Michael Barone

We have a president who loves to give campaign speeches to adoring crowds, but who doesn't seem to have much interest in governing.

That was apparent Wednesday, when Barack Obama delivered the first of several promised "pivot to the economy" speeches at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., where he spoke eight years ago as a newly elected U.S. senator.

The hour-long speech started off with some characteristic self-referencing -- he didn't have gray hair then, he noted, or a motorcade -- and ended with a quotation from Galesburg native Carl Sandburg.

But in between there was not much in the way of serious public policy. Nothing much that seems likely to speed up the nation's sluggish economic growth or to increase the lowest-in-three-decades labor force participation.

Obama called for increasing the minimum wage. That always tests well in polls. But in real life it tends not to create but to destroy jobs, especially for young people with few skills and little work experience.

He also called for job retraining, a Community College to Career Initiative. Unfortunately, studies have shown for years that government job training programs aren't very effective.

In the meantime, the administration and congressional Democrats have been launching attacks on for-profit higher education firms, many of which do a better job of equipping young people for the job market.

Obama mentioned in passing his administration's efforts to connect 99 percent of students to high-speed Internet. But it's not a lack of connectivity that is holding the economy back.

The president said more about his proposal for universal pre-school education. But the administration's own studies have shown that the four-decades-old Head Start program produces little in the way of lasting educational gains.

This looks more like an expensive attempt to create more jobs for teacher union members -- and more union-dues money to help elect Democratic politicians -- than a serious attempt to stimulate the economy.

Amazingly, Obama called for more money to create jobs in wind and solar energy. No mention was made of the hundreds of millions in loan guarantees lavished on the now bankrupt Solyndra and A123 Systems.

To that list he added natural gas. But the boom in natural gas has occurred more despite, not because of administration policies.

More serious perhaps was his call for more investment in infrastructure, and for once Obama did not tout his ludicrously expensive plans for high-speed passenger rail -- a technology half a century old and liable to be rendered obsolete by self-driving cars.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM