Even though the unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percent in August, the job growth number — 169,000 — was anemic. So many people have given up looking for work that the true unemployment rate is 17.7 percent. The economy is still 1.9 million jobs short of its peak before the 2008 recession. This has been the slowest job-market recovery since World War II.
So, who’s to blame and what’s to be done?
In a provocative Wednesday column in The Wall Street Journal, editorial writer Stephen Moore points out that the groups losing the most during the so-called recovery — young voters, single women, blacks, Hispanics and people with a high school or less education — are the very groups that voted most strongly for Barack Obama in 2012.
These groups made huge income gains during the 1980s and 1990s, the Reagan-to-Clinton years, he notes, "but ‘income inequality’ has been exacerbated during the Obama era.”
According to Moore, “the stimulus-led economic revival that began officially June 2009 … has only resulted in lower incomes for the very ones who were instrumental in electing Mr. Obama twice.” These voters “apparently cast ballots contrary to their economic interests.”
Really? I’d say these vulnerable groups voted for the candidate and the party that they thought most likely to protect them and advance their interests. While disparaging Obama’s attempts to help them with stimuli, Moore doesn’t even attempt to show how, or if, Republicans are offering anything better. And every poll on the subject shows that all voters, not just minorities and the poor, think the Democratic party looks out better for ordinary folk than the Republicans.
What worked in the Reagan-to-Clinton era was lower taxes, the Republicans’ all-purpose nostrum. But Obama has kept taxes low for everyone except those in the highest-income bracket. He returned them to Clinton-era levels (which Republicans in 1993 said would destroy the economy). It’s hard to see how taxes can be cut even further.
Republican economics as proposed in Congress is called austerity, and it hits the poor hardest. The House GOP budget cuts food stamps, education, college aid, job training and Medicaid. In the meantime, Republicans are trying to restrict abortion, a key issue for single women, and they oppose immigration reform, offending Hispanics.
What Obama proposes — early childhood education, a national infrastructure bank, raising education standards, investment in community colleges, more scientific research — Republicans oppose as “wasteful spending.” And they have no proposals of their own to help lower-income groups.
Education has to be key to it, but the Republican National Committee has come out against the state-based Common Core standards and congressional Republicans want to localize and de-nationalize education policy, which means perpetuating the unequal system we have based on property taxes.
Replacing the payroll tax with a carbon tax would promote employment and help the environment, but most Republicans oppose any taxes and they love coal and oil.
So, given the choice, blacks, Hispanics, single women, young people and the less-educated are voting their interests.
Does that mean that Obama is doing all he could for them? For sure, not. He’s resisted entitlement reform, which might stop our society from lavishing resources on seniors while under-serving children. He has not promoted tax reform, which would promote economic efficiency over tax-avoidance. He has not truly stripped the government of excessive regulation; to the contrary, laws like Dodd-Frank are burdening small community banks, which might make loans to job-creating small business, to the benefit of Wall Street, which isn’t interested. And he could do more to hasten a boom in natural gas production.
Republicans frequently make the case that Obama’s policies are bad for poor people, for jobs and the economy in general. But, this looks like another way to bludgeon the president. To show they care — if they do — they need to propose better ways to go.