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President Barack Obama and economic policy.

John Overmyer, NewsArt

The Obama economy is a disaster

  • June 18, 2011 - 11:21 PM

Evidence is growing that the American economy -- and with it, the hopes, dreams and livelihoods of millions of our fellow citizens -- is stuck in an increasingly disastrous slump.

Two years after the recession formally ended, long-term unemployment is at the highest level since the Great Depression, and the unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent.

President Obama recently dismissed dismaying conditions like these as mere "bumps in the road to recovery." Imagine the howls from our media mavens had George W. Bush uttered such gratuitously callous words.

Sadly, in a nation whose economy has long been the envy of the world, we're slowly becoming numbed to sky-high chronic unemployment numbers. Obama's apologists in the mainstream media encourage this by constantly announcing that recovery is just around the corner and by describing every dreary new economic revelation as "unexpected."

But happy talk can't change the tragedy that's unfolding, nor the fact that we're mired in the weakest recovery in 60 years. Unemployment figures would be even worse if millions of Americans hadn't simply stopped searching for work in despair.

The proportion of employed young people is at the lowest level in 60 years. According to the National Journal, the "idleness rate" -- the share of Americans younger than 24 neither at work nor in school -- is rising, creating "the risk of what Harvard University labor economist Lawrence Katz calls 'a lost generation.'"

The most troubling aspect of today's unemployment may be its intractable nature. About 6.2 million Americans, 45 percent of the unemployed, have been jobless for more than six months -- the highest rate since (here it comes again) the Great Depression.

The longer a person is unemployed, the harder it is to land a job. The median time to find a job is now, yet again, at a historic high. According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly one-third of the unemployed -- 4 million people -- have been jobless for more than a year.

The new phenomenon of chronic unemployment suggests that America may be on the verge of contracting Euro-sclerosis: the combination of persistently high, long-term unemployment and persistently weak growth that threatens to become a terminal disease in some nations across the pond.

Obama inherited a tough economic situation, but his ill-conceived policies have made our looming economic disaster far worse.

In 2009-2010, in the face of a financial crisis, Obama and Democratic supermajorities in Congress kicked off a gargantuan spending binge -- the only thing liberals seem to know how to do when attempting to fix unemployment. They upped federal spending from 21 to 25 percent of GDP and reengineered key sectors -- health care and finance -- in a way that is likely to send shudders through the economy for years to come.

It's no surprise that economic growth is an anemic 1.8 percent, manufacturing growth is slowing, a record number of Americans are on food stamps and the collapse in housing prices is worse -- you guessed it -- than during the Great Depression, according to a new study from Capital Economics, a global economics consulting firm.

During the 12-month period ending in March 2010, American entrepreneurs started up the fewest new businesses in more than 10 years. Meanwhile, the National Federation of Independent Business reports that more small businesses plan to shrink their payrolls than to expand them. These developments spell disastrous news for jobs, because small and medium-size businesses have powered U.S. employment gains for years.

As the dire economic numbers multiply and our president brushes them off, we must not become blind to the profound human suffering behind these statistics.

Job loss and financial hardship are among life's most stressful experiences. Losing a job can take an emotional and psychological toll akin to divorce or acquiring a disability, and can open the door to depression, family discord, and even increased hospitalization for mental and physical illness.

In 2009, the New York Times captured the devastating impact of job loss in a profile of one family struggling with it. The Times reported that after the father was laid off, "he could not even bring himself to tell his family. For several days, he got dressed in the morning and left the house as usual at 6 a.m., but spent the day in coffee shops, the library or just walking around."

Before the family's yearlong ordeal ended, a daughter had been diagnosed with a stress-induced disorder and the parents were struggling to save their marriage.

Americans can expect this story to be repeated countless times in the foreseeable future. As political commentator Mark Steyn has put it: "On Main Street in Obamaville, it's all bumps and no road."

Katherine Kersten is a senior fellow at the Center of the American Experiment. The views expressed here are her own. She is at kakersten@gmail.com.

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