Obama's Small-Ball Solutions No Match for America's Big Problems

Big problems demand big solutions. And there has been no bigger problem in the last few decades than the current recession.

Unemployment remains sky high. To the extent that it is falling it is largely because frustrated job-seekers are dropping out of the labor force. The problem is even more acute for young adults who have borne the brunt of the employment losses during this recession. A recent review of government data by the Associated Press found that 53.6 percent of recent graduates – or roughly 1.5 million people – were either unemployed or underemployed. Just imagine how high those numbers are for those without a college degree.

The lack of jobs is driving down the average starting salary and will likely depress a worker’s wages over the course of their career. This problem becomes all the more acute given that college tuition continues to soar due to government subsidization. As a result college graduates are being squeezed on one side by lower wages and on the other by higher debt-service payments.

Like I said, big problems.

And in the face of them Obama has come up small. Rich Lowry writes in Time:

“In his reelection bid, President Obama is determined to be as small as he can be.

He’s gone from vaporous uplift in 2008 to dreary minutiae in 2012.

Listening to him on the stump, you would have no idea that the economy is sunk in a subpar recovery and the nation’s balance sheet is deep in the red, let alone the welfare state is in crisis throughout the Western world.

Obama’s approach amounts to fiddling while Athens burns, or at least defaults.

There is no signature proposal for his second term, no discernible agenda. It’s all day-to-day political jabbing and micro initatives, often with specific constituencies in mind. He is running Bill Clinton’s relentlessly small-ball 1996 reelection campaign, except without the centrism or the peace and prosperity.”

The question is whether small-ball is a good strategy. Examining the root of the metaphor, small ball certainly works for many baseball teams. Sometimes it is better to just get men on base, by whatever means necessary, and then diligently work to advance them, than to go for the game-sealing home run.

But small-ball doesn’t work in the major leagues when your team is down by 10 runs, and it doesn’t work in the United States when your economy continues to face its biggest challenge since the Great Depression.

That hasn’t stopped Obama from trying. Over the past several months President Obama has been attempting to reassemble the coalition of voters that carried him to victory in 2008. Unfortunately, he can’t really use one big message to appeal to all voters this time around. As Rich Lowry writes, “’change you can believe in’ isn’t a recyclable theme. Once, the wag said, is enough. Twice is too much.” That leaves Obama to try and cobble together the coalition one constituency at a time.

For environmentalists he’s opposing the Keystone XL pipeline (much to the chagrin of many in his own party). For women he’s created a demeaning “Life of Julia” campaign and attempted to drum up a nonexistent “Republican war on women.” For the GLBT community he’s attempted to hide his position before ultimately (and awkwardly) flip-flopping on the issue of gay marriage. And most conspicuously, for young adults, he’s traveled to campuses trying to sell a plan to keep student loan interest rates low (Romney has done the same), but has yet to offer any means of paying for it.

While some of these proposals have merit, they completely ignore the most important problems facing the United States.

“President Obama can’t talk about the big issues facing Americans – jobs and the economy – because he knows, despite his promises, he hasn’t made things better,” said Romney spokewoman Andrea Saul. “So, he is resorting to a campaign run on gimmicks and distractions.”

America has big problems, but we have a president who comes up small. Let’s change that in 2012.