Obama's Smoke and Mirrors Economy

by Gerri Willis

More bad news on the economy today.

Business hiring is stalling, according to a private sector employment report.

We gained just 119,000 private-sector jobs last month. That's far short of estimates. And far short of what the economy needs despite what the Administration says.

The President has really only had one successful jobs program: Convincing people they can't find a job.

Adults dropping out of the labor force account for 80% of the unemployment rate's dropping from 10% to 8.2% today.

People actually working or looking for work is near a 30-year low.

And in spite of this, after weeks, months, years of failing economic policies, today Barack Obama leads or is tied with his opponent in the polls.

How can he pull this off?

Deception and distraction.

We'll start with deceptive statistics.

As you know, every week the government tells us how many people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time.

By looking at where that number goes week to week, we can get an idea of whether we're gaining or losing jobs.

The number is critical. The markets move on the data. Bad news can turn the day into a disaster for your 401k.

In its wisdom, the government actually reported the numbers twice: First an estimate, then the revised,

This year, we've had 15 straight revisions higher on the numbers. Of the last 59 weeks, 58 weeks have been revised higher.

Seems to me like in a perfect world the revisions down and up would even out, but that's not the case.

And, it's raising serious questions about the credibility of the government's numbers.

Some serious analysts are asking whether the Department is wearing rose-colored glasses.

But the President's favorite way to win in the polls while losing control of the economy: Distraction.

Like yesterday, while protesters are in the streets, rallying against economic issues like household income dropping over four thousand dollars on the President's watch, he makes a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

And, oh yeah, lots of ads taking credit for killing Bin Laden, like this:

“But he reasoned ‘I cannot in good conscience do nothing.’ He took the harder and the more honorable path, and the one that produced in my opinion the best result.”

All this hoopla despite the fact jobs and the economy are voters' number one issues.

By a margin of ten to one, economic issues trump security and foreign policy.

Afghanistan is the latest distraction. Watch for Obama to resurrect more of his top hits as we near the election.

Issues that don't even make this list: The so-called "war on women." Whether his opponent is a caring dog-owner. Or how many years of tax returns he releases.

This November, don't get deceived, and don't be distracted. If you do, you'll have one more "D" in store for you. Debt.

Five trillion added on the President's watch so far.

Obama's "Forward" Slogan is all Backwards

by Gerri Willis

Now that he’s officially campaigning for re-election, the President's put out a seven-minute video of his accomplishments. I guess there wasn't enough to make it an even ten? He’s revealing his one-word campaign slogan, "Forward."

Have a taste:

Narrator: “The President's stimulus plan saved up to 4.2 million jobs, including teachers, construction workers, police and firefighters working to build a stronger America.

Pres. Obama: I believe America is on the way up. Thank you, God bless you, God bless the United States of America. [Vis: Forward]”

I've got a much better slogan for the President: Backward.

That's his economic policy in a nutshell. What do you call raising taxes in the middle of a recovery?

He's signed 21 tax hikes into law in the last three and a half years.

And the worst of them haven't even gone into effect yet.

And that doesn't count the expiring tax cuts this President has vowed to not renew.

What's the impact? Our growth last quarter was a paltry 2.2%.

Unemployment stuck above 8%. And it doesn't stop there.

The President's sliding backward on health care. You remember his promises on what Obamacare would do:

“Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses. … our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades.”

While in reality the cost of Obamacare is rising.

And the cost of your health-care premiums have only gone up since it was passed!

Over two thousand dollars for the average family.

Finally, the President is backward on energy.

Gas was a $1.84 when Obama took office.

Today it's $3.82.

It's more than doubled!

All the while millions of barrels of oil are off-limits in ANWR, off the coasts, in the Gulf of Mexico.

Instead of common-sense solutions like approving the Keystone pipeline, the President throws away hundreds of millions of dollars on green energy failures like Solyndra.

But there is one way the President is very "forward" thinking: the national debt. It's up nearly 47% since the President took office.

He's going to pay for all these programs by pushing the bill forward, onto our children, our grand-children.

But beyond this, there's one more "forward" connection you might not have thought of.

The great leap forward.

China's clever branding for a country trying to make the transition to modern society.

But Mao Zedong's government takeover of farming back in 1958 was disastrous. Millions died.

"Forward" just isn't a good rallying cry.

At least we told you about it.

Forewarned is forearmed.

The Obama Economy - By the Numbers

by Gerri Willis

Mitt Romney essentially now declaring victory in the Republican Presidential Primary.

After sweeping all five races this week, he used his acceptance speech to pose the most important question of the campaign:

“Four years ago, Barack Obama dazzled us in front of Greek columns with sweeping promises of hope and change. But after we came down to earth, after the celebration and parades, what do we have to show for three and a half years of President Obama? Is it easier to make ends meet?”

Based on the numbers, the answer for most Americans is no. Since Obama took office, unemployment is up. You know that. You know it's harder to find a job.

