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By Zach Carter, Media Consortium Blogger

Unemployment figures in the U.S. are staggering: The official rate stands at 10.2%, the highest in 26 years. A broader measure that includes people who are involuntarily working part-time or who have given up looking for work is at 17.5%. That's a full-blown economic emergency.

By Zach Carter, Media Consortium Blogger

Unemployment figures in the U.S. are staggering: The official rate stands at 10.2%, the highest in 26 years. A broader measure that includes people who are involuntarily working part-time or who have given up looking for work is at 17.5%. That's a full-blown economic emergency.

But, as Joshua Holland explains for AlterNet, President Barack Obama's response to the unemployment crisis has not matched the urgency of his response to the crisis on Wall Street. This isn't just unfair, it's bad economics.

"It's important to understand that the economic crisis in which we find ourselves is not just a function of a shaky financial system but of a crash in consumption that's come along with the evaporation of $14 trillion worth of the wealth of American families," Holland writes.

Widespread joblessness can be every bit as damaging to the economic structure as a financial crisis. When people are out of work, they buckle down on household expenses. When several million people cut back at the same time, the economic machine grinds to a halt. If people are not buying and selling stuff, the economy isn't working.

As Mary Kane explains for The Washington Independent, about 40% of families don't have enough money to cover expenses through a three-month stretch of unemployment—even if one member of the household is receiving unemployment benefits. Kane highlights a Brandeis University study that reveals the haggard state of the American household and the unfair distribution of wealth along racial lines. A full 66% of African-American and Latino families can't afford three months without work. At a time when 5.6 million workers have been jobless for at least six months, the study highlights just how dire finances have become for many households.

GRITtv's Laura Flanders discusses potential labor market remedies with economist Dean Baker and The Nation's John Nichols. Baker suggests a work-share arrangement, in which employers cut back on their workers' hours to allow more people to work. To prevent losses for households, the government would step in and pay for the shortfall in hours. Employers would have more part-time jobs available, but the government would make sure everyone was paid as if they were working full-time. Baker also endorses a public jobs program, which he says could be especially useful in cities like Detroit and Cleveland that have been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn.

Nichols highlights the political consequences of failing to fix the unemployment mess. Unemployment directly affects the lives of voters. If widespread joblessness persists through November 2010, Democrats will net huge Congressional losses. If Obama thinks it's hard to garner bipartisan support for his legislative priorities now, imagine a few dozen more Republican obstructionists.

It's not that Obama failed to respond to the unemployment crisis. He did. That's what the stimulus package was all about. Today's 10.2% unemployment is a catastrophe, but it would be more like 12% without the stimulus package. But, given the seriousness of the issue, Obama is not giving unemployment enough attention.

In fact, Obama's economic priorities are a mirror-image of his campaign promises, as Robert Scheer argues in both a column for TruthDig and an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! After talking tough about reining in recklessness on Wall Street and making the financial system more accountable, Obama has hired many of the very policy makers who pushed through the deregulatory agenda back in the 1990s. Top Obama administration officials like Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, Gary Gensler and Neal Wolin helped make this mess in the first place.

"This is not a minor criticism," Scheer says. "I think the guy is betraying his own presidency."

Obama's timid efforts to rein in Wall Street and heal the ailing job market are setting the stage for a political disaster. If Obama and Congressional Democrats can't take strong action to fix the economy, they will find themselves with much narrower majorities next November. The economy, and the public institutions that support it, are supposed to work for everyone, not just the financial elite.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Originally posted to The Media Consortium on Tue Nov 24, 2009 at 08:43 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  17.5% is probably a conservative number (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, nippersdad, Sunspots

    and can turn political fortunes quickly.

  •  Time for Stimulus ver 2.0! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA

    The president is on this one. Unfortunately, so is the gop.

    The Republican party is sabotaging America's recovery for political gain

    by A Runner on Tue Nov 24, 2009 at 08:48:39 AM PST

  •  see my sermon today. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, nippersdad, Sunspots

    I don't concentrate so much on the economic fiasco he hath brought and bought, hook, line and stinkers like Goldman Sucks, but the economy is not the only place where he has done this.

