With a characteristic blast at both parties, former Gov. Buddy Roemer has put his finger on a very real problem with the economic mismanagement and slow recovery that has characterized U.S. policy in recent years.
“Look behind the numbers,” Roemer told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, noting that the formal 8.1 percent unemployment rate does not reflect millions of people who are out of the labor force statistics.
They are discouraged about seeking work and are doing other things — maybe quite useful, such as caring for children or elders, but not generating needed cash for their families.
We agree with much of the analysis, including the decline of manufacturing jobs — what are called “value-added” in the economic development business — and the dire effects of prolonged slow growth.
However, is this really “the worst recovery in American history,” as Roemer called it?
The economists tend to agree that recessions — or the Great Depression — rooted in financial crises tend to be longer-lasting in their ill effects. The paying off of debts accrued when the financial bubbles burst under President George W. Bush’s watch will take still more time than the four years that have elapsed.
Whether households or mega-corporations, we’re all going to be “deleveraging” for a while, no matter who is elected president this fall.
Nor could either of Bush’s potential successors, Barack Obama or John McCain, have done anything since 2009 about the European crisis that has exposed the cases of excessive debt (Spain) or outright government fraud (Greece) that has hobbled America’s recovery.
Finally, there’s also a characteristically Roemeresque populism about the former governor’s criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canada-U.S.-Mexico pact that has spurred enormous economic growth since President Bill Clinton pushed it through Congress.
If you can get something cheaply from China, or Mexico, or Germany for that matter, it’s not a bad deal for the buyer. The bad deal comes from the countries that cheat on the rules of free trade, and in many ways the Communist government of China deserves the abuse it’s getting on the campaign trail this election year in this country.
But to bash China while ignoring the reciprocal benefits of free trade is to harken back to economic isolationism.
Particularly, we’d say, for Louisiana. The giant port complex along the Mississippi River that is anchored in New Orleans — not to mention other Louisiana ports — remains a major economic contributor.
Louisiana is a trading state. Let’s keep it that way, by pushing efforts to promote free and fair trade around the world. Even with Communist China, if it will play by the rules.
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