Economists have been warning that we might face another bubble – possibly in commercial real estate or commodities. The fear is, like the dot-com bubble or the housing bubble, this one might blow up in our faces. But the biggest economic bubble is already here.
It’s the one surrounding Washington.
That bubble is huge, stretching from one end of the Washington Beltway to the other. Inside is one of the most consistent economic bubbles in history – the bubble of ignorance.
Washington is a city of know-it-alls. It holds policy experts for every topic from near-Eastern trade to potty parity. People in the city know everything – everything, that is, except what it’s like not to hold a job. Although increasingly, voters have decided it’s about time some of them learn. Sen. Arlen Specter joins other incumbents who have fallen victim to a throw-the-bums-out election mentality. (Specter is, of course, one of the bums.)
Unemployment is all-too common in the rest of the nation where joblessness is a whisker away from 10 percent and much higher if you count workers who have given up looking. Among areas with more than 1 million residents, the D.C.-metro area ranks third best in unemployment at 6.7 percent. National unemployment is nearly 50 percent higher.
Elsewhere, our friends and family members are hurting from an extended downturn that shows no significant sign of easing. Sure, the media might want us to think so, that “prosperity is just around the corner,” as Herbert Hoover once said. CNBC host Maria Bartiromo recently credited some home construction gains to “signs of an improving economy.” NBC’s Savannah Guthrie raved about how “manufacturing had its best job growth in a decade.”
They sound like they are taking their cues from the White House. President Obama has been singing the praises of the economic rebound in recent weeks. When the nation added 290,000 jobs in the beginning of May, Obama touted the improvement and added, “we’ve got a ways to go.”
He’s got a sure spot on “Saturday Night Live” with that kind of material. A ways to go? Columbus had a ways to go from Spain to the New World. The United States needs several million new jobs to get down to where unemployment was at the end of the Bush administration. Sure job growth is better than losses, but at least 100,000 of those jobs were needed just to break even with population growth. And another 66,000 were temporary Census jobs.
That doesn’t leave much room for jobs people need to pay their bills and feed their families.