Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that inevitably produces conflicting emotions. Wherever you are, you don't have to look far to find examples of people on opposite ends of the spectrum, people who are deliriously happy and people who are despondent.
I've often heard it said that, no matter how bad things are for you, there is always someone who is worse off. And that is true. But it doesn't mean your pain isn't genuine or that you aren't entitled to it.
On this Thanksgiving Eve, there may be much to be thankful for, but there still is a lot of pain in America. Those who are in charge insist on saying that, by traditional yardsticks, the recession is over — yet the unemployment rate is higher than it has been in more than a quarter of a century and many economists are saying it is likely to continue to go up in the first half of 2010. Last Thanksgiving, many Americans probably could not say that they knew anyone who was out of work. But, with more than 8 million jobs lost since the recession began, my guess is that far more are personally touched by joblessness this year.
I think I speak with a certain amount of authority when I say that most of the unemployed understand that the recession began nearly two years ago — and anyone who comprehends chronology knows that Barack Obama had not yet been elected president at that time.
Recently, I read an article in which the author said that (a) the recession was George W. Bush's fault and (b) it is too early to reach any conclusions about Obama. My response to that is (a) I don't dispute the fact that Bush was president in December 2007, but, even though I am not an economist, I am inclined to believe that a recession as severe as this one is the result of many decisions made by leaders from both parties, and (b) it may not seem fair to draw a conclusion about Obama, but that is the nature of the political calendar. Ready or not, the midterm election season is upon us and the economy is front and center.
I have been saying all year that job creation needed to be the focal point of the administration if it wanted to minimize its losses in the midterms, but Democrats preferred to blame Bush and devote their efforts to other matters. I cannot speak for everyone, of course, but recent public opinion surveys suggest to me that, however people may feel about who deserves the blame for the poor economy, a majority of Americans is running out of patience for the president to fix it. In their eyes, Obama has not done what he was elected to do, even if he thinks that calling for a "jobs summit" next month is (however belatedly) addressing the problem.
Take the stimulus package that was passed back in February. Congressional Democrats insisted, at the time, that it would create jobs almost immediately, but this week a Chicago Tribune editorial called that "a snow job."
I have to think that a newspaper that serves a city like Chicago knows something about snow. And the Tribune makes a valid point about claims of jobs that have been "created or saved" by the stimulus. Especially in places that don't exist — like the 15th House District in Arizona — except at the government's web site, Recovery.gov.
Well, when the national unemployment rate is in double digits, that's the kind of scrutiny the party in power must expect. Like it or not.
While many Obama supporters may dismiss opinions expressed in the Tribune as the rantings of a conservative paper, it is worth remembering that the Tribune endorsed Obama's candidacy last year, the first time it had endorsed a Democrat in 161 years.
And that's a verifiable number — unlike the claims of jobs that have been "created or saved" by the stimulus.
Well, whether you have been personally affected by the recession or not, have a happy Thanksgiving.
Here's hoping that, next year, there are verifiable job gains for which we can be truly thankful.