Even though a president's time is valuable, considering the ever-weakening $14 trillion economy that has slowed to a crawl, it wasn't much. But with his 1930s-style economic policies in shambles, voters up in arms over the prospect that things will not be getting better anytime soon and a new Gallup poll that suggests his party is going to get walloped in the midterm elections, his advisers said he had to do something.
He has stubbornly stuck to his spending stimulus game plan and insisted to NBC News anchor Brian Williams on Sunday that, well, at least "the economy is growing." And he put in another pitch for his impotent $30 billion small-business assistance bill that is languishing in the Senate. It wasn't much, but Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "There's only so much that can be done."
In his four-minute remarks, Obama recited the now familiar litany of what he's done so far. But now his advisers are demanding he had to do more because clearly his spending stimulus plan isn't working, and for the first time he acknowledged that he and his team were "discussing additional measures" to spur faster growth and new jobs, including "further tax cuts." One would like to think that with 15 to 20 million Americans looking for full-time work and economic growth slowing to the mid-1 percent range and barely breathing, that Obama is growing impatient with the pace of the economy. But he hasn't shown that thus far, insisting that the recovery is growing modestly and is now in a recovery. White House officials call this "the recovery summer."
Yet when Obama walked into the Oval Office Monday he was greeted by a new Gallup poll that showed the Republicans now lead by 51 percent to 41 percent among registered voters in the polling firm's weekly tracking. Gallup said that the 10-point lead "is the GOP's largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup's history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress" going back to 1942.
In other words, Obama's party isn't just facing major losses at the polls in November, it's facing a bloodbath that could turn over control of both houses of Congress to Republicans that would bring the administration to a screeching halt and set the stage for making him a one-term president. It is hard to remember when a White House was so disconnected from the growing disapproval of a presidency and the severity of an economic situation teetering on the brink of a second recession.
Until Obama's return from his Martha's Vineyard vacation, he was insisting the economy was still "heading in the right direction," when, in fact, the revised GDP economic growth rate had plunged in the second quarter from 2.4 percent to a comatose 1.6 percent, unemployment claims were climbing, and the stock market was in a steep decline.
Harvard economist Paul Krugman, a liberal cheerleader for the president's $800 billion spending stimulus (although he believed it should be much bigger) now complains the government's present policies have "landed us in what looks increasingly like a permanent state of stagnation and high unemployment."
"It's time to admit that what we have now isn't a recovery, and do whatever we can to change that situation," Krugman wrote in his New York Times column last week.
Diehard Democratic economist Laura Tyson, a member of the White House's Economic Advisory Board, doesn't think the stimulus has worked, either, but she is calling for another spending stimulus bill.
Despite growing alarm among voters and throughout the business community about the administration's unending trillion-dollar budget deficits, Tyson dismisses them out of hand. There is "far too much focus on the deficit" and "too much worry about the size of government," she complains. This is the kind of advice Obama has been getting from his advisers on his economic and fiscal policies.
And it's going to get much worse, economists say. The jobless rate is expected to creep closer to 10 percent as employers hang on to their cash reserves, hoping to survive the long-term decline in the Obama economy. Growing numbers of workers are tapping their retirement funds just to get by. "In July alone, 381,000 adults chose to quit looking for work altogether, and that trend will continue in President Obama's land of dashed dreams and squandered opportunities," writes University of Maryland Business School economist Peter Morici.
Democratic lawmakers will be returning after Labor Day from their August recess with tales of an angry electorate, with many avoiding face-to-face town hall gatherings because of it.
"Democrats thought things couldn't get much worse on the electoral front -- and then they went home to campaign," the Politico website reports this week. "The Gallop poll, coming at the end of a brutal August for Democrats and Obama, reinforces the rapidly forming prevailing view that the horizon is as bleak for Democrats as it ever has been."