Published at the Binghamton Political Buzz on June 3, 2016 by Michael “Vass” Vasquez
With the release of the May unemployment figures on June 3, 2016, millions of Americans are left confused as they read headlines touting a reduction in the unemployment rate (good news) – yet pundits and honest coverage of the data reveals massive problems as an all-time record of Americans without work has been created (bad news). After decades of being trained to focus on headlines and 30 second soundbites, many are faced with the now daunting task of delving into the content of an article filled with dreaded numbers and facts. If this revelation seems harsh, it may only be because for years Americans have been told and presented the facts about the US economy, which was rejected wholesale in favor of a positive if shallow headline.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate is now 4.7%. Although the prior sentence is commonly the headline or tweet used about the US economy, it is functionally useless information. Worse, it has been used to obfuscate a serious decline in jobs that D.C. is oblivious about and the middle class is all too aware as being real.
It was February 2011 when suddenly the unemployment rate uncharacteristically dropped, even as Americans had fewer jobs. A mere 36,000 jobs created, and a 24 year (1985) low at the time as the participation rate hit 64.2%. The headline of our article describing the situation was Unemployment rate hits 9% and pigs fly, a review of the economy few dared print. Also generally rarely discussed at the time was the fact that 200,000 stopped counting as unemployed to create that unemployment reduction.
In a moment of deja vu, the May 2016 report shows that 38,000 jobs were created, a 39 year low (1977), with a participation rate of 62.6%. This was because 458,000 Americans stopped being counted as unemployed – causing the decrease in the unemployment rate. Even if we only look back one month, the writing was on the wall. In comparing the US economy in 2008, 2012, and May 6, 2016 the devastation is apparent in every statistic that actually reflects the economy. National debt, employment, the number of Americans in poverty, the list goes on.
“…self-delusion and self-aggrandizement provides no benefit to the American people… America cannot be made great through selective editing of facts or cheerful political spin on data.”
Even as the 5 year trend (of lower unemployment rates with decreasing participation and higher poverty & national debt) continues, a new factor is coming to bear – interest rates. Artificially low for an extended period, interest rates are expected to increase at some point in 2016. The reasoning is that “…summit of full employment, the more trade-offs there will be between somewhat slower job growth and rising wages” as stated by Thomas Perez, as presented by the NY Times. Yet, full employment remains a distant hope as fewer are counted correctly even as the Fed and some economists make predictions as if it were.
Considering that higher interest rates slow job growth, added to the reality of more than 94 million, and the potential final months of the Obama Administration may be dire for the American middle class that is often hardest hit by these economic eventualities. This gives new meaning to the words of President Obama on June 1, 2016
“Don’t think that actually this agenda is going to help you,” Obama continued. “It’s not designed to help you. And the evidence of the last 30 years, not to mention common sense, should tell you their answers to our challenges are no answers at all.”
Self-delusion, an agenda working against America, an inability to face a reality unfolding before the eyes of the world, whatever the case one thing is very clear. The US economy has a problem. A very long-term problem. Until there is a long-term solution, millions will likely suffer more than less.