Americans have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving while also being mindful of the millions of our fellow citizens who are unemployed, have lost their homes and are struggling to make ends meet.
This is a time of the year when we gather with family and friends to bow our heads and give thanks for so many blessings, great and small. With all of the problems our country faces, we still remain the freest and largest economy in the world, and a nation of charitable people who are always ready to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate. We are still a land of opportunity that allows even the least among us to climb the economic ladder and achieve their dreams.
But for so many Americans, this is also a very sad and troubled time, when those dreams have been shattered and the promise of America has become as elusive as a well-paying, permanent job. We are nearing the fourth year of our economic troubles, with the economy crawling along at a feeble 2.5 percent in the third quarter, the housing industry still in a hole, with mortgage foreclosures and evictions still rising -- and high unemployment projected throughout next year and beyond.
But the human misery is even deeper than the economic statistics suggest. Poverty rates and homelessness have climbed to alarming levels. Food banks are swamped by record demand, even in areas of relative prosperity.
"In Loudoun County (Virginia) -- the nation's wealthiest county measured by median income -- the food pantry is distributing its first-ever Thanksgiving meal, giving food to 2,000 families," the Washington Post reported Monday.
In nearby Fairfax County, "the nonprofit Our Daily Bread is facing the grim reality that, although it will feed 2,400 people, it may not be able to help as many as 650 needy families at Thanksgiving," the Post reported.
Lynn Brantley, president and chief executive of the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, said that "this year was the most difficult in the organization's 30-year history." Her food bank will distribute 30 million pounds of food to more than 700 nonprofit groups and agencies in the capital area -- an all-time record.Bread lines, reminiscent of the Great Depression, "have become commonplace, including the 3,000 people who waited for groceries ... in front of the Loudoun Interfaith Relief center Friday," the newspaper said.
"With this economy, things are pretty bleak. People on Main Street are not rebounding," Brantley told the Post.
Mind you, this is Greater Washington, the nation's capital, where jobs are supposedly plentiful and the area unemployment rates are well below the national average of nearly 10 percent. Things are said to be much worse in poorer regions of the country, like the hard-hit Rust Belt in the Midwest, the Deep South and much of the West.
We have been through many trying and difficult times throughout our history. We have weathered depressions, recessions and wars, and have always emerged stronger and more hopeful than before.
But in this period that our political leadership is going through, it feels like they have lost their and our way, that they haven't a clue how to turn the economy up to full throttle. They seem far more concerned that there may be too many millionaires and billionaires in our economy when, in fact, we need to encourage more wealth creation and the jobs and higher incomes that come with it. Sam Walton, Ray Kroc and Bill Gates created millions of jobs, and a lot of the workers who bought their company's stock became very wealthy indeed.
President Obama is nearing the third year of his troubled presidency, and he still can't figure out how to get our lackluster economy moving again. Economists from the Federal Reserve to Wall Street say that unemployment will remain between 9 and 10 percent through 2011 under his present policies, and will remain close to that in 2012.
Lately, the president has been cynically suggesting that the near 10 percent jobless rate and economic growth in the 2 percent range is now "the new normal" in America, because businesses have found a way to make more money with a lot fewer workers and the situation isn't going to change.
But the fundamentals of economics have not changed. American businesses with vision and ambition will hire workers when they are offered the incentives that will unlock needed investment capital for expansion through lower tax rates that will help this economy take off.
But that isn't going to happen with the anti-growth, anti-risk-taking, anti-wealth-building policies of this administration. The minutes of the Fed's last meeting showed policymakers saying that the economic recovery was not only "disappointingly slow," it "was likely to remain slow."
This economy is crying out for a change in fiscal policy to get the great American jobs machine working again. That, too, should be included in our Thanksgiving prayers.