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Posted at 1:42 PM ET, 01/25/2011

What about the short term?

By Ezra Klein

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Tonight's State of the Union will be about the future, mostly. What the American economy should look like in five, 10 and 20 years. The major policy initiatives are expected to span that timetable: Infrastructure investment, R&D, education and deficit reduction all tend to be multi-year endeavors, not policies we wrap up by June.

The address won't forget the unemployed, who number nearly 15 million, and many more than that if you count the under-employed and those who've given up on looking for work. They'll be mentioned, and their distress lamented. The president will gravely remind us that the status quo is not good enough, and the recovery has been agonizingly slow. But the truth is that the political system is moving on, both in rhetoric and in policy: The Democrats don't have the votes to do much more for the unemployed, and the Republicans aren't interested in doing much more in the unemployed.

Which is a shame, because unemployment remains the country's No. 1 problem over the next few years: The high rate of joblessness is a drag on both short-term growth and long-term human capital, as time out of work tends to degrade skills. The economy is recovering, but not quick enough: If we doubled the 103,000 jobs the economy created in December, it'd still take more than five years to return to full employment. The country needs to address our long-term challenges, but doing so isn't a substitute for solving the crisis we're facing right now. And I fear that the situation is even a bit worse than that: Both parties, for different reasons, are using action on long-term challenges to distract from inaction on unemployment.

Graph credit: The Hamilton Project.

By Ezra Klein  | January 25, 2011; 1:42 PM ET
Categories:  Economic Policy  
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Next: Obama looks for a compromise on spending cuts

Comments

"The country needs to address our long-term challenges, but doing so isn't a substitute for solving the crisis we're facing right now. And I fear that the situation is even a bit worse than that: Both parties, for different reasons, are using action on long-term challenges to distract from inaction on unemployment."

Sounds like the basis for a Depression era song, like "Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime?"

That's all we're asking in unemployment benefits, a dime on the dollar we used to make. But the stone hearts in Congress hope we'll go away of they ignore us long enough.

At least we don't have McArthur sending in the cavalry to break up the Bonus Marchers in '32.

Posted by: tomcammarata | January 25, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I agree, the rhetoric has changed. Early in the 2010 campaign both sides were criticizing each other for not talking or doing enough about jobs, jobs, jobs. As the 2010 campaign progressed all of the rhetoric changed to deficits, spending cuts, and taxes and nobody is talking about jobs anymore.

The Democrats were not able to get any jobs bills passed because of strong Republican opposition, so they eventually gave up even talking about it, which is kind of a shame. One positive, is the tax cut extension was negotiated to get some relief for the unemployment situation (unemployment benefits extension and payroll tax cut).

Posted by: DeanofProgress | January 25, 2011 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Logically, it seems like if nobody is talking about jobs, than nobody is representing the interests of the people. I wonder how long that is a tenable position to take.

Posted by: comma1 | January 25, 2011 8:42 PM | Report abuse

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