Saturday, July 9, 2011

Unemployment in the US

It is a bigger problem than the politicians admit. Obama will mention it as "a problem" but has no program to address unemployment like he does for bailing out the bankers or getting "green energy" going or putting a surge into Afghanistan. I guess unemployment just isn't that big a deal.

Here's what Obama sold the country back in early 2009. The following is from the right wing think tank e21 (I disagrees with their politics, analysis, and policies, but the facts they publish are honest enough):
Back in January 2009, Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein produced a report estimating future unemployment rates with and without a stimulus plan. Their estimates, which were widely circulated, projected that unemployment would approach 9% without a stimulus, but would never exceed 8% with the plan. The estimates, along with real unemployment rates, are posted below:

Click to Enlarge
updated stimulus unemployment chart

In May 2011, using the latest figures available from the BLS, the unemployment rate reached 9.1%. In contrast, the Romer and Bernstein projections estimated that the unemployment rate would be around 8.1% for this month without a recovery plan, or 6.8% with a stimulus plan (which was ultimately passed). The actual unemployment rate has been consistently above Romer and Bernstein’s worse case scenario for the economy – and by a considerable margin. They projected that the unemployment rate would never climb above 9%. As time has passed, it turns out that only two months out of the last two years have seen an unemployment rate lower than 9%.

And the unemployment trajectory appears to be getting worse, not better. The last two months have seen unemployment grow; again, against projections that unemployment would decline every single month after August 2009 with a stimulus in place.

The stark unreality of the Administration’s estimates is actually not that surprising in retrospect given the nature of the estimates. Romer and Bernstein simply assumed that a dollar of spending would increase GDP by $1.55. If this assumption proved to be wrong, then all of the knock-on effects of the stimulus would simply not follow.
People need to be screaming at Obama that he needs to stop pandering to Wall Street and the ultra-rich and pay attention Main Street and the bottom 90% of the population.

From The Big Picture blog by Barry Ritholtz, here is a review of the unemployment stats from a centrist viewpoint. It is a good antidote to the right wing bias of e21. Ritholtz is far gentler on Obama and his administration. I appreciate the fact that he points out that the Bush administration was equally out-to-lunch on their employments forecasts.

But my concern still stands: When will Obama quit playing by the poltical right's rules and start showing some backbone and fight for the bottom 90%?

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