May 19, 2014

‘We Can Make It Harder’

Obama’s weekly address on the economy, and Hillary’s lament on the same.

During his weekly address, Barack Obama pivoted back to the economy, and at first glance it was simply more of the same – cherry-picking statistics and promises for more government intervention. But in light of Hillary Clinton’s Friday comments decrying the stagnant economy, it’s worth remembering what role Obama’s actions have played.

“At a time when our businesses have created 9.2 million new jobs in just over four years, and more companies are considering bringing jobs back from overseas, we have a choice to make,” Obama began. “We can make it easier for businesses to invest in America – or we can make it harder. I want to work with Congress to create jobs and opportunity for more Americans. But where Congress won’t act, I will.” Separation of powers anyone?

He didn’t mention it in the address, but one of the primary pieces in Obama’s economic agenda is raising the minimum wage, which means he has made his choice: “We can make it harder” for businesses. Let’s recap. In February, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that Obama’s proposed 40% minimum wage hike – from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 – would result in the loss of 500,000 jobs and maybe as many as one million.

In March, 500 economists wrote an open letter to Obama telling him the minimum wage will “cuts jobs and raise prices” because “business owners saddled with a higher cost of labor will need to cut costs, or pass the increase to their consumers in order to make ends meet.”

Also in March, the CBO further reported that raising the minimum wage would cost the economy $15 billion and increase the deficit by $5 billion over 10 years.

Obama did mention class warfare. Speaking of last year’s huge tax hike on the “rich,” Obama hammered Republicans for opposing that while not supporting his infrastructure “stimulus.” He said, “Instead of putting people to work on projects that would grow the economy for everyone, they voted to give a huge tax cut to households making more than $1 million a year.” Wrong – Republicans voted to keep tax rates where they had been for a decade. Democrats voted on a massive tax increase that hits small business owners hard. Again, he made his choice: “We can make it harder” for businesses.

With that, we turn to Hillary Clinton for her economic assessment. On Friday, she echoed Bill Clinton’s 1990s “basic bargain of America” campaign theme: “No matter who you are or where you come from, if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll have an opportunity to build a good life.” That isn’t the way things are panning out in Obama’s America, however. “For too many families in America today,” she lamented, “that isn’t the way it works. Instead of getting ahead, they’re finding it harder and harder than ever to get their footing in our changing economy. The dream of upward mobility that made this country a model for the world feels further and further out of reach.”

In fact, she said, millions of Americans are “frustrated, even angry” about the stagnant economy of the last five years. With a nod to Obama’s “painstaking work” on the economy, Clinton went on to praise her husband’s record as being worthy of repeating. That’s yet another signal she’s preparing to run in 2016, and it’s a good indication that Hope ‘n’ Change 2 will be her theme.

We do need change – change from policies of high taxes, high spending and high deficits. Just don’t expect it from Clinton or any other Democrat. Such change will only come if the Tea Party expands on its early, if limited, success in putting the brakes on bad policy.

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