As you buy the organic popcorn and gird yourself to listen to yet another speech by President Barack Obama (aka “The Big Talker”) tonight on job creation, it might be a good time to ponder Stanford economist Michael J. Boskin’s survey of the wreckage so far (“The Obama Presidency by the Numbers”):
Nearly three years since his election and more than two years since the economic recovery began, Mr. Obama has enacted myriad policies at great expense to American taxpayers and amid political rancor. An interim evaluation is in order.
And there’s plenty to evaluate: an $825 billion stimulus package; the Public-Private Investment Partnership to buy toxic assets from the banks; “cash for clunkers”; the home-buyers credit; record spending and budget deficits and exploding debt; the auto bailouts; five versions of foreclosure relief; numerous lifelines to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; financial regulation and health-care reform; energy subsidies, mandates and moratoria; and constant demands for higher tax rates on “the rich” and businesses.
Consider the direct results of the Obama programs. A few have performed better than expected-e.g., the auto bailouts, although a rapid private bankruptcy was preferable and GM and Chrysler are not yet denationalized successes. But the failed stimulus bill cost an astounding $280,000 per job-over five times median pay-by the administration’s inflated estimates of jobs “created or saved,” and much more using more realistic estimates.
President Obama is who he is. He can’t come out tonight with a real jobs program, which would consist of things like doing everything possible to get drilling in the Gulf of Mexico up and running, pulling back on many regulations, not just a few, and proposing long-term, significant tax cuts. That is not who he is.He is expected to ask for $300 billion in additional stimulus.
Only it won’t be called stimulus-Democrats no longer use that word. Even they must sense that taxpayers are getting tired of throwing money down a rat hole. Quoting the Hill, which reveals that Rep. Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have “dropped the word ‘stimulus’ from their vocabulary,” James Taranto goes on to opine that this verbal subterfuge isn’t going to be very effective:
Pelosi is working out on the “euphemism treadmill.” Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker described this metaphorical fitness machine in a 1994 Baltimore Sun op-ed: “People invent new ‘polite’ words to refer to emotionally laden or distasteful things, but the euphemism becomes tainted by association and the new one that must be found acquires its own negative connotations. ‘Water closet’ becomes ‘toilet’ (originally a term for any body care, as in ‘toilet kit’), which becomes ‘bathroom,’ which becomes ‘rest room,’ which becomes ‘lavatory.’ “
In addition to being wrong-headed, the president is acquiring a reputation for being incompetent. The dust-up leading to tonight’s speech showed that. “It’s somehow fitting that the president will be speaking before prime time,” Karl Rove observes. He adds:
Apart from the controversy over the speech’s date is the speech itself. Is it necessary? No, since the time is long past when a speech will begin to repair our broken economy. This is the third summer in which the president assured Americans that the recovery was well under way-and the third summer in which the economy failed to recover.
Indeed, it appears Mr. Obama set the date of his address before he had a clear idea of what its content would be, which explains why White House aides have recently been trying to lower expectations.
This is Washington at its worst and the horror is that there is just nothing that can be done to reverse the course while Mr. Obama is president. He is who he is. He believes what he believes and doesn’t understand what he doesn’t understand. That would be job creation.
Unless President Obama saves his own job, somebody is going to inherit a big mess. Let’s hope the next president will do more than blame others and give useless speeches. We need action–or rather, from the federal government, we need inaction. That would stimulate the economy.