Once again, I’m perplexed by the inability of the Senate to do what has always been routine–extend unemployment benefits during a recession. I’m equally perplexed by the silence from the White House on the issue–Obama should be out there every day demanding that the benefits be extended, and chiding Republicans and recalcitrant Democrats for their inaction, which compounds the cruelty of this deep economic hole we’re in. Americans should be outraged that our politics have become so dysfunctional that the people who’ve lost their jobs are held hostage to satisfy the electoral aspirations of a few.
I’ve been accused of blindly blaming the Republican Party for too many things. But this is one even my most conservative friends agree on. Both parties have always agreed to extend unemployment benefits during recessions. It makes economic sense, and it’s the most humane thing government can do when its citizens are economically stressed. First of all, the money goes immediately into circulation–it gets spent, both alleviating the pain of the unemployed, and acting as an economic stimulus to the broader economy. This Republican Party, though, either can’t understand the benefits, or more likely, is quite willing to inflict untold pain on the people of this country if it sees an electoral benefit. The economy will get worse, Obama will be blamed, and the Republicans will reap the gains in November. Never mind the suffering. The cynicism is staggering, and shameful.
Some of the rhetoric is beyond belief. The new talking point is that extending unemployment benefits will only discourage people rom looking for jobs. Oh, we lazy Americans. Fifteen million of us thrown out of work since the recession began, and we just don’t want to go back on the job because of those cushy benefits. Unemployment is our fault. And there are all those high-paying jobs out there just going begging because Obama is too generous with our tax money. Give me a break!
I somehow failed to post this last week. It went out to my syndicate, but I forgot to put it on the site. So, you get a twofer today.
The churning of industries and jobs is often referred to as the creative destruction of capitalism. While the loss of an industry is often a local disaster, the theory is that new technologies make new industries and jobs available, although not necessarily for the people who’ve been displaced. That’s a fine theory, but the reality of the last decade is that no net new jobs were created. The middle class saw its wages and benefits shrink, while health care costs ate up an increasing share of our income. The internet certainly had a hand in some of that destruction, wreaking havoc on any number of industries, my own included.
With job creation at the top of the economic wish list as the nation slowly recovers from the deep recession, and with the Afghanistan decision made, Obama last week convened a jobs summit. The truth is, and everyone knows it, there’s little more that can be done to create the millions of jobs needed to offset those lost the last two years, unless the government is willing to spend billions more on additional stimulus. This puts Obama in a precarious place; does he risk adding to the already huge deficit, risking runaway inflation down the road, or does he stand pat and hope the economy creates more jobs than anticipated? Perhaps intervention from another agency will save the day. It can’t hurt to ask. “Tis the season.
I join the growing chorus of critics who don’t believe that Obama has focused enough on job creation. In fact, I’m more than a little disappointed in the tepid performance by Democrats in general. They won the election by large margins, yet they seem afraid to lead. The Republicans have been successful at all kinds of stalling tactics on judicial nominees (remember the outraged demand by Republicans for an up and down vote for Bush’s nominees?), many other appointments, climate change legislation, and the despicable tactics being employed against health care reform. Yet Democrats don’t seem to have the stomach for a real fight.
It will take political courage to spend the money needed for more stimulus aimed at job creation in the face of rising deficits, yet that’s exactly what most economists think we need. I also seem to remember the mantra that deficits don’t matter, when Bush was racking them up; evidently they only matter when Democrats control the White House. Yet the Dems apparently are afraid of the consequences if they actually get out in front of controversial legislation. As a good friend of mine, a recently-elected Colorado legislator, reminded me the other day, people don’t vote to re-elect legislators who do nothing, and they especially don’t re-elect cowards.
Let’s have some backbone, people. Do something.
Great news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its 52-week high the other day. The economy continues to show signs of recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression. But where are the jobs? How many years will it take to absorb the massive numbers of unemployed, not to mention the new high school and college graduates who enter the job market each spring?
Both my kids are in college. The bad news is, I have several more years of tuition to pay. the good news is, the economy might have recovered enough by the time they graduate that I won’t have to support them for years afterward. I hope.