Huffington: Obama's Katrina about to slam down on land
There's a Category 5 storm about to make landfall, and the president and the officials in charge of preparing for the approaching disaster don't seem to be particularly worried. Sound familiar? ~ Ariana Huffington, Nov. 24, 2009
Ariana Huffington, mistress of Huffington Post, believes the unemployment crisis will be the Obama White House's equivalent of the Bush White House's Hurricane Katrian: An embarrassment and a federal disaster, showing all the cracks and fault lines which were covered and ignored.
A "lackadasical" attitude, Huffington believes, will be their undoing, just as the FEMA attitude and Ws mis-managing of it did the same.
With the Washington Post reporting 30% of American households containing someone who has lost a job due to the economic crisis, and unemployment higher than it has been in over 2 decades, this is a crisis whose time of resolution has surely come: And yet everything continues as before.
(All emphasis below is mine) :
Just as Katrina exposed critical weaknesses in the priorities and competence of the Bush administration, the unfolding unemployment disaster is threatening to do the same for the Obama White House.
The members of the Obama administration may not be attending a birthday party at John McCain's ranch in Sedona or shopping for expensive Ferragamo shoes in New York as a great American city is destroyed, but their decidedly lackadaisical response to what job losses are doing to multiple great American cities raises the question: will unemployment be Barack Obama's Katrina?
His economic team's resistance to a second round of stimulus, "lukewarm" reaction to Congressional jobs legislation, and prioritization of deficit reduction over job creation certainly has the feel of a taking-in-the-damage-from-2,500-feet flyover moment.
"There is no discussion of a package like a second stimulus," said deputy White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki. "But we are working closely with Congress and consulting with outside experts to determine the right policies and next steps." No word on whether those outside experts include the 1 in 6 workers currently unemployed or underemployed.
Of course, the real problem isn't the outside experts; the administration's wrongheaded approach is a classic inside job. Sen. Sherrod Brown summed it up on CNN, telling John King that when it comes to putting the focus on Main Street, the president's "advisors are mixed."
Which makes one wonder: what level of unemployment would it take to unmix them? Even 10.2 percent, the highest level in 26 years, after 22 straight months of job losses, doesn't seem to have quickened the pulse of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner.
And it's not like the levees haven't begun to crack, with the real unemployment rate -- factoring in discouraged and partially employed workers -- at 17.5 percent, the unemployment rate for workers aged 16 to 24 at 19 percent, and the unemployment rate for young African-Americans at 30 percent. What's more, the average length of unemployment is at a record high, while the ratio of job seekers to open positions is now 6 to 1.
A new ABC/Washington Post poll reported that 30 percent of Americans say someone in their home has lost a job. I'm guessing that Summers and Geithner are comfortably in the other 70 percent. But even if it hasn't hit home for them, it should be clear that unemployment is going to be the singular issue of 2010.
Congressional Democrats have certainly gotten the message -- and have grown tired of waiting for the White House to take the lead. According to The Hill, House Democratic leaders, including Speaker Pelosi, are "worried they've appeared unresponsive to rising unemployment because they were absorbed by health care." The article also says that Harry Reid has told colleagues he wants a jobs bill soon.
As John Larson, the fourth-ranking House Democrat puts it: "It's jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Members of this caucus feel... that a jobless recovery is just simply unacceptable to us."
The problem for the White House and for the Democratic Party -- and, most importantly, for the country -- is that the administration's response on jobs is being led by Summers, who actually opposed the extension of unemployment benefits Obama just signed. At this point you have to wonder what Obama's attachment to Summers and Geithner is. We know if you become a target of Glenn Beck and cause five seconds of embarrassment to the administration you need to start updating your resume (ask Van Jones), but if you slowly bring down the administration, and the party, and the country, that's apparently fine.
Back in February, when the $787 billion economic stimulus bill was signed, Summers and company promised that it would keep the unemployment rate from going any higher than 8.5 percent. With another 3.4 million jobs lost since then -- and the official unemployment rate at 10.2 and rising -- what does Summers say now?
Really, Larry? What would getting it wrong look like?
The tone-deafness of that statement rivals the clueless response of a certain clothes-conscious former International Arabian Horse Association commissioner turned FEMA head.
I can hear it now: Heck of a job, Larry! Heck of a job, Timmy!
But though the alarm bells don't seem to be ringing in the White House, last week showed that there has clearly been a major shift in the tectonic plates on Capitol Hill.
For starters, there is increasing agreement that Obama's economic team is not up to the job of dealing with the unemployment crisis. According to Rep. Peter DeFazio, there is a "growing consensus" in the Congressional Progressive Caucus that Geithner should resign -- and that Summers needs to go, too. "We need a new economic team," DeFazio said on MSNBC. "We may have to sacrifice just two more jobs to get millions back for Americans."
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Negros Oriental, Philippines