Donald Lambro

Things aren't going well for President Obama these days.

A U.S. appeals court struck down a key mandate in his health care law to force uninsured Americans to purchase medical coverage. The economy is tilting toward a recession amid rising unemployment. His job approval score fell to a new 39-percent low last week.

Nearly four months before the presidential marathon officially begins, Obama's lackluster economy remains the overwhelming political issue in the country. And Obama was campaigning across the Midwest this week with a tattered bag of warmed-over proposals he said will get the economy moving again, including his all-purpose remedy: tax increases.

If raising taxes in a struggling recovery, which barely grew by 0.8 percent in the first six months of this year, is a political winner, Walter Mondale would have beaten President Reagan in 1984. Instead, the former vice president -- who ran on a platform to raise income tax rates -- lost 49 states.

But Obama is a slow learner. Since the shockingly weak GDP growth numbers for the first two quarters came out last month, he has been making one excuse after another for his economic failures, as he was doing again in Iowa on Monday.

There he was in Cannon Falls, "describing a litany of unexpected shocks to the economy -- from the earthquake in Japan to the unrest in the Middle East," The Washington Post reported. But does anyone believe the tepid U.S. economy is the result of the Arab spring?

Usually when the economy goes into a nose dive, the president comes out with a full-blown plan aimed at getting the country back on track. He meets with his top economic advisers, and they unveil a new growth agenda they can send up to Capitol Hill.

Upward of 20 million Americans are either unemployed or forced to take part-time or temporary jobs, or have dropped out of the workforce because they can't find work. This calls for strong medicine, but Obama offers a disappointing grab bag of leftover legislation that he's been trying to get Congress to pass for the past three years:

Still more temporary public works, job stimulus spending to hire construction workers; three trade agreements that have been sitting on a shelf since the Bush administration; an overhaul of patent laws; tax credits to hire veterans; extending the payroll tax cut, which expires in December, for another year; and more unemployment benefits.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.