Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- The unemployment numbers came out last week, but these were not the nationwide 8.9-percent average that was announced with much hoopla earlier this month, capturing all of the headlines.

These were the Bureau of Labor Statisics' state-by-state unemployment rates that painted a much gloomier and more realistic picture of the failure of President Obama's economic policies to create jobs for unemployed Americans. They were not reported on the network nightly news, but they should have been.

The BLS numbers showed that half of all the states, as well as the District of Columbia, had unemployment rates of 9 percent or higher, much higher. Seventeen of the states, including the largest, Florida (11.9 percent) and California (12.4 percent), had severe jobless rates of between 9.5 percent and 14.2 percent.

States with 10 percent unemployment or worse included Nevada, 14.2; Rhode Island, 11.3; Michigan 10.7; South Carolina, 10.5; Oregon, 10.4; Kentucky, 10.4; Georgia, 10.4; and Mississippi 10.1.

No amount of "We're doing better," than we were in the midst of the 2008 to 2009 recession, or "We're moving in the right direction," can wipe away these unacceptable numbers.

Obama hasn't been saying much about unemployment lately, and he has proposed no new initiatives to strengthen the American economy and spur increased job creation in the private sector, where most of the jobs are produced.

The president has clearly distanced himself from this hot political issue and has been AWOL in the latest state and federal battles over job creation and economic growth. He is taking increasing flak even from Democrats for his failure to lead efforts to reduce the budget deficit, and on other issues. He thinks "We're doing better," will win him a second term in 2012.

But these problems are not going away, and if anything, they could get worse, much worse, and the biggest impediment to stronger growth is the unprecedented $1.6 trillion budget deficit forecast by the Congressional Budget Office and a mounting $14 trillion in debt.

President Clinton's former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, speaking in a public forum this week, says the troubled Obama economy still faces "serious headwinds" that are blocking future economic growth. And they include, he said, "our long-term fiscal trajectory" which -- not mincing words -- he called "horrendous, unsustainable and dangerous."

And he adds that these headwinds include state and local government deficits "that are going to have to be closed by their constitutions," and skyrocketing oil prices and high unemployment, which he says is really 16 percent when discouraged workers who have stopped looking for jobs, and thus have dropped out of the labor force count, and workers forced to take temporary employment are added to the numbers.

Rubin has a lot of credibility on these issues, especially on the budget, because during his service in the Clinton administration he put the government on a fiscally sound path with the help of the GOP, which cut spending in the late '90s, resulting in a budget surplus that led to much stronger economic growth and job creation.

This is the policy that is being fought over in Congress and in the states right now. Republican leaders and governors of deficit-ridden states are arguing that getting their fiscal houses in order will eradicate debt and increased confidence in the business community, which will in turn lead to more jobs.

Who is opposing this? Well, Obama, for one, who briefly entered the budget war in Wisconsin in opposition to its deep spending cuts, then fled from the battle when the going got hot. And liberal Pelosi Democrats in the House and Harry Reid Democrats in the Senate, who say budget cuts will lead to job losses.

Republican leaders have countered that view with a Joint Economic Committee report and independent economic studies that show cutting government spending and borrowing less produces a stronger private sector and more jobs.

House Republican leaders held a jobs-creation forum in the Capitol Wednesday, which drew business leaders and owners, and explained that a smaller budget means a stronger economy. "That's what all of this is about right now ... it is all really about trying to create an environment for job creation in the private sector," Majority Leader Eric Cantor told the Washington Post.

Like many of his colleagues, newly elected Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio is taking his sweeping budget-cutting plan on the road to public forums around the state. Ohio has been an economic basket case for the past decade or more, when Democrats raised taxes and spent like there was no tomorrow. Well, tomorrow has showed up with a crushing $8 billion in debts.

Obama's $1 trillion spending stimulus plan poured a lot of public-works money into Ohio, a big electoral state he needs to win re-election, saying the money would create jobs. The unemployment rate there now is 9.4 percent.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.