It's the Economy, Stupids!
Welcome to "recovery summer." Oops, that was last year when journalists told us that prosperity was just around the corner.
We turned that corner and took a huge left, but the economy didn't. It went south. Now, the greatest nation on earth is filled with dread over the next step, with nearly half the country anticipating economic calamity in the next year. According to CNN, "48 percent say that another Great Depression is likely to occur in the next year - the highest that figure has ever reached."
Two and a half years into the Obama presidency and we're not just at the malaise level of Jimmy Carter. Obama has taken us to the precipice of full-on economic cataclysm. Housing, commercial real estate, gas prices and unemployment. The list of bad is seemingly endless, but journalists have done little to cover this story.
Media types who complained about a Bush recession more than a year before it happened have taken refuge in inflated stock market prices to dupe viewers into believing the economy is better than it is. Now, that glass-half-full approach is broken in shards all over the floor.
We have 13.9 million unemployed and 2.2 million more marginally attached to the workforce. That's more than 16 million without real work. Unemployment has spiked to 9.1 percent and though we added a mere 54,000 jobs this last month, we downgraded previous months by 39,000 jobs. So we really only gained 15,000 new jobs for an economy that needs 100,000 to 150,000 jobs a month just to break even.
There's more. The median time to find a job is nearly 40 weeks or more than three-fourths of a year - "a historic high." And before we forget, the U.S. owes more than four times the Gross Domestic Product in unfunded liabilities. "The $61.6 trillion in unfunded obligations amounts to $527,000 per household." Brother can you spare $500 grand?
That's just not the story the media tell. There are more than 44 million Americans on food stamps, a new high, and ABC, CBS and NBC aren't covering it. In nearly six months of morning and evening news coverage, there were just six stories that even mentioned food stamps. If the president had an "R" after his name, you could probably add a zero to that number.
Back during the 2010 "recovery summer," CBS's Katie Couric touted the "milestone" of the 10,000th project paid for with stimulus money. A year later that is laughable. Even in Janauary of this year, NBC anchor Brian Williams highlighted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's claim the Tea Party "will disappear as soon as the economy gets better," a forecast Williams characterized as a "bold prediction." At this rate, that could be a long, long time.
Even when the latest jobless numbers came out, many in the media were caught flat-footed. Economists Diane Swonk and Mark Zandi and CNBC's own Steve Liesman all made predictions of job gains between 100,000 and 150,000. Only Tea Party favorite Rick Santelli grasped how bad things would be and came close by predicting 55,000 added jobs.
Face it, our economic situation stinks no matter what the media say. If Obama wanted to crash the economy, he would have chosen a similar path. He'd increase regulation, hike government spending, add to the debt and deficit, seize business sectors like the insurance and auto industries and generally sow chaos so that businessmen don't have enough certainty that they can hire new employees or launch new products.
Obama isn't competent enough to crash the world's No. 1 economy. But he's taking a toll. And the GOP isn't doing much to fix it. Sure, there are some who are doing their best like Rep. Paul Ryan. But there is no unified Republican message on jobs, the economy, etc. It's a loud chorus of anti-tax messages, few of which agree with one another. The GOP presidential candidates have much the same problem. Lots of long-term plans, but no short-term, powerful agenda.
And looming on the horizon is the debt ceiling battle where we as a nation are much divided. It's as if some on both sides of the aisle has forgotten the lessons of 1992 and "it's the economy, stupid."
Even liberal sites like Talking Points Memo are afraid the down economy is going to hurt their man Barack. TPM's front page June 9 was headlined: "Economic Pessimism Poses Threat To Obama's Reelection Bid." The article claimed Obama's reelection was "inextricably tied to the health of the economy."
Most of the left understand. The unemployed understand. People paying nearly $4 a gallon in gas understand. The only people slow on the uptake are Team Obama, the GOP leadership and the old school media. If any of those groups get a clue, maybe we can fix things.
Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.