The more President Obama talks to (some would say “at”) the American people, the lower his approval ratings sink. The most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, released this week, shows that only 43 percent of the nation approves of Mr. Obama’s job performance, while 53 percent disapprove- the worst ratings yet. Why are Americans tuning out their president?
It starts with credibility. Beginning with the health care debate, the president has squandered an extraordinary stockpile of the public’s trust. A fourth-grader would have deemed absurd his core promise – that we could provide free health care for an additional 31 million Americans and not add to our deficit. According to Pew data gathered earlier in August, 78 percent of Americans distrust the government under this administration --an unprecedented level.
President Obama has only himself to blame. The current fracas over campaign spending is the kind of issue that further widens the credibility gap. Ever since the Supreme Court judged corporations free to engage in political advertising, the president has hinted of dark forces and “special interests” at work.
His demonizing of the decision has been robustly supported by The New York Times, which recently ran a lead editorial describing the Supreme Court decision as “opening the door to a new era of political corruption.” In other words, corporate views and practices are essentially dishonest; undeterred, Obama fans suggest, businesses will elect Republicans to further their greedy and self-serving agendas.
Here’s the lie behind Mr. Obama’s narrative: corporations are indeed big campaign givers, but unlike unions, they give to both parties. Unions, on the other hand, funnel almost all their contributions to Democrats.
Reviewing the top donors from 1989 to 2010, we see that the leading campaign giver -- AT&T – spent $46 million, 55 percent of which went to Republicans and 44 percent to democrats.
The second largest donor – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, spent $43 million – 98 percent of which went to Dems.
The National Association of Realtors, number four on the list, split their spending 48 percent Democratic and 51 percent Republican; number five Goldman Sachs, gave 62 percent of their money to Democrats and only 36 percent to Republicans. Number seven, The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, gave 97 percent of their funds to Democrats. And so on.
In the last election, many industries doled out more money to Democratic candidates than to Republicans. Hedge funds, casino operators, pharmaceutical companies, computer makers – all gave heavily to Democrats. On the other hand, most Americans are aware that President Obama received $450 million in union money, which weighed heavily in getting him elected. So, which is the “special interest”?
The president touched off the latest round in the campaign donations spat by suggesting that foreigners were backing Republican groups; this charge was so quickly and thoroughly discredited that the Obama team ended up looking foolish. It was in any case a curious premise. Who are these foreign nations conspiring to bring down the Obama administration but who also want to fatten our business sector? Since many would argue that the measures passed by the Obama administration have weakened our finances and our global competitiveness, it would be hard to imagine a foreign nation betting against them.
Another question is this: since Democrats were on the receiving end of so much corporate largesse in the past, why are they so horrified that corporations can now also advertise? The reason is that the Obama administration has opened a serious rift with the business community – by most accounts an unprecedented divide.
Mr. Obama’s background as a community organizer and his administration’s lack of business acumen guaranteed a rocky relationship, which might have gone unnoticed except for the dismal state of the economy. Any prospect of rapprochement in this quarter appears to have vanished; the White House’s half-hearted quest to replace Larry Summers with a CEO has been abandoned.
Americans want jobs, and this president has absolutely no idea where to find them. Worse, he has no one to ask.