Editor's Note: Katrina vanden Heuvel's weekly column on WashingtonPost.com is excerpted below.
Why isn't our government doing more to put people back to work?
Mass unemployment is a human and national calamity. It destroys families, crushes hopes. The longer it lasts, the more it cripples economic recovery and undermines democracy. Nearly 27 million Americans are unemployed or can't find more than part-time work. Yet legislators are reacting to this reality somewhat like the proverbial deer in the headlights, frozen, hoping not to get run over.
Maybe there's a sense that they've already taken care of the problem. Indeed, in a speech in economically beleaguered Buffalo last week, President Obama came close to declaring victory. Beyond giving a perfunctory nod to Americans who are still hurting ("I won't stand here and pretend that we've climbed all the way out of the hole") and talking a bit about small business loans, Obama wanted to celebrate: "We can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, today we are headed in the right direction. . . . All those tough steps we took, they're working. Despite all the naysayers who were predicting failure a year ago, our economy is growing again. Last month we had the strongest job growth that we'd seen in years. . . . Next month is going to be stronger than this month. And next year is going to be better than this year."
It's true that the president's recovery plan successfully stopped the economic free fall he inherited. The economy has started to grow again, and that growth is beginning to produce some jobs, with more added last month than expected.
But the hole is deep. At the current rate, it would take five years to return to pre-recession rates of employment. And there's real doubt as to whether the current growth will continue.
Read Katrina's full column at the WashingtonPost.com.