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Jobs & priorities: Obama's sputtering economy

January 11. 2014 12:49AM

On Friday, the federal government released its monthly jobs report, which showed that the U.S. economy created only 73,000 jobs in December. The Washington Post called it "the latest stumble in the nation's sputtering recovery from recession."

Two days earlier, Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, vice-chairman of the New Hampshire House Finance Committee, had argued on the House floor that expanding Medicaid is the single most-effective step the state can take to expand access to health insurance and boost the economy. Given the choice, we wonder how many Granite Staters who earn between 100-138 percent of the poverty level would take Medicaid over a better-paying job that offers good insurance.

It is a sign of their priorities - and their views about economics - that New Hampshire Democrats made expanding Medicaid, rather than faciitating job creation, their top legislative goal of 2014. In Washington, it is a sign of their priorities, their economic thinking and their policy failures that the No. 1 priority of Senate Democrats and the White House is to expand yet again the emergency unemployment insurance benefits that were created in the summer of 2008.

Those federal unemployment insurance benefits were to provide temporary relief for the long-term unemployed who could not find work because of the recession - which ran from December of 2007 to June of 2009. Yet the emergency benefits have continued through the entirety of Barack Obama's administration, and Democrats insist that the best thing we can do for the long-term unemployed is to extend the benefits for another year. Such is their confidence in their own economic policies.

In February of 2009 - five years ago next month - President Obama said of the economy, "if I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition." Since the recession ended four months after Obama made that statement, the labor-force participation rate has fallen even more rapidly than it did during the Bush adminstration. It has reached levels not seen since 1978, meaning that, as a percentage of the population, fewer Americans are looking for work today than in the last year of the Carter administration.

This is the Obama economy.

This is the economy under a government that favors expanded benefits over expanded private-sector job creation. A study last April by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reached this conclusion about the perpetual extension of unemployment benefits: "Our estimates imply that most of the persistent increase in unemployment during the Great Recession can be accounted for by the unprecedented extensions of unemployment benefit eligibility."

This is the economy with which we will continue to be saddled until we switch the government's focus from fostering dependency to fostering independence and self-reliance.

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