Donald Lambro

As President Obama nears the end of his fifth year in office, his toughest job is dreaming up new excuses for his administration's mounting failures.

This month he is beset by multiple challenges to explain why the rollout of his massive national health insurance system is plagued by failures, and why job creation fell to another new low in his persistently weak economy.

Obama and his White House excuse factory have come up with some doozies in the last week or so.

The systemic breakdown in Obama's online health care insurance marketplace, they said, is due to Obamacare's huge popularity and wasn't able to deal with the millions of Americans who were clamoring to sign up. I'll deal with this whopper in a moment.

As for the shrinking number of jobs being produced by the Obama economy -- contrary to claims it is "moving in the right direction" -- Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Sunday that last month's falling employment figures were due to the government's shutdown.

Wait a minute. How can that be? The 16-day, partial shutdown took place this month, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics' figures were all about job creation that occurred last month when the government was open and operating a full throttle.

But there was Lew, one of the most impotent Treasury secretaries in the nation's history, telling NBC's Meet the Press Sunday that this month's shutdown was responsible for the weakening job creation forecasts.

"I can't give you a number today of what it is, [but] I know the direction," he said. "The direction is, it took an economy that is fighting hard to get good economic growth going to create jobs for the American people, and it took it in the wrong direction. Our job in Washington is to move it in the right direction."

Lew is making all of this up as he goes along, hoping American's won't notice his silly, Pinocchio-like excuses that make no sense at all. Obama's economy has been moving in the "wrong direction" for a long time.

Economic growth averaged little more than a measly 2 percent over the last four years. It is forecast to drop to 1.8 percent in the third quarter.

Employers created just 148,000 jobs in September, far below the 180,000 that economists and forecasting firms were predicting. Some estimated that the job force would grow by 200,000.

But the private sector accounted for a mere 126,00 of BLS' September total, whose data was mostly gathered and assembled before the shutdown.

The government's official unemployment rate remained virtually unchanged, inching down to 7.2 percent. But that was largely due to more than 91,000 discouraged, jobless adults, who couldn't find full- time jobs, dropping out of the labor force.

It is important to understand that part-time employment was a large part of the jobs total, something that the news media does not emphasize.

"In 2013, nearly half of the employment growth has been in part- time positions," with 456,000 more adults reporting working part-time, says University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici.

"The jobs count may be up, but for recent college graduates and older adults seeking positions the situation is grim," Morici says. "Adding in part-timers who want full time employment and discouraged adults who have abandoned the search for jobs, the unemployment rate becomes 13.6 percent."

The national news media blames the languishing jobs picture on federal budget cuts, including the sequester and the shutdown. But the truth is that the weakening economy is the result of Obama's anti- growth, anti-job policies:

Obamacare, that has led to a great deal more part-time employment to escape its employer-paid health insurance mandates; the hefty January tax increases that have cut into capital investment and hit small businesses especially hard; soaring budget deficits (at least $650 billion in this year alone) that are sucking hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy; and a sea of business regulations that have heaped huge, job-killing costs on employers.

Obama's mea culpa Monday, over the disastrous rollout of his not- well-thought-out healthcare plan, acknowledged that it needed more work in its application systems. Others said that the problems go much deeper than that.

Days before, when the White House was pressuring officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to begin the sign up, online system, insiders were telling superiors that it wasn't ready.

Officials held a simulated run of the Web site to test if it could easily handle tens of thousands of people at one time. It crashed on the first try when "just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously," the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

A month before it was to open for business, test officials had warned the administration the system was riddled with problems and not ready for prime time.

But Obama's job approval polls were falling into the low 40s and the White House was under pressure to show some progress. So officials plowed ahead with the rollout anyway, though fearing the worst.

Obama now says the problems "are being fixed," but Americans are not so sure.

A Post-ABC News poll Monday showed that a hefty 56 percent of Americans believe the Web site's many troubles "reflect larger problems with the health care law, an alarming figure for the administration," the Post said.

The White House still hasn't released specific figures on how many Americans are signing up. It's a pivotal question that goes to the core of whether the heath care plan will be financially viable in the years to come.

Early signs suggest younger Americans are not signing up in the numbers necessary to offset the costs of older Americans who are more prone to illnesses. And insiders say its programmatic flaws may be a lot deeper than the government acknowledges.

"We are now entering week four of the botched health care rollout, and with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent for a system that still does not work," said House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton who is opening hearings into the health care fiasco.

The White House will have more to say about all this in the days and weeks to come. Expect a lot of excuses.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.



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