Happy 4th of July weekend! The week leading up to the holiday gave us much to celebrate -- and much not to celebrate. We can certainly rejoice that Hurricane Arthur failed to do much damage before weakening and heading out to sea. But there can only be consternation at the Supreme Court's decision to allow some corporations to withhold birth control coverage -- damage reports to follow in the years to come. We can also celebrate that the latest jobs numbers showed the economy added 288,000 jobs in June. Far less worthy of fireworks is the fact that wage growth still lags in this unequal recovery. And though there were ugly anti-immigration protests in Southern California, we can celebrate that most Americans realize it's our shared history as a nation of immigrants that defines us.
With Friday's numbers showing the addition of 217,000 jobs, the U.S. finally restored the 9 million jobs lost in the recession -- five years after it supposedly ended. But we can keep the champagne on the shelf: we still need an estimated 7 million more jobs to keep up with population growth; if we count those who've dropped out of the labor force, our current unemployment rate would actually be 9.7 percent; and, adjusting for inflation, hourly wages are actually lower now than at the end of the recession. So we may have recovered 9 million jobs, but we seem to have lost all sense of urgency about saving the middle class. Meanwhile, the swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five detainees held at Guantanamo was as messy and ambiguous as the overlong war it sprung out of.
This week reminded us once again of the costs of accepting lowered expectations as the new normal. On Wednesday, a 5-4 Supreme Court decision struck down overall limits on campaign donations, further ceding our political system to the highest bidder in the guise of "free speech." On the same day, Ft. Hood, Texas suffered its second mass shooting in five years, as a married father of four, in a fit of anger, killed four people, including himself, and wounded 16 others. Senator Harry Reid introduced a background checks bill the next day, but it will likely suffer the same fate as the one that failed last year even with the support of 90 percent of Americans. The week ended with yet another middling jobs report, with just 192,000 added in March. All three of these things should spark urgent calls for reform and change, because accepting them as the new normal only guarantees more of the same.