President Obama today kicks off what his administration is calling his “White House to Main Street” road show. First stop on the listening tour: Allentown, PA, coincidentally, my hometown. Obama is headed to the Lehigh Valley because, as Billy Joel pointed out, they closed all the factories down and it’s still getting hard to stay.
Joel wrote that song in the eighties, but the economic hardship for valley residents has returned. In spite of the passing of a $787 billion stimulus package by Obama and Pennsylvania Senators Arlen Specter and Bob Casey, both Democrats, unemployment has gone from bad to worse.
Stimulus funds were funneled to the area, yet the region is still shedding jobs. Pennsylvania’s unemployment as of October was 8.4%, and unemployment for the Allentown area was a depressing 9.3%, one point below the national average.
If you thought the Washington, D.C. "jobs summit" was political posturing, his backdrop in Pennsylvania is equally as orchestrated.
Obama plans to visit one of the only local bright spots: Lehigh Carbon Community College, an institution that, by standards, is doing well. There are two reasons for this: stimulus money, a portion of which is funding renovations to their athletic facility providing temporary construction jobs (In essence, no long-term employment of any consequence.); and the fact that the college is the only cost effective option for an education. But apart from a few part-time shifts for college students and one full-time administrator, how many jobs will the facility really create? Not many, and we're spending a whopping $80K of taxpayer money to create each one.
If Obama wants to see really hardship he should visit some small businesses instead of cherry-picking a facade.
Congressman Charlie Dent, who represents the Keystone State's 15th district plans on holding his own jobs roundtable today that will include small business owners, a group that was notably left out of Thursday's D.C. forum.
Dent says that though he’s pleased the President picked his hometown to listen, the last thing the region needs is talk.
“You don’t need a whistle stop campaign event to figure out that people in Pennsylvania are hurting."
Though the saying goes "less talk and more action," it's the kind of action on Obama's domestic agenda that's poised to further send the country into an employment ditch.
“The health care bill, as it relates to jobs, is bad news. There is a surtax on income; a third of that will be taken from small business. The employer mandate and its 8% penalty will force many small business owners to cut payroll in order to provide the benefit. The medical device tax will imperil jobs -- at local manufacturers like B. Braun -- and stifle innovation, not to mention bend the cost curve up, add taxes and entitlements and cut Medicare," argues Dent.
Cap-and-trade is another job killer. According to the Pennsylvania Utility Commission, cap-and-trade will cost the state 66k jobs by 2020. Nationally, the legislation would increase gas prices by 58% and add $829 to the electric bill of a family of four per year according to the Heritage Foundation. Worse, net job losses could approach 1.9 million in 2012 and 2.5 million by 2035. Manufacturing could lose 1.4 million jobs in 2035.
For the jobless in places like Allentown, and all struggling corners of the country, these laws will have crushing effects.
"These major pieces of legislation that are being rushed through Congress are job killers. They're impediments to recovery, and that's what’s really scaring people," said Dent.
Billy Joel sang about Allentown's worry, that tune has now descended into desperation and panic. Sadly, though, despite the staged stops and summits to tout "successes," the reality of this listening tour is that the one who's supposed to be listening appears painfully tone deaf.
Andrea Tantaros is a conservative columnist, commentator and FoxNews.com contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @andreatantaros.