Saturday, February 16, 2013

Obama's America, Obama's Goals

In today's WSJ, Mortimer Zuckerman, editor in chief of U.S. News and World Report, describes the true state of our ongoing unemployment crisis.

After four years America remains in a jobs depression as great as the Great Depression...

More than 48 million Americans are in the food-stamp program - an almost incredible record. That is 15% of the total population compared with the 7.9% participation in food stamps from 1970-2000. Then there are the more than 11 million Americans who are collecting Social Security checks to compensate for disability, also a record. Half have signed on since President Obama came to office.

In 1992, there was one person on disability for every 35 workers; today it is one for every 16. Such an increase is simply impossible to connect to direct disability experienced during employment, for it is inconceivable that work in America has become so dangerous. For many, this disability program has become another form of unemployment compensation, only this time without end...

The U.S. labor market, which peaked in November, 2 when there were 139,143,000 jobs, now encompasses only 132,705,000 workers, a drop of 6.4 million jobs from the peak...

The broadest measure of unemployment today is approximately 14.5%, way above the 7.9% headline number. The 14.5% reflects the unemployed and three other categories: the more than eight million people who are employed part-time for economic reasons, the 10 million who have stopped looking for work, and those who are "marginally attached" to the workforce...

Sometimes the employment numbers that are announced are simply not understood. January was supposed to have seen 157,000 jobs created. The news provoked relief and even enthusiasm in some quarters. But the supposed hiring was based on seasonally adjusted numbers - - numbers adjusted to reflect regularly occurring shifts in employment, such as increased hiring of farm workers during crop harvests or retail employees after Thanksgiving. The real, unadjusted figures for January show that nearly 2.8 million jobs disappeared, which happened to be worse than the 2.63 million lost in January 2012. Even though the 157,000 jobs created were fewer than the 311,000 of January, 2012, many commentators cheered because they don't understand the effects of seasonal adjustment. 

And the latest from the treasure that is Mark Steyn, 

I'm also issuing a new goal for America," declared President Obama at his State of the Union on Tuesday. We'll come to the particular "goal" he "issued" momentarily, but before we do, consider that formulation: Did you know the president of the United States is now in the business of "issuing goals" for his subjects to live up to?

...Take the "goal" Obama issued: "Let's cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years." What does that even mean? How would you even know when you've accomplished that "goal"? What percentage of energy used by my home and business is "wasted"? In what sense? Who says? Who determines that? Is it 37 percent? Twenty-three percent? So we're going to cut it down to 18.5 per cent or 11.5 per cent by 2033, is that the "goal"?

Barack Obama is not the first president to "issue" "goals". John F. Kennedy also did, although he was more mindful of the constitutional niceties:

"This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."

That's a goal! No wiggle room. A monkey on the moon won't count, nor an unmanned drone. We need an actual living American standing on the surface of the moon holding Old Glory by December 31, 1969.

Whoever’s writing Obama’s speeches these days either has a tin ear — you don’t “issue” goals, you set them — or he has a very refined sense of the ersatz nature of contemporary political discourse. Old-school monarchs issued “edicts.” One thinks of King Charles the Bald in his Edict of Pistres in a.d. 864, announcing among other things that henceforth selling a horse to a Viking would be punishable by death. No doubt the odd equine transaction slipped through the regulatory net, but historians seem to agree that the sale of mounts to Norsemen certainly diminished. And more to the point his courtiers would have thought Charles the Bald was an even bigger schmuck than they already did if, instead of an edict, he was issuing a new goal to reduce the sale of horses to Vikings by 50 percent by the year 884.

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