FiveThirtyEight finds four reasons for the unacceptable lingering of unacceptably high employment almost a year after economic production turned positive: (1) unused capacity; (2) lower hours/week; (3) rising productivity; (4) uncertainties in the economy.
Read the whole thing for the graphs and analysis. Here let's focus on the last, most controversial reason. Critics of the administration charge that Obama's pro-reform agenda is roiling the already-turbulent economy and scaring employers from taking risks on new loans and new employees. On the other hand, the White House would respond that businesses are hesitant to hire because consumers are hesitant to buy their goods and services. The first group says the government is doing too much. The second group says the government is doing too little.
And then there's the administration itself, which apparently believes both things: that they need to stimulate quickly so that they can stop stimulating, quickly. How admirably nuanced and confusing! It's like Kenyes meets Kafka. Paul Krugman is hating:
I was on Good Morning America this not-so-good morning, doing what I could. But I was struck by something that George Stephanopoulos said: he claimed to have been speaking to an administration official who asserted that what we need to get businesses investing is for business to know that the government has stopped -- presumably, that means no new spending, no new regulation, whatever.
PK calls the White House's reasoning "shocking" and wrong. I agree, but as somebody who's never owned a business, I'm not prepared to comment conclusively on the mindset of all America's business owners. At the very least, the Obama team is doing a poor job of selling their economic policies if they're begging the G20 to continue pro-growth stimulus while whispering to Good Morning America that ongoing government stimulus is an obstacle to growth.