From my CNN column: why jobless Americans shouldn't expect any help from their government. Get well, soon, America -- you are on your own.
The U.S. economy added 165,000 jobs in April. That's not a bad result, except for this fact: Technically speaking, the economy has been in recovery since the summer of 2009. Yet after nearly four years of economic expansion, nearly 12 million people remain unemployed.
If we continue to add jobs every month at the April rate, not until the fall of 2014 will we again have as many people working as we did back in January 2008.
And of course, the American workforce has expanded since January 2008 as young people reach working age and as new immigrants arrive. At present job creation trends, it will take until 2021 to drive the unemployment rate down to a rate that is considered "full employment."
That seems unlikely to happen. The longest expansion in U.S. history lasted 10 years from 1991 to 2001. Even if we could somehow equal that record going forward, we would expect a recession sometime before 2019 -- meaning that the unemployment rate will surely rise again before it has touched anywhere close to bottom.
But why repeat these familiar facts? You know all about the joblessness crisis. Everybody knows all about the joblessness crisis. Or rather ... not quite everybody.
Last week, President Barack Obama held a press conference. He accepted questions on Syria, on the Boston bombing, on guns, on the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and on immigration. None was asked about plans for job creation, which is maybe just as well, since nobody in U.S. politics seems to have a jobs program.
Before the 2012 election, Obama used to talk often about his American Jobs Act, a second stimulus program that emphasized more cuts in the payroll tax and aid to states to prevent public-sector layoffs. That plan has not been heard from in a long time. The payroll tax holiday expired at the end of 2012.
Layoffs continue apace in the public sector: 11,000 public-sector jobs lost in April 2013. The Obama administration faintly regrets both developments but won't invest much political capital in seeking to reverse them. We are told that the president this week will resume his "jobs and opportunity" tours.
Yet his speeches focus on immigration and budget themes. Nor can the administration muster the creative enthusiasm to propose alternative job-creation plans for the second term..
Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, continue to emphasize budget-balancing above all else. Back in 2011, the House GOP released a 10-point jobs plan whose key point was a big cut in the top rate of tax to 25%. That plan too has vanished from sight since Election Day.
We now have a two-party agreement to act as if the central economic challenge of our time has been resolved.