Ezra Klein gives us some terrifying news in a Bloomberg column today. President Obama’s economic team think they are doing a great job, hence the desire to bring back former teammate Larry Summers as Fed chair. This is terrifying because the economy this Labor Day is described by a set of statistics that can only be described as horrible.
We are almost 9 million jobs below the trend level of employment. The number of people involuntarily working part-time is still up by almost 4 million from its pre-recession level. Wages have been stagnant for a decade and show no signs of increasing any time soon. And, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the economy is still operating more than $1 trillion (6 percent) below its potential. Oh, and by the way, the financial sector is more concentrated than ever, with top honchos drawing the same sort of paychecks they did before the crisis.
I could go on but what’s the point? This is an economy that under other circumstances we would all say is awful. The Obama team can pat themselves on the back for saying its better than a second Great Depression, but that’s a bit like saying that the 1962 Mets didn’t lose all their games. Horrible is horrible.
The best that can be said is that the crew has been ineffectual in the face of Republican opposition in building any sort of political support for a stronger economic agenda. But ineffectual is not a much better recommendation than incompetent.
And it’s hard to blame items like the “pivot to deficit reduction” on the Republicans. If the Obama team has an aggressive plan for turning the economy around that is being stifled by the nasty Republicans they have not done a very good job of even making it known, must less rallying suuport.
I suppose if they think everything in the economy is just great that would explain why they want Larry Summers back. That’s pretty bad news on Labor Day.
There is one item in Ezra’s piece that deserves special attention. He tells us that:
“Larry Summers isn’t just the favorite for Federal Reserve chairman. He’s the overwhelming favorite.”
The inside tip to Ezra is not breaking news, it is part of the Obama administration’s effort to diffuse opposition to Summers. Hey, what’s the point in opposing somthing that has already happened?
Summers will be Obama’s pick when Obama announces that he is his pick. Until then everything we read in the paper is political maneuvering. As the old saying goes, it’s not over until the fat man is officially named.
Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economy and Policy Research. He also writes a regular blog, Beat the Press, where this post originally appeared.
Photo from Brent Moore licensed under Creative Commons