Congress has headed off for its long vacation-and-campaign season, fleeing Washington as the unemployment rate rises. According to the Labor Department’s July jobs report, the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3 percent, 12.8 million Americans are out of work, and 5.2 million have been out of work for at least a half a year.
According to one survey, the country added a surprising 163,000 jobs in July, while according to a second Labor Department survey, employment fell by 195,000—raising questions about whether the more positive figure is all that reliable, given that the economy slowed significantly to a 1.5 percent annualized growth rate in the second quarter and appears to be slowing further.
The question isn’t what has slowed the economy—it’s really what Obama Administration policy hasn’t slowed the economy? The policies of the last few years has been unequivocal job killers.
The Administration’s foot-dragging on free trade agreements has killed job creation. The extended moratorium on oil drilling, followed by new regulations, killed job creation. President Obama’s refusal to build the Keystone XL pipeline killed jobs. Ever-expanding Environmental Protection Agency regulations kill jobs. Extending unemployment insurance—part of the failed “stimulus”—was a humanitarian gesture, but it killed jobs. Even increasing deficit spending has a job-killing effect, the opposite of what Obama espouses.
And then there’s Obamacare, which if it goes into full effect will be one of the biggest job killers of modern times.
To all of this, President Obama said, “We tried our plan—and it worked.”
And they’re not done yet. The Democrat-led Senate just tried again last week to raise taxes on small businesses. The Republican-led House stopped that plan and passed a bill to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax policies for next year and thus defer part of Taxmageddon, the biggest job killer we now face. But will Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) even allow a vote on it?
Reid is a major driver of these tax increases and job-killing policies. He has abused his authority as majority leader to block the minority party from the opportunity to offer amendments more than 60 times, more than all of his predecessors combined.
And Reid denies the connection between the Administration’s policies and a lack of jobs. He has claimed that “only a tiny fraction of layoffs have anything at all to do with tighter regulation.” But he again misses the point by assuming that job losses are the problem, rather than a lack of job creation.
Having fiddled since January, Congressional liberals have now left town without doing anything to help Americans looking for work. Meanwhile, the largest tax increase in American history is looming for January 1, set to further devastate the economy by hitting families with an average tax hike of more than $4,100 each.
Heritage’s J.D. Foster warns:
While these tax hikes will not take effect until January of next year, they are already sapping the economy because businesses are forward-looking. Not knowing what their own tax burdens will be, businesses are highly reluctant to hire workers or invest for the future. And with waning faith Congress will prevent Taxmageddon, warnings and fears of a sharp recession are rising rapidly—fears that further discourage any thoughts of hiring or investing.
The regulatory and legal mess created by years of policies cannot be undone overnight. The growing threats from Europe’s travails cannot be ignored, nor can the developing recessions throughout Asia. There is nothing the United States can do to defuse these threats, but we can prepare for them. Preventing Taxmageddon is something Congress should do immediately. It is not enough to pass bills and vamoose to campaign while the economy slides even further. The President must lead, and Congress must act now, to prevent Taxmageddon now.
The unemployment rate has now been at or above 8 percent for 42 months. It threatens to rise higher as the economy slows further. President Obama and his congressional allies should set aside their ideological fencing for the good of the economy: Extend the 2001 and 2003 tax policies for at least a year to strengthen the nation’s economic security. Prevent the jump in the payroll tax rate. Prevent the implementation of the new Obamacare tax hikes. Prevent the mandated budget cuts known as “sequestration” that threaten national security.
The “plan” has not worked. It’s time for a new plan based on the basics, not gimmicks.