Barack Obama's presidency is in deep trouble because he neglected to heed the maxim ineloquently stated by Clinton campaign manager Jim Carville in the 1992 Presidential campaign: "It's the economy, stupid." In this case the saying might be refined a bit to: "Its unemployment, stupid."
The nation's stubbornly high unemployment rate threatens to become President Obama's version of the Iran hostage crisis that brought down our last hapless chief executive, Jimmy Carter. A group of Islamic militants stormed the embassy of the United States in Tehran on November 4, 1979 and took 52 Americans hostage. The regime of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini spent the next 444 days taunting the United States and frustrating the Carter Administration's ineffective efforts to free the prisoners.
Fast forward to 2011 and we have the economic equivalent of the hostage crisis with the nation's economy bound and gagged by massive federal government over-spending, an abundance of job-killing regulations, and historic levels of uncertainty created in no small part by the passage of the Obama health care "reforms."
At various points during the first three years of his presidency Barack Obama has given lip service to dealing with unemployment. The situation is virtually all the policies he has implemented have made the problem worse and driven the American economy to the cusp of a double dip recession. The so-called economic stimulus package proved to be little more than a pay-off to Democratic constituencies with even the president himself admitting there were no "shovel ready" projects to fund. The administration's signature legislative achievement — passage of Obamacare — is so complex businesses cannot figure out what they are required to do and what it will eventually cost.
Against this backdrop he appeared before a joint session of Congress to announce what was billed as a comprehensive new jobs program. During that speech, as he often does, President Obama summoned the memory of Abraham Lincoln. But Lincoln also once observed: "How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg." Likewise, calling another stimulus package a jobs bill doesn't make it a jobs bill.
The President's "new" jobs package is little more than a rehash of tactics that have been tried and failed, and others that may have some long-term impact but would fail to create jobs in the short term. In what was a highly partisan speech the President essentially challenged Republicans in congress to yield to his will, or he would make them the issue in the upcoming Presidential campaign.
The day after the president's speech the financial markets tanked.
By failing to admit to past mistakes, craft a new plan in cooperation with both parties in congress, and put forth a new set of initiatives President Obama fed the one factor that is most responsible for the reluctance of businesses to create jobs: uncertainty.
As a result of uncertainty, and a failure to attend to the core problems affecting job creators trillions of dollars in capital are going to remain on the economic sidelines. This was evidenced by statements last July from Las Vegas casino tycoon Steve Wynn who called Obama "The Greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime." He went on to say: "Those of us who have business opportunities and the capital to do it are going to sit in fear of the President."
Steve Wynn is not alone. Businesses large and small cannot risk their capital on the soft socialism promoted by the Obama administration. Essentially their capital is being held hostage by his policies. And that capital is not going to be released while Barack Obama sits in the Oval office. If job creators won't create jobs, the unemployment rate will not drop. Thus joblessness will remain high through next year's Presidential election.
On a clear January morning in 1981 Ronald Wilson Reagan raised his right hand and took the oath of office becoming the 40th President of the United States. Half a world away the 52 Americans held hostage were put on a plane and sent home by an Iranian regime that wasn't willing to risk a confrontation with the new leader of the free world.
A comparable scene will unfold in January of 2013 as the inauguration of America's next president releases the shackles now stifling the nation's economy setting free trillions of dollars in capital that will lift the clouds of recession now hovering over us.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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