The president may be out of ideas, but he is never out of words. He has been sharing voluminous amounts of them with audiences over the last two weeks on his latest speaking tour on the economy.
And for good reason.
“If once a week I’m not talking about jobs, the economy and the middle class, then all manner of distraction fills the void,” Barack Obama told the New York Times in a July 24 interview.
He was probably referring to all the “phony scandals,” and things like that.
The president is great when it comes to platitudes. At Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., Obama laid out the “cornerstones” of what it means to be middle class in America: a good job, a good education, a home of one’s own, a secure retirement and affordable health care. He’s less adept at outlining the policies needed to achieve those goals. That’s when Obama is at a loss for words and inconsistent in his explanations. A few examples will suffice.
— No. 1. Because Obama speaks with such authority, it often takes several repetitions before I realize that what he’s saying is total nonsense. For example, he wants to spend $50 billion on infrastructure to create jobs. But the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada’s tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, would “create about 50 full- time jobs,” he said at a speech last week at an Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The State Department did say that the project’s effect on permanent job creation would be negligible. In the interim, however, the pipeline would create, directly or indirectly, as many as 42,000 jobs. That includes subcontractors, suppliers of materials and equipment, and hospitality services (food, clothing, lodging) in addition to 3,900 construction jobs. The same kind of jobs the White House used to promote its $831 billion fiscal stimulus in 2009, explaining that one person’s spending is another person’s income.
What’s the difference between the job-creating potential of Obama’s proposed infrastructure investment and that of the pipeline? One is public, the other is private. If that’s the distinction, he needs to explain it or drop the fiction that hiring to rebuild roads and bridges has a different impact on employment, wages and spending than hiring to build a pipeline.
— No. 2. Another Obama favorite is his contention that the way to “grow the economy” is from “the middle class out.” What exactly does that mean?
“Obama is saying we need an economy where people are paid enough to buy things,” said Robert Litan, director of research at Bloomberg Government, which is part of Bloomberg LP. “It’s Henry Ford economics: Ford made cars, and he paid his workers enough so they could afford to buy them.”
He also paid his workers enough to prevent them from quitting. The idea behind what economists call “efficiency wages” is to pay employees enough to keep them happy, encourage them to work hard, and save the company the expense of hiring and training replacements.
“Obama would like all employers to pay efficiency wages, but he doesn’t have an executive order to do that,” Litan said.
If Obama really wants to “grow the economy,” to borrow that horrific phrase, he needs to understand the dynamic. It’s individuals with ideas — entrepreneurship and innovation — that raise our standard of living. And not just that of the innovators themselves, who get rich off their creative genius. All of us benefit. Productivity growth comes from new technologies — everything from the steam engine to electricity to the telephone to digitalized bits of information — that allow us to produce more with less, reducing costs and raising real incomes.
Obama may not understand how economies prosper — and he could never admit it if he did not — but the path of wealth creation is top down, not inside out. It’s not about class; it’s how an economy works.
— No. 3. Aware that his speeches sound like retreads, Obama has found a new rallying cry for his middle-class advocacy campaign: the claim that concentrated wealth inflates bubbles and destabilizes the economy.
Is he suggesting that the top 1 percent were responsible for the lax lending standards and subprime loans that were at the root of the financial crisis?
No, and though he may not be aware of it, there is support in academia for the notion that income inequality contributed to the bubble. Too bad he latched onto something that fit his worldview without digging deeper to get a firm grasp of the subject.
Raghuram Rajan, the newly appointed governor of the Reserve Bank of India, made the case in his 2010 book, “Fault Lines,” that lower- and middle-income households reacted to stagnant real incomes by taking on more debt. What people couldn’t afford, they bought on credit. The policy response, misguided in Rajan’s view, was to encourage lower lending standards and promote affordable housing. Yet just last week, Obama suggested eliminating “red tape” to make housing more affordable. It would be nice to think he learned something from the economic mess of his first term and its continuation in his second.