    Your analysis is spot on, and I whole heartedly embrace Scheer's  position on this administration.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Tue Nov 24, 2009 at 08:52:36 AM PST

  •  Wasnt the stimulus (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, tnproud2b, Sunspots

    supposed to arrest unemployment at 8 percent?

    Where are the jobs.

    I'll stop arguing with you when you start agreeing with me.

    by bourbonblue on Tue Nov 24, 2009 at 08:56:17 AM PST

  •  I estimate that 1/3 of my clientele is (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, profh, Sunspots

    foreign born or people of color. The furriners come from eastern europe, and the vast majority have a legal status.

    I know of a dozen who decided that the US economy was so bad, that they were heading back to Europe, hoping to find work in Iceland, Ireland, Poland, Lithuania or elsewhere. (Germany is tough to break into, even a Euro Union)

    They have all come back. Unemployment in Ireland is exploding, after decades of great growth. Unemployment in Lithuania is closer to 30%, with even worse numbers if you are in your teens or twenties (greater than 50%). The banking catastrophe brought on by Goldman Suchs has affected them even more than than it has screwed us.

    And then there is Iceland. I have some dear, warm friends there, and the stories they tell are hideous. Luckily, one couple are both MDs, and they are getting by. Just barely. When Macs closes its franchises because the economy is so poor, well, frankly, I do not recall that ever happening before. Ever.

    As bad as our economic woes are, Euro-woes are as bad or worse. China is suffering a great deal, with construction stopping midway, with entire factories closing. But the hidden disaster is probably Africa. We get so little real news from there, especially with our MainStreamMediots myopic view of what constitutes news.

    And on top of that, Obama is clearly in the pocket of Wall, not Main street. The new treasury appointment will confirm that this or next week.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Tue Nov 24, 2009 at 09:01:40 AM PST

    •  wrong. (0+ / 0-)

      things in germany france and the netherlands are pretty good. your right, the countries you picked are in serious trouble. fortunately they do not make up the bulk of europe, or the european economy. and the countries you named all followed the american economic model more closely than the three i named. there are help wanted signs all over hannover. everywhere. I am getting job offers from companies here that pay good salaries.( yea i speak fluent german, if you dont forget it) Germany is hard to break into due to cultural differences. if you learn how to deal with those its a great place. the unemployment rate in west germany is about 6.8 % in east germany its about 12%, those numbers are comparable to the american U6 numbers, BUT we have a far better social safety net so no one is homeless or hungry, unless by choice. do not base your thoughts on Europe on the countries that are outliers, the center of the EU is france and Germany.
      im just sayin. get the facts right...

      Welcome to the empire. now run away if you can... life is not a dress rehearsal

      by johnfire on Tue Nov 24, 2009 at 10:15:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Amen (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, Sunspots

    A continuing focus on Wall Street woes to the detriment of ordinary Americans will be the un-doing of this president (and potentially and catastrophically, perhaps, the unraveling of our republic).

    The current economy is the result of myriad bad acts of the last two decades: everything from repeal of Glass-Steagall, to presidentially sanctioned union busting, to WTO and NAFTA, to the con jobs of 401ks, "everyone's an entrepreneur," and the eBay mentality.

    Every day I go online looking to see if today is the day the whole house of cards collapses. It's a terrible way to live. If you can call it living.

  •  But Republicans Swear that Tax Cuts for the Rich (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, agnostic, phonegery, Sunspots

    and Deregulating Businesses will allow the free market to create jobs.  Afterall, someone has to cook, clean, wash, shop, drive, babysit, etc. for the Wall Street Weasels who created this criminal mess.

    Obama is in the process of creating tens of thousands of career opportunities for young people--fighting an expanding war in Afghanistan.  They aren't just jobs, they're adventures.

  •  We got fooled again (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, phonegery, Sunspots

    It appears.  Progressive Democrats are like Charlie Brown and the football.

    "And the biggest self of self is, indeed, self." Mark Sanford

    by Paleo on Tue Nov 24, 2009 at 09:37:09 AM PST

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