Obama vs. Obama on the economy — can rhetoric trump truth?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Heading into his big speech on the economy this Thursday, President Barack Obama and his team face troubled waters. In fact, they are steering the ship of state right into the perfect political storm.

There is little doubt that the president’s back is up against a wall of disenchanted voters. Obama’s approval ratings are wallowing near 40 percent. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll out this week shows 60 percent of Americans rate the president’s economic job performance negatively. And, a Politico/George Washington University poll found that 72 percent believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.  At public events in swing states around the nation, fellow Democrats are now quietly distancing themselves from a sitting president, and the economy and job market are flatter than a first round contestant on American Idol.

The president and his advisers are desperately scrambling to announce a national program that will generate enough hype and enthusiasm to boost consumer confidence — or at least, offer some level of hope to increasingly cynical voters and political analysts.  Obama’s jobs plan is his latest gamble, and it’s a big one. As the president prepares to address the nation to outline his latest effort to stimulate job growth, he faces the most skeptical national audience of his political career. Which begs the question: can yet another speech by the president turn things around?

Obama’s record on job production is weak at best, with few success stories to point to. Last week’s jobs report, reaching a dismal low not seen since 1945 with the economy failing to add a single job over a one-month period, was just the latest hammer to fall.

Adding fuel to the fire, Solyndra, a California based solar technology firm that the president once touted as a shining example of an emerging “green” economy, announced bankruptcy last week. Even $535 million in low interest loans – awarded through the federal stimulus program – could not keep the company running. Solyndra is the third solar company to seek bankruptcy protection over the past month.

This latest “green jobs” failure is a clear example of how an economy built on profligate spending, government grants, and tax subsidized jobs can’t stand on its own — especially during a prolonged recession. While the president rhetorically promotes job growth, his policies are ironically adding to the unemployment line. In fact, the Obama Administration is one of the most regulating administrations in history. It is these regulations that are putting a dagger through the heart of economic recovery and growth.  And no speech is likely to change the outcomes.

While there is a long list of job killing regulations to choose from, consider just a few that are surely not going to be prominently featured in the president’s speech tomorrow night.

Big Labor Versus Boeing

In a recent Washington Post column, House Marjory Leader Eric Cantor noted the president’s silence as the National Labor Relations Board works to prevent Boeing from opening a plant in South Carolina. Despite the fact that such a plant would create thousands of jobs, Obama’s NLRB wants the company to stay put in heavily unionized Washington State where month-long strikes have stalled production.

Feds Retiring Tony the Tiger

The Interagency Working Group (IWG), tasked with studying the impact food marketing has on childhood obesity, is finalizing “voluntary” guidelines this month that would classify foods such as Cheerios, low-fat yogurt and even bottled water as unmarketable to children (a bittersweet departure for beloved mascots like Tony the Tiger).

Additionally, the Bernard Center Senior Fellow Crystal Wright argues that these proposed guidelines are yet another job-killer that could cost 74,000 jobs and cost $28.3 billion in the first year alone.  A recently released Heritage Foundation paper notes that the interagency working group itself concluded that the guidelines would result in a 20 percent reduction in ad expenditures that would in turn cause losses of $28.3 billion in manufacturing and retail sales and 378,000 jobs lost by 2015.

Obama’s DOJ Lawsuit against Phone Companies

Obama’s Justice Department just last week announced that it’s going to court to block AT&T’s efforts to buy T-Mobile. Obama says he’s all about creating more jobs, yet as Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) puts it, this latest move is a “continued assault on the American economy.” AT&T pledges to bring 5,000 call-center jobs back to the U.S. from other countries if the deal closes.  The DOJ lawsuit is just another roadblock in the road to economic recovery.

EPA: the 1000 Pound Economic Killer

As Forbes noted, Heritage Foundation Fellow Andrew Grossman has called out needless EPA regs that he says, “waste tens or hundreds of billions of dollars per year on environmental upgrades of dubious value [so] that money isn’t available to invest in business expansions or create jobs.  Higher costs also cut down on business investment — a factory that makes economic sense at a cost of $10 million may not when EPA regulations have jacked the cost up to $30 million.”

… These are merely a sampling of the bureaucratic brew of job-destructive regulations crafted by this administration, supposedly offered to help our struggling economy but in reality hindering job growth and adding to the economic stresses felt by millions across the nation. If the Obama Administration created as many jobs as they did job-killing regulations the poll numbers may read differently.

And this is one mess, President Obama cannot say he “inherited” from George W. Bush.

Update: The original version of this post wrongly indicated that the IWG was funded by stimulus money. In fact, it was part of the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act.

Matt K. Lewis