The deficit isn’t the only unfounded fear. I’ve written before about misguided inflation fear, but, for now, let me focus on a new issue that has suddenly begun to loom large in opinion pieces and remarks on talk shows: fear of a disastrous plunge in the dollar. (Who sends out the memos telling people what to worry about, and why don’t I get them?)
What you would never know from all the agitated dollar discussion is that the recent dollar slide is actually tiny compared with big drops in the past, notably under the administration of George W. Bush and during Ronald Reagan’s second term. And you’d also never know that those earlier dollar slides, far from hurting the economy, were beneficial, because they helped U.S. manufacturing compete on world markets.
Which brings me back to the destructive effect of focusing on invisible monsters. For the clear and present danger to the American economy isn’t what some people imagine might happen one of these days, it’s what is actually happening now.
Unemployment isn’t just blighting the lives of millions, it’s undermining America’s future. The longer this goes on, the more workers will find it impossible ever to return to employment, the more young people will find their prospects destroyed because they can’t find a decent starting job. It may not create excited chatter on cable TV, but the unemployment crisis is real, and it’s eating away at our society.
Yet any action to help the unemployed is vetoed by the fear-mongers. Should we spend modest sums on job creation? No way, say the deficit hawks, who threaten us with the purely hypothetical wrath of financial markets, and, in fact, demand that we slash spending now now now — which might well send us back into recession. Should the Federal Reserve do more to promote expansion? No, say the inflation and dollar hawks, who have been wrong again and again but insist that this time their dire warnings about runaway prices and a plunging dollar really will be vindicated.
So we’re paying a heavy price for Washington’s obsession with phantom menaces. By looking for trouble in all the wrong places, our political class is preventing us from dealing with the real crisis: the millions of American men and women who can’t find work.
WTF is that supposed to mean? Are these people crazy? YES, IT IS THAT BAD.
Analysts had predicted that jobless claims for last week would fall back to 400,000 or so after rising to 431,000 last week; instead, new claims for unemployment insurance surged to 474,000, the Labor Department reported today.
The new level is the highest claims have been in eight months.
A Department of Labor official told the Wall Street Journal that one-time administrative factors were to blame, rather than underlying economic problems. For example, a new emergency benefit program in Oregon may have triggered an influx of applications.
Meanwhile, the White House economic advisor Austan Goolsbee calls the new numbers a “bump in the road” and cautions we shouldn’t “read too much” into one month’s numbers.
And CEOs are doing better than ever!
That’s what the White House press secretary said yesterday to questions as to whether bin Laden’s death meant we’d stop pouring American blood and money into Afghanistan. And of course that’s not even mentioning the civilian deaths we’re inflicting on the population:
WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reiterated on Thursday that the killing of Osama bin Laden would not alter the president’s policy with respect to the war in Afghanistan.
Speaking to reporters en route to the president’s Ground Zero visit, Carney said that strategy regarding the Afghan war “remains unchanged.”
“In many ways,” he elaborated, “while the mission against bin Laden was a singular event, it was part of a general intensification of our focus on the AfPak region, on the need to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, which was the primary goal of the president’s policy in the AfPak region, and it was reflective of a general success that we’ve been having in taking out al Qaeda members and terrorists in the region.”
“Success”? An economic black hole that’s crippling our economy in a country called “the graveyard of empires” is a success? “Taking out” al Qaeda members and terrorists? Come on, Mr. President, it’s time to get the hell out of there. Stop channeling Richard Nixon.
The public line is at odds with several reports that have surfaced in the immediate aftermath of bin Laden’s death in Pakistan. The Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran, one of the most respected reporters on the beat, wrote on Tuesday evening that the Obama administration was “seeking to use the killing of Osama bin Laden to accelerate a negotiated settlement with the Taliban and hasten the end of the Afghanistan war.”
Several anti-war lawmakers, meanwhile, have heightened their calls for a more precipitous withdrawal of troops — the process of which is set to begin in July 2011. At least one aide to an on-the-fence congressmember said that bin Laden’s death would encourage his boss to at least re-think his position. Another, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), has acknowledged that he is readjusting his position.
The death of bin Laden would, indeed, seem like an opportune break point at which the Obama administration could make major readjustments in its AfPak strategy without eliciting domestic criticism. A drawdown of forces would be a logical option. So too would be readjusting budget priorities to reflect the growth of al Qaeda’s presence in Pakistan.