Is the recession over yet? – II

“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” — Winston Churchill

Statisticians say the recession ended mid-2009, four and a half years ago. But what do you think? Does it feel like the recession ended or does it feel like we are still in a recession? In a recent poll, 74% said we are still in a recession.

It’s no wonder most people feel that the recession never ended. Employment is miserable. GDP growth is pathetic. Median family income is down for four straight years. Almost 50 million Americans live below the federal poverty line. A record 47 million people are on food stamps. One pundit declared that “More people in the United States are poor, unemployed, underemployed, looking for work, disgusted and quit looking for work, on food stamps, and on disability than anytime in our history.”

If those words look familiar it is because I first wrote them three months ago. In that column, the focus was on the worst employment picture in more than 30 years. Three recent pieces of economic news make this a good time to look more broadly at the economy.

1) On April 22, the New York Times reported that the U.S. no longer has the highest Median Family Income in the world. Canada is now #1.
2) April 30, the headline news was that in the first quarter of 2014, the U.S. economy grew at an almost non-existent rate of 0.1%.
3) That same day other headlines stated that China would soon pass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy.

Our economy stinks and we will have more such headlines if we don’t fix it. So, how do we fix it? The first step is to replace all the politicians who don’t even realize there is a problem, who do the same wrong things year after year expecting different results.

For decades, probably for more than a century, the U.S. has had the richest middle class in the world. Not just the richest middle class, but also the richest lower class, the richest upper class, and even the richest poor people. Those in the bottom 10% were much better off than the bottom 10% in any other country.

U.S. median family income is now down for five years in a row. In Canada, median family income is up for four of the last five years. Is it pure coincidence that Canada has been governed by Conservatives in recent years, the U.S. by Progressives?

The Index of Economic Freedom is an annual scoring of some 180 nations by ten measures of economic freedom. As the Index states, “The ideals of economic freedom are strongly associated with healthier societies, cleaner environments, greater per capita wealth, human development, democracy, and poverty elimination.”

The U.S. was rated economically “free” in 2006. Since then, its freedom score has dropped 6 points, it has fallen out of the top 10 to now #12 and is ranked only “mostly free”. The U.S. has lost economic freedom for seven years in a row, particularly in the areas of property rights, and freedom from corruption.

Conversely, Canada has increased its freedom score by more than 10 points over the last 20 years. It is currently ranked #6, and is rated “free”.

Hmm, is there a pattern here? The U.S. loses economic freedom seven years in a row and median family income goes down for five years in a row. Canada increases its economic freedom and median family income goes up four of the last five years. It now has the world’s highest median family income.

GDP growth in this so-called “recovery” has been pathetic. For four years it has been around 1.5% to 2%. That is the slowest by far of all the recoveries in 65 years. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has a nice interactive chart of all postwar recoveries. The current recovery amounts to merely an 11.1% increase in GDP over the almost five years since the recovery began. Many of the previous recoveries had double or almost triple that growth. This recovery is barely half the average of the ten previous recoveries.

Imagine if we had had as much as average growth in the last five years. Investor’s Business Daily estimates that we would now have $1.3 trillion higher income. That is about $10,000 higher per household. That is the cost of bad economic policies.

Apologists for the Obama “recovery” say that the recession was especially severe. Historically, the more severe the recession, the stronger the recovery. It should have been easy to produce better than average numbers. They now say that financial recessions take longer to recover. But that’s not what they said back in 2009 and into 2010. Back then they forecast a strong recovery. It was only after their economic plans failed that they started spouting the “financial recession” excuse.

The Democrat Party would be wise to heed the words of one of its Presidential candidates from some 20 years ago, the late Senator Paul Tsongas, who said, “You cannot redistribute wealth that you never created. You cannot be pro-jobs and anti-business at the same time. You cannot love employment and hate employers.”


Poll: jobs, economy, government most important problems

From Gallup:

Three issues — jobs, economy, and government — have been at the top of the “most important problem” list since the beginning of the year.


