Pity President Obama, it's not his fault; after over three years in office, he is still helpless as a newborn when it comes to changing the economy for the better. Sympathetic New York Times White House reporter Jackie Calmes teamed with Nicholas Kulish for Sunday's "Weak Economy Points To Obama’s Constraints."
The bleak jobs report on Friday predictably had heads snapping toward the White House, looking to President Obama to do something. Yet his proposed remedies only underscore how much the president, just five months before he faces voters, is at the mercy of actors in Europe, China and Congress whose political interests often conflict with his own.
It has been a common refrain at the Times to point to Europe to suggest Obama is at the mercy of forces beyond his control. Appearing on the PBS show Washington Week in February, Calmes predictably nodded along to the president's excuse that "the public thinks that he was dealt a bad hand." It's certainly not an excuse the Times handed to President Bush.
More from Calmes on Sunday:
That day, Mr. Obama continued his weekly travels around the country, prodding Congressional Republicans to pass his “to-do list” of temporary tax cuts and spending initiatives to help create jobs. The Republicans only mock him, which leaves Mr. Obama free to blame his opponents and their presidential standard-bearer, Mitt Romney. But in doing so, he telegraphs a message of powerlessness that no leader likes to convey -- least of all one who ran for office four years ago vowing to bridge Washington’s partisan gulf.
Developments overseas have not helped either. American officials have complained as Beijing began letting its currency devalue again, making its exports cheaper and those from the United States to China more costly. And administration officials, and Mr. Obama himself, have lobbied leaders in Europe for more forceful action to promote growth or at least contain the threat of financial contagion there.
Without mentioning Republicans, Mr. Obama said Congress had not passed measures he had proposed to get jobless construction workers rebuilding roads, bridges and runways; to give small businesses a tax break for new hires; and to help states pay teachers, firefighters and police officers. The steady elimination of public sector jobs has offset increased hiring in the private sector for more than two years.
By emboldening Republicans, the report on Friday that the economy added only 69,000 jobs in May seemed to dash the hopes of some in the White House for a replay of 1996. That summer, as President Bill Clinton sought re-election with the economy improving, Republicans in Congress decided that their party’s weak presidential nominee, Senator Bob Dole, was doomed. To Mr. Dole’s chagrin, they compromised with the Democratic president to notch some significant achievements and ensure their own survival.
Gene Sperling, the chief White House economic adviser, said, “There is no question that had Congress acted on the president’s proposals nine months ago to prevent teacher layoffs, put construction workers back to work and cut small-business taxes, our job situation today would be notably stronger and unemployment would be lower.” Analyses by macroeconomic firms and nonpartisan financial analysts agreed.
While Mr. Obama seeks to make Republicans the villains when it comes to the economy, he is also, more diplomatically, blaming Europe. In Minneapolis and Chicago on Friday, he cited the impact of the continent’s travails on the American economy.
Keynesian cultist and Times columnist Paul Krugman joined the chorus of lament on ABC's This Week show Sunday, as Noel Sheppard recounted on NewsBusters: "...it's terribly unfair that he's being judged on the failure of the economy to respond to policies that had been largely dictated by a hostile Congress."
Sheppard pointed out "Obama controlled the House of Representatives and enjoyed a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate."