Are you better off today than four years ago? Tonight's presidential debate, with its focus on domestic policy, is Mitt Romney’s chance to put President Obama on the defensive, to make him answer for his abysmal economy policies.
Without a doubt, the economic performance during Obama’s presidency has been sluggish and GDP growth has been getting even slower. The new jobs added to the economy have merely offset the jobs that have been lost, with no increase in total employment. Obama has overseen the weakest economic recovery ever.
But the media has largely glossed over the continued slump and painted an unjustifiably rosy picture of the economy. It’s Romney’s job tonight to focus on the important economic issues.
Obama’s strategy is clear: blame Bush and claim the economic problems he inherited were much worse than anyone could have known at the time. But such a line of arguing should be a hard sell if Romney plays his cards right in tonight’s debate. Romney only needs to remind us of Obama’s continuing overly optimistic predictions.
After the stimulus and the four different jobs bills passed, Obama and his administration constantly predicted that recovery was right around the corner. They may now regret those predictions, for American's hopes were dashed again and again.
In Denver, Romney should keep on hammering on these basic facts:
1) Americans are poorer and much more debt-ridden
By the end of 2008, after George Bush’s eight years as president, the federal government’s publicly held debt stood at $5.8 trillion. Since then, four years into Obama’s presidency, publicly held debt has almost doubled to $11.6 trillion. And, according to the White House’s own numbers, which are likely very optimistic, that debt is projected to increase to $15 trillion after another four years.
That massive increase in debt means a real burden for Americans. The average family of four will see its share of the publicly held federal debt balloon from $77,333 in 2008 to over $191,000 in 2016.
During Obama’s recovery, not even counting the recession, the median household income has actually fallen, something unheard of during a “recovery.” Yet, from June 2009 to August 2012, income has decreased by 6 percent.
This drop isn’t too surprising as a lower proportion of working-age Americans have jobs. Indeed, the percentage employed is now the lowest it has been in the last 30 years, and virtually all of that drop has occurred during the so-called "Obama recovery." While there are about as many Americans working today as when Obama became president, Democrats conveniently forget that the US population has continued to grow substantially. There are now an additional 8.4 million working-age Americans.
Mid-wage occupations have been replaced with low-wage ones. Mid-wage occupations accounted for 60 percent of the jobs lost during the recession, but low-wage occupations account for 58 percent of hiring during the recovery.
2) President Obama’s "Stimulus" NEVER worked
After constantly predicting that his policies would jump-start the economy, with a real recovery right around the corner, Obama now asks us to trust him, that this time he knows how to fix things.
Romney needs to remind the audience and all of Amercia of what Obama said on the “Today” show soon after taking office: “We’re starting to make some progress. But there’s still gonna be some pain out there. If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s gonna be a one-term proposition.”
In March 2009, just five weeks after passing the stimulus, President Obama perceived an upswing and started off a press conference by announcing: “We’re beginning to see signs of progress... This plan’s already saved the jobs of teachers and police officers. It’s creating construction jobs to rebuild roads and bridges.” Obama declared later, in May, that the massive spending program was “already seeing results.”
In April of the following year the unemployment rate was still at 9.8 percent, but the Obama administration thought that now, for sure, the economy was just about to boom: “Some time in the next couple of months we’re going to be creating between 250,000 jobs a month and 500,000 jobs a month.” It even touted the summer of 2010 as the “Summer of Recovery.”
The list of such failed, overly optimistic predictions by the Obama administration goes on and on.
3) Corruption and crony capitalism
One needs only look at the events of last Friday to see the extent of corruption in the Obama administration. To get an election advantage, President Obama is now urging defense contractors to blatantly violate federal law. Federal law mandates that government contractors must issue notices of potential layoffs at least 60 days in advance. Since those cuts are scheduled for January 2, the notices must go out no later than November 2. But no president wants to send of massive number of layoff notices right before election.
Obama’s solution? Demand that contractors wait to wait until after the election to issue the notices, with the promises that the Obama administration will pay for the companies’ legal costs.
Yes, that is right. Companies would be paid by the federal government to break the law because following the law would be embarrassing to the Obama administration.
Unfortunately, corruption seems to be business as usual for Obama, not just an exception. Remember Solyndra, the green energy company that lost a half-billion dollar investment. When the company was losing money and laying off employees, Obama’s Department of Energy pushed the company to wait announcing its layoffs until the day after the November 2010 general election.
The stimulus money was primarily handed out to various Obama supporters. Of course, that was not what Obama promised. It was supposed to go to “those hardest hit by our economic crisis.” But instead of primarily going to states with the highest unemployment, bankruptcy, foreclosure, or poverty rates, the stimulus was mostly given to states with high incomes, states that were heavily unionized, and states whose Congressional delegations were primarily Democrats.
Contrary to his rhetoric, Obama is very friendly to the wealthy -- as long as they are Democrats. Billionaire Democrat donors receiving a lot of stimulus money include: Solyndra owner George Kaiser; Tesla Motors owners Leon Musk, Larry Page and Sergey Brin; NRG Energy owners Warren Buffett, Steven Cohen, and Carl Icahn; Abound Solar Manufacturing’s Pat Stryker; and Siga Technologies’ Ronald Perelman. Among other wealthy Democrat winners were former Vice President Al Gore, whose investment in Fisker Automotive was rewarded with a $529 million loan guarantee. Taken all together, about 75 percent of stimulus loans and grants have been doled out to companies run by Obama supporters.
4) The Lawless President
Can’t get Congress to change a law? Well, then just to ignore that law. That strategy has been used repeatedly by the Obama administration for instance, it has let illegal aliens with criminal records stay in the US. It has imposed a moratorium on offshore oil drilling despite a court order. It has threatened to destroy GM and Chrysler bondholders if they refused to relinquish their contractual rights; it has not compiled with the Military and Overseas Voter Act; and it has waived the welfare work requirements in the 1996 welfare reform law.
The press has generally avoided Obama’s continued mishandling of the economy. Real people’s lives are being destroyed and huge debts are being piled up. Corruption, transfers of massive money to cronies, and continual broken promises could bring down by themselves bring down a president. Only these problems could make federal agents giving thousands of guns to Mexican drug dealers where hundreds of people been killed seem like a side issue.
Bottom line: It's critical that Romney hold Obama responsible for his many economic failures.
John R. Lott, Jr. is a FoxNews.com contributor. An economist and former chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission, he is also a leading expert on guns. He is the author of several books, including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "At the Brink: Will Obama Push Us Over the Edge? (Regnery Publishing 2013)." Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.