Charlie Cook: ‘Colossal Miscalculation On Health Care’

From Charlie Cook, at National Journal, “Colossal Miscalculation On Health Care: Obama and Hill Democrats Should Have Focused Much More on the Economy“:

Honorable and intelligent people can disagree over the substance and details of what President Obama and congressional Democrats are trying to do on health care reform and climate change. But nearly a year after Obama’s inauguration, judging by where the Democrats stand today, it’s clear that they have made a colossal miscalculation.

The latest unemployment and housing numbers underscore the folly of their decision to pay so much attention to health care and climate change instead of focusing on the economy “like a laser beam,” as President Clinton pledged to do during his 1992 campaign. Although no one can fairly accuse Obama and his party’s leaders of ignoring the economy, they certainly haven’t focused on it like a laser beam.

Last week’s disappointing December unemployment report was the final blow in what was already a bad week for Democrats. One of the most sobering findings in the report was that if 661,000 Americans had not given up even looking for work that month, the unemployment rate would have moved up rather than holding steady at a horrific 10 percent.

Most economists had been expecting an increase of about 50,000 jobs in December; instead, the total declined by 85,000. Some 6.1 million Americans, the highest number in the post-World War II era, have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more. The “U-6” rate of unemployment, which adds in people who are working part-time while seeking full-time work and those who have stopped looking, stands at 17.3 percent, the highest level in the 15 years that the Labor Department has calculated it.

A number of economists expect that unemployment will get worse before it gets better. Even if that prediction is wrong, some analysts estimate that Labor’s household employment survey would have to show a net increase of 150,000 jobs a month for 48 straight months for the unemployment rate to drop to just 9 percent.

Since World War II, unemployment has exceeded 8 percent in a total of only 12 months in even-numbered (meaning, congressional election) years. All 12 months were in 1982 ….

More commentary at the link, then:

As political analyst and data-cruncher extraordinaire Rhodes Cook noted in the December issue of The Rhodes Cook Letter, no other president in the past half-century has seen his Gallup job-approval rating drop as far as Obama’s has in his first year (down 21 points), and no president in that same half-century has seen his approval rating go up, even as much as 1 point, between the end of his first year and the eve of his first midterm election.

Obama and his party have no doubt taken on big and important fights. But given the nation’s tremendous economic troubles, they don’t seem to have picked the most urgent ones.

VIDEO CREDIT: Pat Dollard, “Dead Ted’s Widow Tries To Guilt Trip Votes For Coakley.”

HAT TIP: Glenn Reynolds.

RELATED: Jonathan Karl at ABC News, “Bill Buckner Curse Haunts Health Care?” (via Memeorandum).

Cross-posted from American Power.

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