With the campaign season in full swing, and the identities of both candidates known, we are seeing more discussion about our national issues. Unemployment is still very high, with 8.2% officially jobless and at least 32 million Americans without full-time work who want it. Yet we are not in a recession. Financial markets are hardly tanking - the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up for the year, and corporate profits are generally solid. When people complain about "the economy," then, they don't mean investments, they mean jobs. So how are the two sides reacting?
Both conservative and liberal commentators have seen the other side as the problem, with little exception or reservation. In the New York Times, Paul Krugman continues his push for greatly increased government spending in "The Great Abdication" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/opinion/krugman-the-great-abdication.html?ref=opinion), saying that it's clear to anyone thinking that there is no alternative. Mitt Romney, who barring a tragedy or a bizarre intraparty challenge will be the Republican presidential nominee, says that his "plan to get America back to work" is to "reduce taxes, spending, regulation, and government programs," with a "fundamental change in Washington’s view of how economic growth and prosperity are achieved, how jobs are created, and how government can support these endeavors" (http://www.mittromney.com/jobs). The current administration reality is well shown by this morning's Tom Toles cartoon, titled "Jobless Recovery," which shows Congress, the President, and the Federal Reserve all telling each other that unemployment is their job (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/toles).
We know by now the sides are intractable. Neither rates to move much on the jobs crisis, and Congress has been earning their now 9% approval rating by getting nothing on it accomplished. But who was at fault for the crisis in the first place? Neither.
Work's New Age is a product of good things that have happened. Extensive technological development, increased freedom in places like China, and improved business practices from manufacturing to transportation - all very positive developments - have put us in a position where fewer and fewer Americans are needed to produce the goods and services we use. We don't know yet how to deal with it, but we do know neither Obama nor the Republican that preceded him are at fault.
Neither side has anything magical now either. Come 2013, the problem will continue, and with time we will realize we are looking at not a failure of public policy but a 200-year historical shift. When we realize that, we will be on the road to making the most of it.