We are beginning to speak of the Obama presidency as failed presidency. There’s a certain poignancy in this even for people like me who can’t identify a single Obama policy they feel is good for the country.
The loss of NY-9, Chuck Schumer’s old seat, a Democratic stronghold since Warren G. Harding was in the White House, to a Republican neophyte, a 70-year-old retiree who has never held public office, shows that it’s not just conservatives who have had enough.
With an economy that adamantly refuses to produce jobs, no matter how much the president talks at it, how could it be otherwise? I doubt, however, if President Obama and his advisers regard this as a failed presidency.
I feel certain that the president wishes there were less suffering in out country, that more people had jobs. But failed? He is achieving his goal: the fundamental transform the United States. Healthcare reform alone, if it stands, goes a long way towards this. The troubled economy the rest of us see is an abstraction for the president. Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal explains:
For Mr. Obama, there is no such thing as the American economy. Instead, there are two Americas with separate economies-one public, the other private. The economy of the public sector-the money it spends and the direct or indirect recipients of its spending-is the real economy, the one that matters for the health of the country. Mr. Obama’s second economy, the one most people think of as the private sector, is an intellectual abstraction. It’s like the distant planets that astronomers regard as real but have discovered using mathematical calculations. It is believed that life forms exist in the private economy, but they do so as datapoints inside the White House Office of Management and Budget.
If you listened to the president’s jobs speech, you might be forgiven for thinking that the people we want to put back to work are teachers and fire fighters-public sector, heavily unionized lines of work. They belong to the segment of the economy that is real to the president. The construction “investments” he touts are straight out of FDR’s WPA. Indeed, Barack Obama knows so little about how the private economy works that he fondly imagines 12-month hiatus on payroll taxes will induce companies to go on a hiring spree!
Here from Henninger is what the Obama jobs program is designed to do:
Once past the tax-cuts-for-temps, the jobs plan drops anchor in the public economy. The “targets” of the plan’s $447 billion of spending are industries and people who are or always will be dependent on payments from public budgets. The plan’s parts operate almost entirely inside the public-sector ecosystem….
The plan asserts it will put people back to work “in key areas that are central to America’s future competitiveness.” Then it says it will allow the rehiring of teachers, police and firefighters “who have been laid off because of budget cuts.” But people have been laid off in the other economy, too. This week Bank of America said it would lay off 30,000 people. Last month, HSBC bank announced massive layoffs. Stories abound of new college graduates living at home, unemployed. A study out this week from the Institute for Financial Literacy says college graduates have become the fastest-growing group of bankruptcy filers.
The American Jobs Act is a jobs plan for Barack Obama’s America. The United States is a bigger country than that.
The Obama administration simply doesn’t understand that growing the private economy (and the private economy would do this on its own, if the Obama administration got out of the way) is the only path to prosperity. George Will observes this morning that it’s not just the loss of jobs that is our problem:
Bank of America, which reported an $8.8 billion loss last quarter, plans to lay off 30,000 out of a workforce of nearly 300,000. The Postal Service hopes to shed 120,000 of its 653,000 jobs (down from almost 900,000 a decade ago). Such churning of the labor market would free people for new, more productive jobs – except that to reduce unemployment, the economy needs an approximately 3 percent growth rate, triple today’s rate.
In a capitalist society, people sometimes get fired, but then they go on to get hired somewhere else. In Barack Obama’s economy, there is no place else to get hired.
Will’s column is actually on the administration’s certitude:
As events have refuted the Obama administration’s certitudes, the administration has retained its insufferable knowingness.
Americans may be speakaing sadly of Barack Obama’s tenure as a failure; inside they do not see this.