While rallying support for his stimulus plan on Wednesday, President Obama warned that "A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe and guarantee a longer recession, a less robust recovery, and a more uncertain future."
Later that day, in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, the rock-ribbed conservative House Republican Mike Pence declared the plan was a "catastrophe." Tax cuts, both men agreed, were the only appropriate answer for a contracting economy. Hannity, who was all but chanting "Amen" after each Pence utterance, closed the interview by calling the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan "the European socialist act of 2009."
You can decide for yourself who is right while mulling over the latest statistics from the labor front.
- New unemployment claims jumped by 35,000 to 626,000 last week -- a 26 year high.
- The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits for more than one week rose 20,000 to 4,788,000 -- "the highest level since the government started keeping track in 1967."
- The four-week average of new claims rose 39,000 to 582,250 -- the highest since December 1982.
- Government unemployment numbers for all of January, set to be released Friday morning, will likely indicate that January was the fifth straight month in which the U.S. economy shed an average of half a million jobs. The unemployment rate is predicted to rise another .3 percentage points, to 7.5.
Bearing in mind the caveat that the U.S. population was smaller in 1967 and 1982 than it is now, so in percentage terms the new figures are not quite as calamitous as their record-breaking numerical totals might indicate, it's still hard for me to look at this trend and not see a catastrophe in the making.