Sha na na na, sha na na na na….

Mark Weisbrot shows that the America’s recovery from the Great Depression was hardly a recovery at all:

The U.S. recession officially ended in June of 2009, but most Americans don’t feel like we are in a recovery. That’s because it’s been a weak recovery, with the size of the economy barely bigger today than it was four years ago, when the recession started.

Since America is a rich country, it is not growth itself that matters most but employment and, of course, the distribution of income. And the employment numbers are just terrible.

The simplest measure is the percentage of the working-age population that is employed. That peaked at 63.4 percent in December 2006. It plummeted to a low of 58.2 percent last July and is hardly different now — 58.5 percent in the latest figures.

What this means is that we need about 10 million jobs to get back to full employment. There was a lot of happy talk earlier this month when the December job numbers were released. They showed 200,000 payroll jobs added in December, and the unemployment rate falling to 8.5 percent. Adding even 200,000 jobs a month is not very good for an economy that needs at least 90,000-100,000 jobs a month just to keep up with the growth of the working-age population.

And as my colleague Dean Baker pointed out, the latest jobs numbers have probably been over-optimistic. Realistically, he notes, at present trends of job growth we will not hit full employment until 2028. This would be an economic failure of disastrous proportions.

Quote Of the day

Mark Weisbrot, a co-Director of the Center for Economic Policy Research, recently took to task the United States and the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The United States is the key member of the IMF and is thus responsible for its actions. Weisbrot criticized them because “They were trying to force the Greek parliament to adopt measures that would further shrink the Greek economy and therefore make both their economic situation and their debt problem worse, while inflicting more pain on the Greek electorate.” But it is not just the Greek economy which is in crisis. “The threat from the Troika,” Weisbrot argued, “was putting the whole European financial system at risk, since it raised the prospect of a chaotic, unilateral Greek default.”

What we are seeing here, then, is a triumph of ideology and interest over reason and solidarity.

Weisbrot drew an obvious conclusion from his analysis:

The “European debt crisis” is misnamed; it is not so much a debt crisis as a crisis of policy failure. There are always alternatives to a decade without growth, trillions of dollars of lost output, and millions of unemployed that the European authorities are offering to the people of Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece and now Italy. All that is lacking is the political will and competence to change course.