President Barack Obama has the summer blues. Obama is facing a sluggish economy, low job approval numbers and a combative opposition party focused on dismantling Obamacare. While rainy summer days in Washington and lengthy speeches by members of Congress and the president have become the norm, no real progress and no new proposals by the president have been made to help improve the state of the U.S. economy.
The president gave a one-hour speech last week in Illinois talking about his plans to help boost the economy, and he stated that he would lay out more of his initiatives in the upcoming weeks. Americans have been waiting for too long to see what the president is planning to propose.
The president's ideas and speeches are a repeat of the 2010 "summer of recovery" where he gave campaign-style speeches around the country and yet nothing was accomplished in Washington. In his latest speech, President Obama's grand bargain is clearly a repackaging of two existing proposals that have been stalled in Congress: corporate tax reform and spending more money on infrastructure, education and training.
Obama must be depressed and frustrated that his economic proposals have not gained Republican support in Congress. However, he has made little effort to find a bipartisan solution to jumpstarting the economy. The president is not running again and the likelihood of the Democrats taking over Congress in 2014 is dim, so why not build bipartisan support for economic proposals? Based on his history, compromise is not in the president's vocabulary.
The president's recent shift to the economy is long overdue, yet his long-winded speeches and proposals to nowhere will not help. The economy needs a shot in the arm. Friday's labor report showed disappointing numbers, which is another indication that the economy remains sluggish. The unemployment rate in July did fall from 7.6 percent to 7.4 percent, but that was partly because 37,000 people left the labor force.
Economic indicators are mixed and quite discouraging. Home ownership is at the lowest levels in 18 years. More Americans are working part-time for economic reasons, and 22.2 million Americans remain unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work. Hispanic unemployment also rose from 9.1 to 9.4. More young people cannot afford to live on their own and are living with their parents. With the latest job reports, economists have stated that the economy is just not gaining enough traction.
President Obama is faced with two challenges: building public approval and GOP support of his economic plans. He will spend the next few weeks giving speeches and talking about his old ideas. It will be a difficult sales pitch considering that millions of discouraged Americans have been waiting a long time to find full-time jobs, and American businesses are preparing themselves for the wrath of Obamacare.
As in the case of immigration reform, the president may need to look to Congress to work on legislation that both parties can support. Congress is already taking the lead and crafting bipartisan comprehensive tax reform legislation for taxpayers and businesses. It would be wise for the president to jump on board and support their efforts. The president will then have something substantial to talk about during his summer of recovery tour (part two).