We’re leaving the poor behind


“Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’”

— Ronald Reagan

This is the recovery that wasn’t.

That’s not my line. It’s the conclusion from a USA Today news story that chronicled the sad rise in food stamp use in America.

In 2008, during the teeth of the recession, 8.6 percent of American families received government food assistance. In 2012, almost a full four years into what President Barack Obama calls his “recovery,” 13.6 percent of the population collected food assistance.

That’s not what a recovery should look like. It indicates that large chunks of society have been left behind. For a sizable slice of the population, the Great Recession continues.

It’s not just the president’s political opposition expressing disappointment in the economy. A woman who said she voted for Obama asked him this question at one of his town hall meetings in 2010. It stuck in my mind because it remains the question, even today:

“My husband and I joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives. … Is this my new reality?”

The president answered “no,” as he should have. But the numbers haven’t gotten better.

Hourly wages, for example, decreased for all workers by 2.8 percent during the recovery. Wages fell 5 percent in lower-wage jobs, such as cooks, food preparation workers and housekeepers, according to a study recently published by the National Employment Law Project.

The Obama recovery hit minorities especially hard. The unemployment rate for African-American women is 12 percent, double the rate for white women. A PBS report estimated the jobless rate for African-American high school dropouts is 95 percent.

Of course, you wouldn’t get any of that by listening to last week’s State of the Union address. The president used the national stage not for a sober assessment of the country, but for an ideological pep rally, glossing over the gritty truth to justify his economic status quo.

“What I believe unites the people of this nation — regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor,” the president said in last week’s speech, “is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all.”

Bravo, Mr. President. But if that’s your priority, why did you take time from fixing the economy to tear apart the best health care system in the world and replace it with Obamacare, a system that increases costs and gives employers an incentive to cut workers to part-time status?

Want to increase the need for food stamps? Cut workers’ hours in half. That will do it.

The plain truth: We are not in a widespread recovery. We’re morphing into an economically stagnant, under-employed nation in which more of us are forced into government assistance programs to survive.

Consider the statistics from FactCheck.Org, which updated its Obama economic numbers as of Jan. 21.

Here’s where the president’s economic performance stands:

■ There are twice as many long-term unemployed people in America since Obama became president.

■ Wages remain stagnant.

■ Health care spending increased 15.8 percent under Obama, despite claims Obamacare would reduce spending growth.

■ The federal debt has nearly doubled under Obama. We stand at $17.3 trillion.

“As of December, the economy had gained a net total of 3,246,000 jobs since Obama first took office, and the unemployment rate had fallen to 6.7 percent, down from 7.8 percent,” FactCheck.Org reports.

Then comes the reality check: “Despite the gains, more than 10 million people remained unemployed. … That’s an increase of nearly 1.2 million ‘long-term unemployed’ since the start of the Obama presidency.”

This is not to say the president is stupid or that he doesn’t care. However, he disconnects his policies from the lousy results. It’s always someone else’s fault.

As a result, the economic grind continues — we have an alleged “recovery” coupled with sky-high need for food stamps. That’s why the president’s speeches about the economy no longer elicit much hope.

Instead, they generate a national, bipartisan eye roll.

Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/sherman-frederick.