WASHINGTON -- President Obama has been campaigning for endangered Democrats around the country, saying the economy is "moving in the right direction," even though a majority of Americans do not believe him.
Not when half the states, including strategic battlegrounds in the upcoming midterm elections, are suffering from unemployment rates of between 9 percent and 14 percent, or worse. Not when job growth is tepid, the housing industry is crippled, retirement pensions have been shrinking in a bear market, and trillion-dollar budget deficits as far as the eye can see are being called "a cancer" on our economic future.
There is a severe disconnect from reality at the White House. Obama is still saying that things are getting better under his failed presidency while Robert Gibbs, his press secretary, tells the nation on "Meet the Press" that voters are so soured on the Democrats that Republicans have a good shot at winning the House in November.
Gibbs was honestly relating what the White House's own internal polls have been showing for months, in an attempt to deliver a wake-up call to the party's base that the current one-party government will soon end in Congress if Democrats don't get enthused about the election. But the same polls show that enthusiasm is now decidedly on the Republican side, and the voters who put Obama and the Democrats in power aren't going to turn out to vote in the same numbers they did in 2008.
In a desperate move to repair damaged relations with Latino and Hispanic voters, the White House is pushing immigration reform legislation and has brought a lawsuit against Arizona's get-tough law against illegals. But that has only served to anger independents and other swing voters on this issue, as well as Democrats in Congress, who see it as a needless distraction from the No. 1 issue that is driving this election: the economy.
If Gibbs' blunt warning were not enough, this bleak headline that ran across the front page of Tuesday's Washington Post delivered stark, new polling evidence that the Obama presidency was in a steep descent: "6 in 10 Americans lack faith in Obama."
The Post's findings: A clear majority disapproves of how Obama is dealing with the economy. Two-thirds of all voters are dissatisfied with the way the government is working. A majority now says they would prefer the Republicans to control Congress. Likely voters in the midterm election "prefer the GOP over continued Democratic rule by a sizeable margin of 56 percent to 41 percent."
While the administration and Democrats in Congress remain on the defensive on the weak, jobless economy, Republicans are busy working on a sweeping campaign agenda they will roll out in September to block Obama's plans to let expiring tax cuts go up in January and impose other new taxes on health care, energy, small businesses and investors.
"The White House and its congressional Democrat allies have relentlessly pursued an agenda that continues to create tremendous uncertainty in our economy," Georgia Rep. Tom Price, who chairs the 115-member conservative House Republican Study Committee, told me in an e-mail.
"They have targeted American job-creators with new taxes and mandates that are hostile to current and future growth. Republicans are determined to help more Americans get back to work and ... help small businesses. That means defending American families and entrepreneurs against future tax increases set to occur at the beginning of next year or as part of a Democrat national energy tax scheme, as well as supporting pro-growth tax policies that reduce the tax burden for families, small businesses and investors so they can grow the economy and create jobs," Price said.
The GOP's campaign agenda will focus on other hot-button issues such as shrinking the budget deficit, bringing down the national debt and rolling back the Democrats' unpopular Obamacare plan. But the economy and a broadside attack on the Democrats' deeply flawed and wasteful spending stimulus will be its centerpiece.
The agenda's specific proposals will be developed over the next month and a half in a series of nationwide voter forums as part of the House Republicans' America Speaking Out initiative.
"Job creation is issue number one, two and three," Brendan Buck, chief spokesman for the GOP agenda planning group, told me.
And make no mistake, the onerous tax levels that Obama and his Democratic pals in Congress are preparing to nail into this barely recovering economy are job killers.
Economist Kevin Hassett at the American Enterprise Institute puts the coming top income tax rates into sharper perspective in his blog for the Bloomberg news website. After Obama lets the 2001 top tax rates rise to 39.6 percent in January, he will add new taxes on small businesses with the phase-out of itemized deductions, pushing it up to 40.8 percent. Then in 2013 comes the 3.8 percent Obama Medicare tax on investment income, pushing it up to 44.6 percent.
That level of taxation on small businesses and the people who invest in our economy the most, who provide the risk-capital to start new businesses and expand existing ones, will be a huge drag on future growth and new job creation. But that is the future that Obama promises us as he goes about the country insisting "we're moving in the right direction."
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