Slight January job rise can't hide Americans' serious economic pain

Slight January job rise can't hide Americans' serious economic pain

February 7th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

It is clearly good news for at least some of those who need a job that U.S. employers added 243,000 jobs in January. That slightly reduced the nation's unemployment rate, from 8.5 percent to "only" 8.3 percent.

But almost 13 million Americans are still officially unemployed, and millions more are unable to find the full-time work they need, having to settle for part time, or are jobless but are not counted in the "official" statistics because they have given up a fruitless job search. Including all those groups, the combined unemployment and "underemployment" rate is a shocking 15.1 percent.

The January job creation is no doubt welcome. But the fact remains, unemployment has now been higher than 8 percent for 36 consecutive months -- three straight years! -- the longest stretch of such high unemployment since the Great Depression. And for most of those months, joblessness was above 9 percent.

That is in stark contrast to the Obama administration's projections in early 2009 that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent if only Congress would pass the stimulus -- whose cost ballooned to $862 billion. With the stimulus, unemployment by now -- early 2012 -- was supposed to be around 6 percent. But we're not even close to that, despite all that federal spending and the accumulation of greater debt.

Perhaps most painfully, nearly 6 million Americans have been unemployed long term -- more than six months. They make up more than 40 percent of the unemployed. And approximately one-third of the jobless have been without work for a year or longer. Many of the people in that group, as well as their families, are suffering enormous financial strain.

Yet there are still more clouds on the horizon.

As more provisions of ObamaCare socialized medicine take effect, they will create penalties that will discourage many small businesses from expanding. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Penalizing them in order to promote a big-government health insurance program is appallingly counterproductive.

Meanwhile, about 15 percent of Americans, more than 46 million, are now using food stamps -- many because they cannot find work to support themselves.

Judging from recent history, more government spending won't solve these problems -- and it is plainly inadvisable to raise taxes on some Americans, as President Barack Obama would like to do, in a time of economic weakness. Why should even more money flow into government coffers when Washington has used previous revenue for wasteful spending -- and has borrowed even more and bloated our national debt to $15.2 trillion?

Holding down taxes and regulations and reducing government spending are the keys to real economic growth and prosperity. Whether Washington will turn those keys remains to be seen.