Sour economic times flummox Obama

With home sales slumping and a mixed-at-best report on stimulus spending out, a vacationing President Obama got on a conference call Wednesday with his economic advisers.

“The economic team provided an update on the next steps to keep the economy growing, including assistance to small businesses and the extension of tax cuts to the middle class,” the White House said in a statement.

New home sales — a key economic indicator — dropped to a record low in July, causing a gloom-induced dip in stocks.

More bad news came from the Commerce Department, which reported that durable goods sales last month came up short of expectations.

The sour economic tides followed a report by the Congressional Budget Office warning that the job-creating effects Obama's massive stimulus spending have peaked by lowering unemployment by 1.8 percent, and will likely begin tapering off.

As economic reports fail to improve with fewer than 70 days to midterm elections, the administration appears increasingly flummoxed and unable to dig themselves out.

Meanwhile, questions about a double-dip recession persist, amid concerns that companies are not hiring out of fear the economy isn't getting better.

“We obviously saw the numbers, and it shows that there's a lot more work yet to do,” said White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton. “But I'm not an economist, I can't really speak to when a recession starts or ends.”

Several polls have shown jobs and the economy remain voters' top concerns heading into the November elections. Obama's lackluster performance on the economy has cost him in the polls.

The latest report from Gallup found 48 percent of Americans rate current economic conditions as poor — some of the highest levels of the year.

Pollsters noted that the percentage of Americans who believe the economy is getting worse is trending up — from 59 percent in early August, to 61 percent in mid-August and 62 percent earlier this week.

The president's overall job approval rating is 42 percent.

In the wake of grim economic tidings this week, the White House has stuck mostly to an established message: The president shares the frustration of Americans over slow recovery, there is more to be done, and Republicans got us here.

“During the last six months of the Bush administration, we lost some 4 million jobs,” Burton said. “And of course the president isn't satisfied with the pace at which it's moving, but he does think that we need to keep moving with the policies that helped to get us out of the crisis and not go back to the ones that got us into it.”

But the administration's record on the economy, and particularly in light of the massive, $814 billion stimulus, has cost the support of many independent and moderate voters, which is expected to cost Democrats in November.

“The bottom line is the economy is still not at all vibrant,” said Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida.

“If the number one problem facing the country can't be resolved, you can't get a break no matter what.”

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

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