President Obama is at it again. Our economy stuck in first gear, the president is again indulging in revisionist history--blaming the rich and his predecessors for high unemployment and misadventures in statism. Sadly, his claims are all too easy to debunk.
Sunday, on "60 Minutes," Mr. Obama declared that he “didn’t overpromise" about the economy. "And I didn’t underestimate how tough this was going to be.”
Certainly, Mr. Obama took office in a maelstrom—banks failing on the wreckage of their own frauds, unemployment at 7.8 percent and GDP falling. At his request, the Congress funded a $759 billion stimulus package. And the Congress looked the other way when the president misallocated TARP funds to bail out General Motors and Chrysler, and awarded huge sums to startup energy companies with significant involvement from among Democratic Party faithful.
With his program implemented, Mr. Obama issued new federal budget and economic forecasts in May 2009 that projected unemployment and GDP growth would average 7.1 and 4.0 percent in 2011, and 6.0 and 4.6 percent in 2012. White House economists Larry Summers and Christina Romer numerously repeated presidential assurances that prosperity was just a few big government steps away.
Well, the books are closing on 2011, and unemployment and growth are on track to average 9.0 and 1.7 percent for the year and the prospects for next year are not much better—those are not even within the same time zone as White House projections.
To his credit, President Obama is correct to state “reversing structural problems in our economy that have been building up for two decades, that’s going to take time.” And he talked about those problems when campaigning for the presidency, but simply has not addressed those as effectively as promised, if at all.
The U.S. economy is suffering from too little demand for what Americans make. Consumers have returned to the malls and new car showrooms and businesses are investing again, but a huge trade deficit on oil and with China sends too many dollars abroad that do not return to buy U.S. exports.
While campaigning in the Midwest in 2008 Democratic presidential nominee Obama promised to take substantive actions to redress China’s undervalued currency and protectionism, and soon after taking office he warned the Middle Kingdom if it didn’t mend its mercantilist ways, the United States could act unilaterally.
Since then all we have had is talk—the president has sent envoys to Beijing to plead for better treatment, but Sino leaders sensing weakness called his bluff, and Barack Obama has come up wanting.
All along, the president has acknowledged the need to develop more domestic oil and gas, but in the wake of the BP disaster in the Gulf, he has punished all oil companies for the sins of one, and rising prices for imported petroleum are a huge tax on economic recovery.
With oil hovering near $100 a barrel and new internal combustion engine technologies coming on line at Ford, Mazda and other manufacturers, it is possible to raise U.S. oil output to 10 million barrels a day, deploy more domestic natural gas, and reduce oil imports by two thirds, and perhaps even start exporting oil again. And have less CO2 emissions to boot, and without driving fire trap all electric vehicles.
Dodd-Frank gave the president his financial sector reforms. The barons of banking that caused the collapse are mostly still in their jobs, using cheap Federal Reserve funds to make large bets and trade much like the bad old days of 2005 through 2007. Many have acquired regional banks and together the Wall Street banks hold more than 60 percent of the nation’s deposits, and refuse to fund loans to small and medium sized businesses.
Though the president remains active raising money for Democratic candidates among Manhattan’s money moguls, his Treasury Department does little to uncork all those deposits to build Midwestern businesses and create jobs for the middle class.
This past week, President Obama visited Ossawatomie Kansas to invoke memories of Teddy Roosevelt’s 1910 “New Nationalism” speech, where he again blamed the nation’s woes on the avarice and plundering of the wealthy.
Instead of pledging to redouble efforts to keep his campaign promises and fix what’s broke, Americans did not get a reprise of the bespectacled American legend, but instead a sad revival of Pinocchio—only lacking were the short pants and long nose.
Peter Morici is a professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland and former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. Follow him on Twitter@pmorici1.