Published October 21, 2011
After bipartisan Senate opposition stymied President Obama's latest $447 billion attempt to jump-start the economy, he could have led serious negotiations with congressional Republicans and Democrats over measures for job creation. Instead he hit the campaign trail, claiming on this week's bus tour that the GOP economic plan is: "Let's have dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance."
This angry, partisan approach hasn't worked well this year and may have helped deepen the decline in the president's approval ratings.
Ironically, the president's re-election hopes and the country's economy would both be strengthened if he understood the reason for opposition to his new stimulus: Unemployment went up after his first stimulus. His lavish pledges of growth and jobs didn't pan out, leaving the program widely (and rightly) seen as a failure. A Sept. 1 ABC/Washington Post poll found that 47% believe Mr. Obama's economic program has had no real effect while 34% said it made the economy worse.
For many Americans, another stimulus looks like more reckless and wasteful spending.
Temporary measures like those in Mr. Obama's Stimulus II won't encourage long-term growth. Its biggest outlay—$175 billion—was a one-year extension of the 2% reduction in the Social Security payroll tax. Besides undermining the retirement program's solvency, it has failed to ignite economic growth since it went into effect last December. People are using their savings to pay down debt, not to invest. It is, after all, a tax holiday—and holidays pass quickly.
Mr. Obama also continues insisting on $35 billion to "put teachers back in the classroom" and "make certain we're not laying off police officers and firefighters." But his own National Center for Educational Statistics forecasts that the number of teachers will rise anyway—from 3.66 million this fall to 3.7 million in the fall of 2012, and to 3.75 million in the fall of 2013.
While some communities may face police and fire layoffs, there is no evidence of a massive wave of firings of first responders. Could this $35 billion be a payoff to state and local public-employee unions? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed to imply this was the case with his curious statement Tuesday that "It's very clear that private sector jobs have been doing just fine."
Karl Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. He is a Fox News contributor and author of "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions, 2010). To continue reading his column in The Wall Street Journal, click here.