The disastrous debt-ceiling compromise, Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and the subsequent stock market collapse all send the same signal to President Barack Obama. The time has come for his administration to evaluate where it’s been and where it wants to go in the months that remain until November 2012.
For the Obama administration, last week’s events are the second shot across the bow. The 2010 midterm elections were the first.
Obama’s choice is between stubbornly staying his course, blaming congressional Republicans, Europe and former President George W. Bush, or admitting his errors and misjudgments and showing tangible evidence of a willingness to right his wrongs.
So far, Obama has opted for the first option — deflecting responsibility. But he can’t escape the facts. Obama is the worst jobs president since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression, the U.S. unemployment rate is twice Mexico’s and his popularity has gone straight downhill since its temporary bump after Osama bin Laden’s murder.
Any serious evaluation of Obama’s 2012 prospects should include these four factors. First, Obama won’t have eight Bush years to rail against; second, his Republican opposition won’t be as inept as John McCain; third, the media can’t possibly be as adoring of him as it was in 2008; and fourth, the romantic aura that surrounded Obama’s campaign has already vanished.
In summary, while Obama can count on his ultra-liberal Democratic base, he’ll need to recapture Democrat and Republican moderates who in 2008 turned out for him in huge numbers. Without them and registered independents, Obama won’t win.
Obama needs to act immediately and dramatically to prove he’s serious about pulling America out of its tailspin. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s recently formed Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, assigned the task of cutting $1.5 trillion from the budget within 10 years, might be successful. But to many, it smacks of more of the same Capitol Hill double talk.
A recommended course of action for Obama, given sustained high unemployment, mushrooming state budget deficits and the collapse of the K-12 public school system, as proven by Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s admission that No Child Left Behind is a failure, is to demand an immigration moratorium.
Building a moratorium case is easy. Currently, 22 million Americans are seeking work. For U.S.-born citizens with at least a high school degree, the first quarter 2011 U-6 unemployment rate stands at 21.3 percent, or 4.6 million Americans who want a full-time job but can’t find one. Each immigrant added to the nation’s population represents a potential competitor for any new job that may become available.
Furthermore, strict immigration controls win at the polls. In 2010, Republicans, many of them running on platforms that included immigration law enforcement, picked up 63 House seats.
Although he may not believe it, Obama has little to lose. His Democratic base isn’t likely to shift its support to Republicans. Threats to abstain from voting probably won’t materialize.
While some consider immigration sacrosanct, the Constitution doesn’t require it. Under certain circumstances and assuming it’s to America’s benefit, low immigration levels may be warranted. But crisis times such as these demand that such assumed truisms as those about immigration be reconsidered.
If Obama doesn’t call for a moratorium, I recommend the strategy to his Republican challenger.