After last week’s barrage of economic data, the best response anyone could muster was that conditions were likely to improve in the rest of the year. But even that looks like wishful thinking. Worse, though corrective government action is crucial, sound policy cures have not been forthcoming.
The latest quarterly report on economic growth showed real G.D.P. up only 1.4 percent over the past year, a marked slowdown from year-over-year growth rates posted in 2012.
Much of the weakening can be attributed to self-imposed wounds, including the fiscal-cliff showdown at the end of last year and this year’s payroll tax increase and automatic budget cuts, whose effects now appear likely to carry into the second half of the year.
The latest jobs report indicates that Americans do not have the requisite economic security to absorb those imminent blows, let alone other inevitable setbacks, including another possible standoff over the nation’s debt limit.
In the absence of help from Congress on job creation, President Obama recently pledged to use “whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class.”
One place he could start is by revamping the treatment of hourly employees by private-sector federal contractors. Recent research shows that many are paid low wages that force them onto food stamps and other public assistance.
Obama wants to rebuild the economy from the middle out. But what is just as urgently required is to rebuild it from the bottom up.