A month ago, President Obama made the risible claim that the "private sector is doing fine." On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data for the month of June that confirms just how wrong he was, painting a picture of an underperforming economy in which tens of millions of Americans are still struggling to find work.
The economy added just 80,000 jobs in June, BLS reported, which was below expectations and not even enough to keep up with population growth. The private sector that Obama had boasted about just a few weeks ago added only 84,000 jobs (with 4,000 jobs lost in the government sector). The report revealed 12.7 million Americans are unemployed, but even that doesn't tell the full story. The report also shows 8.2 million are working part-time because they had their hours cut or can't find full-time work; 2.5 million are not working and haven't looked for work in the past four weeks; and 821,000 workers are "discouraged" -- that is, "not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them."
Speaking at a Poland, Ohio, campaign rally shortly after the jobs numbers came out, Obama hailed the report as "a step in the right direction" and tempered that comment by saying, "we can't be satisfied." To Obama, the answer to the nation's woes is clear: "[W]hat's holding us back right now is not that we don't have good answers for how we could grow the economy faster or put more people back to work. The problem is we've got a stalemate in Washington." In other words, he blames Republicans in Congress for blocking his proposals to raise taxes and boost government stimulus spending.
We understand why Obama would want to point his finger elsewhere. The key ingredient in his meteoric political rise from state senator to president was his ability to criticize those in power and promise to bring change. It's the only campaign strategy he knows, and he's sticking to it.
The only problem is that this argument is a lot harder to make when you're the guy who's been in charge for more than three years. Obama came into office with huge majorities in the House and Senate, which he used to pass an $831 billion economic stimulus bill that was supposed to reduce the unemployment rate to 5.6 percent by now. That rate now stands at a stubbornly high 8.2 percent. With just four jobs reports due between now and Election Day, Americans' negative perceptions of Obama's economy are starting to harden. Come this fall, it will be hard for Obama to run away from his record.