Published July 08, 2011
The Friday jobs report was dismal.
President Obama’s response was more dismal.
Sounding like a man completely bereft of ideas, he talked of expediting the patent process and pushing Congress to pass the trade agreements that have become hostage to endless bickering. In fairness, he also suggested putting our million unemployed construction workers to work repairing roads and airports. Maybe Mr. Obama expects them to work as volunteers; there surely is no plan afoot to crank up infrastructure spending.
The most interesting aspect of President Obama’s brief (very brief) comments on Friday was his numerous references to reducing uncertainty. After a solid year and a half of businesses and entrepreneurs complaining that the upheaval of huge sectors of our economy engineered by this administration might – just might – be causing some managers to hesitate before adding to plant or personnel, Mr. Obama is now embracing certainty. It will be, of course, just a short hop to the notion that we cannot afford to “change horses in midstream” – and that we should, for certainty’s sake, re-elect Mr. Obama. Wait and see – this will surely become a campaign slogan any day now.
President Obama may have finally come round to the notion that turning the health care, pharmaceutical, insurance, banking, brokerage and asset management businesses upside down has not helped job creation– but he has clearly not let it slow him down.
Just this past week he decided to throw our auto industry another curve ball by proposing drastically higher fuel efficiency standards for 2025. That’s on top of one prior round of fuel efficiency hikes, and also an effort by Congress to pass the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010 -- a new slew of rules and requirements meant to resolve regulatory shortcomings responsible for Toyota’s problems. (That effort thankfully fizzled after it turned out that accidents involving Toyota’s were almost entirely due to driver error- a finding the administration did its best to conceal.)
Some industry analysts project that, if adopted, the mandate would boost the average price of cars by several thousand dollars, cost car manufacturers millions in sales and results in hundreds of thousands of workers losing their jobs. That may be an industry-biased overreaction – but the point is – why risk it? Why undermine the gains our beleaguered industry has made?
Any minute now EPA chief Lisa Jackson will start dishing out new guidelines governing smog (how will she control fog, I wonder – the tourists perennially stuck in fogged-in Nantucket are dying to know) mercury, mining waste, carbon dioxide,vehicle emissions and probably that strange smell coming from my refrigerator. Rarely has a cabinet officer wielded so much power over the economy – and especially over sectors such a manufacturing which are so crucial to our country’s recovery.
Columnist Mark Thoma recently published a piece in The Fiscal Times which claims that the GOP is acting hypocritically, accusing the White House of fostering uncertainty while actually creating more unease by trying to overturn ObamaCare and rein in the financial regulatory overhaul. It’s an absurd charge, but at least we’ve got Democrats discussing the cost of insecurity.
The jobs news will probably get better in coming months, as car manufacturing ramps up. Also, there are scattered indications that some inventory adjustment is ending, and that chain store sales are showing signs of life. Perhaps Congress and the White House will finally agree to agree on how to cut our deficit, boosting the country’s morale. We undoubtedly will see brighter light ahead, but it will not be because of leadership from the White House.