Ask yourself this question: What if President Barack Obama doesn’t really care about unemployment?
I’m certain the president feels the pain of those who are looking for work but can’t find it, or who cannot find enough work. And it’s a sure thing that he’s worried about what chronic unemployment is doing to his reelection chances. The jobs situation is Obama’s biggest political vulnerability. But judging by his actions, joblessness isn’t a bug of his political philosophy — it’s a feature.
After choking off inflation, cutting taxes, and resisting any call for grand, new spending programs, President Reagan oversaw an amazing expansion of the U.S. economy. In just six years, the U.S. — quite cavalierly — conjured up an economy the size of West Germany’s and added it to the one we already had. Building on that base, President Clinton oversaw an even greater expansion, fueled by the entrepreneur-driven high-tech field.
Then along came George W. Bush (and a thoroughly corrupt Congress) with his “compassionate,” big-government conservatism — and we got huge increases in spending, a big new entitlement, and a lame economy. It all came crashing down in 2008, setting the stage for a young and untested Democratic senator to win the White House.
Not one to let a crisis “go to waste,” Obama oversaw spending increases that would make the old Spendthrift Republican Congress™ blanch, and yet another massive and labyrinthine entitlement program.
So here we are, more than two years into the recovery, and unemployment is rising while the labor force is shrinking — a feat unparalleled in modern times. And where are the entrepreneurs? They’re going Galt rather than deal with the massive Regulatory State foisted on us by meddling Democrats and their rent-seeking buddies in Big Business and Big Labor. Or they’re deciding not to grow their businesses, lest they get caught in ObamaCare’s snare.
None of which came as a surprise to anyone, really.
If you’re going to have a Euro-scale welfare state with a Euro-scale regulatory state while plumping up Euro-scale labor unions and ossified Euro-scale crony capitalists… well… guess what? You’re going to get Euro-scale unemployment. There’s no way the White House didn’t see this coming.
There are, however, two things the administration didn’t see coming.
First, they really did believe the economy would come back. Maybe not with as many jobs as other people hoped — but, hey, that’s just the price of “fundamentally transforming” a nation. All they had to do was goose the economy enough for Big Labor and Big Business and Big Finance to keep the campaign coffers full. And all of those unemployed? What are they going to complain about, once they’ve been given “free” health care, ever-extended unemployment benefits, and the promise of a “jam tomorrow” union gig?
That must’ve looked like a pretty sweet strategy early in 2009, when it was first being formulated.
But the second thing the administration didn’t see coming might just be its undoing.
Except for the 20% of Americans who call themselves “liberal,” Americans never wanted a cradle-to-grave welfare state. Americans are (still) Americans, and we want to work.
Talk to the rioters in Manchester, and they’re quite happy to live comfortably on the dole — and to set their own cities on fire if they can’t get even more. Years ago I saw an English actress on a talk show — I believe it was Alex Kingston. She was telling the host how “refreshing” it was to be in American. In the UK, you see, everyone asks, “What does your father do?” And over here, she said, people ask “What do you do?” In fatherless Britain, Big Daddy Parliament pays all the bills.
In America, things are different. Talk to an unemployed American, and he’ll tell you what he really wants to do is find a job. And Americans are willing to take most any job. Because on top of the 9.1% unemployment rate, is a further 7% or so who are underemployed — people who took part-time work because that’s all they could get.
In just the past four months, Obamanomics has killed nearly a million full-time jobs. It’s a good bet that’s another 900,000 people who won’t be voting for Obama next year.
On paper, it all seemed so smart. Give the liberal base the huge expansion in government they craved. Give out the big “green” payouts to the environmentalists. Complete the merger of DC with Wall Street. Prop up the unions. Break big business to the saddle while suffocating the entrepreneurs who might prove a threat — all to keep the money flowing into DC to buy off the poor proles crushed by the new system.
In reality, it hasn’t worked so well. As it turned out, there aren’t enough liberals in this country to make bigger government any more popular than it ever was. “Green” jobs went bust too soon before the election. The fugly DC/Wall Street hybrid is sucking the life out of finance. The unions can’t deliver the votes anymore. And the private sector might be saddled — but it can’t run fast enough to make the economy grow that way.
And the proles aren’t bought off — we’re pissed off.