Michael Gerson: Obama's economic message premised on denial
WASHINGTON — One would think, given so much practice, that the Obama White House would have been better prepared for last week's wretched jobs report.
Instead, we witnessed the five stages of bad public relations. Delusion: It was a “step in the right direction.” Dismissiveness: Don't “read too much into any one monthly report.” Grudging acceptance: “It's still tough out there.” Cliche: “There are no quick fixes.” Self-pity: “I suspect that most people in Cincinnati would acknowledge that I've tried real hard.”
I suspect that most people in Cincinnati and elsewhere would prefer an economic strategy that consists of something more than blame shifting and the systematic lowering of expectations.
Obama's economic agenda is debilitated by a political problem. Announcing an ambitious new set of policy proposals would be an admission that previous approaches were insufficient. But winning re-election during a serious labor market recession is no easy task.
Up to this point, Obama has successfully finessed the issue — recalling the initial challenges he faced, urging patience and criticizing congressional obstruction on a series of incremental reforms. At some point, however, claiming to be a victim of fate just appears feeble. Patience takes on the air of complacency. And the lowering of expectations seems more like the acceptance of permanent decline.
Obama's economic message is currently premised on the denial of a crisis. But last month — three years into an anemic recovery — more American workers went on Social Security disability (85,000) than got jobs (80,000). A McCain administration would be seeing preparations for a union-sponsored Labor Day march on Washington demanding jobs, jobs, jobs. The Obama administration, in contrast, gets some muted criticism from Robert Reich, who argues for “large and bold things to turn the economy around.”
But it is not clear what such things might be. Given the federal budget crisis, prospects are poor for major new stimulus spending or backfilling state and local budgets. While the jobs number for June was bad, it was probably not bad enough to result in another round of quantitative easing when the Federal Reserve meets late this month. So Obama is left with a series of smaller-scale proposals that no self-respecting Keynesian economist would judge sufficient.
Voices Photo Galleriesview all
- 36901Oklahoma weather: Crews work to clear storm damage in Oklahoma City as the state braces for severe weather Sunday.
- 36295Oklahoma tornadoes: 'It took it all'
- 32626Oklahoma Severe Storm Updates
- 8549Wild hogs continue to be a growing menace across Oklahoma
- 5487OKC Thunder GM Sam Presti won't amnesty Kendrick Perkins
- 4132Oklahoma City Thunder: What could Serge Ibaka learn from Hakeem Olajuwon?
- 4021Oklahoma State football: Limiting Wes Lunt's transfer options makes Mike Gundy look bad