In Washington, facts can sometimes be stubborn things. I guess that’s why some media pundits thought my comments at a governors’ association meeting last Monday—which highlighted the slow growth and failed economic policies of our President—impolitic or impolite.
But let’s look at the facts. According to Federal Reserve data, our current economic “recovery” is the slowest since World War II. After the deep recession of the 1980s, economic growth exceeded 4 percent for three straight years—and in 1984 topped 7 percent. But our economy has yet to grow even 3 percent per year under this President.
True, the unemployment rate has declined. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force declined by more than 200,000 workers in the past year, even though the pool of potential workers has grown by nearly 2.3 million. That means the unemployment rate declined only because more people left the labor force. How is this a recovery?
If the status quo wasn’t bad enough, the President’s policies are making the economy even worse. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently concluded that Obamacare would result in more than 2 million Americans working fewer hours, or leaving the labor force altogether. At a time when the labor force participation rate is near 36-year lows, Obamacare is further reducing the size of the workforce. And—believe it or not—Democrats applauded this outcome!
There’s more. The CBO also released another report finding that the President’s proposed minimum wage increase could cause as many as 1 million Americans to lose their jobs. Sadly, for these workers, President Obama’s minimum-wage economy could turn into the zero-wage economy—as small businesses lay workers off to pay the cost of these new government mandates.
Given this record of poor growth—and the potential harm yet to come—who wouldn’t take the opportunity to ask the President to change course? The truly impolite thing would have been for me to remain silent, and consign millions of hard-working Americans to their fate.
One of my fellow governors called my description of the Obama economy “insane.” I guess it’s appropriate he said that while at the White House, because only in Washington—where government largesse has created some of the wealthiest communities in our entire nation—would Americans think that these anemic economic figures represent true growth.
Call me crazy, but I believe the truly insane idea is thinking that we can grow the economy through policies that put Americans out of work.
The fact is, we can do better.
We can grow our economy faster, improve our health care system, explore new sources of energy, and put more Americans back to work. President Obama can use his infamous “pen and phone” to get started on all these areas things today. Last week, I outlined 10 places for the Administration to start.
But if President Obama won’t lead, then conservatives must show the American people a better way. And to do so, we first must win the battle of ideas.
Winning the battle of ideas means outlining to the American people how conservative policies can improve their lives. It means telling them that we have positive solutions on health care—that harnessing innovation and state flexibility can help bring down health costs, without trillions of dollars in new taxes and spending. It means explaining how our untapped energy resources can create high-quality, well-paying jobs—not just in energy, but in manufacturing and other fields. It means empowering parents and students—not teachers’ unions—with the choice of quality schools for children to learn the tools they need to succeed in today’s economy.
I firmly believe that President Obama’s policies are failing our economy, and I won’t be afraid to say so. But I just as firmly believe that as conservatives, we have an obligation to put forward our own plans about how we can turn our country around.
Our country can do better—and under a conservative vision of reform, we will.
Bobby Jindal is the governor of Louisiana.
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