In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Barack Obama made a few favorable references to his erstwhile opponent, Mitt Romney, the guy who four months ago was such a heartless cad that he “didn’t even care” that some woman got sick and died years after she left a company that Bain Capital took over.
Wasn’t that sweet? Maybe if the guy plays his cards right he can still be ambassador to Luxembourg.
That seems to have concluded any “move to the middle,” however. Mr. Obama had already signaled the week before that he will “aim to work around an uncooperative Congress” (in the words of Washington Post reporter Zachary Goldfarb) by enacting many proposals — from tougher regulations on coal-fired plants to new protections for gays and lesbians — through what the Post calls Mr. Obama’s “increasingly aggressive use of executive authority.”
The problem with this rule by executive order, with its avoidance of debate and compromise, is not so much that it gives us a “gets-things-done” dictator who can murder U.S. citizens at whim. (No one in Washington is losing much sleep over that, needless to say.) The problem is that Rand Paul and the other handful of remaining non-totalitarians in Washington have a point: much of Mr. Obama’s command-and-control agenda not only has failed before, but will further cripple any hoped-for job creation.
And that, unlike a few thousand dead foreigners in funny hats, could eventually mean lost votes.
The Wall Street Journal headlined their Wednesday story “Obama Turns Focus to Boosting Economy.”
Really? An administration that’s invested $5 billion based on Vice President Joe Biden’s 2009 forecast of “billions and billions and billions of dollars in good, new jobs” in an electric car industry that’s now dead in the water — and wants to keep plowing in billions more?
How about “Obama turns focus to destroying economy”?
The president vowed nothing he was proposing in his speech would “increase our deficit by a single dime.” He then proposed at least 29 new government programs, including federally subsidized pre-school for every four-year-old in America.
“Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on — by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime,” the president says.
Which means it won’t cost a dime? I’ve met junkies with better explanations of why you should give them a hundred bucks.
The president brags that he’s cut spending, but these are the kind of “cuts” that can be discussed with a straight face only in the Emerald City. In fiscal year 2008, the year before Obama took office, federal spending was $2.98 trillion, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. In fiscal 2013, the current year, OMB estimates federal spending will be $3.80 trillion — an increase of 27.5 percent. Since Obama was first inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009, the federal government’s debt has increase by $5.86 trillion.
Cuts? Deficit reduction? Quick! More smoke and mirrors!
But as bad as deficits are, the real job-killers in the president’s speech — coming on top of the burgeoning per-employee costs of ObamaCare, which explain why so many of us are now trying to make a living selling used socks on e-Bay — were the president’s calls for “equal pay” and for a higher minimum wage: $9 an hour for starters, and then indexed to inflation to outlaw successively more start-up jobs as time goes by.
Compiling economic truths now embraced by most economists, Harvard University economist Greg Mankiw lists “A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers” as drawing 79 percent agreement — just below “A large federal budget deficit has an adverse effect on the economy,” at 83 percent.
“Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to nine dollars an hour,” the president said.
But economists including Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell have demonstrated hardly anyone tries to raise a family on the minimum wage. Rather, low-income jobs provide a bottom step on the ladder for young and inexperienced workers, who quickly earn raises as they improve their usefulness to employers.
One of the terrible ironies here is that the most pernicious effects of a high minimum wage — in truth a sop to the labor unions who have long considered Mr. Obama their “go-to guy” — are felt among minority youth, who already struggle hardest to reach that “bottom rung.”
While the overall U.S. unemployment rate stands at 8.1 percent, African American unemployment is now at 14.1 percent, and the official unemployment rate for black youth aged 18-29 is 22.3 percent.
Since this doesn’t count those who’ve never been able to find a first job at all, this means an entire generation of young black men are at risk of never being able to find the stability and self-esteem that come with honest work. Yet a black president draws applause for vowing to outlaw even more of the starter jobs they need?
Then Mr. Obama urged Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Make no mistake: The idea that a woman with equal qualifications should be offered less to do the same job as a man is unacceptable. It’s also been virtually unheard of in America for decades, in part because it’s already illegal. Instead, what the president and those on the far left propose is a remedy for the fact that women sometimes earn less over their lifetimes because they choose different jobs from men, or because they lose seniority by voluntarily taking years off to raise children.
So the proposal is that the government force private employers to pay some women more (or some men less) for what some bureaucrat decides is a job “equivalent” to a different job held by a man — a job which requires different training or which fewer people want to do, and which the private employer thus finds harder to fill.
Such a step could indeed create more jobs — but unfortunately, only among the class of attorneys retained to fight ginned-up discrimination lawsuits. Diverting employer cash and energies into this new bureaucratic maze is supposed to help overall employment?
Let us have a lot less of this “increasingly aggressive use of executive authority,” please, whether the goal be to drive up our electric bills and cause layoffs in Wyoming by shutting down clean coal-fired power plants, or simply filling up a slow day by committing a few more remote-controlled murders in Distant East Crapistan.
Mr. Obama should submit his pathetic socialist public relations schemes to Congress for open debate. For the job of Congress is not only to pass laws, but also to air and reject bad and harmful ideas, no matter how nice they may sound as applause lines in some cooked-up speech.