After a week’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama will return to his economic messaging tour this week with a four-stop bus tour in New York and Pennsylvania that will focus on education. Obama is slated to speak at the University of Buffalo on Thursday and Lackawanna College in Scranton on Friday.
Obama’s latest pivot to the economy has coincided with a steep drop in Americans’ approval of his handling of the economy. Only 35 percent now approve of Obama’s work on the economy, a 7 percent drop from July, according to a Gallup poll released last week. His ratings on the topics of taxes and the deficit also have deteriorated. As the Washington Examiner’s Ashe Schow reported last week, the economy and unemployment remain the top two issues Americans are concerned about.
The problem for Obama is the same one he’s faced throughout his presidency: economic growth remains weak. And economists have now significantly cut their forecasts for growth the rest of this year. When it comes to the president’s approval ratings, bus tour stops cannot substitute for a strong economic recovery.
Of course, ensuring full employment is supposed to be the responsibility of the Federal Reserve, not the presidency. Although employment remains lower than it could be, according to the Fed’s own calculations, most analysts expect the Fed to start slowing the pace of its stimulus in September.
It will be a little clearer what Fed officials are thinking after Wednesday afternoon, when the minutes from their most recent meeting in July will be released. The July announcement gave no further details about the timing or magnitude of the expected tapering of bond purchases, but there may be some clues in the discussions between Chairman Ben Bernanke and other Fed members.
Meanwhile, Fed officials will gather in Jackson Hole, Wy., for an annual retreat in the midst of intrigue regarding Bernanke’s successor. One of the candidates Obama has identified as a possibility to run the Fed, current Vice Chair Janet Yellen, will speak at the conference on Friday, although she is not expected to make substantive remarks. The other two candidates Obama has named, Harvard professor Larry Summers and former Fed vice chair Donald Kohn, will not attend (the Examiner profiled Kohn on Friday). Neither will Bernanke. The conference is sure to include speculation from economists about the Fed’s plans for unwinding its stimulus measures and the high-profile selection process for Bernanke’s replacement.
This week will shed some light on the state of the housing market and the strength of the recovery in that sector following the recent rise in mortgage rates. On Wednesday the National Association of Realtors will release a report on existing home sales, which analysts expect to rise from 5.08 million to 5.150 million, according to Bloomberg. And on Friday the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will report on new home sales, with between 450,000 and 500,000 expected.