The Obama administration is finally going to focus on jobs -- again. Jobs, jobs, jobs. And nothing says jobs like food stamps, unemployment insurance and a shiny new federal department of ... yes, jobs!
Some of you may find President Barack Obama's three-day campaign bus tour through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois a considerable downer. Not that it's the president's fault. If it weren't for Japanese earthquakes, unpatriotic Republicans, Arab springs, European welfare states collapsing, market fluctuations, Lady Luck's being a complete witch -- you know, existence -- this mess could have been squared away months ago.
Now, granted, before long our attention will be appropriately focused on the antics of some extreme Christian dominionist or some C-plus-average state-school graduate. The press will soon gut and fillet these interlopers for the good of the nation. In the interim, though, it's becoming tough to conceal the administration's ideological rigidity and lack of ideas.
This week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was ready to "announce something that's never happened in this country" (never?!). If anyone had actually been paying attention, people might have imagined for a moment that a rogue idea had somehow bubbled up in a corner of the federal behemoth. Perhaps a great leap forward in genetic engineering? Or some new advance in nanotechnology?
Food stamps. The administration's announcement was to tout a new program expanding "economic stimulus" through food stamps. An idea Americans had "never" heard ... this week. Then again, considering the nation is awash in food stamps, this must portend a colossal recovery. So that's certainly good news.
Similarly, when a Wall Street Journal reporter recently asked the White House press secretary to explain the administration's contention that extending unemployment benefits would be an economic stimulus, Jay Carney answered, "Oh, uh, it is by, um, I would expect a reporter from The Wall Street Journal would know this as part of the entrance exam."
Remember that in Washington, there's no such thing as a stupid question, only dissembling flacks who can't answer tough ones.
According to BSU graduate Carney, all educated folk understand that dependency is stimulative, so perhaps the problem is in the way government delivers. Word from The New York Times is that the administration is chewing over a proposal that would merge the Department of Commerce, the Office of the United States Trade Representative and economic divisions of the State Department to form a tremendously useless department, possibly named the Department of Jobs or maybe the Department of Competitiveness.
That's what the economy needs, the lecturer in chief meting out economic advice. At a Minnesota town hall, for instance, the president offered this gem: "You can't just make money on SUVs and trucks. There is a place for SUVs and trucks, but as gas prices keep on going up, you have got to understand the market."
If only the common man had such insight into markets. Earlier this month, Ford reported that sport utility vehicle sales had increased 31 percent (car sales improved 3.4 percent) from a year earlier. General Motors also "bounced back" on the strength of its worldwide SUV sales. Who knows? If this administration didn't harbor resentment toward useful and affordable energy, Ford could sell even more SUVs.
Now, considering the failure of Washington to help shake off this prolonged slump, it is no surprise that a recent Washington Post poll found that 73 percent of Americans -- up from 52 percent last year and 41 percent a decade ago -- doubt the ability of government to solve the nation's economic problems.
I suppose it's not surprising that this administration refuses to budge a single food stamp away from its faith-based beliefs. But if it really wanted to help, it would stop "helping."