It could be worse

Brandon Greife Contributor
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“Things could be worse.”

That is the best this beaten-down president can say. It reminds me of the scene from that cinema classic Dumb and Dumber. The main characters, Harry and Lloyd, beaten down from their personal (but self made) struggles go on a rant, “We got no food, we got no jobs, our PETS’ HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!”

That is the sense of frustration that many Americans are feeling. Unemployment remains persistently high. Jobs are not being created. Americans’ wallets are being squeezed to the breaking point. The only thing saving us from a complete meltdown is that our pets’ heads aren’t quite falling off….yet.

But don’t worry. Our president has answers! After all, this is a guy who wrote a book titled “The Audacity of Hope.” Hope! He was gonna bring “change you can believe in.” So at best he’ll have answers. At worst he’ll talk us down from the ledge.

Wrong. The man with all the answers, or at least quasi-answers couched in platitudes, is apparently all out. So we get “things could be worse.” So I’m led to ask…how?

In June the unemployment rate continued to hover around 10 percent with the private sector gaining a measly 83,000 jobs and total employment falling by 125,000. Not apocalyptic, but not all that great either. Consider, that we need to create around 10.7 million jobs to reach full employment. Over the course of five years we would need to create 300,000 a month to get back to where we were five years ago. If you need any more proof that things couldn’t really be worse, just ask the 6.8 million people who represent the long-term unemployed (jobless for 27+ weeks).

Moreover GDP growth has been extremely slow – around 2.8 percent. As Paul Krugman explained the figure: “even if the economy continued to grow at that rate, we wouldn’t see anything like full employment until late in Sarah Palin’s second term.” For those of you who don’t understand Krugman-speak that means never.

The depressingly low GDP is made even more so by the depressingly high debt-to-GDP ratio. A new report by the Office of Management and Budget shows that the budget deficit will reach a record $1.47 trillion this year. Far from getting better, 2011 is predicted to have a $1.42 trillion deficit, $150 billion more than expected. If the CBO’s estimates hold true spiraling interest payments would push the debt to 109% of GDP by 2025 and would reach 185% of GDP by 2035. For a dose of context consider that America’s debt-to-GDP ratio peaked at 109 percent at the end of World War II.  Not to mention the sad fact that Greece’s debt was at 115% before their economy fell into the abyss earlier this year.

With things so historically bad, the country’s finances utterly wrecked, and an entire generation of young adults drowning in the government’s red ink, we don’t get solutions, we get “things could be worse.”

Then again, perhaps my expectations are just too high. Perhaps I should have just trusted Reagan when he told me, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” But part of me wanted to have a little hope. A smidgen of belief that the geniuses in Washington would at worst step out of the way and let businesses do their thing. Unfortunately, that is just not how things work in this White House.

Take Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner for instance. This past weekend while speaking about the impending tax increases (because that should really get businesses going) he said, “the country can withstand that. I think it’s good policy”

“Withstand?” That is the measure by which Washington judges good policy? That’s like saying, I’ll just shoot him a couple times in the leg, he’ll survive! Yea, but I can’t walk.

We need decision-makers who don’t judge policy based on what America can stand, but instead judge it based on what America can’t stand without. Hopefully we’ll get them come November when voters will have a chance to vote out the Democratic mad scientists intent on stacking debt upon deficits waiting to see when the nation will crumble. Until then, I’ll attempt to be comforted by the fact that apparently, somehow, things could be worse.

Brandon Greife is the Political Director at the College Republican National Committee. He holds a J.D. from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a B.A. in Political Science and History from there as well.