Why Obama gets no credit for job growth

President Barack Obama. Image copyright Getty Images

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During the 2010 US mid-term campaign, the leader of the House of Representatives Republicans, John Boehner, demanded of Present Barack Obama, "Where are the jobs?"

Four years later the nation's unemployment rate is the lowest in six years. Republicans aren't asking about jobs anymore - but Democrats aren't bragging, either.

On Monday the Washington Post's E J Dionne explained why Mr Obama and his fellow Democrats aren't getting - or taking - credit for the economy.

"President Obama, for one, is clearly frustrated that having inherited an economy that was at death's door, he is getting remarkably little credit for getting it back on its feet," writes Dionne.

On Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest job numbers, reporting that in September 248,000 jobs were added to the economy and unemployment fell to 5.9%, the lowest since July 2008.

Dionne points to another set of numbers, however. He writes that in February 2009 86% of Americans listed an economic issue as their central concern. In the most recent Gallup survey, only 41% did.

"Better times mean different worries," he concludes.

"Voters who are still concerned about the economy tend to be focused not on its successes but on what it is failing to do for them," he writes. "That's the Democrats' other problem. The unemployment rate is way down, but it's still not low enough to create rapid and widespread wage growth. Many of the forces that have been driving up inequality since the 1980s are still with us."

According to Dionne, solving inequality has always been a Democratic goal, so the failure to do so takes a toll on the Democratic president's public approval,

For his part, Mr Obama gave a speech at Northwestern University last Thursday, in which he stressed proposals on education, job training, college loans, a minimum wage increase, infrastructure investment, equal pay and work-family balance, to ease inequality.

"All would help matters, if only they could get by Republicans in Congress," Dionne says.


A never-ending embargo - In an interview this summer, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "we should advocate for the end of the embargo" against Cuba. As the Atlantic points out, however, her husband former President Bill Clinton put into place the law that makes ending the embargo nearly impossible

The article by Peter Kornbluh and William M Leogrande chronicles Mr Clinton's efforts to ease the embargo. Congress pushed back against the president, however, and the 1996 downing of two civilian aircraft by the Cuban air force forced Mr Clinton to act.

Mr Clinton declared that he would "move promptly" to reach an agreement with Congress to write the embargo into law.

"No longer would it be a presidential prerogative to lift sanctions against Cuba; now it would take majority votes in Congress. The Clinton team put up no objections."

And the embargo has remained firmly in place ever since.


A tenuous friendship - Qatar is not a true ally of the United States, writes Lori Plotkin Boghardt in the New Republic, though it plays host to America's largest military base in the Middle East.

Qatar is the richest country in the world per capita and has developed a wide range of working relationships with governments and groups, from Hezbollah to the Taliban, Boghardt writes, allowing for private fundraising for American adversaries al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

Ironically, the Islamist politics that the country has championed in the broader region are illegal in Qatar, she writes.

"Politics in Qatar are reserved for an elite circle of ruling family members and their appointees," she writes. "Political parties and associations are forbidden. The most remote forms of political expression by Qataris with regard to their own government are not tolerated."


Election brings a new reality - For the past three months, the Brazilian political campaign has been a roller coaster, writes Deutche Welle's Astrid Prange De Oliveira.

The predictions were of a duel between the two female candidates, President Dilma Rousseff and her rival, Marina Silva. Instead, Social Democrat candidate Aecio Neves, whom the opinion polls had already declared dead in the water, was able to celebrate his political resurrection.

"This new political constellation means that all bets are off," De Oliveira writes. "Only one thing is certain: the Brazilian Workers' Party, the PT, will be part of the government, even if the majority of people vote against President Rousseff on 26 October."

The reason for this political continuity, writes De Oliveira, is the overwhelming presence of the PT in Brazil's public institutions.


A failure to commit - Germany is not maintaining its responsibilities to Nato, according to James Joyner in Outside the Beltway.

New German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has promised a more robust role, he writes, but lacks the ability to back her words with action.

"The problems extend far beyond unreliable transport aircraft," says Joyner. "Reporting to parliament last month, inspectors said that only a fraction of Germany's helicopters, submarines and tanks are fit to be deployed."

The question remains whether in a crisis Germany could meet its obligations to Nato. With Russia's aggression in Ukraine on their minds at their summit in Wales last month, the 28 allies renewed their pledge to commit at least 2% of GDP to their armed forces.

Germany has steadily cut its defence budget, however. It spends only 1.3%, putting it 14th among alliance countries.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Commentators in Iran and Turkey react to comments by US Vice-President Joe Biden taken to blame Middle East nations for enabling the growth of Syrian and Iraqi militant group Islamic State. Mr Biden would later apologise for his remarks.

"The importance of what Mr Biden said does not lie in the fact that the man has revealed a secret, because what he said is known to everybody. It lies in having the second-most-senior official in the US administration personally and publicly admitting that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other US allies were behind [IS], al-Qaeda and other takfiri organisations, and that it was they who sparked the sectarian conflict between Shias and Sunnis." - Majid Hatimi in al-Vefagh, the Arabic-language newspaper of the Iranian government.

"If Mr Biden, who is one of the most competent names in the Obama administration about the Iraq and Syria files, says that he sees some of the Sunni allies including Turkey as 'the biggest problem', one should take this seriously." - Ali H Aslan in Turkey's Zaman.

"Biden's apology has increased suspicions in Ankara that Washington has neither a consistent strategy against Isis nor a strong political perspective about the future of Iraq and Syria... The developments legitimise those who have been saying since the very beginning that Turkey should stay away from war and especially should not get into the Middle East quagmire any more." - Murat Yetkin in Turkey's Radikal.‎

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