The great American economic recovery has been going on now for well, quite a few years. Compared to all past recoveries this one is stacking up to be one of the longest and is slightly trailing in severity to the economic impact of the Great Depression. With the unemployment rate hovering at around 7.8% and job creation last month totaling about 155,000 jobs, a standard for the last few years, growth is far below the minimum required for sustaining our total workforce let alone creating prosperity. Added to these grim facts more laborers are dropping out of the workforce each day while those filing for unemployment benefits went up in December.
The impact of a slack recovery on the middle-class has been tremendous. More folks are dropping out of the middle-class as well. The death of the payroll tax cut and the subsequent increase from 4% to 6% in taxes is enough to cause severe hardship on families. A huge percentage of Americans aren’t saving money, living paycheck to paycheck, so that decrease in 100 to 200 dollars a month is a car payment, student loan or the utility bill. The bigger issue is that most workers have not received a cost-of-living raise or standard raise in a few years as food and gas prices are already in high inflation mode at 10% to even 15% increases across the board.
Sentiments are high in Washington though as most believe the economy is recovering. A better analysis is that the recovery is actually very regional with some states boasting jobs and income gains while other states remain stagnant or even see a decrease. After a lot of research it was discovered that North Carolina had stubborn pockets of high unemployment due to a large number of families relocating from other states and also a decrease in manufacturing jobs over the past seven years. States like Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa are seeing gains in employment and income largely due to the automobile industry. Last year General Motors posted its largest gain in five years and that’s most likely due to the fact that most folks have waited as long as they can to buy a new car, most driving their cars on average 7 to 10 years.
Sounds like a rerun from the past 24 months? Growth exists but in pockets and not as fast as in past recoveries but is this really a recovery or a transition period to a different America? More workers have dropped out of the work force than ever before which is not on par for recovery trends. Jobs that are being created are lower paying jobs than the jobs that were lost and a lot are part time or seasonal. Taxes are going up and that was an understanding by most economists long before the election, regardless of who won. The trade deficit with China is a deficit larger than any that has existed between two countries in the history of the world. If Congress/Washington doesn’t act soon our debt will top 16 trillion. The poverty index is increasing while more children go to school without having eaten dinner the night before. Teachers are reaching into their own pockets to help feed them and many students do not want to take breaks from school because they will not get the chance to eat. Over 65% of school children are on reduced lunch. That’s almost 2 thirds of the population.
How do we find middle ground in this situation? Since ancient times ” moderation” has been touted as the cure all. Ironically, nowhere is this more true than with the middle class because they represent the gulf between the wealthy and poorer classes in their economic ideology. This is the class that fuels the economy but we are losing it. 2013 will prove to be the “make it break it year”. Either we fix our problems now or we risk losses, losses that may threaten the American way of life and that’s not an exaggeration. I really believe several changes may soon take place.
So what is the answer/ answers? Washington needs to go through a time of huge spending cuts, a time of decreasing our world policing efforts and yes tax increases. Americans will have to pay the piper. That’s just how it works and as Americans we will have to pay the bill for what we have allowed to happen with or without our voting presence. For all the hedge fund managers and corporate level greedy executives, Wall Street and the rest of the nation, yes we will have to pay for your mistakes as well.
We are in trouble as a nation because we’ve tarried to long “getting the good life” and blindly allowing others to make the rules. In order to find middle ground again and come to our senses, Americans would have to change the way they look at things and that would involve enduring some pain but that’s part of the middle ground, being in touch with all aspects of our growth and evolution. America is the greatest nation on earth and with that title comes a ton of responsibility. It’s time to start looking at things in a completely new way.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein