8.1 percent, 7.8 percent — whatever


To the millions of Americans unable to find work, to college graduates who can’t get a job and are living with their parents, to the underemployed who are working at jobs far below their skill set and experience, and to those who have given up looking for work altogether, a 7.8 percent unemployment rate is meaningless. The economy stinks.

And try as they might — and they are trying mightily to rescue a man they sold to voters four years ago as a political messiah — major media can’t seem to transform a failing president into a success.

“Fall in jobless rate strips Romney of an argument” was the gleeful headline in the Washington Post recently. No it doesn’t.

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, tweeted about the 7.8 percent unemployment number, down from 8.1 percent: “Unbelievable jobs numbers. These Chicago guys will do anything … can’t debate, so change numbers.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ stands by its calculations. On Fox News, economic journalist Stuart Varney admitted to being a little skeptical. “There is widespread distrust of this report,” he said.

Does one have to be the economic equivalent of a “birther” or “truther” to question the timing of unemployment numbers below 8 percent, especially so close to an election?

Far more ominous is the rapid rise in gasoline prices in California; “40.3 cents more than a week ago,” according to figures from the AAA and Oil Price Information Service. The price is nearing $6 a gallon for premium and above $5 for other grades at some pumps.

It sounds like the plot of a disaster movie, which, in fact, it is. Timed perfectly to address public angst is “Atlas Shrugged II,” the second film in a planned trilogy, opening Oct. 12. One doesn’t have to be an atheist, like the book’s author Ayn Rand, or a disciple of her philosophy of objectivism, which she described as “…the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute,” to appreciate the fictional warnings.

Though “Atlas Shrugged” was published in 1957 as a warning against centralized political control, the movie’s message is as contemporary as today’s news.

The film’s producers describe the storyline on IMBD.com this way: “The global economy is on the brink of collapse. Unemployment tops 24 percent. Gas is $42 per gallon. Railroads are the main transportation. Brilliant creators, from artists to industrialists, are mysteriously disappearing. Dagny Taggart, CEO of Taggart Transcontinental, has discovered an answer to the mounting energy crisis — a prototype of a motor that draws energy from static electricity. But, until she finds its creator, it’s useless. It’s a race against time. And someone is watching.”

That “someone” is the government. Its “fair share law” limits production and, to borrow a modern term, seeks to “spread the wealth around,” thus stifling innovation, risk-taking and capitalism. If Taggert finds the creator, government loses.

Democrats hail the 7.8 percent unemployment number without irony, having criticized the Bush administration in 2004 when unemployment was 5.4 percent and gas prices were below $2 a gallon. They blamed Bush for gas prices then. So, where’s the uproar over the nearly $6/per gallon now?

A Wall Street Journal editorial noted: “The reality is that more than three years into this weakest of economic recoveries, 12.1 million Americans are still out of work — nearly 23 million by the broader definition that includes those who have stopped looking or can’t find full-time work — and the labor participation rate is still down to 1981 levels at 63.6 percent.”

This is not cause for celebration.

The best course for economic revival is to fire the president. Re-electing Obama will only give us four more years like the last four. Some of those working part time, or at jobs they cling to out of necessity, may well find themselves part of a higher jobless rate with dim prospects for their future.

If the Obama policies continue, “Atlas Shrugged” won’t be a work of fiction. It will be seen as prophecy.

(Readers may e-mail Cal Thomas at: [email protected].)

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