WASHINGTON - President Obama's belief that "the private sector is doing fine" ranks as the most uninformed statement on the struggling American economy to date.
His patently false remark Friday at a White House news conference was compounded by his flat out assertion that the people who have really been hurt are those who work in "state and local government."
It shows the president is disconnected from the bleak, everyday, economic realities that still afflict our country, its businesses and its people. It shows he doesn't possess even a minimal understanding of the statistical makeup of the nation's workforce.
Tens of millions of workers can't find full-time jobs and millions have stopped looking. The numbers of jobs being created plummeted last month to a pathetic 69,000. The economy is growing at less than 2 percent, economists say we are on the brink of another recession, and Obama declares "the private sector is doing fine"? What planet is he living on?
Not only does it betray Obama's fundamental ignorance of the size and weak performance of the private sector, but it shows how ideologically biased he is toward government sector employment versus the private sector.
I mean, this is a guy who came into office brandishing a harsh hostility toward Wall Street, banks, corporations and businesses in general. One of his first proposals was to raise income tax rates that would wallop small businesses when they were flat on their back, fighting for their survival and forced to lay off their employes.
Obama's got it backwards. Public sector workers are doing much better than those in the private sector. "Since the beginning of 2008, the private sector has lost about 4.6 million jobs. During the same time, the public sector... has lost just 407,000 jobs," writes U.S.
News' economics reporter Rick Newman.
"The private sector employs more than five times as many workers as the public sector does, so it ought to be the main focus for anybody aiming to fix the economy," he says. Not with president.
On the contrary, private sector blue collar workers are the ones who are the hardest hit. Construction workers have lost two million jobs and U.S. manufacturing has dropped 1.8 million or 13 percent. The president focuses on firemen, police and teachers, "but the people hurting the most are roofers, builders and assembly-line workers,"
Newman points out.
Let's take a closer look at the private sector-dominated economy that Obama says "is doing fine."
-- Unemployment is rising, now at 8.2 percent nationally, but much higher in 17 states across the country, including New York, 8.5 percent; Florida, 8.7; South Carolina, 8.8; New Jersey, 9.1;, North Carolina, 9.4; California, 11.2; Rhode Island, 11.2; and Nevada, 11.7.
This is fine?
-- 24 million workers are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work, pushing the jobless rate to 15 percent.
-- In the three and a half years of Obama's presidency, nearly half of college graduates cannot find full-time work that is commensurate with their educational training and many are forced to work part-time, temp work or low-pay counter work at Starbucks.
-- High school graduates are having even a harder time getting work, according to a recent report from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. A stunning one in six were working full-time in Obama's economy.
The study found that of those who have graduated in the last three years, only 16 percent had full-time jobs. Three out of five lived with their parents or other family members.
-- New business creation, where most new jobs come from, has fallen to the lowest level in 30 years.
Apparently, Obama doesn't read the newspapers or his staff reports leave out all of the bad economic news. If he depends on the nightly network news shows, he will rarely see any report about the economy's persistent weakness.
But the news is getting bleaker. "The U.S. economy is drifting toward recession," University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici said Tuesday.
"Job creation slipped alarmingly in April and May. Wages, which were rising modestly through the recovery, have been virtually flat for three months. An already tough labor market is getting worse,"
Manufacturing orders have fallen in the last two months, and the Institute of Supply Chain management says prices are falling. That's a sign of declining sales and a precursor of future layoffs.
The Obama economy is weakening further and people are hurting, especially the middle class that Obama goes to great lengths to show he understands their economic plight. Telling them that the private economy is "doing just fine" undermines that appeal.
The Gallup Poll reports that confidence in the economy fell slightly last week. Notably, "The decline was driven by Democrats, whose confidence dropped eight points from the previous week."
White House strategists are hoping the damage from Obama's gaffe will be forgiven, especially after his flip-flop a few hours later that the economy is definitely not fine.
But former governor Mitt Romney, who is running neck and neck with Obama this week, will be reminding voters how out of touch the president really is. He's running an ad right now about Obama's remark as the voters tell of their struggles to find work.
The Romney ad ends with this text rolling across the screen:
"No, Mr. President, we are not "doing fine.'"
This has been a bad week for Obama. The White House is being investigated for national security leaks to burnish the president's image, Mitt Romney and the Republicans are out-raising him, Democrats were beaten in Wisconsin, his attorney general faces a contempt of Congress charge, and his Commerce secretary has been given a felony hit-and-run citation.
Now the voters are discovering that the president is out of touch with their daily struggles and that deep inside he really believes the economy "is doing fine."
He's going to get a reality check on November 6.