Whatever Happened to Obama's Focus On Jobs?

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Jobs: Just two months after saying job creation was his "top priority," it's suddenly nowhere on President Obama's agenda. Instead, Obama is pushing policies designed only to score political points against Republicans.

At a press conference exactly two months ago, Obama stood before reporters and opened his remarks by saying that "our top priority has to be jobs and growth."

"We've got to build on the progress that we've made," he said, "because this nation succeeds when we've got a growing, thriving middle class."

That declaration shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. Obama ran his re-election campaign vowing to focus on job creation and the middle class.

His second-term agenda booklet was titled "A Plan for Jobs." And on election night, he promised to "focus on your jobs, not ours."

Voters made clear that the economy was their top priority as well. Election Day exit polls found that 59% of voters ranked the economy as the nation's top issue. Nothing else came close. And the two biggest economic issues were jobs and wages.

What has been a surprise to many is that as the weeks have passed, Obama has all but abandoned his once No. 1 priority.

When asked about his agenda items for a second term on "Meet the Press" a couple weeks ago, Obama listed immigration reform first. "The second thing that we've got to do is to stabilize the economy and make sure it's growing," he said.

Obama also "identified climate change as one of his top three priorities in his second term after coming under fire from environmentalists for giving the issue short shrift during the campaign," according to the Hill.

Since then, gun control has suddenly rocketed to the top position, after which Obama plans to follow up with a massive, divisive immigration reform battle.

Meantime, he's threatening to let the country default on the debt rather than strike any spending cut bargain with Republicans in exchange for raising the debt limit.

None of this has anything to do with accelerating economic growth. But it all helps Obama keep on the political offensive against Republicans, which seems to be his overriding concern at the moment.

But even liberals are starting to worry about Obama's sudden fixation with issues he barely talked about on the campaign trail.

Algernon Austin of the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute, for example, fretted last week that while "Americans of all races agree that restoring the American economy ... is the most important issue facing the country," Obama "seems to have left this out of his second-term priorities."

And the normally Obama-cheerleading Huffington Post is complaining that "despite an ongoing jobs crisis, creating quality jobs seems to have fallen a few slots on the president's to-do list."

It's not that the economy has suddenly recovered enough that it doesn't need any focused attention. The last jobs report found just 155,000 new jobs were created in December, while the unemployment rate remained stuck at near 8%.

As a result, the economy is still 9 million jobs shy of the previous jobs peak when you include all the population growth that's happened over the past three years.

At the same time, real average weekly earnings have dropped about 1% over the past two years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Worse, during the Obama recovery, low-paying jobs have been replacing the higher-paying ones lost in the recession, leaving the median household income 7% below where it was when Obama took office.

To be sure, Obama never did have any good ideas for getting the economy moving.

His massive stimulus plan was a complete bust, as were his short-term tax gimmicks. ObamaCare, new regulations and taxes have served only to dampen what should have been a strong economic recovery.

But struggling middle-class voters who re-elected Obama would be right to wonder why he's so quickly abandoned them after securing his own job.


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