Grinding U.S. economic pain

Grinding U.S. economic pain

November 20th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

A military veteran out in Las Vegas recently gave voice to the pain that millions of Americans are feeling in our nation's weak economy.

The 22-year-old veteran, Kevin Friedlander, was laid off from his job at a warehouse about a month ago. He has a wife and daughter, and now he is in a race against time to find a new job with which to support them. But ever since he completed his military service, the jobs that he has been able to find have been uncertain. They have paid progressively less and lasted for a shorter period of time.

"With almost every job I've had, every day I've gone into work it felt like it could be my last day," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Nothing feels secure, nothing feels stable."

Unfortunately, Friedlander has ample reason for his concerns about the stability of the job market, and of the U.S. economy as a whole.

That is most evident in the continuing sky-high unemployment rate of 9 percent. And some heavy hitters in the financial world are acknowledging that prospects for strong -- or even decent -- growth are dim over at least the next year.

The Federal Reserve previously said economic growth for all of 2011 would be close to 3 percent. But the Fed recently downgraded that prediction sharply. Now, it says we're likely to see at most 1.7 percent growth this year.

The outlook is not a great deal better for 2012. The original prediction of growth for next year was nearly 4 percent, but the Fed now estimates that we'll see only about 2.7 percent growth in 2012.

And even that prediction -- though not exactly rosy -- may prove too optimistic. Bank of America Merrill Lynch says that rather than 2.7 percent growth, the economy is likely to expand next year by just 2.1 percent.

Those numbers offer little hope of reducing unemployment significantly. In fact, the Fed says that average unemployment in 2012 will remain near the current 9 percent. Previously, it had predicted that 2012 unemployment would fall below 8 percent.

When you add to high unemployment the fact that millions of Americans have lost their homes and that 70 percent more of our people need food stamps today than needed them just four years ago, there is no denying that a great many Americans are really suffering.

And they quite understandably are not seeing much light at the end of the tunnel.

You may or may not label the current economic crisis a "recession," but it is interesting to note that President Barack Obama recently did say we are in a recession.

In an ABC News interview, he declared that the American people are not "better off than they were before Lehman [Brothers financial services firm] collapsed, before the financial crisis, before this extraordinary recession that we're going through."

So it is particularly unfortunate, as well as baffling, that he continues to press for big-government, big-spending policies that in recent years have not only failed to end the economic crisis but have deepened it.

The American people would be well justified in replacing Obama in next year's election with a president who will reverse the failed policies of this administration -- and restore some sense of economic optimism and hope.