Obama’s growing pains
The trouble with the President's economic agenda
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, January 12, 2014, 4:00 AM
Like bloodwork results for a weak, wheezing patient, Friday’s jobs report confirmed that deeply serious ills plague the U.S. economy.
Across the country, the private and public sectors combined to add a meager 74,000 jobs, the lowest monthly total in three years.
The unemployment rate fell, but for the worst possible reason: An increasing number of Americans dropped completely out of the workforce, so they were no longer counted as unemployed.
Pushed by the growing number of people who are claiming disability benefits, the labor participation rate has sunk and sunk and sunk some more. It is now on par with levels from 1978.
Meanwhile, President Obama has taken up the mantra that his primary mission is to reduce income inequality — meaning cut the gap between what those at the top and bottom take home.
He’s not even close. In fact, judged by the results, the President has led an administration during which the well-off have found cause for joy while everyone else has been left behind.
While wages have fallen, forced part-time work has risen and the economy has specialized in creating low-pay positions, the stock market, to cite just one example, has gone gangbusters.
Dream with us: You are among the 1%. Five years ago, you had $1 million. You invested the money in funds that tracked the S&P 500 stock index. Today, you have more than $2 million.
Now imagine how Democratic Washington would be on fire if a Republican President had delivered such lopsided results: Plenty for the investor class, nada for the rest.
Don’t get us wrong. We’re thrilled that the market has soared, thanks largely to the Federal Reserve. Plenty of working people have gotten boosts to their retirement accounts.
But you have to have a job to have a retirement account, never mind to feed your family.
Obama and Mayor de Blasio are now singing from the same crowd-pleasing hymnal.
In his inaugural address, de Blasio thundered that “We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love.” Obama last month railed against “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility,” saying “it drives everything I do in this office.”
The two have policy proposals that line up with their rhetoric. Obama seeks a higher minimum wage, a stronger safety net and his ill-starred attempt to deliver health insurance to those without, at who-knows-what cost to them or the economy as a whole.
De Blasio demands more pay for workers in city-subsidized projects, wants to give low-income workers paid sick leave and to tax those at the top to pay for universal pre-kindergarten.
The only way out is to get the economy growing at a more rapid clip. The last report on that measure, encouraging as it was, now crashes into a depressing jobs report. The bottom line is that Obama and de Blasio have virtually no chance of reducing income inequality unless and until they spur economic growth.