UNITED STATES: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
US Presidential race narrows over economic concerns
, June 23, 2012
Having led his Republican rivals for most of the year, President Obama is facing a tightening Presidential race in November, following disappointing economic data and media gaffes.
Morris Chang, the chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, the world’s largest contract microchip maker, told the company’s annual meeting that the US economy appeared to have “turned bad” in the past two months, based on recent employment data.
His comments followed remarks by the Vice-Chair of the US Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, that recent US economic data had been “pretty disappointing”. This followed research released by the Federal Reserve which showed that the net worth of American families had fallen 40 per cent since 2007.
With poor economic news on both sides of the Atlantic, this is not a good time to be in office, as leaders of Britain, France, Spain, Italy and Greece have discovered over the past year.
In the United States, voter concern has been largely directed at the Congress, rather than the President. For months, 60 per cent of Americans have said the country is heading in the wrong direction, compared to only 33 per cent who think it is on track.
At the same time, most opinion polls put President Obama ahead of Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger, by margins of between 1 and 7 per cent.
However, the polls have narrowed following Obama’s comments on the American economy.
The Family Research Council described what happened. In what was meant to be a conversation about jobs, President Obama made a surprising assessment. “The truth of that matter is that… [t]he private sector is doing just fine,” he told the roomful of reporters.
Within minutes, Republicans were firing back with statistics of how America’s private sector is performing.
The backlash was so intense that the President took the unusual step of issuing a follow-up statement that same day. “It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine,” he insisted. “That’s the reason I had the press conference.”
Since then, the question on many Americans’ minds has been whether or not the President actually misspoke. Was this really a gaffe or a glimpse into his personal perspective?
As more than one person has pointed out, the Administration’s interest has always been increasing the public sector — in most cases, at the private sector’s expense.
Family Research Council president, Tony Perkins, said: “In my opinion, the President let the mask slip as to how indifferent his administration is to private business.
“As far as this White House is concerned, US companies are ‘doing just fine’ surviving the administration’s complete and total neglect, if not open hostility through increased government regulations. Instead of easing the burdens on the private sector and deregulating, the President’s administration has devoted its time and energy to growing more government.
“In three and a half years, the White House’s only economic solutions have been to borrow, tax, spend and hire more public employees. And the average American is paying for it.”
The Republicans have pointed out that, since President Obama took office, the country has lost 552,000 jobs and has experienced eight per cent (or higher) unemployment rates for 40 straight months.
Further, official figures show that 23 million people are either out of work, under-employed, or have given up looking for work. Some 49 per cent of the population are receiving some type of government assistance, and there has been a 45 per cent spike in the number of people receiving food stamps to supplement their incomes.
Other figures show that median household income has dropped more than $4,000, fuel prices have doubled over the past three years, food prices are higher, education costs are up, and health care premiums have increased by almost $2,000.
Meanwhile, government jobs are booming. The Washington Post reported, “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for federal workers last month was just 4.2 per cent.”
That’s why the President’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, and other PR staff were on clean-up duty, appearing on all the Sunday talk shows. Asked if the flap shows a disconnect between the President and voters, Axelrod insisted that “the American people are smarter than that”.
The Family Research Council commented, “Unfortunately for the Administration, the American people are smart — smart enough to do the maths themselves and see that the country is not better off, morally or economically, under this administration.”
Whether the current sentiment continues until November, when Americans go to the polls, will depend equally on the performance of the President and whether his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, comes up with a credible alternative plan.