For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to resolve the disconnect between Barack Obama’s speech on the economy a couple of weeks ago, in which he reassured us that we’d get through it together, stronger than we were before, and the facts on the ground.
Last Friday, the Labor Department announced the unemployment figures for February: a new loss of 651,000 jobs, and a current unemployment rate of 8.1%. I remember the last time we had an unemployment rate of 8.1%, back in 1983. Somehow we got through that in one piece; indeed, before that, in the 1970s, we had worse.
And everything in our society still seems to work: there’s gas at the pumps and power at the socket and food in the stores. Yes, times are tough: my son, who is finishing college this year, is looking for work without success. But the world does not seem to be coming to an end: in my work, I booked a new project this week, and the stream of business still appears to be flowing.
From those observations, I would expect continued unemployment, perhaps an increase in crime, and probably higher taxes, but the overall economy would start to improve in a couple of years and we’d get out of this morass.
So why did Our Fearless Leader address us that night as if our cities were in ruins and the end of the world was at hand? Have we really become a nation of crybabies?
Maybe, but I don’t think Obama is really the crybaby type.
My current explanation is rather more worrisome.
Our recent Presidents, Clinton and Bush, were masters of dissimulation. They would happily tell us what they wanted us to hear, and disregard, gloss over, or simply lie about the inconvenient truths in conflict with their agendas.
Barack Obama is a politician, to be sure, but he does not have the talent of his predecessors. Or perhaps he simply believes that it’s better to at least try to be aboveboard with the electorate.
In any case, I’m sure that he has been briefed on the dimensions of the economic situation rather more thoroughly than what we’ve been able to read in the newspapers.
He has said for the record that things will get worse before they get better, but he hasn’t said how much worse they will get.
He knows how close we are to a state of emergency.
And I suspect that it’s closer than we think.
Perhaps he believes that the stimulus package, and similar deficit spending, is our last, best effort to pull ourselves out of the whirlpool; perhaps he believes that the primal forces of our downfall have been set in motion, and can no longer be stopped.
In either case, he recognizes that to discuss this matter forthrightly would ignite a panic, and bring about precisely the emergency he is seeking to avoid, or at least postpone.
So he addressed us two weeks ago as if the havoc, chaos, and destruction had already been released, while things still seem relatively normal.
This does not look good….