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Just the other day, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said, Iit is very likely that the recession has ended."
Well, let me just suggest to Mr. Bernanke that today we have about 17 percent of our workforce - 26 million Americans - who are either unemployed, have given up looking for work because they no longer think a job is possible, or they are working part time when they want to work full time. That's 17 percent of our population.
For those folks, I don't think they believe this recession is over.
In fact, what they believe is that they are mired in the worst economic mess since the Great Depression.
One of the really disturbing statistics out there is that it is taking unemployed people a lot longer to find a job than used to be the case. On average, it's taking about six months.
But it's not just losing your job or working part time. People are losing health insurance, losing their homes, losing their pensions. What it's about is slipping out of the middle class and into poverty and not having the capability of sending your kids to college. That's what the economy is about today.
So to my mind, most importantly, we have got to stay focused on the reality that because of the greed, the irresponsibility, and the illegal behavior of people on Wall Street, we are plunged into a real economic mess, and we're going to have to work together and we're going to have to think real hard about how we get out of that mess.
I've talked before about some of the ideas we're working on, but let me just reiterate what some of them are.
We need to get a handle on Wall Street so that they do not go back to the horrendous ways of the past. They are spending millions of dollars right now on lobbying and campaign contributions to make that happen. What we must demand - and this is enormously important - is a new Wall Street, not designed to make hundreds of millions of dollars for their CEOs, but a Wall Street designed to help increase manufacturing in the U.S., create decent jobs, help small businesses, do something for the productive economy.
Another area that we need to return to is our disastrous trade policies which allow corporate America to throw American workers on the street, move to China, pay people 50 cents an hour, and then bring those products back into the country.
So there is a lot of work ahead of us in terms of the economy. Let's stay focused on this issue, and don't believe anybody who's telling you "the recession is over."
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