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Obama Persists on Broad Front as Polls Drop

President Barack Obama has so loaded up the policy circuits this month that you’d expect a government-wide blackout any minute.

Still, in spite of declining approval ratings for him and most of his policies, he’s decided to forge ahead — on Afghanistan, health care, jobs, climate change and deficit reduction. Give him credit for courage and tenacity, even if all the details aren’t right.

Even though his Afghanistan speech and health care are at the front of the media agenda, I’d say his most important event this week is today’s jobs summit because job creation — legitimately — is the No. 1 issue in the minds of voters.

The mid-November Washington Post/ABC poll showed that Obama’s approval rating on the economy has dropped from 60 percent in March to 51 percent, though objectively he’s probably not getting the credit he deserves.

Obama inherited what amounts to an economic 9/11, and his stimulus package, the bank bailouts and action by the Federal Reserve really did stave off calamity — at least so far.

As a White House official told me in an interview, “I’ve heard a lot of criticism about how we did all this spending to no effect.

“The truth is, most economists from right to left agree that the stimulus package had a great deal to do with growth in the third quarter.

“Now the same people who were criticizing us for doing something that had no impact are saying, ‘Yeah, we had growth, but it was only because of the stimulus package.’ Well, you’ve got to choose a horse and ride it.”

Indeed, on Monday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the stimulus raised the gross domestic product in the third quarter by 1.2 to 3.2 percent above what it would have been and increased employment by 600,000 to 1.6 million.

But unemployment still was at 10.2 percent in October and may be higher when November figures come out on Friday.

Even though liberal economists and Members of Congress are arguing for a new stimulus package, a White House official told me, “There’s a limit to what government can do in terms of these cycles. Some of it just has to work its way through the system.

“We also have a fiscal crisis so if we overspend to create minimum effects, it just adds to another problem,” he said.

Still, Obama has to — and presumably will — do something to stimulate job creation, and it might help if he tried tax cuts for small business as well as possible infrastructure spending and aid to state and local governments.

A tax credit or corporate tax reduction for firms that add jobs to their payrolls might even pay for themselves in tax revenue.

My opinion is that Obama should have concentrated in his first year on the economic crisis and financial services reform to prevent it from happening again — plus Afghanistan and Iran — but he’s determined to push forward on a broad front.

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