Once upon an unemployment report dreary, which we ponder weak and weary

The January unemployment report lands with a soft thud, showing a mild worsening of the permanently dreary job market.  Factor in all the adjustments to previous months, and you’ve got an unemployment flatline stretching back for months, which is consistent with an adjusted GDP that shows virtually no real private-sector growth.  

To call any of this a “recovery” is risible, but we live in a risible nation now.  The January job report was covered with cobwebs the moment it rolled off the printer.  The mind reels at the coverage we’d be seeing if this was the first report of President McCain’s second term, following years of workforce decline and economic paralysis.  Not that he would have survived a re-election campaign in which he tried to blame everything on headwinds, tsunamis, and his predecessor.  Try to imagine how successful he would have been at changing the subject away from his record with the silly trivial distractions that worked so well for Obama, only to be utterly forgotten by everyone except right-wing smart-alecks just two months later.

The scary thing is that recessions are supposed to be followed by robust recoveries.  We might very well be tottering on the edge of the next one, but we never really built up after the last one.  And it’s a very bad thing that the American people have been persuaded to accept this mediocrity.  It eats away at our national energy to think that we don’t deserve better than this… that we’re not capable of better than this.  How will the people who re-elected Barack Obama deal with a new economic downturn that he’ll blame on his political and class enemies with renewed viciousness?  If we do plunge into another recession – and we might well be pushed into it by global events we cannot directly control – it’s going to be ugly.

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