Well, look, the president said, while reflecting somberly on why he got "shellacked" at the polls.
Look: "If right now we had 5 percent unemployment instead of 9.6 percent unemployment, the people would have more confidence in those policy changes" -- the ones he and fellow Democrats enacted.
It's the political version of the ancient hobo's lament: If we had some ham, we could have ham and eggs. If we had some eggs ...
You get unemployment down with policies calculated to get it down. You do the right things, not the wrong ones. No more than you create the Mona Lisa by throwing paint on the wall do you put America to work by, well, let's enumerate:
1. Elevating something called health care "reform" to the top of your legislative priority list; giving it pride of place over competing legislative opportunities.
2. Permitting Congress to fashion and pass an economically incoherent and pork-laden "stimulus" bill.
3. Ordering a temporary halt to oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for no better reason than wanting to seem tough on oil companies.
4. Dawdling on the issue of extending tax rates due to expire at year's end.
5. Promising to exclude Americans earning $250,000 or more from any extension Congress might grant at the last minute.
6. Promoting and signing a 2,000-page bill tightening federal control of financial institutions.
7. Declining -- possibly never thinking of doing otherwise -- to express admiration for business of all sizes as well as not supporting the removal of obstacles to job-creation.
In real life, as opposed to the political version, you do the right things, not the wrong ones, to get the results you want. So every day is this principle that you wouldn't imagine the necessity of explaining it to a Harvard Law graduate and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Nevertheless ...
Calling the Obama administration hostile to jobs and the marketplace economy wouldn't be completely fair. It's not that the administration (occasional tea party rants to the contrary) wants to socialize America. The point is in some sense more disturbing. It is that the administration seems not to have the slightest idea why particular Americans would start a business: borrowing money, assuming risks of all sorts, working long and vexatious hours, following a dream peculiar to the dreamer, knowing at the end of the day that the dream might not even work out.
At the heart of American economic success is the cult of the entrepreneur -- the go-getter, the risk-taker. If you want job creation, you want entrepreneurs who will create the jobs (not to mention pay the taxes that keep the government running).
Community organizer that he was, Barack Obama has ideas and notions seemingly formed by the experience of issuing directives rather than that of persuading customers. A pity. Some background in business might have fostered appreciation of how the businessperson yearns not for government that costs him plenty and orders him around; instead, for government whose rhetoric and policies say to him, go for it!
We circle back to where we started. Calvin Coolidge probably couldn't have achieved a jobless rate of 5 percent this year, so hard was the economy's fall in 2007-'08. A rate of 9.6, nevertheless? When Obama promised nothing higher than 8, following the stimulus? How come? And what next?
The sovereign voters on Nov. 2 gave a preliminary answer to that latter question. What we need is in some measure what we seem sure to get, thanks to the Republican resurgence: namely, broad political support for the ideal of encouraging rather than stiff-arming those most eager to create jobs, who seek nothing fancier than the chance to succeed. That means lower taxes; it means lighter regulations; it means, on the part of the powerful, friendly words and actions instead of scowls and kicks in the shin.
There's finally the chance to get this unemployment thing right -- hardly overnight, but with good intentions and policies, soon enough to make sure the shin-kickers enjoy a good long rest on the political sidelines.