Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON - President Obama and the Democrats desperately need a political issue to distract struggling, jobless Americans from their economic misery. And they think "income inequality" and raising the minimum wage is the answer to their problems.

But the yawning income gap between the wealthy and the middle class is not the cause of our lingering economic troubles. It is a symptom of the president's failed economic policies. Raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour won't help, either. It will only make things worse as employers find ways to cut their payroll costs.

What the U.S. needs is stronger economic growth, in the 5 percent range, that leads to increased, job-creating, capital investment. But these terms are not in Obama's vocabulary, let alone in his policies. More on this in a moment.

Battered by a so-so economy, where 11 million people are unemployed, and a botched health care plan, the president is said to be retooling his class warfare rhetoric to pump up his disappointed and dispirited political base.

The issue of "economic fairness" worked for him in the 2012 election, and Obama and Democratic leaders think it can work for them again in this year's midterm elections.

It can't and it won't, because this time around the polls show a growing number of voters aren't buying his class warfare demagoguery any longer. Take a look at his declining job scores and you'll see why.

Throughout 2013, the Gallup Poll's surveys showed a steady decline in his job approval numbers -- falling from 52 percent in January to 41 percent in December.

But a closer look at the numbers shows that most of his shrinking job approval score was due to a 14 point decline among independent voters and, most notably, a 15 point loss among Democrats.

"The dip among Democrats explains why Obama has of late focused on economic inequality," writes Washington Post political analyst Chris Cillizza. "Those moves are aimed at rallying the party's base and, with it, Obama's approval numbers."

That seems unlikely at this juncture. At this same point in Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton's second terms, Reagan had a 62 percent approval rate, and Clinton's score was at 58 percent. Both presided over very strong economies.

But Obama remains a prisoner of his widely unpopular health care law, and it'll become more unpopular as health care premiums continue to rise and its insurance mandate on small businesses is soon reimposed.

With only one exception, public support for Obamacare has ranged between the low 40s and high 30s since the summer of 2010.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.