There are obviously many factors contributing to our high unemployment rate today, last measured at 9.8% in November, up from 9.6% the previous 3 months. However, there is one huge factor in our continuing employment misery and that is the anti-business attitude of our President, with supporting awards going to Speaker Pelosi and majority leader Reid.
It has become a consensus that President Obama is the most anti-business President of our lifetimes. This is evidenced by his constant railing against “fat cats”, greedy business leaders, condemnation of profit, his unprecedented war with the US Chamber of Commerce, unwillingness to support the Columbia and South Korea Free Trade agreements (he just recently, on the day the 9.8% rate was released, announced his support for the SKFTA) out of deference to his union friends, and his comments directed generally at those who have achieved wealth. Even the first lady chimed in, advising children not to go into the private sector when they grow up.
His most damaging effect on the economy came from his unwillingness to address unemployment as a primary issue. Yes, he did continue several of the Bush TARP and “bailout” practices, and generated some of his own (many of which I supported). However, as unemployment sky-rocketed from 7.7% to 10%, the President focused on a hugely expensive and convoluted health care bill which surely had a negative effect on employment, and just as bad he and his democrat majority in both houses of congress refused to address tax uncertainty caused by the soon expiring Bush tax rates. And then there was the stimulus, $850 billion worth. A little more than half of this went to Democrat pet projects and interest groups, some went to saving public sector jobs, and almost none was directed specifically at stimulating employment in the private sector. This was the most clear manifestation of the thinking of the President, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi- stimulate the public sector, not private.
At the same time he had not a single person on his staff or in his cabinet that had any significant private sector experience. The President, a man who spent not a day in the real world of business as a community organizer, college professor, and for 3 years a legislator, builds a staff of more academics and Federal bureaucrats (albeit many intelligent ones). The President, being an academic as he is, presumed that if you can teach business in a class, you must know how business works, just as a sportswriter can tell quarterbacks what they should have and could have done, but if you put them on the field they would need to be rushed to the hospital after the first play from scrimmage.
I don’t know what the President must have been thinking. Perhaps that his initial actions and natural economic forces would rescue the economy? That his actions were enough, and that doing anything to directly stimulate business (like, for instance, an investment tax credit) would be too much for his left-wing constituents to take?
Regardless of the explanation, the President seems to have found religion now. His agreement to extend tax rates at current levels, to cut the payroll tax, to support the South Korean Free Trade agreement (let’s get Columbia done now too!), and to accelerate depreciation on business investments are steps in the right direction. But he should not consider himself done. He needs to grab a couple of CEO’s and CFO’s from the marketplace and give them offices in the White House, and make them as important as cabinet members.
That America was starving for his leadership on private sector stimulation didn’t seem to be enough for the President to shake his anti-business leanings. Perhaps the threat that his White House stay will end in 2012 will be a more effective motivator.