Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- America remains adrift under Barack Obama's presidency, without any sustained or effective focus on the sea of troubles that afflict our nation.

Obama goes through the ceremonial motions of being president, while ignoring the consequences or making excuses about the most serious, long-term challenges we face here at home. Instead, he is devoting more and more of his time delivering political speeches attacking his adversaries and raising money for besieged Democrats, who face severe election losses in the fall.

Meantime, the U.S. economy all but stopped growing in the first three months of this year; the nation's labor force has been shrinking at an alarming rate; U.S. exports have fallen; and the housing market, a critical sector in the U.S. economy, has been "flattening," a worrisome development that Fed Chairman Janet Yellen said Wednesday could prove more "protracted than currently expected."

You rarely hear much about the decline in the quality of education from this president. But a national assessment of high school seniors released this week said they had shown zero improvement in math and reading over the course of Obama's presidency. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the test scores "troubling."

But, well, the president has been so busy dealing with other things: the environment and questionable claims about climate change; raising the minimum wage, a move that the Congressional Budget Office says will kill 500,000 jobs; and pressing for higher tax levels on the nation's investors, businesses and job-creators.

He has been necessarily occupied with trips to storm-devastated communities that included tornado victims in Arkansas and a horrific landslide in Oso, Washington.

In between, he's been making announcements that could have been better left to senior officials, like his decision to dispatch a team of military and civilian advisers to assist Nigeria in the search for abducted schoolgirls who were seized three weeks ago by terrorists.

Now he's on a three-day fundraising trip to California to build the party's campaign coffers, a task that will no doubt increasingly occupy his time in the months ahead.

There is more at stake here than just raising hundreds of millions of dollars for Democratic campaigns across the country. The remainder of his presidency is on the line if Republicans succeed in winning the six seats needed to take control of the Senate, as many election trackers believe.

That would put Congress firmly in GOP hands for the last two years of Obama's administration, blocking whatever is left of his agenda. If he still has one.

To be sure, it's hard to point to anything of substance that he's achieved in his second term, beyond fighting a rear-guard battle in behalf of his unpopular and problem-plagued Affordable Care Act.

Recently he took the time to go into the White House pressroom to boast that 8 million people have signed up for Obamacare, surpassing the administration's earlier target of 7 million.

But growing doubts were raised this week about whether 8 million people have really signed up, as he alleged. The White House hasn't produced definitive data to back up the accuracy of that number.

The question is, how many of those who signed up for coverage have paid their first premium? The New York Times reported Tuesday that several large insurers say "about 80 percent" have paid their initial premiums for the coverage to officially take effect.

Moreover, health insurance officials say the 8 million who signed up included a very large number of duplicate enrollments by people who attempted to enroll numerous times but were stymied by problems with the website, the Times said.

"Insurers have many duplicate enrollments in their system for which they never received any payment," said Mark Pratt, senior vice president of America's Health Insurance Plans.

"It may be a matter of months before insurers know how many people activated their coverage by paying their share of premiums," he said.

There's another big question about Obamacare that's not getting much attention, and that is whether enough younger, healthier people are signing up to make Obama's program financially viable.

Data released last week by the administration said that little more than a quarter of the 8 million who signed up were 18 to 34 years old -- far less than the number of younger, healthier people needed to keep policy premiums from rising.

That percentage is "significantly below the 40 percent level that some analysts consider important for holding down rates by balancing the greater medical spending generated by older enrollees," The Wall Street Journal reported.

If the share of younger enrollees remains about the same in the months to come, this means that Obamacare health insurance rates will climb sharply to pay the bills.

"Insurers right now are setting rates for 2015, and the age data will be a key factor in their decision," the Journal pointed out. "Some insurers say that despite seeing a late surge in younger enrollees, their sign-ups still skewed older overall than they had expected."

If that happens, as many forecasters had predicted, the cost of Obamacare will skyrocket, resulting in the loss of millions of enrollees and the finances to pay for it.

That can result in only two outcomes. Taxpayers will be made to foot the bill, which could surge into the hundreds of billions of dollars, or the entire program will collapse like a house of cards.

The Gallup Poll says that life for many Americans has become painfully difficult, with 47 percent saying they are "struggling" and 4 percent "suffering."

The sad part about this is that a majority of them most likely voted for Barack Obama.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.