Last week, Jonathan Alter at Bloomberg posed a tantalizing question: “you think Obama’s been a bad president? Prove it.” More specifically, he issues the following challenge to Obama-doubters:
“Your mission, Jim (and readers named something else), should you decide to accept it, is to identify where Obama has been a poor decision-maker. What, specifically, has he done wrong on policy? What, specifically, would you have done differently to create jobs? And what can any of the current Republican candidates offer that would be an improvement on the employment front?”
Today, conservative David Frum responded to Alter’s throwing down the gauntlet with three examples of the President’s poor decision-making. First, Obama outsourced the writing of the stimulus to Democrats, who filled it with items irrelevant to the economic crisis like Pell Grants, renewable energy credits, and community and rural development. Second, Obama failed to mobilize the Federal Reserve to support his fiscal stimulus. Third, Obama bet his presidency on a best-case scenario, and had no Plan B if the stimulus failed to achieve its desired results.
Points one and three seem fair. However, I think point two is a bit much, as the Federal Reserve is supposed to be independent from the President. However, Frum anticipated this counterargument and preemptively retorted by arguing “presidents can shape the Fed through their power to name Federal Reserve governors. Obama has failed to get his people on the board.” Personally, I think this response is weak, because even if the President appointed a sizeable majority of the Federal Reserve (something of which I am doubtful), once these individuals were in place, the President would have little leverage to bend them to his will.
Since Frum decided to accept the challenge, so did I. I think the following three policies demonstrate that President Obama is a poor decision-maker.
President Obama’s National Security Policy Undermined American Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts
While the President’s policy against Libya was a success from an operational standpoint, it was a long-term strategic failure. One of the greatest threats to American national security is the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Small quantities of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons could potentially kill thousands, or even millions of American citizens. The Qaddafi regime had cooperated with and disclosed its WMD programs to the United States several years ago; by openly attacking it, the United States sent would-be proliferators the message that if they cooperate with the international community, they become more vulnerable to American aggression. Any rational would-be proliferator now has even more of an incentive to develop WMD.
President Obama’s Healthcare Policy Was Ill-Timed, Wasted Valuable Political Capital, and May Have Contributed to Decelerating Hiring
Regardless if one agrees or disagrees with the tenets of Obamacare, its timing during a period of prolonged unemployment demonstrates a distinct lack of focus from the Obama administration. Ultimately, the president wasted any political capital he may have had to deal with the continuing jobs crisis. Futhermore, the bill may have had the perverse effect of decelerating job growth immediately following the bill’s passage, and during the two biggest quarters of GDP growth in Obama’s Presidency. Business owners have complained that the bill would increase the cost of labor. Some even testified before Congress that it influenced them to reduce headcount or slow future hiring.
President Obama’s Preference for Bureaucratic Rule-Making Has Been Stifling for Businesses
Before President Obama joined the U.S. Senate, he had never led an organization of any substantial size. Furthermore, he has no private sector experience. It should be no surprise that the President generally favors governing through regulatory fiat vs. allowing people and businesses to compete openly for the best opportunities. His preference for bureaucratic red tape has led to frequent complaints of regulatory uncertainty by the business community. His administration’s law suit against Boeing for creating 2,000 jobs in a right-to-work state makes little sense, and if he prevails in court, it will likely result in American corporations shifting even more jobs overseas.
Obama Administration policy and regulatory uncertainty are also having a negative impact on U.S. offshore oil production. When President Obama first took office in January 2009, there were 66 offshore oil and gas rigs operating off the coast of the United States. In June 2011, there were only 34. According to the Fitch Rating Agency, regulatory “uncertainty and the limited issuance of drilling permits in the [Gulf of Mexico] are expected to result in upstream spending being diverted to other markets during 2011.”
These bad decisions/governing preferences have likely been a strong contributor to anemic economic growth and 30 months of unemployment greater than 8%.
What say you?
For those who believe President Obama has been a failure, I look forward to hearing why. I also hope those who think he has been a success will make their case.