Weathering the economic storm


We are now approaching five years since the recession has supposedly ended, but it just doesn’t feel like it.

Husbands and wives are fighting about finances more than ever. Children are losing their homes and seeing their families torn apart. Small businesses are cutting back work hours trying to keep afloat. And fewer large businesses are talking about significant growth.

We are all living under a blanket of fear waiting for an economic storm to hit. Some of us are relying on government to save us; others of us are trying to hunker down financially and praying we have enough to weather the storm.

Last week, there were more indicators of this economic storm when the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced that over the next 10 years, the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA), otherwise known as Obamacare, which, in 2011, was estimated to lead to a loss of 800,000 jobs, was revised to an estimated loss of over 2.3 million jobs.

Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded that only 113,000 jobs were added in January. December’s job totals were revised down to only 75,000 while new filing claims for unemployed stayed steady between 300,000 to 350,000 per week. With such poor economic indicators, it begs the question, why are they not being reported as such?

The answer to this question is inseparably linked with the fact that media outlets generally position each of these economic stories in the most optimistic light.

In terms of the CBO’s report, I was not surprised that we would lose jobs as a direct result of Obamacare. Admittedly though, I was surprised that from the beginning it was known we would lose jobs (i.e., 800, 000). From the coverage I remember when Obamacare was passed was that this act would help the economy.

However, media outlets parsed the news to say that the 2.3 million reflected a loss in full-time work hours, not necessarily jobs. The proponents of Obamacare argued that people can now move to working part-time and still maintain their health insurance subsidies, and these workers can also spend more time with their families or pursue other occupational interests.

What?! Are you kidding me?

When it came to the poor monthly jobs numbers, media outlets positioned these numbers in contrast to the more heartening news that the unemployment rate was dropping. While the latter is true, for according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate is now below 7 percent, the first time since 2008, reporting last week rarely provided the context that this is primarily due to an estimated 90 million people dropping out of the employment pool. This 90 million number correlates with the job participation rate dropping to just over 62 percent of eligible Americans-the lowest rate since the late 1970’s. I marvel how media outlets can cite a job growth in the low to mid 100,000s while moments later share that new unemployment claims filings is in the low 300,000s and not see the disconnect.

How in the world can anyone look at these economic indicators with any type of objectivity and not seriously consider how devastating their implications may be, especially given the current economic climate of our country?

And when they all converge at once, how does one not entertain the possibility that the economic policies that are currently in place are moving us in the wrong direction?

When faced with the cold facts of numbers, defenders of current economic policies used to say, “It’s Bush’s fault.” Then, the defense progressed to obstructionist Republicans.

Now, the villain seems to be the nebulous entity of “income or economic inequality.” Their proposed solution to these economic challenges is to have even more government regulation and more spending as the president seemed to proudly indicate that he would simply write executive orders to accomplish his objectives.

At first, I did not believe what I was hearing; because, surely anyone could see our nation, by design, is a divided government with distinct powers and representations so that we are forced to work together and find solutions for the good of the American people.

But when I heard the president’s remarks in full context, I stood incredulously.

When it comes to leadership, such audacity is not an admirable trait. Rather than assigning blame and stubbornly doubling-down on one’s agenda, given the current economic storm we are facing, we have to be humble enough to admit that maybe our policies may not be what are needed for the American people right now.

And rather than belittle, or deny the solutions posed by other political leaders who propose more private-based solutions, as opposed to more government-based solutions, we may actually have to face the notion, as Ronald Reagan so eloquently put it, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government IS the problem.”

Rather than shielding our political parties from political fallout, true leadership considers the implications his/her policies have on the American people and their families, not just in this present day, but also in years and generations to come.

Having fewer jobs, greater economic uncertainty, and greater dependence on government is not a good thing.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]