ auditing arm, says no one knows if they’re doing any good because half of them haven’t been reviewed in the past 10 years. None of this will accelerate business growth, create jobs or ignite stronger economic expansion — the principal concerns of the American people.

The economy desperately needs tax-cut incentives to unlock capital investment in startup businesses, environment regulations that allow offshore oil exploration, and a smaller, less costly government that lives within its means.

I do not believe for a moment that we can’t grow our way out of the unending economic troubles that Mr. Obama and his gang have put us in. We’re capable of doing a lot better than 2.4 percent economic growth.

President Reagan faced a much worse recession when the unemployment rate was soaring to nearly 11 percent. He told the nation in his 1981 inaugural address that government was not the solution to our problems — it was the problem. After tax rates were cut across the board, the economy was expanding in 1983 by an annual rate of 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter.

We don’t need to spend more on job-training programs or order businesses to pay their workers more. We need to enact market incentives to grow the economy, but they are sadly missing in Mr. Obama’s dysfunctional presidency.

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

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