There is a new spirit in the land, and no one can escape it, much less explain it. It is one of those much talked about phenomena that help to define a particular age. What might this phenomenon be? Why, of course, we are talking about the great economic news, heralding the Obama boom. We hear about this everywhere, even if we can’t see it, or do not experience it personally. Each time a person turns on the radio, the television, the computer, or opens a newspaper he is immediately clubbed over the head with the news of the “surging” economy, to use a term frequently employed. The media tells us this, so it must be true! Certainly, many people on our side remark that nobody pays attention to the mainstream media anymore. The sad fact, however, as most studies show, is that millions of people actually do get their information from mainstream sources, particularly TV news. The national news broadcasts are chock full of rosy numbers, and cheering statistics concerning the Obama economy, now entering its seventh year. We will examine these numbers in some depth a bit later.
First of all, however, we must take a closer look at the fulsome tributes to Obama and “his” economy at the moment. It is somewhat humorous to hear the President and his henchmen now claiming a proprietary ownership of the national economy, after spending the last six years insisting that everything that went wrong was the fault of George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, who rode off into the sunset when Obama came to town in 2009. The media, working unofficially as the mouthpieces of the Obama Administration, are pursuing a two-fold strategy. First, they are trying to claim credit for tangible achievements such as the decline in gasoline prices, and the gains recorded in the stock market, although it wasn’t too long ago that the populist wing of the Democratic Party condemned a booming stock market as something that only benefitted the dreaded 1%, people like Hillary Clinton! The second strategic intent at work here is an attempt to rewrite history, even before it is made, in order to convince the public that the Obama years were a golden age of prosperity and plenty, and to set this up as a prologue to the 2016 election. The public has tired of the relentless media adoration of the Obama presidency and its meager results. Now the media hope they have something more substantial to sell to the people. The Obama inner circles, and his Democrat friends, believe that the public is easily gulled, as we have recently learned, and they hope to do it again.
As 2014 wound down the last couple of weeks the major newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and the secondary regional papers reported in breathless tones that the economy was “surging” or “roaring” to use two of the superlatives often employed in these laudatory stories. The journalists ran down a list of Obama triumphs, many, but not all of which dealt with economic matters. These victories, in no special order concerned:
- 1. Unemployment
- 2. Gasoline Prices
- 3. Inflation
- 4. Health Care
- 5. Climate change
- 6. Cuba
- 7. Amnesty, and assorted sundry items
What do climate change, Cuba, and amnesty have to do with the supposedly robust economy? The fact is that these have little to do with the economy, but we must remember that the purpose of these stories is not to report the news, but to trumpet the Obama Administration’s glorious achievements. We will look at these fringe issues momentarily, but first let us examine the claims of a “surging” economy, and Obama taking credit for the rescue mission.
On the matter of unemployment, the latest figures show economic growth running at nearly 5%, in the third quarter of 2014. The unemployment rate stands at 5.8%, the lowest rate of joblessness in over six years. According to Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post, this proves “…that sustained recovery is no longer a promise, it’s a fact.” The numbers are looking better, but this Administration has shown a disturbing tendency to release very favorable reports, only to “adjust” them downwards later, after people have forgotten the news. Secondly, even if one accepts the Administration numbers as true and unemployment is at its lowest point in 6.5 years, when was it last lower than today? Why, it was back in the bad old days of George W. Bush!
The numbers may be misleading in other ways. Obama has admitted that wage stagnation is a growing problem, and that stagnation actually means a decline in the standard of living. Furthermore, as all studies indicate, fewer and fewer of the Obama jobs are traditional forty hour per week jobs. The growing number of low wage positions which keep their employees at or below the twenty-eight hour rule, in order to escape Obamacare mandates means that many employees need two jobs (or more) to survive. This is the type of thing that candidate Obama campaigned against in 2008. Finally, as even Obama’s stoutest defenders admit, the labor force participation is at an all-time low, although the Obama fan club writes this off as a simple demographic quirk.
The second supposedly great Obama economic achievement has been the decline in gas prices during the last few months. Most liberal media people avoid the falsehood of giving Obama full credit for this development. The current boom in domestic oil production goes back to the price run-ups of 2004-2008. The GOP leaders, knowing that this could be done, began a subtle campaign to start the process into motion. “Drill, Baby, Drill” and “I’d Tap That” had become GOP slogans by 2007. Some of our readers no doubt remember candidate Obama solemnly stating in 2008, “We cannot drill our way out of this problem”. Well, guess what happened!
Obviously oil and natural gas production are complex issues, which cannot be reduced to simple formulations in a column. Readers probably also remember candidate Obama ducking a question on high gas prices while campaigning in 2008. He remarked that he wished prices hadn’t gone up as quickly as they did, but dodged the issue over whether high energy prices are a public curse, or a blessing. Now, Obama and his media allies prefer to claim credit for the production boom and the resultant price declines. They prefer to avoid talking specifics since Obama has done everything in his power to curtail increased American energy production, including natural gas and coal, in addition to oil. Obama still opposes the Keystone Pipeline, and it is doubtful that he will convert his Luddite fellow Democrats to responsible environmentalism. Does anyone expect Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren to celebrate the idea of American energy independence, and the USA as, once again, the world’s leading oil producer? They would prefer to have us using windmills and burning manure to heat our homes.