But here's the really disturbing trend: The labor force participation rate. It's how many people are working, or are unemployed but looking for a job.

And this drop shows you people haven't just lost jobs. They've lost hope. Hope of ever finding work.

Labor participation is now at its lowest levels in 30 years since before women got into the labor force in masse.

And look at the change in wages. Adjusted for inflation, you've lost $3.23 off your weekly paycheck. That's $168 you won't earn this year. If just you lost that much, it may not feel devastating. But spread that wage cut across every working American.

That's a crisis.

It all adds up to this. After three and a half years of Obama in office, you are less likely to have a job, you're less likely to even consider yourself employable, and if you are lucky enough to have a job, you're making less money.

Here's a test on the President's record. Tell me when Obama said this:

“That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. ... Our economy is badly weakened. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many.”

That's the President's inauguration speech. Day one of the Obama Administration.

Is it any less true today? Consider what Obama said when he became the Democratic candidate for President in 2008.

“We Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country. We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month.”

That's how we all measure progress, and you Mr. President have come up far, far short.

When you go to the polls this November, ask yourself this:

“Are you better off than you were 4 years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the store than it was 4 years ago?”

The Road We Really Traveled

by Gerri Willis

An exciting event tonight: the premiere of the 17-minute documentary about President Obama’s first three years in office: 'The Road We Traveled'.

It's narrated by academy-award-winner Tom Hanks.

Here's the trailer: http://youtu.be/NXtJhLUOFXE

Stirring stuff, huh?

Three years later, and all the Administration's got to show is 17 minutes of accomplishments?

That's shorter than a sitcom without the commercials.

Makes you wonder how much footage they had to leave on the cutting room floor.

Here are the President's three major achievements you won't hear in tonight's movie.

I call it, “The Road We Really Traveled.”

When President Obama took office, unemployment was 7.8 percent. It rose to 10 before now settling at 8.3 percent.

Remember his administration said the stimulus would keep unemployment under 8 percent.

The great recession killed more than eight million jobs.

They say we're years into the recovery now, but we've only gotten two million jobs back.

That's a six million job deficit.

Thanks.

The President's next major accomplishment? Passing Obamacare.

A landmark case of government overreach, one that puts the entire U.S. health care system as we know it at risk. Your healthcare decided by Washington bureaucrats, not your doctor.

I'll have more details on how the costs are spiraling out of control later in the show.

And accomplishment number three: more than doubling the price of gas.

Yes, doubled.

You wouldn't think that would be possible to do to a vital commodity, but when you believe in hope and change, when you want to force Americans to buy unproven electric cars, when you "just say no" to American drilling, that's what you get.

Congratulations, Mr. Obama.

I'm sure your new movie will be a real blockbuster.

Now, if you could just stop busting America’s recovery, I’d be grateful.

Tale of Two States

by Gerri Willis

Two states.

Two economic basket cases.

Both different.

Michigan and Arizona: the sites for tonight's GOP primaries.

The two are prime examples of the economic maladies plaguing this country: American competitiveness and the housing crisis.

Arizona: a national leader in foreclosures. According to RealtyTrac, more than four percent of homes in the state are in foreclosure, which is the second highest in the country behind Nevada.

I know. I’ve seen the trouble firsthand having toured the state at the height of the crisis.

Homes shuttered. Grass overgrown. Broken windows. Backyard pools infested with slime and mosquitoes.

Not pretty. Overbuilding and easy mortgage money have taken their toll.

Economists describe 2011 as a "forgettable" year economically but aren't expecting all that much from 2012.

Some say the chances of another recession are 40 percent.

I'm sure Arizonans are ready for some changes because this economy has been devastating for a state that had incredible momentum going into the recession.

Then there's Michigan.

That state's problems started before the recession, and the economic downturn only made them worse.

Take a look the unemployment rate compared to the national average.

At its worst in July and August of 2009, the jobless rate was 14.1 percent while the nation as a whole recorded a jobless rate below ten percent.

The number has improved to be sure, but at a 9.3 percent jobless rate there is a still a ways to go.

It's conventional wisdom that union demands for wages and benefits made Detroit products too expensive and non-competitive here and abroad. And that's true. Union demands unhinged the automakers business models but there was another culprit: Washington.

Government rules required Detroit to build cars that Americans didn't want (small sedans) while buyers favored SUVs and trucks. By the time the recession hit, the automakers were already reeling.

When I traveled there four years ago, one Detroit neighborhood I visited made Arizona look like a children's playground. Abandoned homes were stripped of anything valuable. Thieves had looted copper and electric wires. Siding was pulled away from homes.

Now, the city regularly bulldozes homes that have fallen victim to the blight. One of the latest is Mitt Romney's childhood home.

Detroit is busily proclaiming that it is back. Crowing about higher auto sales and loudly announcing recovery.