In all of his speeches during the last two weeks, Obama pointed out that the deficit is falling at the fastest pace in 60 years. It’s a big applause line. It’s also shortsighted. Today’s shrinking deficit ignores the relentless rise in debt as a share of the economy. Unless the federal government finds a way to raise revenue and/or cut spending over the next decade, there will be steep cuts to the social safety net, programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
If Obama is really concerned about middle class families, he should start looking out for their future.
[by Caroline Baum, in her column for Bloomberg View]
In other news, polls are now showing Obama’s approval ratings are near all-time lows.
Facing a series of scandals involving everything from the IRS to the NSA – in addition to the growing unpopularity of his signature healthcare law — President Barack Obama’s job approval ratings are at near record lows, sinking to levels last seen more than a year and a half ago.
Gallup’s daily tracking survey on Saturday showed the president at 41 percent approval, a 7-point drop from just a day earlier. His disapproval rating was at 50 percent on Saturday. His approval rating rose 1 percent on Sunday to 42 percent.
Real Clear Politics’ average of recent polls put Obama’s approval at 43.6 percent and his disapproval at 51.1.
On the economy, the numbers get worse. RCP’s average of polls shows 42.2 percent approve of Obama’s job performance while 53 percent disapprove. On foreign policy, the president garnered 44 percent approval, 47.6 percent disapproval.
The president had an RCP-averaged approval rating of 54 percent as recently as December, but it has slipped steadily since then with a temporary bump in late April. His highest ever approval in the RCP was 65.5 less than a month after his inauguration.
Gallup’s lowest approval rating for Obama was in late December 2011. At that time his approval rating was 38 percent.
The impending implementation of Obamacare and a slew of scandals that the president has recently began calling “phony” may be behind his recent slide in the polls.
On Sunday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said members of Obama’s own party are distancing themselves from his healthcare law as they head into 2014.
“If this was such a great idea, then all of these senators who are vulnerable in 2014 would have voted for it, and they didn’t,” Priebus said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The media have focused on Republican divisions over tactics, but the GOP has “total unanimity” on getting rid of Obamacare, Priebus said. It’s the Democrats, he said, who are fighting each other over whether to keep Obamacare in place.
Some Republicans from the tea party wing are calling for defunding Obamacare in the 2014 fiscal year budget. Most party leaders say that will force a government shutdown, and the public will blame Republicans.
But Priebus noted that 30 Democrats voted against Obamcare. The true division is on Democratic side, he argued. He said it was “very obvious” the delay in the employer mandate is about getting Democrats elected.
A Fox News Poll conducted Aug. 3-5 on Obamacare saw 31 percent of respondents say “it’s going fine,” while 57-percent said, “it’s a joke.”
Obama also doesn’t fare any better when it comes to the debate over the recent intelligence leaks by NSA turncoat Edward Snowden.
When Fox News pollsters asked about the Justice Department looking at reporters’ records, for instance, 59 percent considered it a “serious situation.” The same percentage considered the IRS targeting of conservative groups to be “serious.”
Sixty-nine percent thought the NSA surveillance of Americans was not a “phony scandal,” while 78 percent didn’t think investigations into the changes in talking points on the Benghazi attack were phony.
On Sunday, Republican Rep. Peter King of New York criticized Obama for showing little leadership in the debate the surveillance program. The opponents of the program have gotten their message out through the media, King said.
“Basically Obama’s been silent for the past two months,” said King. “He allowed the Edward Snowdens and others in the world to dominate the media.”
King, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said that Obama had an obligation as commander in chief to “aggressively and effectively defend his program and he really didn’t do it.”
Finally, despite Obama’s attempt to shift talk to the economy with a series of speeches in recent days, a Fox News poll found that 71 percent of voters say he isn’t saying anything new and would prefer to see him stay in Washington to work things out with Republicans.
A Pew Research Center poll in mid-July found confidence in an improved economy is lagging. Four in 10 said it will take a long time for the economy to get back on its feet.
[by Greg Richter, writing for NEWSMAX]
As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by
NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis