Monday, August 29, 2011

Heck of a Job, Obama!

By Mary Claire Kendall

As we mark the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it's increasingly clear, the really big storm headed our way is economic... 

It's the lull before the storm—the perfect storm. No, not another Irene or, even worse, Katrina.

The really nasty storm that awaits us is economic.

As everyone focused on Irene, our growth rate for the second quarter weighed in at a paltry 1%—revised downward from the reported 1.3% at the end of July.

People crowd Wall Street after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.
Credit: The Authentic History Center, Michael Barnes.
The stock market’s gyrations—reminiscent of the volatility preceding “The Crash of 1929,” compared then to Coney Island’s “Cyclone” roller coaster—is reflecting fear over our seriously ill economy, still laden down with massive debt and corruption that favors “too big to fail” institutions, whose misdeeds during the 2008 financial meltdown have been rewarded with more favoritism at the little guy’s expense.

Before President Obama escaped to Martha’s Vineyard—instead of a more humble location where he could have listened to and felt Americans’ pain—the market was down 635 points, up 430 points, (then came S&P’s downgrade), down 520 points, up 423 points, and down 419 points—in just two weeks.

Obama’s plummeting polls, in turn, are reflecting dissatisfaction with his anemic response to the anemic economy.

But, now, we’re assured, he started developing that jobs plan on lush Martha’s Vineyard, which he’ll unveil early September. What about January 2009? Why not then, when it was job one? What? He needs golfing on Martha’s Vineyard to get creative? Thus, all we got was that boondoggle trillion dollar stimulus we were assured was needed to keep the unemployment rate, now 9.1%, below 8%?

Meanwhile, Americans are battening down the hatches to try to weather this perfect storm barreling our way from Europe, collapsing under the weight of its own dismal growth and debt-laden consequences, making growth less likely and the vicious cycle prefiguring global economic collapse—in the absence of leadership—more likely.

Leadership, you say? Yes, leadership! The absence of which Ruth Marcus was one of the first to broach six months ago in her “Obama’s Where’s Waldo Presidency?” piece, noting, “On the biggest issues, the president is often hard to find.”

Everyone was aghast. But, she was only stating the obvious. By now, it’s a steady drumbeat, with Mort Zuckerman recently writing about Obama’s “competency crisis” in the Wall Street Journal.

Admittedly, to some, the need for Obama leadership is still a foreign concept. As Jonathan Capehart mused on “Morning Joe”—also on Friday, August 26—what can the president do to create jobs?

It all calls to mind the Saturday Night Live spoof of the 2008 Hillary-Obama debates. Whereas she was treated to boxing gloves, Obama was asked, Are you comfortable and do you need another pillow?

It’s confounding that in the midst of incalculable suffering, given Obama’s apparent cluelessness over how to nurse the ailing economy back to health—the unemployment rate among 16-24 year-olds, April-July, alone, was 51.2%, highest since 1948, when that statistic began being calculated—that anyone would give Obama a mulligan.

Notwithstanding, I would say, no, Obama can do nothing to create jobs—unless he transforms himself and does what great presidents do, namely: inspire the nation with a driving dream; eliminate job-choking regulation; lower job-killing taxes; support community banks that lend money to small businesses that create most jobs, instead of big banks courtesy zero percent interest rates, that, the Fed just announced, will be maintained through 2013—the same community banks that, because they know how to make responsible mortgage loans, hold the key to cleaning up the mortgage mess; reform health care the smart way by putting patients first instead of bureaucrats—government and insurance—and getting the incentives right.

But, this would require, well greatness, and really and truly falling in love with America.

And, that might be too much for a president who only inspires coddling.

Postscript: On Friday, September 2, the Labor Department reported zero jobs were created in August—such a dismal number not seen since 1945!  

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