Good News: Obama’s Jobs Council Expires on Thursday

Daniel Doherty

1/31/2013 1:20:00 PM - Daniel Doherty

We learned yesterday that the economy shrunk last quarter for the first time since the 2008 recession ended, due in large part to cuts to the military. Now, less than 24 hours later, the Associated Press is reporting that the president will let his jobs council expire -- and has opted not to renew its charter:

President Barack Obama will let his jobs council expire this week without renewing its charter, winding down one source of input from the business community even as unemployment remains stubbornly high.

When Obama in January 2011 formed his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, unemployment was hovering above 9 percent. Two years president later, more than 12 million people in the U.S. are out of work. The unemployment rate has improved to 7.8 percent, but both parties agree that's still too high.

A provision in Obama's executive order establishing the council says it sunsets on Thursday. A White House official said the president does not plan to extend it.

Officials said the president always intended for the council to fulfill its mission and then wind down, and said that Obama would continue to actively engage and seek input from business leaders about ways to accelerate job-creation and economic growth. Among the steps Obama plans to pursue are expedited permits for infrastructure projects, the White House said.

Even before it was clear whether Obama would renew the jobs council, Republicans seized on its likely expiration as evidence the president has devoted insufficient attention to creating jobs, which polling shows remains a top priority for Americans. The Republican National Committee dubbed it part of "the failed Obama record," while the House Republicans' campaign committee, in an online petition, accused Obama of laying off his own jobs council.

Elections have consequences. For all his flaws, Mitt Romney was a dedicated and hardworking public servant -- a man I suspect if elected would have done everything in his power to grow the economy and put Americans back to work. Instead, a narrow majority of Americans chose Barack Obama to lead the nation for another four years, and job creation seems far from his thoughts, much less a domestic priority. He’s chosen to push gun control legislation and immigration reform -- two admittedly divisive issues that should be part of our national conversation -- but why are economic concerns so conspicuously absent from his second term agenda? As it happens, Ed Morrissey isn’t surprised at all, contending that the Obama administration hasn’t focused on job creation for years:

But why should anyone else other than analysts have been surprised? The Obama administration hasn’t focused on job growth since the 2009 stimulus package, which failed at even maintaining the workforce participation levels of June 2009 when the economy stopped contracting after the Great Recession. At that time, the civilian population participation rate in the workforce – the relative measure of how many adults either have jobs or are actively seeking one – was 65.7 percent, the same as when Obama gave his first inaugural address. It’s presently at 63.6 percent, just a tenth of a point up from the 31-year low hit in August 2012. As jobs decrease, so does economic dynamism, and potential growth.

For those who have jobs, the increased joblessness has increased family obligations significantly. On the same day that the BEA announced the contraction in Q4, Pew released a new survey showing that middle-aged households are increasingly providing financial support for unemployed or underemployed adult children. In 2005, 42 percent of middle-aged adults between 40 and 59 years of age provided primary or supplemental support for adult children. In 2012, that number grew to 48 percent, with most of the growth in primary support, going from 20 percent to 27 percent.

Small wonder that many Americans still consider jobs and the economy to be their biggest concerns. Two recent polls underscore that conclusion. Gallup conducted its regular polling on issues a few weeks after the tragic Newtown shooting to discover that only 4 percent of Americans considered gun violence the most important issue. More than five times as many (21 percent) chose “the economy in general,” while four times (16 percent) as many specified “unemployment.” A new poll from Reason this week produced similar results, with 29 percent preferring that Obama focus on the economy, and another 19 percent wanting jobs to be his first priority. Only 3 percent in this poll thought Obama should have guns as his highest priority.

If the president continues to ignore the tens of millions of Americans out of work in this country he will be remembered by posterity as a failed president. So shouldn’t this issue concern him? One would think so. On the other hand, a guy who doesn’t recognize that we have a spending problem is perhaps unlikely to accept the fact that the unemployment rate is too high, either.