As President Obama’s appallingly-named “Betting on America” bus tour rolls through Ohio and Pennsylvania, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota have been following in their own bus, conducting a “Middle-Class Promise Gap Tour.” The Republican National Committee describes this as an effort to “highlight the broken promises President Obama made to middle-class Americans.”
Further support comes from Senators Rob Portman and Pat Toomey of Ohio and Pennsylvania, respectively, who say voters in their states want an explanation from the President: “Why did he fail to live up to the many promises he made to them in his last campaign and during his time in office?” They note that “as both a candidate and newly-inaugurated president, President Obama outlined a number of specific, quantifiable promises. He said he intended to be judged by these promises, and urged voters to hold him accountable.” His enthusiasm for being held accountable in this manner appears to have dimmed considerably.
In a conference call with bloggers this morning, Jindal and Pawlenty discussed the momentous choice facing American voters in the next election. Obama’s path of increasingly large, indebted government, ruling over a painfully contracted private sector torn by endless political strife, looms on the left side of this fork in the road.
Jindal talked about the disturbing eagerness of the Obama Administration to boast about how much it has increased the culture of dependency. “They seem to celebrate the growth of the rolls of food stamps, the growth of the number of people depending on government health care,” he said.
Jindal hoped voters would “contrast that sense of entitlement, that sense of class warfare, with what Mitt Romney is running on,” including “a track record of creating jobs in the private sector, not the public sector,” and his understanding that “what makes America great is unlimited opportunity… you’re not entitled to equal results, but you are entitled to equal opportunity.” Among the evidence that opportunity has grown perilously scarce under President Obama, Jindal cited years of high unemployment, the recent slowdown in the manufacturing sector, the President’s hostility to domestic energy production, and the disturbing drop in average weekly wages – only the fifth time in over three decades that such a decline has been observed.
Of course, ObamaCare entered the discussion, and Jindal found more broken promises there: “He promised us premiums would go down by $2500, but premiums went up 9 percent last year. He promised us we would be able to keep our doctors and our health care plans, but over 20 million Americans may lose their employer-provided coverage. He promised to protect Medicare, but there have been over $500 billion in cuts, which the actuary himself said is not sustainable, and not realistic… and he’s raised our taxes by over $500 billion in tax increases.”
“Call it whatever you want,” Jindal said of ObamaCare. “Call it a tax, call it a lien, call it a penalty. It’s simply bad policy.”
Pawlenty described the re-election of Obama as “doubling down on a bad bet.” He viewed Obama’s broken promise to cut the federal deficit in half – when, in fact, he ended up tripling it – as “one of the defining issues of our time,” recalling the President’s false predictions of 5.6 percent unemployment if his massive stimulus bill was passed.
Pawlenty expressed particular concern about the manufacturing sector, where 559,000 jobs have been lost since Obama took office. “If you go talk to people who want to start or grow manufacturing businesses,” he said, “they will tell you that the Obama policies of higher taxes, more regulation, more expensive energy, and heavier burdens from government are the exact wrong policies.”
He described the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision as “unbelievably tortured” and “head-spinning.” Given Team Obama’s continuing attempts to squirm out of the Court’s official designation of the ObamaCare individual mandate as a tax, Pawlenty suggested that Obama’s bus tour ought to stop at the Waffle House, which could add a “Barack Obama special” to the menu.
Jindal responded to a question about the refusal of some governors, including himself, to participate in the optional ObamaCare expansion of Medicaid by noting that in Louisiana, it would cost taxpayers $3.7 million over the first ten years of expansion, while simultaneously pulling a hundred thousand people out of private insurance and putting them into Medicaid. “From my perspective, it’s simply a huge mistake to put that many new people into this unreformed, government-run health care,” he said. “We’re expanding and creating new entitlement programs when we can’t afford the ones we’ve got.”
Noting that he has been criticized by Democrats, along with other Republican governors such as Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida, for “turning down free health care,” Jindal replied, “No, this is not ‘free health care.’ Everybody needs to understand we’re paying for this with our taxpayer dollars. That’s part of the problem with the Obama Administration and the Democratic approach – they want to grow government.”
I asked the governors how they would deal with the continuing willingness of a sizable portion of swing-state voters, expressed through various opinion polls, to let Obama off the hook for the terrible economy. Quite a few of those voters have been distressingly receptive to the “Bush did it” narrative. “I think the strategy is basically this: ask people, ‘How’s it working?’ Have you had enough of President Obama’s approach?” Pawlenty replied. “While I think they understand that he inherited a tough situation, I think they also understand – and will come to understand even more – that his policies have actually hindered the recovery.”
Along those lines, a new Gallup poll reports that 46 percent of Americans believe ObamaCare will harm the economy, while only 37 percent believe it will help. Of course, there is a pronounced partisan split, but Gallup found “Democrats are a little less likely to say the [Affordable Care Act] will help the economy than Republicans are to say it will hurt it,” while independents believe ObamaCare will be harmful by a whopping 14 point margin. Team Romney has its work cut out for it, but President Obama has provided them with some powerful tools.