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Obama's running out of excuses on economy

By William J. Bennett, CNN Contributor
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Wed July 11, 2012
William Bennett says he's not sure President Obama understands the depth of the economic crisis.
William Bennett says he's not sure President Obama understands the depth of the economic crisis.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • William Bennett: U.S. economy continues to experience poor job growth
  • He says President Obama isn't proposing any bold ideas
  • Obama tends to place blame for economic woes on Bush administration, Bennett says
  • Bennett: Obama's campaign is focusing on worn-out proposals, attacks on Romney

Editor's note: William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.

(CNN) -- The White House is running out of time, and ideas, for turning the economy around before the fall elections.

Almost three years into recovery, the U.S. economy added only 80,000 jobs in June, marking its third consecutive month of poor job growth. The Wall Street Journal noted that the United States gained just 225,000 jobs in the past three months combined, making it the weakest quarter of job growth since the labor market began to recover in 2010. The unemployment rate, still 8.2%, has been stuck above 8% for 41 straight months, the longest streak since the Great Depression.

A government report found that 85,000 Americans left the workforce in June to enroll in the Social Security Disability Insurance program. That means that more workers joined the federal government's disability program in June than got new jobs.

William Bennett
William Bennett

How did the White House respond to the anemic report? "There are no quick fixes to the problems we face that were more than a decade in the making," Alan Krueger, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, said in a written statement.

In other words, any chances for economic recovery before the fall elections look slim. More importantly, there is a profound lack of urgency from the White House for any large scale, serious reforms.

Obama defends tax plan
McConnell: Most tepid recovery

In fact, Krueger went on to claim the economy really isn't as bad as we think. "The economy has now added private sector jobs for 28 straight months, for a total of 4.4 million payroll jobs during that period," he said.

The obvious problem here is that Obama has been president for more than 40 months. The White House conveniently blames Republicans for decades of lost jobs, but forgets to mention the United States lost 4.3 million jobs in President Obama's first 13 months in office.

Krueger concluded, "[I]t is important not to read too much into any one monthly report and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available."

This isn't the first time the White House has used this excuse. In fact, the Romney campaign was quick to put together a list of the 30 times the White House has used this same excuse, dating back to November 2009. Is the White House perhaps telling us something more significant: that we shouldn't read too much into the entire term of Barack Obama's presidency?

In Ohio on Friday, Obama excused the jobs report by again claiming he inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression. He added that the jobs report is "a step in the right direction" and that "it's still tough out there."

The president appears intellectually and ideologically spent, and it's not just Republicans saying that. Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, wrote recently, "[T]he excuse is wearing thin. It's his economy now, and most voters don't care what he inherited." He added, "[H]e has to show he understands the depth and breadth of this crisis."

It's not so clear the president does. On Monday, he again called to repeal the Bush tax cuts on the highest earners, a contentious partisan issue that the public knows will not be solved before the elections. In his weekly address he continued to push for more construction projects and increased financial aid for college students. Even to Keynesian economists on the left these are hardly bold policies a party can rally behind.

The economy is shaping up to be the most important factor of the 2012 elections, yet the president seems content to rest his re-election chances on worn-out, recycled policy proposals and ad hominem attacks on Mitt Romney. It's hard to see how this is a winning strategy.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of William Bennett.

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