Barron’s D.C. man explains one way the president could boost the economy

Jim McTague‘s latest “D.C. Current” column for Barron’s discusses one step President Obama could take that would lead to nearly immediate benefits for the American economy.

Caution: mad men at work. President Barack Obama and his public-relations team are attempting to alter the public’s jaundiced perception of his leadership abilities with a splashy, well-plotted campaign that designates 2014 as his “year of action.” If the president is unable to forge a coalition in Congress to accelerate economic growth, strengthen the middle class, and build “new ladders of opportunity” to help the country’s underclass climb into that middle class, then he says he will go it alone, utilizing what his spokesman, Jay Carney, describes as “unique powers” and what Obama colloquially describes as “using pen and phone.”

The president does indeed have unique authority. He could take unilateral action to export oil that would have a powerful impact on the economy. Based on what we’ve seen from him so far, however, Obama will talk big and wield a little stick. …

… If Obama truly embraces free trade, then he could throw open an enormous free-trade window in an afternoon by neutering a controversial 1975 law banning most oil exports. That law was in response to an Arab oil embargo and erroneous predictions that the world was running out of oil. Neutering it would erase our trade imbalances with the rest of the world, create solid, middle-class jobs, and establish the U.S. as a major energy power, reducing the clout of energy bullies like OPEC and Russia. Yet, in this particular instance, Obama is willing to wait for as long as it takes to get congressional action. Carney ignored our request for Obama’s position on the ban.

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