Americans not buying line that economy is turning around

By Donald Lambro

The Washington Times

March 13, 2012

Americans not buying line that economy is turning around

The precipitous rise in President Obama’s job disapproval polls stunned the West Wing and shook Democratic leaders. The president is getting failing scores on all of these politically pivotal issues – from a weak economy, high unemployment, skyrocketing gas prices to trillion-dollar budget deficits.

These are fundamental bread-and-butter election issues that have stopped Mr. Obama’s momentum in his campaign for a second term and show no signs of improving anytime soon. A nationwide Washington PostABC News poll revealed an angry electorate that is fed up with his presidency. Among his worst job disapproval numbers: 59 percent on the economy, 63 percent on the deficits, 65 percent on gas prices and 52 percent on his hands-off handling of Iran’s nuclear weapons threat.

What especially stunned Obama campaign strategists was the president’s declining support among independents who likely will decide who wins the election. Fifty-seven percent of them disapprove of his handling of the economy. After that blow struck the White House, it took another big hit on the “CBS Evening News” with a CBS-New York Times poll that said Mr. Obama’s overall job approval rating had plummeted to 41 percent. Forty-seven percent said they disapproved of the job he was doing.

It was a sharp downfall for the president. A month ago, a CBS poll gave Mr. Obama a 50 percent approval score. Notably, The Post’s poll showed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney defeating Mr. Obama by 49 percent to 47 percent if the election were held today. The Gallup Poll has shown Mr. Romney leading Mr. Obama by a much larger margin for several weeks – 50 percent to 46 percent in its latest head-to-head matchup.

Mr. Obama’s shrinking approval numbers on such a wide scope of issues showed that last month’s unemployment report failed to impress voters. The reason: The massaged data coming out of Washington did not reflect the dismal job situation out in the real world. Not only did the dubious 8.3 percent unemployment rate remain unchanged, there was significant evidence that for millions of Americans, the jobs picture had shown no improvement or had worsened. The national news media  (as usual) ballyhooed the 227,000 new-jobs number, but the data behind that number showed that it was not all it was cracked up to be.

Consider this dismal economic fact that The Washington Post buried in last week’s story on the monthly job gains:

“The bulk of the job growth came in professional and business services, and more than half of those positions were in temporary employment.”

Millions of discouraged workers are forced to work only part time or fewer hours, when they need full-time jobs to make ends meet.

Americans harbor a healthy dose of cynicism about the government’s 8.3 percent average national unemployment rate because workers do not live in the world of averages. Sixteen states, including some of the largest, suffer jobless rates of between 9 percent and 13 percent.

“Factoring in discouraged adults [who have stopped looking for work] and others working part time for lack of full-time opportunities, the unemployment rate is about 14.9 percent,” says University of Maryland economist Peter Morici. “Adding college graduates in low-skill positions, like counter work at Starbucks, and the unemployment rate is closer to 18 percent.”

Soaring gasoline prices also have fueled the public’s angst toward the president. The average price for a gallon of regular gas shot up 5 cents over the weekend to $3.80 – the highest it’s ever been at this time of the year. In many parts of the country, the price of gas is over $4, and some forecasters say the national average may climb as high as $4.25 by April.

That’s cutting deeply into tight consumer budgets and, for many motorists, wiping out the 2 percent payroll-tax cut enacted to pump more liquidity and growth into the president’s lackluster economy.

Mr. Obama reiterated his excuse that there is “no silver bullet” to quickly boost tight oil supplies that would bring down gasoline prices. Nevertheless, he could have put oil exploration and drilling policies into place at the start of his presidency that would have boosted both oil and gas supplies and could have made us energy-independent.

Instead, his policies and his rhetoric have been hostile to exploration and drilling, placing moratoriums on offshore oil development and killing the Canadian-U.S. oil pipeline and thousands of oil jobs along with it.

Instead, he’s been pumping millions of tax dollars into alternative sources of fuel that are not economically viable. Mr. Obama talked recently about one project to turn algae into fuel. Newt Gingrich told voters at an energy summit in Biloxi, Miss., on Monday that the “biggest issue this fall is going to be drilling versus algae.”

It is worth noting that on Dec. 31, 2008, as George W. Bush was about to return to private life and Mr. Obama was preparing to take office, the average price of a gallon of regular was $1.61.

Now, with polls showing voters blaming him for the soaring price of gas, Mr. Obama conducted a whirlwind round of interviews Monday with eight swing-state TV stations, offering a bevy of excuses but taking no blame for his policies against oil drilling.

Mr. Obama’s presidency is clearly on the skids. He came into office promising to fix our biggest problems: a sick economy, $1.4 trillion deficits and energy dependence on foreign oil. More than three years later, they remain to be fixed.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.



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