On Friday, the commerce department released data showing the economy grew just 1.3% in the second quarter. Even worse, it revised down the first quarter growth number from 1.9% to just 0.3%. This means that the economy was growing at just a 0.8% annual rate over the first half of 2011. This is well below the 2.5% pace that is necessary just to keep unemployment from rising.
Of course, unemployment has been rising, with the June figure hitting 9.2%. That is up from a post-recession low of 8.8% in March. The unemployment rate does not give the whole story, since many of people have lost hope of finding a job and given up looking for work altogether. The employment to population ratio (EPOP) – the percentage of the population with jobs – has fallen back almost to its low point for the downturn. The EPOP for African Americans has hit new lows in each of the last three months.Instead of worrying about US debt being downgraded on the Standard and Poor (S&P) index, perhaps politicians should be worrying about how to actually create jobs - most commonly done by governments through vigorous spending on social programs, infrastructure improvement or replacement projects and other stimulus programs rather than worrying about debt. The whole idea that there is some inherent benefit to a government always operating a balanced budget is non-nonsensical anyways, and current measures seem to be benefiting exclusively corporations who are (a) loathe to pay their taxes, and (b) cutting jobs anyways.
I'm getting tired of carping on about the economy on this blog. Everyone is tired of hearing me carp on about the economy. That said, the same economic problems will persist until we hold elected officials responsible and require them to push a sensible program that would create jobs, require meaningful financial reform, and require corporations and the very rich to pay their fair share of the tax obligation. This must be done rather than continuing to play these increasingly dangerous ideological games that have no relation to how much of the population actually lives or how economies work.
The humanity has been ripped from people. It's time to adjust policies such that humanity is brought back into discussions about the economy, fiscal policy, taxation and programs expenditure. As the late Joe Strummer once wisely said: "Without people, you're nothing."