A troubled economy

A troubled economy

June 12th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

Our economy supposedly has been in "recovery" for quite a few months now. But that is of little comfort to tens of millions of Americans who remain either involuntarily jobless or able to find only part-time work when they need full-time jobs.

Distressingly, our nation's unemployment rate is rising once again. It increased from 9 percent in April to 9.1 percent in May, according to figures recently released by the U.S. Labor Department. About 14 million Americans are unemployed - a figure that doesn't include millions who have given up trying to find jobs, and millions who need more work hours than they are able to get in the current economy. When those numbers are added in, the so-called "underemployment" rate is nearly 16 percent.

In May, about 54,000 jobs were created, the Labor Department reported. But that number - the lowest level of job creation in eight months - is hardly good news. With the natural growth of the size of the labor force from high school and college graduates, new immigrants and others entering the job market, the number of jobs created in May was only half what is needed even to keep up with the growth of the workforce. And it's only about one-fourth of what is needed to actually reduce the rate of joblessness.

The persistent lack of jobs isn't the only bad news about the economy, though.

The "recovery" that our country purportedly is experiencing is also painfully elusive to drivers every time they pay sky-high prices to fill their gas tanks. Even those who are fortunate enough to have jobs are seeing their purchasing power drop because of excessive fuel costs.

Homeowners are feeling the pinch, too. Home values have now dropped to their lowest level in more than nine years. Just since 2006, home prices have dropped more than they did during the Great Depression! Foreclosures, meanwhile, are continuing at a rapid pace, further depressing home values.

It's hard to imagine that President Barack Obama will come up with reasonable suggestions for turning around these troubling economic trends. His previous ideas - most of which involve heavier federal spending - have generally met with failure.

On job creation, the Obama administration claimed that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent if only Congress passed the $862 billion "stimulus" in early 2009. Almost immediately after the stimulus passed, joblessness rose past the 8 percent mark, and not once since then has it gotten back down even to that painfully high level - much less below it. At the same time, the stimulus ballooned the already alarmingly high national debt and expanded the size and reach of government.

On gas prices, the president remains reluctant to allow thorough development of domestic oil supplies, which would reduce our reliance on oil from unstable foreign nations and would lower fuel costs. Instead, he continues to promote subsidies for costly ethanol, as well as for alternative energy such as solar and wind power.

As for housing prices, both Obama and the former Bush administration backed expensive tax credits for home buyers - credits that were supposed to boost the collapsing housing market. With that effort obviously having failed to achieve the desired results - while increasing our national debt - we can only hope that the federal government won't intervene yet again to "help" the housing market.

Despite all these unhappy economic tidings, the Obama administration continues to insist that our nation is in "recovery" - and that still-higher taxes and greater spending are the path to prosperity.

We're not sure how much more of that kind of "recovery" we can stand.