Last Tuesday, President Obama was in full campaign mode in a speech at the Associated Press luncheon, blasting the idea that the way to spur economic growth is to keep taxes low and remove burdensome regulations on businesses.
"[W]e tried this theory out," he said. "And you would think that after the results of this experiment in trickle-down economics, after the results were made painfully clear, that the proponents of this theory might show some humility, might moderate their views a bit. ... But that's exactly the opposite of what they've done. Instead of moderating their views even slightly, the Republicans running Congress right now have doubled down."
The timing was ironic for Obama. Three days after his economic lecture, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that the economy only added 120,000 jobs in March, well below expectations. Before the release of the numbers, economists surveyed by Reuters had anticipated an increase of 203,000 jobs. Though the unemployment rate declined slightly to 8.2 percent, from 8.3 percent in February, this was mainly a technical adjustment because many Americans gave up looking for work and were no longer counted. The civilian labor force declined last month by 164,000.
Clearly, economic history is not Obama's strong suit. In 1981, President Reagan took the oath of office facing not only high unemployment and tepid growth, but also runaway inflation. He lowered taxes and removed regulations -- precisely the approach Obama is criticizing. In the first three months of 1984, the year he stood for re-election, the economy added 1.2 million jobs, or nearly double the number of jobs created in the same period this year. And that number of jobs from the Reagan recovery becomes more impressive when one considers that the population has grown significantly during the intermediary time period, and there are 42 million more workers in the civilian work force.
As the American Enterprise Institute's James Pethokoukis observed, if the U.S. labor force as a share of the population were the same now as it was the day Obama took office, the unemployment rate would actually be 10.9 percent. Whether or not you think that's a fair measure, bear in mind that three years ago, when the White House was selling Obama's stimulus package, his economists promised that unemployment would be under 6 percent by now. You'd think Obama would recognize that he's the one who needs to "show some humility."
It was a tough week for Professor Obama. Before this poor unemployment report card, he flunked constitutional law when he questioned the Supreme Court's authority to strike down Obamacare. Right now, the only course he's passing is politics.