We are in uncharted waters as far as jobs are concerned. It’s fair to say we are in a jobs depression given the massive numbers of unemployed, discouraged workers, and involuntary part-time workers.
We are experiencing, in effect, a modern-day depression. Consider two indicators: First, food stamps: More than 45 million Americans are in the program! An almost incredible record. It’s 15% of the population compared with the 7.9% participation from 1970-2000. Food-stamp enrollment has been rising at a rate of 400,000 per month over the past four years.
Second, Social Security disability-another record. More than 11 million Americans are collecting federal disability checks. Half of these beneficiaries have signed on since President Obama took office more than three years ago.
These dependent millions are the invisible counterparts of the soup kitchens and bread lines of the 1930s, invisible because they get their checks in the mail. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that millions of people who had good private-sector jobs now have to rely on welfare for life support.
“Invisible counterparts of the soup kitchens and bread lines,” indeed. Many economists argue that the only reason we don’t have economic deflation — where prices for goods and services fall off a cliff — is the actions of the Federal Reserve, which has pumped trillions of dollars into the economy. We may yet pay for those actions by the Fed with a bout of inflation later. But Chairman Bernanke has said that staving off a real economic depression is the Fed’s top priority.
Zuckerman’s remedies are Keynesian “investments” in infrastructure with deregulation thrown in the mix. But with deficits running above a trillion dollars, how can Congress in good conscience contemplate massive new spending schemes? Targeted spending is more to the point with healthy cuts in tax rates so that businesses are encouraged to begin hiring again.
The great engine of democracy — the American economy — has stalled out. Voting out President Obama in November will be the first step in revving it up again.