Americans are about equally likely to name unemployment and dissatisfaction with government as the most important problems facing the U.S., with the economy in general following closely behind. These issues have ranked at the top of the most important problem list since the beginning of 2014.

Nearly one in five Americans still cite government itself as the nation’s top problem.

Independents name as their top four problems:
  • Dissatisfaction with government
  • Jobs
  • Economy in general
  • Poor healthcare

See the full poll here.

Is the recession over yet?

“Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.” — Will Rogers

Statisticians say the recession ended mid-2009, four and a half years ago. But what do you think? Does it feel like the recession ended or does it feel like we are still in a recession? In a recent poll, 74% said we are still in a recession.

It’s no wonder most people feel that the recession never ended. Employment is miserable. GDP growth is pathetic. Median family income is down for four straight years. Almost 50 million Americans live below the federal poverty line. A record 47 million people are on food stamps. One pundit declared that “More people in the United States are poor, unemployed, underemployed, looking for work, disgusted and quit looking for work, on food stamps, and on disability than anytime in our history.”

But the December jobs report says that unemployment dropped from 7.0% down to 6.7%. Doesn’t that show that the economy is improving? Well, no. Almost all of the reaction, other than from hopelessly partisan hacks, says that the report is bad news. E.g. CNN described it as “weakest job growth in years”, USAToday referred to it as “unexpectedly weak jobs report”. Many reported that there were “only” or “just” 74,000 new jobs, the worst in almost a year. (UPDATE: The January Jobs Report is better but “is another disappointing jobs report”. “Job growth remains weak,” “disappoints again”.)

Not so well known is that jobs have to increase by about 150,000 every month just to keep up with the increase in population. Since 2009, when the recession supposedly ended, the civilian population age 16 and above has grown from 236 million to 246 million. Meanwhile, the number who were employed grew from 140 million to 144 million. In other words, of the 10 million who entered the working age population, only 4 million found a job.

Compare the current “recovery” with two others. From 1983 to 1987, population grew by almost 9 million; jobs by almost 12 million. From 1993 to 1997, population grew by a bit over 8 million, jobs a bit over 9 million. Those were strong recoveries – employment grew even faster than population. In the eleven recoveries since they started collecting statistics in 1948, the current recovery is by far the weakest and slowest.

US News magazine has a fascinating chart from the Federal Reserve of St. Louis. It shows both the unemployment rate and the EMployment rate from 1948 through 2013. They show the data for employment and unemployment separately because the two are calculated differently. But for more than 60 years, covering 10 recessions, employment and unemployment are mirror images of each other. When employment goes up, unemployment goes down and vice versa.

This time is different. For the first time in the history of these employment statistics, employment is NOT moving up. By the government calculations, unemployment has improved but employment as a percentage of the population has held steady for four years at a level much worse than we have seen for 30 years.

employment to population

But how can unemployment go down without employment going up? If you stop being unemployed doesn’t that mean you are employed? Well, no. Many people are not counted as either employed or unemployed; they are counted as “Not in labor force”. If you have been unemployed for so long that you give up looking, then you stop being counted as unemployed, and are instead counted as no longer in the labor force.

A record high 92 million people are counted as no longer in the labor force, an increase of 10 million in just 4 years. Some people will say that it is because baby boomers are retiring. That’s a nice theory but the numbers say otherwise. Those aged 55 and above have actually seen their employment numbers grow by 6 million people. It is the younger workers from 16-54 who have lost jobs – 8 million jobs.

In the four years of the current “recovery” the number of Millennials working full-time has decreased every year. The number living at home with their parents has grown every year. This is a human tragedy.

On top of all the ongoing poor employment numbers, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently estimated that ObamaCare will cost 2.3 million jobs by 2021. Apologists quickly countered that it would not be because people lost their jobs; rather it would be because people decided not to work. “When Americans quit looking for work because they conclude not working beats working, America faces a significant problem” says a white paper from Express Employment Professionals.

