Whenever I gaze weary eyed into the problems facing our economic recovery, I often wonder if I am as dumb as those proverbial “economic analysts.”
Take today’s announcement by the Labor Department that the national unemployment rate dropped to 10% from October’s 10.2%. The New York Times blithely reported we lost only 11,000 jobs while economists had been expecting roughly 125,000.
Hey, if I was 10 times off the mark on a news story I, too, would be on the unemployment rolls.
“Those numbers caught pretty much everyone flat-footed,” Stephen Wood, chief market strategist at Russell Investments, said of the jobs report, pointing in particular to sharp upward revisions in the data for previous months “This confirms that we’ve moved away from the edge of the precipice where we stood last year, the recovery story is real.”
Yes, investors waffled, reflected in a day-long series of small gains and losses ending with the green arrow pointing skyward on the Dow Industrials, Nasdaq and S&P exchanges. The U.S. dollar gained against the euro, pound and yen.
And there was President Barack Obama listening to a jobs summit meeting on Thursday and talking to Pennsylvania rust belt workers in Allentown today. He’s taking notes for — you guessed it — another major speech next Tuesday with the focus on jobs.
I hate to drop this bombshell on those without jobs but the fact is the president is about as powerful to fix the economy as you and I are. Yes, he proposes. But Congress decides. Translation: More pork barrel spending to win votes, especially in those areas where the incumbent faces a tough re-election.
We saw how Congress divvied up the $787 billion stimulus package in which most of the money spent so far was to help states and counties from going bankrupt. Now, Congress is toying with about $100 billion in TARP funds either unspent or paid back by bailed out financial institutions. That money the Democrats are considering for “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects we heard about but scarcely have seen from the earlier stimulus plan.
Most economists cannot agree on anything. The president cares but can’t do much about it except rail from the bully pulpit. Congress is more concerned with re-election and winning votes from their own constituents than addressing the root cause of joblessness.
Despite all that, the economy really is improving albeit as fast as rowing with one oar upstream. Sort of a miracle the way our sausage is cranked out by our government.
Jerry Remmers worked 26 years in the newspaper business. His last 23 years was with the Evening Tribune in San Diego where assignments included reporter, assistant city editor, county and politics editor.