A Presidential Address From An Alternate Reality

In a recent Iain Banks novel, Transitions, characters undertook shady undercover missions on behalf of a mysterious cabal by taking a pill and blinking into an alternate reality. Perhaps President Barack Obama can do the same and doesn’t always serve as President in the same world we the people live in. When he spoke to Democrats in Congress yesterday, it appeared his teleprompter had the speech from a different reality locked and loaded as the President addressed future prospects for the US economy.

“Let me tell you something, if Republicans want to campaign against something by standing up for the status quo and for insurance companies over families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have,” Obama said.

“If their best idea is to return to the bad policies and the bad ideas of yesterday, they are going to lose that argument,” he added.

“Thanks to what you did, we can say now what we could not say a year ago,” Obama said. “America is moving forward again.”

“I am absolutely confident that we will be able to look back at the end of this year and say things are getting better,” he said.

For the 78% of the work force that still works, that may well be true. The President mentioned the rise in the equities markets that took place in 2009. He did so with no mention of how that correlates with the strength of the dollar. Putting that particular variable in the equation won’t make any tingles run up Chris Mathews’ appendages.

And meanwhile, there is that 22% unemployment rate….

“What? Unemployment is 10%, not 22%!” Thrasymachus interjects. “Are you some, Far-Right, Christianist, Gun-loving, tea-bagging, drooling mongoloid?”

“Well, Jim Rico, my MS from UCLA would potentially qualify me as one of The Educated People®. I’m not Far-Right compared to Pat Buchanan, Kublai Khan, or Tamerlane and I’m no more Christianist in my outlook than the Framers of the US Constitution.”

”Furthermore, if you do a search on “tea-bagger” over at UrbanDictionary.com, you’ll find it’s a grotesque ad hominum, which does nothing to bolster your attempt to dispute my epistemological claim to knowledge regarding the actual US rate of unemployment. As for the drooling mongoloid part, the last time I googled “swimsuit” + “Milka Duno,” I totally lost any gravamen to argue that part of your bill of particulars.”

As for the unemployment rate, it really is 22%. Here is how we derive that statistic. Barack Obama, the MSM and most working economists care about unemployment amongst workers actively looking for work. Currently, that figure (U3 in Bureau of Labor Statistics lingo) stands at the widely reported 10%. The reason this number is less than 22%, is because it does not measure “discouraged workers.”

The BLS offers us another measure, U6, which takes recently discouraged workers into account. The Layoff List describes the BLS U6 measure below.

Total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.

Adding these unfortunate individuals to the labor force, gives us U6 = 17.5%. Yet that still doesn’t give us total unemployment amongst able-bodied adults. To get that number, you have to filter all seasonal adjustments out of the payroll numbers and just add up how many people get paid. (In reality, they take a large, random sample and extrapolate.)

Then, you take the U6 statistic and add back the “discourage workforce.” The “discouraged workforce” consist of able-bodied adults, not claimed as dependents, who haven’t searched for work in at least 1 year. This increases the sample of potential workers by approximately five million individuals. All of these individuals are unemployed; and thus you get 22% unemployment.

A line of argumentation may run as follows. “If over 50% of the unemployed can’t be bothered to avail themselves to all the gainful employment out there being created or saved, they shouldn’t be counted in the official statistics. It’s just not fair!”

A response to this comes in two parts. The inner humanitarian opines these people are human beings. Of course they count. No, Mr. Scrooge, there are no poor houses or debtor’s prisons. Detroit doesn’t seem to have very many workhouses left for them either. That might explain how they wound up consigned to the “discouraged workforce” bin that fans of the current regime in Versailles Upon the Potomac don’t feel its fair to report on.

Another argument, espoused by the Gordon Gekko within, perhaps explains how Senator Ben Nelson became persona non grata at the local pizza den. If the government will now buy every single one of these people health insurance…Oh, wait, the government doesn’t buy anyone health insurance. I do – on April 15th. I’ll guaran-frikken-tee-ya every last one of those unfunded requirements is going to count when Uncle Sam goes hunting for revenue.

So no, President Obama, you are not making our economy better by paying more and more people to do less and less work. You are making the channel more viscous for the people in businesses and communities across America who still keep their oars in the water. When that happens, small businesses get smaller, not bigger. The jobs are not created and rarely are too many of them saved. The economy does not recover any more than a patient in an iron lung really breathes.

So back here in the real world, Mr. President, Congressman Pomeroy, Martha Coakley, and less partisan people who just want some of that change you promised to actually show up in their pockets are wishing you wouldn’t tell them it’s raining. Especially while your feckless and stupid administration pees all over their shoes. Fix your stupid economic policies, Mr. President, and the tea-parties would get much smaller. People with jobs and fulfilling lives have too many other things to occupy their time.

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