Some say that were are in a “New normal”. Many of us – I hope most of us – do not believe in a “fate that will fall on us no matter what we do.” For most of its existence, the United States has been the freest, most prosperous nation on earth. It is long established that freedom and prosperity go hand in hand; more freedom produces greater prosperity.

Sadly, the U.S. has moved away from freedom to a more and more intrusive government. The Index of Economic Freedom reported just last month that “The U.S. is the only country to have recorded a loss of economic freedom each of the past seven years.” Hmm, could that explain the awful employment?


Poll: Record high number oppose ObamaCare

A record high number of registered voters (59%) oppose ObamaCare and a record low number (36%) favor it. Interestingly, the increase in opposition comes from Democrats and independents. 30% of Democrats, up from 22%, oppose the law. Among independents, 64% (up from 53%) oppose it.

Some apparent reasons for opposition to the law include the fact that majorities think the new law will increase their taxes (63 percent), increase their insurance costs (62 percent) and increase the federal deficit (56 percent).

Meanwhile, just one voter in five thinks Obamacare will increase the quality of their health care (19 percent).  More than twice as many expect the quality of their care to get worse (39 percent) and another 37 percent think it will stay the same.

  • By 42%-27% voters think that Obama’s policies have hurt, not helped, the economy
  • A whopping 74% feel as if the country is still in a recession
  • By 55%-30% they think cutting taxes and reducing regulations would help the economy
  • 55% vs 37% think that long-term unemployment benefits discourage people from trying to find work
  • A majority (52%) think the government should provide unemployment benefits for at most one year

Record High Say Big Government Greatest Threat

Gallup reports that 72% of Americans say “Big government is a greater threat to the U.S. in the future than is big business or big labor.”


Obamacare alone didn’t sink Obama

Obama’s approval ratings are about the lowest of all recent presidents; 55% disapprove. Much is due to ObamaCare, but Jennifer Rubin identifies many other reasons:
  • Obama managed to get rid of only a sliver of the Bush tax cuts, to the dismay of liberals.
  • He falsely predicted a catastrophe if the sequester occurred.
  • He pleaded ignorance to scandals involving the Internal Revenue Service and spying on reporters.
  • His erratic behavior on Syria and dangerous appeasement of Iran rattled Congress, our allies and the American people (who now give him negative reviews on foreign policy).
  • The vast majority of Americans (79 percent in the Post/ABC poll) still think we are in a recession and a plurality (45 percent) trust Congress more than the president to fix it.

Obama has lost support among many of his key constituencies including Hispanics, women, self-described liberals, and young voters.

“It’s been a long, disappointing year for many of President Obama’s most ardent supporters,” a dispirited Liz Halloran writes for NPR. “From drones and Syria, to immigration and the Keystone XL pipeline, the list of issues on which the president has induced frustration and disillusionment is not a short one.”

Even the uninsured don’t like ObamaCare

The uninsured, the supposed beneficiaries of ObamaCare, think that it’s a bad system that’s worse than the old bad system. A recent poll found that:

  • Only 24% of uninsured adults thought the law was a good idea; half thought it was a bad idea.
  • 56% of the uninsured believe the law will have a negative effect on the health care system.
  • 42% said ObamaCare will have a negative effect on themselves and their families.

Peter Suderman of Reason magazine wrote “Let that sink in: What that means is that regardless of how bad the old system—the system that for whatever reason left them uninsured—was, a majority of people without health coverage now think that Obamacare makes it worse.”

Another poll found that 56% of Americans aged 18 to 29 disapprove of ObamaCare, compared to just 39% who support the law. Just 29% of the young uninsured said they were likely to enroll.

The financial viability of ObamaCare depends on young, healthy people to enroll so that their premiums will subsidize the older, sicker enrollees. When most of them decide to do without insurance rather than pay the high premiums (and suffer the high deductibles), that bodes ill for the taxpayers.