After a week of non-stop Osama Bin Laden, Washington is now returning to the battle of the budget deficit and debt ceiling.
All over Capitol Hill Republicans and Democrats are debating spending
caps and automatic triggers, and whether to begin them before or after
But if you don't mind my asking, what about the economy? I'm not
talking about the economy five or ten years from now, when projections
show the federal budget wildly out of control, or when foreigners might
start dumping dollars.
I'm talking about the here and now economy -- the one Americans are living in day to day.
The Labor Department reported today that unemployment for April was 9
percent, up from 8.8 percent in March. And that doesn't include people working
part-time who'd rather have full-time jobs.
Yes, 244,000 jobs were added in March -- but that's chicken feed. We'd
need 350,000 a month, every month for the next three years, simply to
get back to where we were before the Great Recession.
And the percent of working-age Americans actually working -- 64.2
percent -- hasn't improved. It's almost as low as it was in the depths of
the recession; 13.7 million people remain out of work.
Even for Americans with jobs, wages are going nowhere. Basically, the
only employers hiring are paying peanuts. McDonalds just announced it
would start hiring big time.
In fact, there's reason to worry we're heading back toward recession.
The Labor Department also reports new claims for unemployment insurance
soared to 474,000 last week.
In the first quarter of this year the U.S. economy slowed to a crawl --
a measly 1.8 percent annualized growth -- down from over 3 percent last
fall. Higher gas and food prices are putting even more squeeze on
And housing prices continue to drop.
Washington is fighting over how much to cut spending over the next 10 or 12 years.
But right now we need more public spending to get people back to
work, stronger safety nets to help those who have lost their jobs or
can't find new ones, lower payroll taxes on average workers, and a
requirement that Wall Street banks renegotiate mortgage loans so
Americans can keep their homes.
Why isn't Washington paying attention to what most Americans need in the here-and-now economy?