The slow-motion economic recovery has left the Democrats in a precarious position heading into Labor Day 2010. Making "jobs, jobs, jobs" anything more than a slogan before November is looking increasingly unlikely. Republicans, at their penurious best, are serving up another helping of warmed over tax and spending cuts to people without jobs or incomes.
The economic stress is palpable and the mood is ugly. Not that you could tell by listening to official Washington.
Writing in Sunday's New York Times, Frank Rich hammers Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, for "his latest happy-days-are-almost-here-again tour." The Associated Press reported that last week's jobs report showed unemployment "stuck at 9.5 percent for the second straight month." For Americans hanging on in the face of an economy beset by continuing stagnation, Rich complains that Geithner offers little but a "thin statistical gruel."
Let them eat statistics is not exactly a winning strategy in an already tough election year for Democrats. The Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi observes, "If you're on Wall Street, and you've seen the stock markets recover and the banks go from virtual insolvency two years ago back to record profit numbers now," things are looking up. But not if you are "just some schmuck looking for a job somewhere outside the Beltway and/or lower Manhattan."
White House economic advisor Larry Summers and Tim Geithner may believe the recession is over, but you cannot fool people who see the lives they've spent years building slipping through their fingers. The Washington Post on Sunday had just three words to describe the mood outside the Beltway toward elected officials: frustration, despair, and disgust.
A Sunday editorial in our local paper revisited two over-fifty job seekers who have struggled to find stable work over the last two years with little success. USA Today reported last year that men and women over 55 are jobless at the highest rates since The Great Depression. Such workers "don't need our pity," the editorial concludes. "They need paychecks. Politicians out there running for office don't deserve their jobs if they don't get that simple fact."
At Firedoglake, CarolynC chronicles recent conversations that brought home the intense economic stress eating at many Americans.
A woman in the grocery store -- a former personnel manager -- tears up while relating her struggle to find full-time work:
An unemployed construction worker reports his sister's Guatemalan fiancé to immigration authorities. Another man, unemployed for eighteen months says bitterly, "There's really only one job I'd like to do now -- stand at the Arizona border and shoot Mexicans when they try to cross into this country."
She started crying as she told me that her home was being foreclosed on and she and her son had nowhere to go. She then said with cold fury, "No one in Washington cares about what we're going through. All those politicians should be taken out and shot."
It will take something more palliative than laundry lists of legislative achievements and "pocket cards" with talking points to convert sentiments like that into Democratic votes this November -- unless the pocket cards are edible.