Obama Turns a Deaf Ear to Voter Concerns

Obama Turns a Deaf Ear to Voter Concerns

REUTERS/Mike Segar

Newark Mayor Cory Booker Mitt Romney a Valentine when he described President Obama’s attacks on Bain Capital and private equity as “nauseating” on last Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”

Booker said the presidential campaign, on both sides, is undermining “what this country should be focused on… It’s either going to be a small campaign about this crap or it’s going to be a big campaign, in my opinion, about the issues that the American public cares about.”

Lest gay marriage, the fictitious “war on women” or other such sideshows distract us, let us recall the issues that Americans care about most. Some 62 percent of respondents in a recent New York Times/ CBS poll picked jobs and the economy as their number one issue; no other concern comes close. 

A poll of young people conducted late last year by Harvard’s Institute of Politics showed that nearly three quarters of 18 to 29-year olds ranked the economy and jobs their top issues.  Polls of Hispanics, too, have consistently put jobs and the economy at the top of their hit list.

How are the contenders in the race confronting this most pressing issue? A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll asked what impact President Obama has had on the economic downturn. Thirty-seven percent said they thought the president had made matters worse, while only 31 percent thought he had improved the situation.

That is not good news for the Obama campaign. How are they responding? To find out, let’s look at President Obama’s website, which gushes with adolescent enthusiasm.

The first glimpse yields a lovely photo of the incumbent sharing an amusing moment with President Clinton. It pushes a $3 chance to win an “almost ridiculously cool” dinner with the two Dems on June 4 in New York. 

The site highlights voter registration drives, the two million donors who have so far contributed to that effort, “awesome” photos of the president at various campaign stops and numerous ways in which the party faithful can help out. The word “jobs” does not appear on the site’s home page, and the word “economy” shows up only in the heading “Romney Economics”. Under that title, you can find the distortion about Romney’s Bain career that Booker found so disgusting.

One example is “The Romney Model” -- a quote from Marc Wolpow, former managing partner at Bain, saying, “I never thought of what I do for a living as job creation. … The primary goal of private equity is to create wealth for your investors.”

Is anyone shocked? Only Team Obama would confuse running an investment outfit with charity work. As Cory Booker pointed out over the weekend, investors in the private equity funds managed by Bain and others include pensions and labor unions – groups that would undoubtedly have sued if the managers had not worked to maximize profits and returns. Booker also suggested that Bain has done a lot to support and grow businesses.

The only part of the site’s home page that alludes to Mr. Obama’s three years in office is a slider promoting the incumbent’s “Record in Brief,” which seems an appropriate description. Highlighted are “Delivering Affordable Healthcare” which the president has not done, and “Putting Americans Back to Work” – ditto. 

Expanding on the latter claim, the president falls back on the Stimulus program, which he claims supported 300,000 “educator” jobs and provided investments in clean energy that have generated 224,500 jobs through 2010. (It’s no wonder that of the incumbent’s 2 million donors, 167,000 are educators. They’re no dummies.)   

In fairness, the president’ site includes on subsequent pages further proposals meant to boost business. In nearly all of these the government plays a starring role—such as investing in new technologies. In a similar vein, the president touts his “rescue” of the auto industry, which somehow sounds better than “bail-out.”

He also cites patent reform legislation and three new important trade deals, which have occurred, on his watch – significant achievements. In the same section, though, he crows about “Reforming Wall Street” and “Protecting Consumers.” While those regulatory efforts may be worthwhile, they have nothing to do with job creation.

By comparison, Romney’s web site is crowded with agenda items. On Day One the GOP hopeful promises to approve the Keystone Pipeline, promote pro-growth tax reforms and repeal Obamacare. Romney advocates reducing the corporate income tax (paid for by eliminating some deductions currently cluttering our tax code), expanding our search for oil and gas, creating a zero-growth future for federal regulations and eliminating Obama-era rules that favor unions – including on government contracts. He also advocates expanding trade agreements and energizing the training of American workers.

Romney takes aim at President Obama’s approach to rebooting out workforce -- pouring yet more funds ($18 billion in 2009 alone) into 47 overlapping and generally ineffective federal programs. Romney would create public-private partnerships at the state level and also advocates raising the number of visas available for highly skilled workers and granting permanent residency to graduates with advanced STEM degrees.

I am not alone in thinking that the president is not responding enough to voter concerns about jobs and the economy. In a rare act of bipartisanship, Senate Republicans (Marco Rubio and Jerry Moran) and Democrats (Mark Warner and Chris Coons) have joined hands to introduce a new edition of the JOBS bill that was passed earlier this year. 

Startup Act 2.0 would feature an entrepreneurship visa similar to that recommended by Romney, as well as targeted tax credits to spur research and investment and other benefits. President Obama may not deem boosting business a high priority, but even those in his own party get the message – this election will be about jobs and the economy.