Bob Herbert: Unemployment is the real problem

Very smart stuff in here. From a policy perspective, it’s widespread and long-term unemployment that needs to be addressed first and foremost. From a politics perspective, it’s all about jobs – fix the high unemployment rate and the votes will follow. I don’t understand why Congress seems to be terrified of engaging the one course of action that makes sense from a policy and political perspective.

Clipped from

I know the president has a lot on his mind, but the No. 1 problem facing the U.S. continues to fester, and that problem is unemployment.

Unemployment is crushing families and stifling the prospects of young people. Given that reality, President Obama’s take on the May numbers seemed oddly out of touch. “This report,” he said, “is a sign that our economy is getting stronger by the day.”

The economy is sick, and all efforts to revive it that do not directly confront the staggering levels of joblessness are doomed. Even the meager job growth in the private sector last month was composed mostly of temporary work. Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute, had the right take when he said, “These new data do not present a picture of a healthy private sector and offer nothing even closely resembling the job growth we need to dig us out of a very deep hole.”

More than 15 million Americans are out of work, and nearly half have been jobless for six months or longer. New college graduates are having a terrible time finding work, and many are taking jobs that require only a high school education. Teachers are facing the worst employment market since the Depression.

It’s impossible to overstate the threat that this crisis of unemployment poses to the well-being of the United States. With so many people out of work and so much of the rest of the population deeply in debt, where is the spending going to come from to power a true economic recovery? The deficit hawks are forecasting Armageddon, but how is anyone going to get a handle on the federal deficits if we don’t get millions of people back to work and paying taxes?

There is no plan that I can see to get us out of this fix. Drastic cuts in government spending would only compound the crisis. State and local governments, for example, are shedding workers as we speak.