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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014
Editorials

Grilling Obama on the economy

Published:

Well into his second term, President Barack Obama faces an economy that continues to sputter and a growing minority that has given up hope of finding a job.

The jobless rate has been too high for too long, and consumer confidence is falling — down to 71.2 from 80.2 in September on a 100 scale. The president can’t be blamed for all that has gone wrong, nor can he be expected to magically restore boom times.

But we do have a few questions for him about his approach to this problem that is likely to define his presidency.

First, it was recently reported that the nation’s employers added 204,000 more jobs in October than they eliminated. Most observers see the news as encouraging.

Yet the whole labor force shrank last month by another 720,000 people. The percentage of folks not working is now higher than it has been in 35 years.

So the job growth, such as it is, isn’t causing the kind of economic rebound that typically follows recessions. If so many people had not thrown in the towel and quit looking, the unemployment rate would be in double digits.

Many of those who have given up hope of finding a suitable job are looking to the government for help. Applications for disability pay and food assistance have soared.

The question is, do you think former President Ronald Reagan was right when he said, “We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added”?

Second, if present trends continue, the workers of the nation will one day be outnumbered by nonworkers.

Can you think of a way to prevent a new nonworking majority from demanding better benefits for themselves at the expense of higher taxes on workers?

Third, you advocate a significant increase in the minimum wage and urge that we “give everybody a chance to get ahead.” Yet 8.1 million part-time workers now want to work more hours than employers are willing to give them.

Do you think the chances of getting these workers more hours will improve if the government forces a big increase in hourly pay?

Fourth, the personal savings rate in this country was 4.9 percent in September. Altogether, we productive Americans added $619.9 billion to our personal savings that month. In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the federal government spent $680 billion more than it collected in tax revenue, which suggests we private citizens are more financially responsible than our government.

Will you promise to fight any effort to levy taxes on the personal savings of the thrifty, even if a new tax on savings and retirement accounts would balance the budget?

Finally, if evidence becomes clear that expenses related to the Affordable Care Act are causing employers to trim the payroll or turn full-time workers into part-timers, would you endorse a significant reduction in the cost of complying with the law?

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