Christina Romer, an economist who left the White House last year, blasted the federal government for what she perceives as inaction on joblessness.
“I frankly don’t understand why policy makers aren’t more worried about the suffering of real families,” Romer told attendees at an event at Vanderbilt University, reports Politico’s Ben Smith.
While March’s job numbers have yet to be released, many celebrated February’s numbers for showing the lowest rate unemployment since 2009. Yet unemployment for people of color is much higher than the average, at 15 percent for blacks and 12 percent for Latinos.
Though all signs point to a continuing jobless recovery, Romer insisted that the Obama Administration take more aggressive action to alleviate some of the “devastation.” Devastation is a good word for it, since the effects of long-term joblessness tend to compound: The longer a person is out of work, the harder it becomes to find a job. There are also negative psychological effects.
Fear of increasing the deficit seems to be holding the government back from making overt investments in job creation, but Romer rejected that as a reason for inaction: “And don’t tell me you can’t [take those actions] because of the deficit because I think there are fiscally responsible ways.”
The lack of movement or talk about joblessness is concerning. As Andrew Grant-Thomas of the Kirwan Institute told me: “We know that black and Latino unemployment is very high, we know their long-term unemployment is very high, we know they’re underrepresented in recipients of unemployment insurance, and we know their assets are very low. We know that the effects of all of that stuff—I don’t think many people appreciate how many things long-term joblessness affects.”
But if job growth remains at its current sluggish level, it’s likely we’ll all learn to appreciate the effects of long-term joblessness in time.