As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Jobless Recoveries Aren't Recoveries

The President's poll numbers, which haven't slipped as much as has been reported if you take away crazy Zogby Internet polls (42%? Really, Zogby?), have little to do with his policies and much to do with the economy. Most political leaders are falling right now as the economic slump continues to worsen. The "recovery" that we're seeing is really more of a case of getting worse more slowly. The so-called "liberal interventions" that Obama has made in the economy clearly staved off a deep depression. Virtually everyone who's studied the issue would agree. But it's hard to prove a negative, and this is the source of Obama's troubles right now. For example, Joe Biden is right to say that the stimulus is working, but this is a difficult concept for people to wrap their heads around:

"The recovery act has played a significant role in changing the trajectory of our economy, and changing the conversation in this country," Biden said. "Instead of talking about the beginning of a depression, we are talking about the end of a recession."

Absolutely true, but if there are still no jobs, this won't register. People feel that the recession is still happening because, for their personal lives, it is. The rates of job loss have slowed but remain negative. That means less people working. That means less money available to spend. That means lower consumer spending. And so retailers feel the pinch, individuals feel the pinch, and even with economic growth, everyone feels like they're in a recession.

Jobs lag a recovery, so there's a chance for the White House to break out of this. But in recent times, the jobless recovery has become more and more prevalent. Know this - an economic "revival" which benefits elites and not the overall public will not be looked upon favorably. In fact, people will blame the President for failing to turn things around. You can put together all the white papers you want about the recovery meeting benchmarks, or whatever. But the only answer to the economic troubles are JOBS. If we don't value work over wealth in this country, we will not sustain an economic future.

...Biden's speech on the Recovery Act actually does some good message-building about the economy and the need for public investment, which is key.

We're also investing what everybody knows is necessary to build a 21st century economy. I have people sometimes say, aren't you guys doing too much? You know, Presidents in the past have been able to -- and I've been here for eight of them -- they've been able to take the problems that they have and segregate them -- said, we're going to take these two first. We'll put these other four or six or five aside, and we'll get to them next, because they know the status quo ante will pertain. But name me one problem that landed on the President's desk that allowed him to say, no, no, we're going to focus on this, and then in three years we'll get to this?

I say to my friends, does anybody think we can lead in the 21st century without a radically altered energy policy? Does anybody think we can sustain our position in the world without a radically altered education system, where we're no longer 17th in the world in the number of college graduates we graduate? Does anybody think we can sustain without radical change in the cost of health care in this country, and bending that curve? [...]

To state the obvious, we will emerge from this great recession. And I believe that is only -- that's necessary but not sufficient. We have to emerge better positioned to lead the world in the 21st century as we did in the 20th century.

Where the last cycle generated billions of dollars -- billions from investments made via high-speed trades, this cycle needs to make real investments in high-speed rail.

In the last cycle, "innovation" meant bundling and selling subprime mortgages. In this one, our innovations will bundle and sell technologies to produce clean, efficient, renewable energy.

Where the benefits of productivity have not grown in the past, from 2000 and 2007, productivity grew 20 percent; yet the middle-income households fell 3 percent, their income. In this cycle, we're determined to make sure that productivity doesn't elude the poor and the middle class. And this cycle must be one in which, once again, American workers get his or her fair share of the wealth they helped produce.

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