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Atlanta Federal Reserve Report: Obama Administration Is Failing 'Marginally Attached Workers'

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A recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta says that "marginally attached workers" - workers at the bottom of the U.S. employment economy - are in an even worse situation under the Obama Administration now than they were in late 2009, when the economic recovery from George W. Bush's economic collapse was just starting.

This report presents a new chart that compares the economy now (the blue line) against both the economic peak in late 2007 (the red line), and the economic slough in late 2009 (the yellow line).

The Atlanta Fed says: "The chart tells a familiar, but not too happy, story. Only one of the variables in the collection of employer behavior, employee and employer confidence, and labor resource utilization categories has recovered even half the gap from its prerecession benchmark. The labor resource utilization variables look particularly bad, with one variable--marginally attached workers--actually getting worse over the recovery as a whole. On the brighter side, our leading-indicator variables are looking relatively strong, perhaps portending improvement ahead."

All other employment indicators have improved since the slough. However, the "Job finding rate" (the results for people who are seeking work) and the "Work part time for economic reasons" (the results for people who want full-time work but cannot obtain it) have barely started to improve since late 2009. Both of those categories of workers are even below the bottom of the nation's employment economy: they still can't get a job, or else can't find a full-time job. They are thus in an even worse situation than "Marginally attached workers."

In other words: For Americans who are at or below the bottom of the employment economy, President Obama has been a failure, thus far. Of course, the Atlanta Fed lets the economic figures speak for themselves, but this is an accurate summary of what the economic data are actually saying, at the start of President Obama's second term.

This finding is consistent with other data, indicating that federal policies under Obama have been lopsidedly bad for people at the economic bottom, and lopsidedly superb for the very rich.

For example, on 2 October 2012, Bloomberg News headlined "Top 1% Got 93% of Income Growth as Rich-Poor Gap Widened," and Peter Robison reported that, "The earnings gap between rich and poor Americans was the widest in more than four decades in 2011, Census data show, surpassing income inequality previously reported in Uganda and Kazakhstan," both of which countries are well recognized to be plutocracies. The reason for this yawning gap is that when Geithner structured the bailout of Wall Street, he insisted that future U.S. taxpayers would be obliged to bail out the then-current bondholders in those bailed-out firms at 100 cents on the dollar, as if there were no "toxic assets" at all being held by those firms. Taxpayers purchased those "toxic assets" at full price; Wall Street didn't have to discount them at all. Geithner refused to pay anything but full price for them. With all of that government money going to buy up those "toxic assets," there wasn't really enough left to spend on job-training, nor even on constructive government jobs such as repairing the nation's crumbling infrastructure.

On 8 July 2011, Yahoo News bannered "Obama Advisor: Unemployment Not Key for 2012," and reported that David Plouffe (who had been brilliant as the Obama campaign's vote-predictor in 2008) said that, "The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates." He said that the people who would go to the polls in 2012 would be well-off and wouldn't be concerned or worried about the people who weren't. The original Bloomberg News story on this Plouffe comment was headlined "Unemployment Rate Won't Hobble Re-Election, David Plouffe Says," and reported that Plouffe had also asserted that he was "confident in Obama's ability to replicate the grassroots enthusiasm of 2008." Perhaps the White House's assumption was that the unemployed were invisible, too ashamed even to appear in public.

Barack Obama surrounded himself with such conservatives, because he himself thought like, and agreed with, conservatives.

After the trillions that have been spent by the government to buy up those "toxic assets" from Wall street, there just hasn't been enough left to bother much about retraining and assisting the people who were being paid $10/hour, if that. Obama would instead give those folks "food stamps" and such - that also helps mega-farms sell some of their excess taxpayer-subsidized food commodities, to taxpayers, for distribution to the poor. (Overt Republicans, of course, don't even want the poor to get "food stamps.")

The reason that federal policies under Obama have been lopsidedly bad for people at the economic bottom, and lopsidedly superb for the very rich, is that the multi-trillion-dollar bailout of the very rich dwarfed the bailout of the poor, and that none of this money went into the necessary job-retraining programs, which would both have assisted workers, and turbocharged further technological advancements, so that workers could share in the benefits of technological change.

The latest chart from the Atlanta Fed is simply putting a new face on this long-running reality regarding President Obama's belief, to ignore the poor - except in his public rhetoric, of course. He is, after all, a "Democrat." He must pay them some lip-service. He's not publicly a Republican. He has a public image to maintain. His political staff know that. But this is the reality. It's widespread in the data, and remarkably consistent. Obama fails the poor, but he's a raging success for the rich - notwithstanding his liberal rhetoric. He really doesn't care about the poor. It shows in the data, and not just in his policy record.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.