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Level Misery

by on October 20, 2009

Should we cheer when awful times don’t get worse?  New York’s percentage of idle workers remained constant during the previous two months.  Unfortunately, that means that the rate has stabilized in critical condition:

From August to September, the New York unemployment rate held steady at 8.9%, which is lower than the national rate.

For once, the rest of the nation’s economy stinks worse than it does here.  That’s nothing about which to gloat, and not only because it would be a classless move.  In practical terms, we’d only be trash-talking about someone else’s Ford Escort while driving a Tempo:

The national rate is 9.8%, its highest in 26 years. In the Buffalo-Niagara Region, the jobless rate for September 2009 was 8.4%. That’s up 1/10 of one point from the previous month. It was 5.9% in September 2008.

There was a time when a 5.9 percent jobless rate would have been considered uncomfortably sizeable.  That time is not now. Getting back under six percent is a prospect that currently looks to be as unattainable as a perpetual motion machine or Peace Bridge upgrade.  This area was financially delicate before the globe went bust.  Now, the numbers show that we’ve been hit with a tidal wave when we were already coping with a flooded basement.

The situation is so bad that even the governor has gotten prudent.  David Paterson is at least recognizing, finally, that New York can’t spend at will anymore:

“I am not going to let this state go into default,” said Governor David Paterson in New York City Sunday to a group of business leaders. To do that, Paterson says sacrifices will have to be made to fill an anticipated $3 billion dollar budget gap, starting with cuts to health care and education.

Of course, pursuing such cuts before the globe went broke would have left New York in better shape to persevere and rebound. Presently, we’d be envied by other states as we stole away their most talented and/or prosperous residents.

On top of that, we shouldn’t start frittering away taxpayer cash even after, or if, we recover.  States ultimately only cause fiscal duress when they spend at will, especially this one.  But at least our beleaguered executive is acknowledging the necessary solution, even if it took a wailing siren to get his attention.

Unfortunately, many national-level politicians still must learn that they haven’t helped, aren’t helping, and won’t help lead us to prosperity by redistributing income.  National intervention only works if it’s a good value to spend, oh, $71,500 per job created by the stimulus. It’s the equivalent of paying crippling interest for the privilege of opening a bank account.

Yet bad ideas persist nationally.  For one, if elected officials truly wanted to help, they could stop issuing federally-backed mortgages to people who don’t have money to buy houses. Duplicating the exact same mistakes that sunk us in the first place probably won’t improve our outlook.

Frighteningly, Albany’s potential willingness to act sensibly will become immaterial if Washington keeps acting this way.  We can only hope we’re not soon longing for the days when unemployment was under double digits.  It’s up to our alleged leaders to recognize that our particular present should never be deemed conducive to future nostalgia.

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