The White House did another of its famous political/policy pivots this past week. This time it turned, or rather returned, to climate change with an 829-page report claiming that recent weather proves climate is “not some distant problem of the future” but rather one “affecting Americans right now.”
The dire warning was greeted mostly with a yawn. The problem for President Barack Obama is that however much the Midwest’s cold winter or the Southwest’s drought affect Americans, weather is not nearly so persistent a complaint among voters as is the Obama economy.
The recovery officially began in 2009, but polls show that many Americans, in some cases most, say the recession isn’t over. Things are so bad Democratic political advisers tell their candidates not to use the word “recovery” in their campaigns.
Even good economic news can carry bad baggage. For instance, the Labor Department report that the nation’s unemployment rate had dipped to 6.3 percent in April was accompanied by the explanation that the rate fell mostly because 800,000 Americans left the labor force.
Particularly hard hit was a class of Americans friendly to environmental messages — the young. The unemployment rate for Americans 18-29 years old was 9.1 percent, and if you add those who’ve given up looking for work, it was 15.5 percent, and for women of this age group 13.1 percent.
These “millennials” were big supporters of Obama’s election. But a new survey by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics found that 47 percent of Americans 18-29 would recall Obama. Among younger millennials, 18 to 24, party identification with Democrats declined.
Obama blames Republicans in Congress for inaction of the economy, but the record amply demonstrates his hostility to business, job-rich fossil energy projects and job creators. He’s raised taxes. Obamacare created new tax and regulatory burdens for business. His administration is blocking the Keystone pipeline that could create thousands of jobs.
Often under-reported is the avalanche of regulations rolling over business. The 2013 Federal Register, the annual compendium of federal rules, numbered 79,311 pages, the fourth highest. The top two came during the Obama administration — more than 81,000 pages in 2010 and 2011, years reflecting 2009-2010 Democratic majorities in Congress.
In 2013 these administrative rules “took a $1.863 trillion bite out of the U.S. economy,” reports Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., who assesses the “hidden tax” impact of regulations annually for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. A prime engine of regulatory glut is the complex, confusing 848-page Dodd-Frank finance bill enacted after the housing/banking crisis. According to Sam Batkins of the American Action Forum, a nonprofit research organization, Dodd-Frank rules and regulations added “$1.1 billion in costs and . . . 3.9 million paperwork burden hours” in 2013.
Dodd Frank was supposed to end “too big to fail,” but the biggest banks have only grown bigger. Contrary to the intent of Congress, regulators expanded the law’s “systemically important to the economy” category to life insurance companies providing financial protection to more than 75 million families. This applies big bank rules and compliance costs to a business not run like a bank, one that manages risk over decades, and one already regulated by the states. Like Obamacare, this will only raise insurance costs to consumers unless Congress clarifies the law.
With so much economic woe from big government raining on voters, it’s no wonder the White House would rather talk about the weather.