Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Can Obama Avoid Losing like Carter?

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Can Obama Avoid Losing like Carter?

Article excerpt

At this point in 1980, Jimmy Carter was on the path to oblivion but didn't know it. President Barack Obama may share Mr. Carter's fate if he doesn't change course soon.

The 1980 presidential race was neck and neck until the end. It broke for Ronald Reagan when voters concluded that Mr. Carter could not cope with the economy and that Reagan, despite his conspicuous flaws as a candidate, was a viable alternative.

The Obama campaign is in a similar position. It might eke out a victory, but it is at risk of losing control of the economic narrative. Its best hope is to stop nickel-and-diming Mitt Romney and laundry-listing forgettable initiatives and instead give independents reason to think that Mr. Obama has a clear plan to bolster the economy.

This election will be decided largely by independent voters, most of whom can probably tell you that Mitt Romney's economic plan is to repeal Obamacare and shrink the government. It may not make much sense but it's clear. Ask what Mr. Obama's plan is, and they won't be certain. They will know, however, that what he has done hasn't worked. And by the fall, many independents will have made up their minds.

The president's failure, so far, to show that he understands the scope of the economy's problems and knows how to fix them does not stem from having nothing to say: investment in education, energy, innovation and infrastructure are reasonable things. But they are also slow-acting, small-bore stuff. Such talk does not include additional economic stimulus, an element that many economists, especially Democratic-leaning ones, consider crucial to prevent a double-dip recession. Nor does it deal realistically with long-term growth in spending.

So Mr. Obama should draw a map and send it to Capitol Hill in the form of a bill -- a president's strongest statement that he intends action. A big legislative proposal can frame the issue and paint Mr. Obama's intentions in bold colors. It should include three elements:

1) Long-term fiscal retrenchment. The easiest and best way is to adopt the Simpson-Bowles deficit plan. The Simpson-Bowles commission's recommendations have been established as a credible bipartisan solution. …

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