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Not Good Enough

2:41 PM, Jun 1, 2012 • By JAY COST
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Perhaps I’m not in the best position to offer the White House and Democrats the best advice, but, c’mon gang, this just ain’t gonna cut it. From the White House:

Problems in the job market were long in the making and will not be solved overnight. The economy lost jobs for 25 straight months beginning in February 2008, and over 8 million jobs were lost as a result of the Great Recession.  We are still fighting back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. 

Today we learned that the economy has added private sector jobs for 27 straight months, for a total of 4.3 million payroll jobs over that period. The economy is growing but it is not growing fast enough…

There is much more work that remains to be done to repair the damage caused by the financial crisis and deep recession that began at the end of 2007. Just like last year at this time, our economy is facing serious headwinds, including the crisis in Europe and a spike in gas prices that hit American families’ finances over the past months.  It is critical that we continue the President’s economic policies that are helping us dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession....

In the American Jobs Act and in the State of the Union Address, the President put forward a number of proposals to create jobs and strengthen the economy, including proposals that would put teachers back in the classroom and cops on the beat, and put our nation’s construction workers back on the job rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.  The President has also proposed a To-Do List of actions that Congress should take to create jobs and help restore middle-class security.  This includes eliminating tax incentives to ship jobs overseas, cutting red tape so responsible homeowners can refinance, giving small businesses that increase employment or wages a 10 percent income tax credit, investing in affordable clean energy, and helping returning veterans find work. 

Here is my reaction:

1. This recovery is arguably the worst in the postwar era. At this point,  in terms of sustained weakness, the only real competition is with the period 1946-1949 and 1974-1980. And I think the data suggests the current period is worse.

2. The broad middle of the country does not blame Obama for the recession. However, they think he has not done a good job with the economy.

3. There is no vision from Team Obama about how to fix this mess, beyond these warmed-over proposals that made up the core of the (broadly unpopular) stimulus bill. What happens in a second term with the economy? Do we just keep limping on, while the president continually blames his predecessor, pushes small ball (and obviously poll-tested) proposals, and tries to pump more money into Democratic constituencies like the teachers and craft unions? I understand the political need to blame Bush, but there has to be more.

4. Though the president has been campaigning for six months or so actively (and more subtly for the prior year), he has made no real gains with the independent voters who will swing the election. There is no evidence that they trust him to do a good job on the economy in a second term. If he hopes to win, he has to offer them a vision of how he will make things better. It is high time White House and the Obama-Biden campaign recognize that touting the American "Jobs" Act is not moving the center of the country.

5. If he does not do something else, he is going to lose. I’ll put it this way: Talking up this lousy economy + blaming Bush + kowtowing to Democratic constituencies + castigating Romney as the bane of all that is holy = 47 to 48 percent of the vote, and maybe 225 electoral college votes.

Not good enough.

Jay Cost is a staff writer for THE WEEKLY STANDARD and the author of Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic, available now wherever books are sold.

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