Jewish World Review Sept. 19, 2011 / 20 Elul, 5771
He Made It Worse
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."
It's a sad, and dangerous, thing when governments lose sight of Micawber's Rule, first enunciated in
These days there's a Misery Index (the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates) to measure economic pain. This administration's Misery Index hasn't yet reached the highs achieved by
It seems misery has made an impressive comeback, which is not good news for this president -- or the country. For when a president is in trouble, so are the rest of us.
It's not a pretty thing to watch, a president twisting in the wind, as though caught in forces beyond his control, unable or unwilling to do anything except go on repeating the same mistakes. It takes courage to change course, or maybe just imagination. Whatever qualities he needs to break this dispiriting cycle,
Instead, this president seems a prisoner of the failed Keynesian faith he's been following all along -- the conviction that the country can spend its way out of hard times. And when times get harder, just spend more.
The administration's own TARP (now renamed the
Quick fixes like Cash for Clunkers have worked no better than radical moves like nationalizing the automotive industry. (
The full effects of Obamacare can't be known till it goes fully into effect, but it's already setting off tremors as businesses eliminate heath insurance for their workers in anticipation of those government-sponsored exchanges that are going to insure so many of us. Whether we like it or not.
The most crushing of the economic burdens
The quick-fixers forget that every government expenditure now being touted as a way to turn the economy around will have to paid for -- with interest -- in the future, which means it will take just that much longer for the economy to recover. Result: more misery. Much of it passed on to future generations, who will have to pay the debts we're running up now.
Like the gambler who doubles his bet every time he loses, feeling his luck has got to change some time, this president can't seem think of anything better to do than repeat his mistakes. As if he were under some kind of compulsion. A preference for ideology over results will have that effect on even the most intelligent of men. No wonder inflation waits to pounce while unemployment is proving untamable.
According to the August reports, not a single job was created in the whole national economy. Not a one. In terms of job creation,
During the first two and half years of this "recovery," employment has actually dropped a percentage point. No president of
The best thing about judging a president in terms of the economy's performance on his watch is that the results are so clear. And the damning thing about judging a president in terms of his economic performance is that the results are so clear. As clear as the numbers. It's hard to see how any CEO of a major publicly held corporation could keep his job after compiling such a record.
Now the president has taken his show on the road, claiming (not for the first time) that this is all the fault of
"I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president," President Obama told an interviewer last year. But there's nothing to keep him from being both--a one-term president and mediocre.
So what's this failing, flailing president to do while there may still be time to save his administration? Not to mention the country's economy. He would do well to follow the example of another president who inherited an economic mess -- indeed, an economic disaster: the malaise of the Carter Years.
Instead of trying to spend his way out of that hole,
The numbers tell the story: Over the eight years of the Reagan presidency, some 20 million new jobs were created; the inflation rate dropped from 13.8 percent in 1980 to 4.1 percent in 1988; the unemployment rate fell from 7.2 percent to 5.5 percent while the Gross National Product rose by 26 percent. Not bad for an old B-movie actor.
Today few may remember the Reagan Recession that preceded the Reagan Recovery, but that was the price the country had to pay for a remarkably sustained period of prosperity. No gain without pain -- and the courage to risk it.
There's another presidential model Mr. Obama might want to consider:
Yes, I know
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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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