By Paolo von Schirach
May 4, 2013
WASHINGTON – Lousy US unemployment numbers look positively great if compared with Europe’s catastrophe. Indeed, after 4 years of anemic recovery the US unemployment rate is now “down” to “only” 7.5%. In contrast, the Eurozone average is above 12%. Do keep in mind that with this 7.5% rate America is now back to where it was at the end of 2008. Which is to say that we are not even treading water in terms of the actual number of people out of work, because in the meantime the total working age population has increased. In 2008 a depressingly high 7.5% unemployment rate, the outcome of President Bush’s unimpressive economic stewardship, contributed greatly to John McCain’s electoral defeat. But, guess what, today the left leaning media tell you that the same unemployment figures are hard evidence of how well Obama’s economic policies are working.
The New Normal
Welcome to the sad world of the New Normal. In this Fantasyland, “horrible” is “not so bad”, bad” is “good”, and “passable” is “exceptional”. So, here we go: we have an economy that generates only a few jobs. These jobs are mostly low pay or part time. Many people have left the job market, so they are no longer counted. Many more reluctantly accept part time employment because they cannot find any full time positions. And yet we are told that the US 7.5% unemployment rate is yet another bright milestone along a path of significant progress.
As I said, if you compare our 7.5% unemployment rate with Spain’s 27%, or Italy’s 11.5%, we are superstars. But here is the real problem. We have become so accustomed to under performance that even a very small improvement –and our 7.5% is an improvement, albeit modest– is presented as a triumph.
Mediocrity is the new standard
Indeed, if mediocrity is our new standard, then we are doing just fine. On the other hand, if we would like to go back to America’s post war average of 3% growth year after year and an unemployment rate under 5%, then there is a lot of work to be done. But in most quarters these rather plain invitations to aim for true American greatness are labeled as hopelessly partisan and not constructive.