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The president’s fallback position? “My job over these first two years has frankly been to clean up a big mess,” said Mr. Obama at a $10,000-per-ticket event at a gated mansion in Miami Beach on June 13th. “We were able to make sure we yanked an economy out of what could have been a second Great Depression.”
This is one of the more recent iterations of two now-familiar themes that this president and his party will be repeating over and over between now and the 2012 election. The implication behind the “big mess” is that two and a half years after becoming president, Mr. Obama still blames George W. Bush for the nation’s economic problems, even as he omits the reality that his party controlled both houses of Congress from 2006-2010, and that both he and Joe Biden voted for much of the spending now being derided as “irresponsible.”
Furthermore, what this administration has “yanked an economy out of” remains to be seen. Job creation has literally ground to a halt: for the first time since WWll, a net zero number of jobs were created in August. The White House itself, despite the chilling effect it is likely to have on Mr. Obama’s re-election, has had to predict unemployment will remain above 9 percent through 2012. The administration has also revised growth estimates for 2011 down from 2.7 percent to 1.7 percent. Neither number is sufficient to get America back on sound economic footing.
Even more daunting, this low number may be optimistic. The Commerce Department reported an annual growth rate of just 1 percent, and many economists note that 9 of the past 11 recessions since World War II have been preceded by a period of growth totaling 1 percent or less. That means a “double-dip” recession is a distinct possibility — for those Americans who remain convinced that some sort of recovery actually occurred in the first place. According to a Rasmussen survey, a majority of the public believes the recession that began in late 2007 never ended.
All of the above data begs a couple of obvious questions. First, at what point does the media-anointed “Great Recession” become a Depression? With respect to housing, we’re already there. Prices have fallen more than they did back in the ’30s. The European debt crisis, precipitated by the same kind of Keynesian economic bailout mentality that threatens America, remains an existential threat. And the stock market, despite two rounds of quantitative easing by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke (more Keynesian economic stimulus by another name), finished its worst quarter since 2008 at the end of July.
Second, when will Mr. Obama accept responsibility for his own failures? Does anyone seriously think the same administration that readily blames the previous one for all of the country’s economic woes wouldn’t be taking complete credit for any economic uptick that might have occurred?
Tonight, the president will give his speech, the details of which will be illuminated on Friday. Americans hoping for anything resembling a Bill Clinton-esque tack to the economic center are likely to be disappointed. Unlike Clinton, Mr. Obama’s party still has majority control of government, and many Americans fail to realize that it was the more moderate faction of the Democrats party that was eliminated in the 2010 election.
Moreover, the president himself, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, remains ideologically wedded to the idea that government is the principal generator of all solutions to our economic crisis. A government whose public debt has topped $10 trillion for the first time in history, which represents an increase of 59% since Barack Obama was inaugurated on January 20th, 2009. Thirty-one months later, the president is pivoting to job creation.
Too little, too late is an understatement.
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