Obama's Middle-Class 'Mission Accomplished'
Barack Obama won re-election by convincing the American people that he cared -- really cared -- about the middle class. By contrast, Mitt Romney was portrayed as a hard-hearted member of the hated 1%. But it is Obama who is the real enemy of the middle class. During his four and a half years in office, Obama has done more damage to the American middle class than any president since Herbert Hoover.
That is not a difficult statement to prove, and it may be an understatement. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show an official unemployment rate of 7.3%. Not since the Great Depression of the 1930s have so many Americans been out of work, and 7.3% is only the tip of the iceberg. The real unemployment rate, or U-6, which includes discouraged and part-time workers, still stands at 13.7%.
Remarkably, U-6 has been close to or above 14% ever since Obama took office. Obama has had over four years to "save the middle class," as he has often promised to do. Stagnant wages and 20 million Americans unemployed is hardly salvation.
One troubling aspect of the August report was the revision of the official July unemployment figure -- downward from to 162,000 to 104,000. In other words, the July BLS jobs estimate was a whopping 36% too high. The estimate for June also had to be revised downward, as it often had been in the preceding months. That has to raise questions about the September numbers.
Even more troubling is the August employment-population ratio of 58.6%. Not since the mid-1970s has the percentage of Americans employed been this low. And the 1970s was before the widespread entry of female workers into the full-time workforce. With women now outnumbering men in the workplace, an employment-population ratio of 58.6% represents a catastrophic decline in overall employment.
What that ratio means is that, because of the president's actions, over 40% of workers are sitting home, collecting food stamps and otherwise barely getting by. They're doing so because Obama thinks it's better to have Americans collecting the equivalent of $15 an hour in a broad array of welfare benefits (the average payout in half the states in America) than it is to work. That way, they are more likely to continue voting for liberals, who will preserve their benefits. Maybe even more Americans can be driven out of the workforce during the next three years. That would be a major victory for this administration.
Why, exactly, are businesses failing to create new jobs? For one thing, small businesses are not expanding because of the implementation of ObamaCare. A small business with 49 workers is not going to hire another if that means providing expensive health insurance for all its employees. Large corporations are suffering under the additional burdens of Dodd-Frank legislation and aggressive regulators at the EPA, NLRB, and other agencies. Tax increases on "the rich" ($200,000 is hardly rich in most urban locales) shift capital from the private economy to government -- with further constraint on new job-creation.
The truth is that, given the choice between job-creation and expansion of government, Obama has always opted for the latter. The current unemployment rate of 13.7% is not happenstance. The president has chosen Big Government over economic growth. Every time he was presented with an opportunity to create jobs, he has chosen stagnation over growth. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline would have taken, quite literally, one moment of the president's time, and 200,000 high-paying jobs would have resulted. But the president was afraid he might lose a bit of the power he so desperately craves by offending the environmental lobby. So, once again, he chose to lead from behind.
After nearly five years, the middle class is worse off than it was when Obama took office. There has been only one time in modern American history when an American president has failed the middle class so completely, and that was during the Great Depression. Even Jimmy Carter was not such a failure. After four hapless years under Carter, the official unemployment rate stood at 7.5%. After four years of Obama, it was 7.9%. And yet Obama still claims he is saving the middle class.
On a visit this August to a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Obama spoke of "a better bargain for the middle class." "We've righted the ship," the president claimed -- the same month that the broader measure of unemployment stood at 13.7%. The key to well-being of the middle class, Obama said, is "a good job in a durable, growing industry."
Obama's idea of a "durable industry" seems to be solar companies like Solyndra and electric car suppliers like A123 Systems. Both of these "durable" companies filed for bankruptcy after obtaining generous loans from the Obama administration. Taxpayer money that would otherwise have been invested to create good jobs in the private sector was squandered so the president could pretend he was a green energy pioneer. In reality, he has never been a pioneer at anything. He is an old-fashioned radical who still harbors the adolescent fantasy of a Marxist utopia.
That may be why so few jobs were created in August, and why those that were paid so poorly. As a result of Obama's radical policies, food service is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the economy. BLS predicts that 1.3 million new jobs in the "leisure and hospitality" sector will be added by 2020. That is not good news for the middle class.
The president actually seems to have no conception of what ordinary middle-class Americans are going through. After five years of plummeting wages and stagnant job growth, Obama claims "we've righted the ship." That absurd pronouncement should have been jumped on by the press. It was, after all, Obama's "Mission Accomplished" on saving the middle class, but the press didn't notice, or pretended not to.
Maybe the real reason why Obama has failed the middle class so completely is that, underneath it all, he just doesn't like them. Just before he delivered his Chattanooga speech, claiming victory on the "durable" jobs front, he had been on Martha's Vineyard vacationing at the exclusive Blue Heron Farm, the $22-million estate owned by Lord Norman and Lady Elena Foster of Great Britain.
There, in the course of his ten-day retreat, Obama got in six rounds of golf with the likes of Jim Kim, President of the World Bank, and Eunu Chun, a wealthy attorney and prominent Democratic fundraiser. Just kicking around with ordinary middle-class folks, the kind Obama cares so much about. The kind he claims to have saved. Next thing you know, he'll be reduced to vacationing at the Plaza.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books on American politics and culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2013).