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LAMBRO: The human toll of the Obama economy
As Americans lose hope, more lose their lives
Question of the Day
Forget everything you’ve been told by President Obama about the economy getting “stronger,” or what you’ve heard on the nightly news about the “solid” recovery.
The economy is slowing down and getting weaker, and millions of Americans, as a result, are suffering and dying.
It isn’t getting the attention it deserves from the national news media, which seem to play up all the “good” numbers, while ignoring or playing down the weaker economic data.
Scott Pelley, the CBS News anchor, regularly touts all of the modest housing starts (that still are at basement levels) and rising home prices, as if it proved the economy was going gangbusters. It isn’t.
The cold, hard, insufferable reality is that the Commerce Department this week slashed its previous 2.4 percent first-quarter economic growth estimate to a meager 1.8 percent annual rate. This follows a pathetic 0.4 percent growth rate in the last three months of 2012.
Virtually all of the categories that go into measuring the gross domestic product growth rate were lower. Consumer spending was revised downward from the exaggerated 3.4 percent estimate to a more modest 2.6 percent.
Slower growth means fewer jobs are created, the unemployment rate will remain at high levels for the foreseeable future, and businesses large and small will be struggling to survive.
It’s not going to get better under this administration’s anti-growth policies. “Many analysts think growth has slowed in the April-June quarter to an annual rate of 2 percent or less,” The Associated Press reported this week.
Don’t take my word for it. Listen to Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who this week used even tougher language to describe the Obama economy.
Terms like “modest recovery,” “slow recovery” or even “recession” do not begin to describe what we’re actually going through. “We’re still very much living through what amounts to a low-grade depression,” says the liberal economist who was one of Mr. Obama’s earliest supporters.
It isn’t the first time Mr. Krugman has sharply criticized the Obama economy. Last year, as the presidential campaign was getting underway, the Princeton professor wrote: “Things are not OK — not remotely OK. This is still a terrible economy .”
Mr. Krugman made his comments in a column that took Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to task for suggesting that the economy was on the mend and that the Fed would soon be reducing its bond-buying stimulus efforts.
Mr. Krugman fears, as many other economists do, that “this is very much the wrong signal to be sending given the state of the economy” and that “the Fed’s bad messaging reduces the chances that we’re going to exit that depression any time soon.”
I have never agreed with any of Mr. Krugman’s ideas about how to improve the economy. (For one thing, he wanted Mr. Obama to double his $800 billion infrastructure spending stimulus in 2009.) However, he honestly cuts Mr. Obama no slack about the severe jobless rate we’ve endured over the past 5 years of his presidency.
Certainly, measured unemployment is down to 7.6 percent, “but that mainly reflects a decline in the number of people actively seeking jobs, rather than an increase in” the number of jobs that are available, he says. Exactly.
Nearly 90 percent of the decline in the national jobless rate, by some estimates, is because of the millions of long-term unemployed workers who have stopped looking for a job and are no longer counted among the unemployed.
We see this in the labor-force participation rate that has dropped precipitously under this administration. The ratio of adult workers between the ages of 25 and 54 who are employed has plunged from 80 percent to 75 percent in the recession and remains essentially unchanged.
Some of these long-displaced workers will be coming back into the workforce, as they are now in the hopes that the economy will improve. However, with the economic-growth rate falling, and consumer spending, business investment and U.S. exports growing more slowly than was previously estimated, the job market is going to remain sluggish.
All of this is the result of Mr. Obama’s policies. Businesses are reluctant to invest in new equipment or hire workers because of the higher health care costs mandated under “Obamacare” that will kick in next year.
Mr. Obama’s job-killing, anti-growth agenda is only just getting started. He unveiled his climate-change agenda Tuesday that will impose tighter regulatory controls on coal- and gas-fired utilities, and raise strict new obstacles to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
He intends to impose new Environmental Protection Agency standards on all power plants and wage war against the coal industry by setting stricter carbon-emissions standards to do his best to drive it out of business. Utility costs will rise, and so will energy and fuel bills for businesses and homeowners who are struggling with high gas prices.
It will make America more dependent on foreign oil and manufacturing, sectors in which the number of new jobs has stalled in the past year. This is going to make a weak economy even weaker.
Missing from much if not most of the reporting about the Obama economy is the human cost in subpar economic growth and fewer job opportunities. Democrats never talk about it, let alone the president. The network news shows won’t even touch the subject out of fear that it will anger the White House and the president’s supporters.
College graduates and younger adults can’t find jobs commensurate with their training and are unable to make it on their own. This is especially severe among minorities.
“With the economy lagging in the past few years, 39 percent of adults ages 18 to 34 say they have had to move in with their parents in recent years,” The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing a study by the Pew Research Center. The study found that “more adults are now living in multigenerational households than at any time since the 1950s.”
Even more disturbing has been the sharp increase in suicides among middle-aged Americans, with the highest rise among largely jobless men in their 50s, according to data released in May by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their suicide rate increased by nearly 50 percent.
The economic downturn is cited by analysts as one of the key factors behind this little-reported human tragedy in the Obama economy.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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