October 29, 2014

Biden Sums Up Obama’s Economic Record

“You know the truth: The middle class is still in trouble.”

Ebola, ISIL and a host of other crises have pushed the economy from the headlines, but jobs and the anemic recovery are what people really care about in the coming election. And, believe it or not, Joe Biden put his finger on the problem: The middle class is struggling in Barack Obama’s economy.

In his most sagacious statement since taking office, Biden said Obama’s economic policies have done nothing to help the average American. He didn’t quite put it that way, of course, but it’s a fair interpretation. The vice president was touting positive economic growth and deficit reduction on the stump when he oddly concluded that none of it matters. “You know the truth: The middle class is still in trouble,” Biden said. “You don’t have to know the numbers, you can feel it. You can feel it in your bones.” For once he’s right.

It’s plain something is amiss given that 48 million people (20% of the population) are on food stamps and 50 million are below the poverty line.

But there is one good sign. In January, the federal government returned to the policy adopted in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, requiring more from able-bodied persons who receive benefits. As National Review’s Jillian Kay Melchior explains, “Unless a state has extraordinarily high unemployment or a dearth of jobs, able-bodied adults who are younger than 50 and without a dependent must spend 20 hours a week productively if they wish to continue drawing food-stamp benefits longer than three months.”

This policy shift is important because it will encourage people to get back to work. The workforce participation rate – the number of Americans actually working – has plunged since Obama was elected. When he took office, nearly 66% were employed. Now, the percentage is 62.8 – the lowest since January 1978, during the term of another Democrat president. And Obama’s unemployment numbers are as phony as a three-dollar bill. Forbes says it’s 13%; the Hill says 18%. Whatever it is, we dang well know it’s not the headline rate of 6%.

There are still millions who can’t find work and millions who work part-time because they can’t find a full-time job. Employers, hard pressed by the cost of ObamaCare, are afraid to hire more employees lest taxes, fines and expenses grow any worse. Obama claims to have created 10 million jobs during his six-year tenure, but that’s a debatable figure. And even if it’s accurate, it pales in comparison to his predecessors. (Of course, presidents don’t create jobs, businesses do – in spite of Hillary Clinton’s inadvertent candor the other day.) Under the economic leadership of Ronald Reagan, the economy created 16 million real jobs with a smaller population, and Bill Clinton, still enjoying the fruits of Reaganomics, saw an increase of 22 million.

Yet Obama continues telling us the economy is blazing. “There’s almost no economic measure by which we are not better off than when I took office,” he proclaimed. Just drop the “not” in his boast and he’s on to something.

The good news is, after the expiration of the unemployment extension in January, employers have been more willing to create jobs and workers are more willing to take them. The New York Federal Reserve Bank reported the number of new jobs that had opened each month shot up 20% to 4.7 million by June. And according to The Washington Times, “The rate of job openings also soared to its pre-recession peak of 3.3 percent of all workers just months after Congress allowed the benefits to end after Democrats and Republicans failed to agree on an acceptable way to pay for them.”

This one small change (requiring those on unemployment benefits to work a little) toward a more free-market approach in our economy has produced more than all of Obama’s boastful machinations and lies put together. Perhaps this small step will boost the economy, and, no doubt much to Biden’s relief, the middle class may even begin to recover.

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