Of all the problems facing Americans right now the political failure that hits closest to home is the employment situation. The latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the current unemployment rate at 5.1 percent. But a more accurate number, if one includes people who have run out of benefits, is 10.3 percent — double the bogus number being peddled by a very politicized government bureaucracy charged with putting out accurate numbers that were once the gold standard of statistical analysis but have now been massaged by changed definitions in order to paint the administration in the best possible light.
As someone pointed out recently on Twitter, the more honest rate — known as the U6 Unemployment Rate, or everyone who’s not working, whether they are looking or not — was the one used by the Department of Labor during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. In that light, we are no better off now — 10.3 percent — than we were under Carter.
Do any of your friends really believe the economy is improving? There are fewer Americans in the labor force right now than has been the case since 1976 and unemployment rates for selected populations like Hispanics and blacks are acknowledged to be above 20 percent and 40 percent respectively. As a group, women are being hit harder by this economic stagnation than men, yet our political class tells us repeatedly they are looking out for minorities and women.
In order to keep the economy running, the Federal Reserve Board (the Fed) has pumped huge sums of money into the economy. This should trigger inflation, but the Fed has managed to delay it by holding interest rates at a super depressed level. That situation cannot continue, and the question now facing Wall Street is not if, but when interest rates are going to climb. Expect worse stock volatility than we saw at the end of August when that happens. And expect the long-delayed inflation to hit with a vengeance.
While it’s early for the 2016 presidential campaign, both parties are trying out candidates and promises to see what resonates with voters. What they are seeing scares the professionals who run campaigns: voters are fed up with themes that have been previously successful. The fastest-rising Democrat is Bernie Sanders, a Socialist who campaigns with clever quips about rich people not paying enough in tax and the working poor being ignored by big business, big bankers, and Washington, D.C. That resonates with the 73 percent of the American public who think the government is corrupt, and that makes Hillary’s campaign harder. An increasingly popular yard sign is “Hillary for Prison, 2016.”
The fastest-rising Republicans are Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina: three non-politicians who also criticize the political establishment and who can say they are not politicians. Since Reagan’s time, candidates have told us Washington is the problem and they will change things. It’s a hard position for most to maintain as they themselves have come up through the political process and held previous office. Trump, Carson and Fiorina don’t have that baggage: they come from the private sector with no prior political experience. And likely voters are responding well to their non-politician status. And particularly well to Trump’s celebrity status.
It says a lot about our culture today people who want our vote are popular in inverse proportion to their experience in politics. Our floundering economy has a lot to do with this, and it really is time for people in Washington to recognize just how bad things are in America.
Economics is called the dismal science with good reason: statistics are enough to numb the mind. But I dare to write this column because the information here affects all of us whether we are looking for a job or our neighbor is. Folks, it really is time to take America back from the political class.
Fred LaSor retired from the U.S. Foreign Service to Minden, where he flies gliders.