- - Thursday, April 10, 2014

The news is filled with bleak reports that continue to cast a pall of gloom over many Americans who say life for them is a daily struggle.

Two deeply troubling stories appearing in the papers this week were typical of the growing problems that afflict so many Americans in a still very weak, job-deficient, low-paying economy.

A front-page story in The Washington Post under the headline “A choice between buying books and eating” reports that “more college students are going hungry.”

“The number of food pantries on college campuses has increased rapidly in the past six years — especially at colleges with a lot of low-income or first-generation students,” the newspaper said.

The number of college campuses that have begun charity food banks for poorer students (who cannot afford the college’s meal plan) has skyrocketed from one in 2007 to 121 this year.

“Campuses across the country are starting to realize that there is that sector of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Nate Smith-Tyge, director of the Michigan State University Student Food Bank.

Another story, under the headline “In rocky job market, more moms stay at home,” is a familiar tale in the Age of Obama.

“More mothers have been staying home with their children since the recession ended, but a growing number of them say that’s primarily because they can’t find a job,” according to a new survey study by the Pew Research Center.

“With incomes stagnant in recent years for all but the college-educated, less-educated workers in particular may weigh the cost of child care against wages and decide it makes more economic sense to stay home,” Pew said.

Notably, it added that “stay-at-home fathers represent a small but growing share of all stay-at-home parents.” They can’t find jobs, either.

Mothers who can stay at home during the early years of their children’s development are, of course, a big plus. Still, for many women who are having trouble making ends meet, a second income can be critical to pay the rent and just surviving — that is, if their husbands have a job. In other cases, a working mother may be the only breadwinner.

These stories are symptomatic of the growing troubles that continue to fester and spread throughout the Obama economy. Others are even more endemic.

When the unemployment numbers for March came out last week, the news media had a field day turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

CBS News anchor Scott Pelley seemed ecstatic that many discouraged, long-term unemployed, who had quit looking for a job, have now re-entered the workforce. OK, but they were still unemployed.

The economy created a paltry 192,000 last month out of a potential workforce of 160 million Americans. That’s far below what is needed to bring the unemployment rate down to more normal, full-employment levels of 5 percent to 6 percent.

Here’s the stuff the nightly news left out of its reports or played down: Manufacturing lost 1,000 jobs. While the construction sector gained 19,000 employees, “most new positions were in lower-paying activities” or in temporary jobs, University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici points out.

Hourly earnings also dropped, he noted, “indicating good jobs continue to be scarce.”

Last year, the Obama economy grew by only 1.9 percent, and the first three months of this year may turn in an even poorer performance.

If you combine the millions of Americans who say they have given up looking for work with those who are in part-time jobs but need full-time work, the underemployment rate is nearly 13 percent.

The Gallup Poll does its own daily jobs-tracking survey, and it puts the underemployment rate at a jaw-dropping 17.3 percent.

The numbers the Obama administration reported last week were “consistent with a broadly underperforming economy,” Mr. Morici says.

President Obama and the Democrats know they are going to get clobbered in the November midterm elections because of their dismal performance on economic issues, so they are trying to change the subject.

Instead of coming up with pro-capital investment, pro-job proposals to boost economic growth to 4 percent to 5 percent, they are playing politics with the issue of wage equality for women in the hope of getting them to vote in November.

The legislation they’re pushing won’t improve pay for women, though, and it certainly won’t create the jobs they need to climb the economic ladder.

Mr. Obama’s bill would make employers subject to civil lawsuits on pay-scale issues, creating lots of jobs and fat fees for the Democratic Party’s richest political contributors.

“At a time when the Obama economy is already hurting women so much, this legislation would double down on job loss — all while lining the pockets of trial lawyers,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

“In other words, it’s just another Democrat idea that threatens to hurt the very people it claims to help,” he said.

There are a number of ways to begin putting America back to work, boosting incomes and getting our economy growing again: Tax incentives for job-creating investment, expanding our exports with trade deals, lifting moratoriums on energy production, and applying the brakes to wasteful, runaway government spending.

Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders oppose all of these proposals. So they’ve duct-taped together a bogus political package to “give America a raise” and everyone a “fair shot,” but it won’t do either.

Gallup says 42 percent of Americans they’ve polled tell them they’re “struggling” and a further 3 percent are “suffering.”

This fall, Republicans will ask the voters: “Haven’t we suffered enough?”

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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