Ben Bernanke complains that there is still an “awful lot of slack” in the U.S. Labor market. He said last week that the official unemployment rate — up a tick at 7.3 percent in October — “probably understates” the problem.
Who could disagree?
As bad as it is from any historical perspective, we would be looking at the economy through rose-colored glasses if we took the 7.3 percent figure too seriously. If you include the millions of part-time workers who want full-time work, and millions more who have despaired of finding jobs and so have dropped out of the labor market, the real unemployment rate jumps to 13.8 percent, or close to twice the official rate.
Out of a workforce of 154 million people, that’s 21 million Americans who are under-employed, unemployed, or sitting on the sidelines — able-bodied but not even bothering to look for work. The U.S. labor force participation rate has declined continuously throughout the Obama presidency — from 65.8 percent of available workers in January 2009 to 62.8 percent today — the lowest it has been since March 1978.
So, yes, there’s an “awful lot of slack” in the U.S. Labor market.
But why is Mr. Bernanke surprised? There’s a lot of slack everywhere you look.
In fact, we are living in an age of slacker dude government — almost as if the actor Owen Wilson was calling the shots at the White House, Mister Magoo was at State negotiating with those posing the greatest threat to U.S. security, and Billy Bob Thornton as “Bad Santa” or Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau was tending to the bungling of the economy.
The Federal Reserve cuts all kinds of slack to keep Big Government in business and to promote the interests of Wall Street over Main Street. The Fed now exists for the purpose of gunning the money supply to minimize the cost of government borrowing and to give big banks a place to park their excess reserves (there being little demand for money in the depressed real economy) where they will earn a guaranteed return that is better than you and I get on our bank deposits.
Between vacations and golfing outings, President Obama cuts any amount of slack for himself in ignoring and refusing to enforce laws he doesn’t like and in granting over a thousand waivers to unions and other special interests from having to comply with different provisions of the misbegotten mess known as Obamacare.
Given the huge uproar over the sudden cancellations of millions of health insurance policies, we needn’t waste time on the slack that the president thought that he was cutting for himself when he told the American people not to worry about the Affordable Healthcare Act — telling them on countless occasions: If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, and if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan. Period. Full stop.
Kudos go to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney for doing the most outrageous job of sloughing off serious questions on the administration’s refusal to send a rescue mission to Benghazi on the night of Sept. 11, 2012… and on the administration’s subsequent attempt (after Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans had been slaughtered) to pretend that this was a spontaneous demonstration that had gotten out of hand rather than a well-planned terrorist attack involving al Qaeda.
Why all the lies, stone-walling, and evasions? Clinton, Carney, Susan Rice et al. were just doing their job as they saw it, which was to cut some to slack for the president in the final weeks of his reelection campaign — knowing they had to do something to divert attention from the fact that he had spent so much time boasting about how Bin Laden was dead and al Qaeda was “on the run.”
Pressed for answers at a congressional hearing about half a year later, Hillary famously erupted, “What difference at this point does it make?” Carney helpfully followed up by saying, “Benghazi happened a long time ago.”
Vladimir Putin, of all people, cut Obama a great deal of slack — which our president and John Kerry have been all too happy to accept. The Russian leader is providing the needed cover for a three-part plan for a massive U.S. retreat from the Middle East and the world at large.
The key elements of this plan are:
• Forgetting all the nonsense about any kind of a “red line” triggering U.S. intervention and accepting Syria and other hot spots in the Islamic world as part of a Russian/Iranian sphere of influence.
• Removing most economic sanctions and giving Iran the slack that it needs to get on with the business of building a nuclear arsenal up to the often stated task of wiping Israel off the face of the earth.
• The abandonment of Israel.
We now have government of the slackers, by the slackers, and for the slackers. The funny thing is, they all think they are doing a great job. Or they just don’t give a damn.