Whither the U.S. Economy?

There is a school of opinion that if the United States simply waits long enough, we will have a “recovery.” Proponents of this school point to the unemployment numbers which have just trended downward to 7.2 percent.

But if you read the lead editorials in today’s Wall Street Journal and New York Times, a very different picture emerges.

The Journal headline is “90 Million Americans Not Working.” It notes that the reason the unemployment rate has moved downward is that the labor force participation rate stayed at its lowest level since thye 1970s, at 63.2 percent. That means we have 90.6 million men and women over the age of 16 who are not working. That’s an all-time high.

The Times headline is “The United States, Falling Behind.” It notes that a new OECD study on people from ages 16 to 65 in 24 countries shows that Americans are behind the pack on literacy, numeracy and problem solving. Other countries are placing a priority on education. But “The United States, by contrast, has yet to take on a sense of urgency about this issue.”

When are we going to wake up and see the dimensions of the economic and societal challenge we face? There is no real recovery for millions of Americans even if a relatively thin crust of financial and technological people are making solid incomes.

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