The Associated Press reports that President Barack Obama is planning to focus on the economy in a series of upcoming speeches. Since his second inauguration, the president has focused on gun control, immigration reform, and climate change–leaving jobs and the economy aside, though opinion polls consistently indicate that Americans are more concerned about the economy that any of these other issues put together.
Announcing the policy shift, White House aide Dan Pfeiffer said on Sunday night–without irony: “The president thinks Washington has largely taken its eye off the ball on the most important issue facing the country.” He did not mention Obama’s repeated focus on other issues, striking a posture that casts scorn on Washington politics, though the president himself exerts great control over Washington’s policy agenda.
The attempt to “pivot” to jobs is a gesture that President Obama has repeated several times in his presidency, to little avail. Economic growth has continued at a sluggish pace, and while recent months have seen a steady improvement in job creation figures, the Obama recovery remains the slowest in the post-World War II era. Many of the new jobs created have been part-time jobs as a consequence of Obamacare.
Americans disapprove of Obama on almost every issue except terrorism, and the economy is no exception. A June Gallup poll found that only 42% of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, while 56% disapprove–and that was a slight improvement from February, when Obama’s ratings were 39% and 60%, respectively. Record-setting prices on Wall Street have not changed most Americans’ economic outlook.
The new economic “pivot” will begin with a speech Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, IL, site of one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and setting for a commencement address given by then-Sen. Obama in 2005, when he described economic tradeoffs as a series of false choices and praised President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who expanded the social safety net at the same time that he prepared the economy for wartime.
One fact that Obama did not mention is that Roosevelt’s wartime model involved heavy borrowing. Obama has been responsible for the largest peacetime deficits in the history of the world, let alone the U.S. Despite a smaller deficit this fiscal year as a result of the budget sequester and improved tax revenues, the deficit remains at historically high levels. Only 31% of Americans approve, and 64% disapprove, of his deficit policy.