The long winter of our decline must be over. The jubilant lyrics of “Happy Days are Here Again” surely should be heard everywhere. Ring the church bells, for heaven’s sake. Someone should be dancing in the streets.
That would all be true … except that facts and personal experience are brutal things. Most people can’t feel the recovery if indeed one exists.
They look around and see the obvious: Most Americans who have been unemployed remain unemployed. The majority of those working have received no pay raises in at least three years and many worry about losing their job. Home sales have not improved. Gasoline prices are surging along with the price of many other essentials. Families are having to skimp, postpone vacations, defer their dreams.
To resolve a problem, most folks know that you have to first admit you have one then clearly define what it is. But Obama believes that won’t play well in an election year. So he puts a happy face on monthly reports that tend to hide the problem. Or, if he’s cornered, he blames someone else: It’s the rich. It’s the Europeans. It’s George Bush.
For example, the March employment report showed that only 120,000 new jobs were added -- not enough to allow the economy to tread water and about half of the disappointing number of the previous three months.
Yet some how, the unemployment rate fell a tenth of a percent to 8.2. And of course that was praised by the administration as clear proof that the “economy is heading in the right direction.”
But how can that be, you ask? Well, Obama’s Labor Department does it by ignoring 865,000 workers who have stopped looking for employment -- many because they are drawing unemployment compensation and are not motivated and others because frustration has gotten the best of them. Throw in millions of underemployed and the real unemployment rate approaches 17 or 18 percent. That’s what you are feeling on the streets.
The Heritage Foundation pointed out that the 1981-1982 recession looked a lot like what we have seen since 2008. Yet in the 1980s, the economy returned to near full employment in two years while today we are seeing the slowest recovery since World War II.
Why is that? Could it be that President Obama’s policies are stifling growth?
He correctly says small businesses are the job-growth engine for America yet he has proposed a mountain of new taxes. Not something business owners want to hear.
His new regulations are driving up expenses and uncertainty. Obamacare -- if it is not found unconstitutional or otherwise repealed -- will unleash a torrent of new demands and additional cost. Little wonder small business owners are saving their money and foregoing opportunities to expand, grow and add more workers.
The president has decried higher gasoline prices while at the same time placing a stranglehold on development of domestic resources. He has killed the Keystone pipeline and refused to open additional public lands for exploration. Energy production is up in the U.S. but only because of private enterprise on private land. America has the capacity to be energy independent and a net exporter. Instead, the president has squandered billions on ill-advised, renewable energy projects that had no hope of success.
His only energy initiative is to propose tax increases for oil companies, hoping to play on emotion rather than fact. The net profit for oil companies is about 7 percent on a gallon of gas. That’s below industry norms and significantly below the taxes taken by federal and local governments. And of course oil companies will pass along any tax increase in the form of higher prices at the pump.
The president has no solution to the nation’s spiraling debt. His fiscal year 2013 budget included major tax increases and expanded the deficit by more than $1 trillion. It received no supporting votes in the U.S. House even from Democrats while the Democrat-led U.S. Senate has not passed a budget in more than three years.
And looming in January is perhaps the unkindest cut of all -- an event even The Washington Post is calling a “Taxmageddon.” Unless the president exerts leadership and Congress does its job, seven different tax policies will expire and five new Obamacare tax hikes will kick in. The result will be the largest tax increase in American history, a $494 billion body blow to the nation’s economy.
At some point, Americans have to declare enough to be enough. It will require peering through the “puffery” of the political process, knowing what the facts are and electing someone willing to define our problems and do something about them.
Hopefully, we will have that option in November.