On the matter of low inflation, we must start with a definition of what “inflation” really is, not with the mistaken idea that it is a simple case of rising prices. Inflation is an increase in the money supply, without a corresponding increasing increase in the production of goods and services by a national economy. Using this working definition, we see that the Obama years have been inflationary, and that this has been deliberate. The “Qualitative Easing” programs practiced by the Federal Reserve and Treasury Departments from 2010-2013 were openly inflationary, in the hope that artificial money would stimulate the economy. Other than oil and natural gas, the production increase of most other commodities has been generally flat. The end result of this is a silent, but real inflation. The sharp increase in commodity prices from 2009-2011, and the increase in precious metal (in other words, gold) prices in 2013, serve warning that inflation is still a danger.
Concerning the other issues that the Obama cheerleaders celebrate like Obamacare, we see a similar fudging of facts, and obfuscation of issues. The supposedly smooth functioning of the health care website, after the disaster of 2013, is considered a great achievement. It took four years, and cost over a billion dollars, but the contractors finally got it right. The large numbers of people signing up for coverage under the exchange is said to be a vindication of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Still, the facts paint a different picture, as they always do when considering anything connected with the Obama Administration. This year the new hidden costs of the plan will fully kick in, and people will not like what they are getting. Premiums have already soared, although this plan was supposed to lower all costs. Many of those previously uninsured citizens who can now “magically” shop for policies, and obtain quality healthcare are finding that, due to deductibles of $6,000 or more, they theoretically have health care, but cannot afford to use it, even in an emergency.
We have also been recently informed that the numbers the Administration is touting are untrue. They counted those who enrolled in dental plans as health care enrollees, boosting the total numbers by extra three million or so individuals. When we look more closely at the issue, we can see that the entire premise is flawed. The government is forcing people to carry healthcare coverage, under pain of financial penalty. When the citizens are forced to do something, and they respond to government coercion, they cannot be said to be voluntarily or freely deciding on a course of action. Those who celebrate the numbers and portray them as a victory and proof of Obamacare’s huge popularity could just as easily say that everyone loves the income tax because most people who have to pay it do so, every April 15th.
The new Obama climate change agreement with China, meant to reduce greenhouse gases, is also trumpeted as a great accomplishment. First of all, we must consider that an agreement requiring American sacrifice in exchange of Chinese promises of future reciprocity is worth nothing. Secondly, this is an example of Obama’s lawless regime. All treaties are the responsibility of the United States Senate. An agreement binding the USA, in any way, with a foreign government, is a treaty, and must pass Senate muster. Will President Obama submit this agreement for Senate consideration? This is highly unlikely, given the political realities, but he will proceed as though this “understanding” is valid and legally binding.
A second example of Obama’s questionable personal approach to international relations is his much trumpeted decision to “open” full diplomatic relations with Cuba. The essence of diplomacy is to improve a national position through peaceful means, and goodwill. The United States got nothing out of Obama’s Cuba gambit that we did not already have. We did, however, agree to allow Cuba to open an embassy in Washington D.C. which will make their spying, espionage, and harassment of Cuban defectors that much easier. A subsidiary development of this misguided agreement is the now near certainty that the Castro brothers, avowed enemies of the USA, will remain in power for the rest of their lives. Obama’s diplomacy more closely resembles the Jimmy Carter approach than that of Disraeli.
Last, but not least, we come to the question of amnesty for illegals. Obama’s cheering section lumps this in with the thrilling economic news, though it appears to have little to do with the dismal science, and everything to do with creating more Democratic voters. Obviously, this is another example of an Imperial Presidency running amok. Funny, isn’t it, that the liberal media found the overuse of Presidential powers very dangerous when it was Nixon in the 1970s, Reagan in the 1980s, and G.W. Bush in the 2000’s doing the overreaching. They pretend to see nothing wrong with Obama flouting the laws he vowed to execute and defend. As an economic matter, this amnesty cannot be squared with any of Obama’s promises or his policies. How does the addition of five million or more largely low-skill workers help blue collar American working families? How does introducing these five million people into the social security, internal revenue, and welfare systems help avoid the entitlement trainwreck that all observers, even the liberals, admit is coming faster than people realize? This is only a trick to create more Democratic voters, but we already knew that, didn’t we!
The readers of this piece need not take their Townhall correspondent’s word for it. E.J. Dionne, that paragon of political correctness on television and Newspaper remarked last week, “Obama and his aides are aware that changing the trajectory of the nation’s debate and the fortunes of his party are among his primary obligations over the next two years. Just as Ronald Reagan’s legacy was secured by the presidential victory of George W.W. Bush in 1988, so does Obama need a Democrat-at the moment-this would seem to be Hillary Clinton-to win in 2016.” Well, there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were. A liberal pundit informing the world that Obama will not be a success until he has delivered the country in to clutches of Hillary Clinton. We’re in for a two year rumble starting today!
Happy New Year To all Townhall Readers.