With the 2014 US midterm elections rapidly approaching, President Obama and the Democrats, trying to hold onto the Senate, are attempting to accentuate the positive, and localize every race they are in danger of losing. It won’t help. They are in denial when they say, and they do, that the president’s policies and actions (inactions?) will not affect Election Day outcomes. Rightly so, pundits are saying that the lousy news of the day dominating the headlines does not allow Democrats to get their message out, and that hurts them. But there is more to it.
There are concerns that will help decide the midterms, much of it unreported as determining factors. These worries are bubbling under the surface and I like to call this phenomenon the “anxiety factor.” It includes happenings that make people feel uncomfortable, worried, anxious, unsettled. Important domestic and international problems are reported of course, but how they can effect an election, especially a midterm when the sitting president is blamed, fairly or unfairly, for things that are not going well, are seldom analyzed to the degree they should be. Here they are in no particular order:
The president and his party tout the economy as a positive issue, as unemployment dropped to 5.9% with the creation of 248,000 jobs in September. Sure, each administration official will say much more needs to be done, but they fail to tell the complete and sad story.
First, many of the jobs created were part-time, a good deal of that because of Obamacare mandates. Want to know what part-time work means? The Bureau of Labor Statistics says: “Who is counted as employed? People (16 and older) are considered employed if they did any work at all for pay or profit during the survey reference week. This includes all part-time and temporary work, as well as regular full-time, year-round employment.” What this means is that a 16 year old babysitter who made $15 in two weeks is counted as employed! (It’s a bit complicated, but generally speaking, the government surveys 60,000 households, about 110,000 individuals, twice each month to come up with its statistics.)
What else is not told? The number of people leaving the work force each month. 97,000 people dropped out of the work force last month, some of it because of workers going back to school or becoming disabled, etc., but many because they lost a job or have simply given up on finding one. What is also not mentioned is the real unemployment rate. Long-term unemployed – those out of work for over a year, are no longer counted and so, no longer reported within the rate. Adding those along with many of the underemployed, actually doubles the rate to 11.8%. I like to compare the reported unemployment rate to a hospital’s monthly mortality rate that had dropped. Not because the extremely ill patients have recovered, but because they had all died the month before, and therefore, are now no longer counted.
Finally, also never told by the administration and only sparsely reported as well, the labor force participation rate is at a dismal 62.7%, the lowest level since February, 1978 when Obama’s apparent mentor, Jimmy Carter, was President.
Look, whether you want to blame Obama for this very weak “recovery,” or even if you want to keep blaming George Bush for everything, what matters is what people are feeling. A lot of people are still out of work, or not earning what they need, and they are pretty mad. If you yourself are not hurting because of the weak economy, you know someone, a relative or friend who is, either because of unemployment, underemployment or a lower income or business profit level. Obama and the Democrats will take the hit. So after the polls have closed on November 4th and you see that the economy was the number one reason why someone voted the way he or she did, and the Senate Democratic majority is lost, even in this “recovery” when over 200,000 “jobs” are being created each month, you will know why.
Last week, as I explained in detail, the president’s signature achievement, whose official name is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), may be off the front page, but it is absolutely not off the kitchen table. People were not able to keep their doctors or insurance companies as promised by President Obama. And he and his administration knew they were lying. Obama’s credibility took a hit and it only got worse with other scandals.
Now as people struggle to keep or get insurance, there is fear. Because of the major intrusion into the whole health care system, not to simply at first fix the most critical and major problems, many have already lost their plans and have had to get plans they don’t like. The goal to insure the 30+ million uninsured may never happen with how things are going. And many more will suffer lost plans, lost doctors, lost hospitals and facilities, and increased premiums, as well as uncertainty and aggravation.
It was a good thing to try and better the health care system, but ideology ruined this important goal. Now, if you don’t want to blame Obama and the Democrats (not one single Republican senator voted for the ACA, by the way), fine. Maybe you want to blame the insurance companies, and trust me when I tell you I think some of them act outrageously, or at least some who make company policy are less than scrupulous to say the very least, well then go ahead. Maybe you want to blame the GOP for some reason. It doesn’t matter. As with unemployment, and the weak economy, so many have been affected by the Obamacare mess. And it is a mess, and will get worse before it gets better, if ever, without major changes. Just ask insurers and exchanges, that is, if you can get anyone on the phone.
Not Obama’s fault of course, although many question his response to the viral disease, and how government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have admittedly made errors after Ebola inadvertently hit our shores. Being slow to react competently to what happened in Dallas was bad enough for the CDC. Giving the air travel green light to an Ebola-symptomatic nurse who had cared for the African gentleman who died of the disease, only made matters worse.
The appointment of an Ebola “czar,” a political bureaucrat with no medical experience, fairly or unfairly creating criticism, only added to the government’s ineptness. It looks like the CDC now has its act together, and I hope so, and the National Institutes of Health, the NIH, an arm of the US Department of Health and Human Services, has been involved with the Ebola crisis as well. These two agencies make the Ebola czar appointment unnecessary, showing the assignment was simply political. In any event, the continuous news of the sick and dying, air travel concerns, quarantines, etc. has reinforced the mistrust, fears and worries of an American public increasingly wary of a government perceived to be slow and/or unable to act, as well as incompetent and weak. In this election, the disquiet because of government gridlock and dysfunction hurts the Democrats more than the Republicans.
ISIS and Terrorism
As I pointed out in a previous column, the ISIS phenomenon could have been prevented by a president who unfortunately, was more interested in keeping a campaign promise to get out of Iraq, instead of keeping the gains made by American blood and treasure. And waiting way too long to recognize and arm anti-Assad Syrian rebels didn’t help. Say what you will about the Iraq War, this one is on Obama and everyone knows it. Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta are only two of those within the Democratic Party who have criticized the president for his fumbling and mishandling what continues to be a confused foreign fiasco as allies continue to dispute administration boasts of coalition participation, and military leaders openly disagree with the president’s repeated and forceful insistence that there will be no US combat troops joining the anti-ISIS effort.
The video beheadings of Americans and others have brought terrorism, and so, related worry, once again to the forefront, and a president who has seemed detached for too long doesn’t help his party. Recent acts of Islamic terror in Canada and New York City have only heightened the unease. The most current Islamic terrorists may be called “lone wolves” because they committed their horrendous acts without the support of, or connection to, ISIS or some other terror group, but in my mind and the mind of many Americans (and others around the world), these Jihadists are all part of the same Islamic terror family. This translates into votes against the Democrats.
Miscellaneous White House Scandals
Many Democrats think there are no Obama administration scandals or only made so because of Republican harping. IRS, NSA, Fast and Furious, Beghazi, the Obamacare website, the targeting of reporters, Solyndra. More will be coming, I am sure. Fair or not, they take a toll, and even if not as significant as other concerns such as unemployment or Ebola, they all add to the anxiety factor mix.
It is only eight days before Election Day, and who knows what else will happen before then? The damage has been done and continues to accumulate, and Americans will punish Obama through his proxies. So, in a world seemingly more and more out of control, come November 4th, some incumbent Democrats will be on their way out of office.