Selling the Illusion of Economic Success to Salvage Elections
November 3, 2014
President Barack Obama is trying to salvage what most polls indicate is about to be a dismal election for Democrats by focusing on his administration’s supposed economic successes. It makes sense, in a way, since his foreign policy—to the extent that there is one—is a complete disaster; the administration is caught up in a series of scandals (Benghazi, IRS, Veterans Affairs, to name a few) that fortunately for them, the media choose to ignore; and the administration’s incompetence, or worse, in managing crises such as immigration and Ebola, and even the safety and security of the President, has become glaringly obvious.
But the public doesn’t appear to be buying this narrative of economic success. The recent Associated Press poll shows that 58% disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, while only 42% approve. The RealClearPolitics average is a little better than that, showing that the disapproval gap is more like 12.5%, rather than the 16% reflected in the AP poll.
While almost no incumbent Democratic senators want him anywhere near their state, President Obama claims to understand their desire to keep their distance, but acknowledges that his policies are on the ballot in virtually all of these elections. He says that the important thing is, while they may be distancing themselves from him personally, they support his agenda.
At least with the economy, the administration can conjure up and cherry-pick figures to tell a fairly positive sounding narrative. “10 million—that’s the number of jobs American businesses have added over 54 straight months, the longest streak of private-sector job growth in American history,”writes Tonya Somanader for the Whitehouse.gov website. “10 million marks more than strengthening job growth, it is a sign of the industry of the American worker and the strength of an economy that made 10 million jobs possible.”
It’s a positive talking point for an ailing economy, and the Obama administration has been using this same tired rhetoric over and over again.
In fact, President Obama used the same talking point at a Wisconsin campaign rally this week, saying, “When I came into office, the economy was in free fall. The auto industry was on the verge of collapse. But over the past four and a half years, America’s businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs.” When he made that claim in September, the UK Daily Mail criticized the President for forgetting to mention the 4.3 million jobs lost along the way.
“The right measure and comparison for Obama’s record is not to compare the recovery to the recession, but to compare Obama’s recovery with other recoveries from other recessions since the Great Depression,” wrote Peter Ferrara for Forbes last year. “By that measure, what is clear is that Obamanomics has produced the worst recovery from a recession since the Great Depression, worse than what every other President who has faced a recession has achieved since the Great Depression.”
Ferrara noted in June last year that the “unemployed or underemployed [were] at nearly 18 million Americans in January, 2013.” Currently the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) places the number of unemployed or underemployed at 18.6 million as of September this year, which means that the economy is worse off in a key marker of prosperity. In fact, Ferrara calculated last year that President Obama’s economy had a shortfall of about 10 million jobs. How many jobs are we missing now?
The U.S. national debt has reached nearly $18 trillion under President Obama as of October 29th, according to The Washington Post. But the paper dismisses the idea that we should be worried about this at all: “So it’s official: No one is worried about the U.S. debt anymore. Not even Moody’s, one of the nation’s top ratings agencies,” writes Lori Montgomery. Apparently the national debt can’t be a political issue in an election year, either, if it can be attributed to the Obama administration. Remember, when Obama was campaigning for president in 2008, he said that George W. Bush had added $4 trillion to the national debt, and that it was unpatriotic. So what does that make the $8 trillion that has been added to the debt under his watch, with two years left to go? Where’s the accountability?
The BLS data also shows that the labor participation rate is at 62.7 percent—the lowest participation rate since 1978.
And let’s not forget about disability benefits, which can also be influenced by a recession, according to CNN. But the disability benefits increase under this administration has been dramatic. “The number of Americans receiving Social Security disability payments has increased 20 percent since President Barack Obama took office and the influx of new recipients has pushed the program close to insolvency,” reported Newsmax in 2013. According to the Social Security Administration, the number of workers on disability was 8.5 million in 2008. It ballooned to 10.9 million by 2013, according to Newsmax.
This is some recovery! Perhaps it’s consolidated in the red states. The Washington Times reported last year that, according to an American Legislative Exchange Council report, “Bright-red Texas ranks first on economic performance, followed by purple Nevada and then a string of red states: Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska and Montana. Only one blue state—Washington—appears in the top 10.” This year, the 2014 ALEC report finds that some blue states are getting in on the trend: “During the last legislative session, we witnessed a growing number of states shift on tax policy,” writes ALEC. “This reflects the understanding that catching up with their fast-growing free market and pro-growth counterparts is a necessity.”
But on a larger level more economic bad news for the nation is likely racing down the pike, although it won’t surface until after the elections in order to shield the President’s party from its political consequences. For example, the Treasury Department announced last Julythat the government would put off enforcing the employer mandate under Obamacare until 2015. “The delay not only allows the Administration time to alleviate concerns among business owners, but also takes a controversial component of the law off the table before the midterm elections,” reported Time magazine at the time.
This wasn’t the first—or the last—of such politically motivated maneuvers by the administration on Obamacare. “Last night at 8:29, [Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services] put out a notice that it is shifting the start of open enrollment next year from October 1, 2014, to November 15, 2014,” commented Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in an official November 2013 statement. “That means that if premiums go through the roof in the first year of Obamacare, no one will know about it until after the election.”
“The Obama administration is hiding insurance companies’ requested rate increases from the public in violation of Obamacare, according to a lawsuit from a former Obamacare official,” reported The Daily Caller. And, indeed, premium increases are not yet available for the exchanges this year; we have only preliminary data and assurances.
The reason for these maneuvers is incredibly clear: the delayed provisions I’ve mentioned will lead to more job losses or weaken the economy. And we are suffering the ill effects of Obamacare regulations right now. Mortimer Zuckerman writes for The Wall Street Journal that Obamacare has already resulted in an increase in part-time jobs as a result of the perverse economic incentives written into the law. “Many employers cut workers’ hours to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to provide health insurance to anyone working 30 hours a week or more,” wrote Zuckerman. “The unintended consequence of President Obama’s ‘signature legislation?’ Fewer full-time workers.”
As an example of how misleading some of these figures are, Zuckerman pointed out in July that the latest figures at that time showing a monthly increase of 288,000 jobs created were actually based on the loss of over a half-million full-time jobs, and an increase of some 800,000 part-time jobs. The dropping unemployment rate is more a function of the number of discouraged job-seekers—which Zuckerman cited as 2.4 million people—who gave up looking for jobs.
“I am not on the ballot this fall…But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them,” asserted President Obama in early October.
The President’s policies are on the ballot insofar as he hasn’t been able to punt them to the next election cycle, when the electoral results won’t, supposedly, reflect on his administration. In the meantime America must struggle through its “longest streak of private-sector job growth in American history.” Why won’t the media tell us this story?