But Michigan had something that Arizona did not: an $80 billion taxpayer bailout. Michigan's growth since 2009 has led the nation's and, according to the Federal Reserve, it will continue to lead all 50 states for the next six months.

Michigan is not completely mended yet, and Arizona has a ways to go. But the two are a sharp contrast.

Two states. Two tales of recession and recovery. And tonight, voters will have their say.

Obama's Jobless Track Record

by Gerri Willis

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on his 2013 budget at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale. 2/13/2012Jobs...The number one issue in this country. You know how bad things are. You've seen the numbers: Unemployment over 8%, more than 40% have been out of work six months or more, a labor participation rate plummeting.

This White House says it has the solution: Government retraining. Now, the President's preferred way to do this is through community colleges. He used one as the stage to unveil his 2013 budget. Declaring on one campus that he had visited so many times, “I'm about three credits short of graduation."

Obama's latest plan? Devoting $8 billion to help community colleges work with businesses to train two million Americans giving them the skills they need to be employed. And it's not his first shot at this.

In 2009, as part of the massive stimulus law, he wanted to set aside $12 billion for community college training programs - Congress eventually sliced that to $2 billion - and just last year, he proposed giving the nation's 1,200 two-year colleges $5 billion for renovations. All told, according to the Government Accountability Office, the number of these programs has skyrocketed to 47 since 2009 costing approximately $18 billion.

But here's the thing. There is no evidence any of these programs that we keep throwing money at actually work. The Washington Post points to a recent study by the Labor Department showing additional education and training for these dislocated workers didn't translate into better pay or higher employment…at least not anytime soon. Actually, some even made less money than those who did not go back to school.

One of the most egregious examples of government waste, this President's insistence on green jobs being the savior of the jobs market. As usual, the numbers tell a different story. The stimulus law appropriated $500 million to train workers for these so-called green jobs promising to train 125,000 people.

But guess what? Three years in - less than 53,000 workers have been trained - only 42% of the expected amount. And only 10% of the target of 80,000 workers have actually been put in jobs. It's not just the federal government. Last year, California gave $59 million for green job training, and only 719 people have gotten jobs. That's $82,000 per job.

Unsuccessful government re-training programs are nothing new. Back in the 1990’s, the New York State Job Development Authority promised to create 1,200 jobs but ended up with fewer than 400. In 1973, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act was passed spending $53 billion, but only employing about 15% of its recruits.

To make matters worse, ten years later as the program was expiring, 50% of them had been laid off. And in 1961, the Area Redevelopment Administration managed to retrain only about 6,500 workers, and of that, only about 1,300 found jobs in their field. Look, joblessness is a huge problem, but government clearly has no track record when it comes to providing a solution.

The better track for government is to create an environment in which businesses can succeed, make corporate tax rates competitive with other countries. Provide carrots, not sticks, to businesses that outsource jobs.

Change the rhetoric of the White House so that it comes clear that the people employing Americans are worthy of respect not derision.

What My First Job Taught Me

by Gerri Willis

I didn't start out wanting to be a business reporter or a commentator on personal finance. Not by a long shot - I wanted to cover politics. And, like a lot of grads today - I hit the job market at a terrible time. A deep recession hit this country in the early 1980s, and in 1981, I was happy to even land a job.

I went to work for a small daily newspaper called The Lima News in Lima, Ohio, which at the time had a population of about 50,000 and a Ford plant. My beat was City Hall - I spent endless hours covering City Hall meetings. I was happy as a clam. But then a funny thing happened.

The local Ford plant began laying off people lots of people. And the layoff packages back then, well, they weren't as good as they are now. After several months, folks started forming informal bartering arrangements, trading toilet paper for light bulbs. The effects began to ripple: Other businesses that were reliant on Ford employee spending had to lay off people as well.

It was horrible to watch. I wrote stories about how people were coping with the situation. And about how the mayor and the city council of that town tried to resurrect their economy -- and lure new business. They set up special economic development zones and romanced scores of corporations. But nothing really worked.

And so, at a fairly young age I learned something fundamentally important: that the private sector - business, not government - had the real power to make a difference in people's lives - to send the kids to school with a full lunch pail - to put food on the table - to provide.

I don't think a lot of Americans have that confidence in companies and the private sector right now - and that's what I worry about.

They think the government can fill the gap ... and it can't.

The government doesn't have the money or the know how to create wealth - it can only disperse other people's money. Today, a lot of people believe that the private sector - companies and businesses - are the problem - that they monopolize the money.

More than three-quarters of people surveyed in a WSJ poll said the nation's economic structure is out of balance and favors the rich over the rest of the country.

For that reason, we need to painstakingly rebuild our faith in the power of the country's private sector. Because it's companies that will hire the jobless, companies that will expand payrolls, and companies that will seed the growth of this economy.

Today Lima is in better shape. It's diversified its economy and grown. It's doing better. And, the rest of us can, too.

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