Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Miserable Are You?

"So I says to Barack, 'I knew Abe Lincoln, and you ain't no Abe Lincoln'"

It was Abraham Lincoln who once observed, "People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be." In other words, happiness is a choice. Do you believe it?

During the Reagan-Carter campaign of 1979, somebody came up with something called the "misery index." It's the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates, two nasty statistics when totaled together equate to economic misery. You'll be relieved to know the Obama administration's misery index hasn't reached the highs hit by Jimmy Carter's.

It's hard to believe but I still remember, so I looked it up today to be sure. Carter's yearly average of 20.8 was reached by 1980 and was the all-time modern high. Obama's administration hit a monthly rate of 12.8 in June of this year. Just so you can compare and remember the "good old days," the average misery index over George W. Bush's two terms was only 8.1, and Bill Clinton's administration was even lower at 7.8.

In one of their debates toward the end of the campaign Reagan quipped, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" He closed the deal with the American people, who decided they weren't and handed Reagan the presidency, making Jimmy Carter the poster child for one-term failure.

There are many today who are comparing the Obama administration to the Carter administration and coming up with the obvious similarities. Many of us hope the crowning likeness will be the one-term comparison.

However, nobody in America wins when the president is weak. I had at least hoped for the best a few months after Obama took office, but his steadfast adherence to his flawed Keynesian economic model is killing us. The lurch to the left went beyond traditional Democratic tax and spend philosophy. It went right off the charts into Democratic Socialism. His stimulus spending to the tune of $825 Billion did nothing. You can ignore all the rhetoric about "creating jobs" or "saving jobs." When the August number came in there were zero jobs created, and that hasn't happened in America in a very long time.

Add to it something called the "Public-Private Investment Partnership," nothing more than Obama's version of Bush's TARP, and all that happened was more toxic assets were transferred to the government, which of course translates into the taxpayers - YOU!

Remember how successful "Cash for Clunkers" was? Remember nationalizing the automotive industry to rescue it from bankruptcy? Somebody at Ford should be crowned King of Captialism for refusing the government handout when GM and Chrysler are still owned principally by the taxpayers.

Remember Obamacare? I have hated the idea since it was first introduced, largely because of the staggering costs involved. It reformed little and the cost was extraordinary in a time when America could afford it least. We won't know what its full effect will be until (and if) it takes root. I'm betting the SCOTUS will strike it down as unconstitutional because of the individual mandate. Whatever that eventual outcome, the short-term effect has been businesses by the droves are getting out of the business of providing private healthcare coverage for their employees. If you've loved Medicare and Medicaid, then you're just going to love government-sponsored health insurance exchanges.

Remember the national debt clock? It's still ticking at a more rapid pace now than ever before in our history. It has now exceeded $14 Trillion and will hit $15 Trillion by the end of September (yes, this month). When it happens, don't expect a flurry of headlines, because the story will be tucked away somewhere on page 10 below the fold. It will be the first time since World War II that the debt will exceed the GDP.

Remember the first downgrade on our debt in our history from "AAA" to "AA?" Unless Congress takes substantive steps to change course this fall in the supercommittee, the credit markets will continue to react negatively.

Remember "tax the rich?" He's still thumping that theme as recently as yesterday in his stump speech. I was heartened yesterday to hear a report that thirty-six senators from both parties are now calling upon the super committee to enact sweeping tax reform as part of their work product. Knock on wood. With an approval rating of 12%, Congress had better do SOMETHING, ANYTHING to demonstrate their willingness to do the bidding of the American people who employ them. The polling data is suggesting there are very few who are inclined to send the same members of Congress back in 2012 unless they prove worthy of their hire.

We're running up debt for the next generations of Americans that will prove to be impossible to repay unless the growth engine in our economy is jump-started and begins to hum again.

There are those who say it isn't fair to hold Obama or any POTUS to the same standard as private business measurements for success. Honestly, why not? If he were CEO of America, Inc., no board of directors worth its salt would retain him given his record. Here's a stunner for comparison: This "recovery" has been underway for two and half years and employment has actually dropped by a full percentage point. The only other president in American history to have witnessed negative job growth for a comparable period is Herbert Hoover. I'm certain when Barack Obama took office he wanted to be considered an historic president, but I doubt this is what he had in mind. Nor did any of us.

Despite the clear record, he continues to blame George W. Bush for the mess we're in. I have stated repeatedly it is more complicated than blaming your successsor. Presidents, let me say it once again, DO NOT create jobs. Their policies, however, provide either an environment for job growth or an environment that stifles job growth. So what does this failing president flail away at? The same failed European economic model that won't work, and he keeps doubling down on his bets.

Obama might do well to take a page out of Bill Clinton's playbook. Clinton lost control of both houses of Congress in 1994. But Clinton the pragmatist, wanting to be re-elected, decided a 180-degree turn was in order. He put Al Gore in charge of downsizing the federal government and he worked with Republicans in Congress. Together they passed the North American Free Trade Act, they reformed a badly broken welfare system, and (listen for the drum roll) they enacted and achieved a balanced budget!!!

It's been done before. When correct principles are applied they work.

Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton, and he's certainly proven he's no Abe Lincoln, but he needs to pick a new path and try something dramatically different than giving another speech before a joint session of Congress about all the jobs he's going to create with government debt and deficit spending.

I just hope it's not too late before he becomes another Jimmy Carter.

On the other hand, there are only thirteen and a half months left until the next election. Maybe we'll all just have to be patient.

Until then, I choose happiness instead of misery.

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