Dismal Jobs Numbers Expose a Leaderless White House on Economic Policy

As today’s calamitous jobless numbers report came out and the official unemployment rate spiked to 9.8%, Obama’s economic dream ended.

The economy is now his mess.  It’s his car that’s in the ditch.   There will be no economic recovery any time soon for millions of American workers under this president. And that may end up being  Barack Obama's political legacy.

The depressing new numbers -- only 39,000 jobs created after 150,000 were generated last month -- also shine a bright spotlight on the fact that there is no economic leadership within the Obama administration.  The president's economic "dream team” dissolved after Labor Day and there is no discernible Obama plan or vision to get America back to work and to generate millions of new jobs.  It simply doesn’t exist.

This fall, two of  Obama’s key economic chieftains -- Christina Romer and Peter Orszag -- called it quits and returned to their universities and academic centers. A third -- Lawrence Summers -- will leave at the end of the year. He’s going back to Harvard.

In August, Christina Romer, who promised unemployment would not top 8% if the federal stimulus was passed, announced she was going back to her position as an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Orszag left earlier in the summer for family reasons.  Upon their departures many commentators said Obama’s economic brain trust dissolved.

The word on the street is that no economic stars with real business experience are interested in joining the Obama White House.  Two Clintonites, investment banker Roger Altman and numbers cruncher Gene Sperling, have been publicly courted but have not decided to share Obama’s bed.  That appears to be the best the president can do.

No one is being sought who has any experience running a 21st century corporation and who actually knows how to produce jobs.  This is what happens when you declare war on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and your closest business ally, the Business Roundtable, excoriates you as they did this summer, saying you have created an "increasingly hostile environment for investment and job creation."

And Jack Lew, the new Office of Management and Budget director, who is in charge of spending priorities for the federal government,  has been operating without a deputy since he was confirmed.

Michael S. Barr, the assistant Treasury secretary who shepherded the new federal regulations for the financial industry through Congress, has departed.  Diana Farrell, the deputy director of Mr. Obama’s National Economic Council and another architect of the regulatory legislation, will leave at the end of the year. The team is breaking up.

In August, Robert Gibbs explained to reporters that Obama’s economic team was “exhausted.” The only ones left from the original team are Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the sclerotic Paul Volcker, chairman of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board and Federal Reserve chairman under former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Last Tuesday, President Obama, in a “news availability” (meaning he refused to take any questions), told reporters after meeting with Republican congressional leaders for the first time since the election that the American people “want us to come together around strategies that will accelerate the recovery and get Americans back to work.”  So where are the Democratic strategies to generate millions of new jobs?

The Democratic-led lame-duck session and the president are our only insight.  And thus far, they have ducked all legislative questions on economic strategies that can promote prosperity.  Their single Hallelujah jobs legislation -- a $12 billion unemployment benefit extension that isn’t paid for -- does not create a single new job.  What about the only other economic piece of legislation -- preserving the Bush tax cuts?  Democrats passed an extension that does not include the highest earners -- what incoming Speaker John Boehner calls "chicken crap." But the extension of the tax cuts will not generate any new jobs either; it will simply assure there aren’t more job losses. The tax cut bill is a jobs preservationist policy, not a job growth policy.

The mainstream media’s spin of the Democratic drubbing last month was that it was only due to unemployment and not a reflection on the president’s policies.  A larger issue the media has all but ignored is that there is no one at the White House directing economic growth policies.  And today’s horrible jobs numbers shows it.