Today’s Questions for the President

The Department of Labor announced this morning that the unemployment rate for October was 9 percent. The initial estimate of jobs created last month is 80,000.

An average of approximately 100,000 jobs per month have been created this year. But since between 90–120,000 jobs (depending on the labor participation rate) need to be created per month just to keep pace with the number of new entrants (e.g., recent graduates, immigrants), the unemployment rate has remained essentially unchanged. The unemployment rate has now been 9 percent or higher for 28 of the last 30 months.

You’ll recall that slightly less than two years into your administration, a woman named Velma Hart addressed you during a CNBC town hall as follows:

Quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the man for change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now. I’ve been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I’m one of those people and I’m waiting sir, I’m waiting. I don’t feel it yet. While I thought it wouldn’t be a large measure, I would feel it in some small measure. I have two children in private school, and the financial recession has taken an enormous toll on my family. My husband and I joked that we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives. And quite frankly, it’s starting to knock on our door and ring through that that might be where we’re headed.

And quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer honestly, is this my new reality?

The unemployment rate when Ms. Hart asked that question more than a year ago was also above 9 percent. Is 8–9 percent unemployment America’s new reality?

You promised that if your $814 billion stimulus bill were passed the unemployment rate would be 6.5 percent today and 5.5 percent by Election Day 2012. At present job creation/labor participation rates, those unemployment levels won’t be seen until late in this decade, if then. Given that the massive stimulus bill failed to lower the unemployment rate (in fact, it went up), upon what basis do you maintain that your present jobs bill will lower unemployment? If passed, how far would it lower the unemployment rate by this time next year and why?

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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