Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter
  1
Share on Facebook
  1
Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 2 Shares     
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Article Stats
2 comments

OpEdNews Op Eds

If "America Can Do Whatever We Set Our Mind To," How Come Our Leaders Won't Set Their Minds on Jobs?

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

Headlined to H4 5/11/11

opednews.com

From Huffington Post

"We do big things," President Obama said during his State of the Union speech in January. And, in fact, we do. Sometimes. Finding and dispatching Osama bin Laden certainly qualifies. "We are once again reminded," the president said, after announcing the terrorist's death, "that America can do whatever we set our mind to."

But if that's true, why are our leaders so accepting of a stagnant economy? If they really focused on the havoc it is wreaking on the lives of tens of millions of Americans, they would, in the memorable words of Richard Clarke, be running around with their hair on fire.

But they're not. Instead, they express concern but resign themselves to the fact that, as White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee put it in an interview with HuffPost, the economy has "a long way to go." Meanwhile, we're being asked to accept years of underemployment, low growth and draconian cuts to America's social safety nets as the "new normal." Or, as Bill Clinton put it in a different context, the "tyranny of low expectations."

It's a testament to these low expectations of our leaders that we're supposed to take recent economic figures as some kind of good news. In March, the economy added 216,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell from 8.9 percent to 8.8 percent. Not bad. But not good, either. And if you take a closer look at the numbers, you'll want to keep that celebratory champagne on ice. Because while adding jobs is obviously better than shedding them, even if we continue to add 200,000 jobs a month, it would take until 2019 to achieve the employment level we had when the recession started. "There are still five unemployed workers per job opening," Heidi Shierholz, economist with the Economic Policy Institute, told HuffPost, "far worse than the worst month of the early-2000s recession."

What's more, much of the downturn in the unemployment rate was actually caused by people giving up and leaving the workforce. As the New York Times noted, participation in the workforce fell to 64.2 percent, the lowest mark in 25 years. If you were to factor those who have stopped looking for work into the official unemployment rate, it would be 9.8 percent. If you were to include those working part-time who would rather be working full-time, it would be 15.7 percent. "Being happy with the falling unemployment rate right now," said Wells Fargo's Jeremy Ryan, "would be like being happy that your team won because the other team's bus broke down on the way to the field."

April's numbers were equally disconcerting: even though the economy added 244,000 jobs, the unemployment rate rose from 8.8 percent to 9 percent. Even worse, the unemployment rate for African-Americans jumped to 16.1 percent. And for those over the age of 55, the average length of time spent looking for a job is now over a year.

Add to that an anemic GDP growth rate of 1.8 percent for January through March, down from 3.1 percent for the last quarter of 2010, and the fact that, according to U.S. Census numbers released last week, the percentage of young adults living with their parents has jumped to a staggering 34 percent, largely because of their limited job possibilities.

Then there is the chilling reality that more than 28 percent of U.S. homes were underwater in the first quarter of the year, and foreclosures are expected to rise 20 percent this year. "We get tired of telling such a grim story," Zillow economist Stan Humphries told Bloomberg News, "but unfortunately this is the story that needs to be told."

Told, but apparently not listened to. At least not in Washington.

It's no wonder then that, according to a recent Gallup poll, over half the country currently believes we're in a recession or a depression. Or that a New York Times/CBS poll shows that 80 percent say the economy is in fairly bad or very bad shape.

How are these not hair on fire numbers?

Yet our leaders, who are supposed to be doing big things, seem instead to have made their peace with "the new normal." Take the Fed: it could be doing a lot more to create jobs, but instead it's guarding against the phantom bogeyman of inflation. "Why has Mr. Bernanke decided to accept widespread unemployment for years on end, even though he believes he has the power to reduce it?" asked David Leonhardt. "After all, does the economy feel as if it's on the verge of overheating?" Hardly.

At the New America Foundation's conference about the Federal Reserve, the Peterson Institute's Joe Gagnon said that the Fed's timidity is responsible for the loss of 1 million jobs. "Apparently," writes Mark Thoma, "the millions and millions of people who are unemployed, some of whom won't be reemployed until years from now if we do nothing to help, are supposed to be patient because people with power over policy are worried about inflation and higher interest rates."

Our elected leaders aren't any better -- less focused on the job crisis than on arguing about how to best divvy up harsh cuts to the social safety net and programs that benefit the middle class. Meanwhile, profits for the Fortune 500 jumped by 81 percent in 2010, to $318 billion. Clearly big things aren't out of reach for everybody.

It's not that we can't do something big about the economy -- it's that our leaders choose not to. Or, as Mark Thoma puts it: "We can't help to stimulate job growth if we don't try, and so far we aren't trying anywhere near hard enough."

President Obama himself connected the economy to his can-do speech about Osama. Immediately after declaring that "America can do whatever we set our mind to," he said, "That is the story of our history, whether it's the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggles for equality for all our citizens."

Next Page  1  |  2

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com

Arianna Huffington is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, a nationally syndicated columnist, and author of thirteen books. She is also co-host of "Left, Right & Center," public radio's popular political roundtable program, as (more...)
 
Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

"Slightly Above Zero": A Slogan for Our Age of Diminished Expectations

The Media Gets It Wrong on WikiLeaks: It's About Broken Trust, Not Broken Condoms

Mitt Romney Brazenly Lies and the Media Lets Him Slide

2011: The Year the Power Went Off in Washington

Postcard From Greece: This Should Not Be About Austerity, It's About The Future Of Democracy

Debating the Two-Party System

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
2 people are discussing this page, with 2 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

It's called propaganda. Americans are used to blam... by John Little on Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 1:44:32 AM
Ariana said it herself. That fact, that we have or... by molly cruz on Friday, May 13, 2011 at 2:01:23 PM