by Daniel Altman.
When Americans go to the polls this November, they’ll be looking for some payback. The Great Recession supposedly ended in June 2009, but what followed was hardly the kind of bounce that usually put the economy back on its feet. Rather, in the following two years the economy produced about two million fewer jobs than it would have under historically normal conditions. The unemployment rate was still above eight percent, and people around the country were still suffering the pain and indignity of hunger, bankruptcy, and foreclosure. Why? Who was to blame?
After any recession, growth usually returns before jobs do. Companies want to see a steady stream of higher revenue and profits before they’re comfortable hiring more people. But this recession was different. Part of the problem was the fiscal crisis in the euro zone that seemed like it would never end. Then there was the debt crisis provoked by Republicans in Congress just as the downturn was ending, which dumped a new load of uncertainty onto the financial markets and the economy as a whole. That crisis was the most violent manifestation of the continuing debate in Washington about reducing the federal government’s debt. In the states, most of which had strict balanced budget rules, the debate was moot…