Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank provides Exhibit A of New Normal thinking:
Now, after a long economic winter, green shoots are everywhere: The stock market is booming, housing prices are rebounding and mortgage providers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, long demonized by Republicans, are returning profits to the Treasury. Job growth has accelerated and consumer confidence has reached its highest level in almost six years. Health-care cost increases are slowing, Medicare’s prospects are improving — in part because of President Obama’s health-care reforms — and gasoline prices are forecast to decline. Long-term fiscal problems remain, but the federal deficit is shrinking, putting off Washington’s debt-ceiling standoff until late fall .
And thus, Milbank concludes, 2013 Republicans are in the same pickle at those in 1999, complaining about White House scandals (Lewinsky them, IRS now) as the economy booms. Except the economy is nowhere near booming, not even at Bush levels much less Clinton levels. At National Review Online, I ticked over a slew of reasons why as we begin the fifth year of the economic recovery, things should be much better:
1. Annual US GDP growth, adjusted for inflation, has averaged an anemic 2.1% for the 15 full quarters of recovery, versus 5.1% during the same span after the severe 1981–82 recession.
2. As a result, the economy has yet to return to anywhere near its pre–Great Recession growth trend. If it had, the economy would be $1 trillion bigger today.
3. This recovery has seen the weakest increase in real disposable income of any of the seven most recent recoveries, according to ITG Market Research.
4. The average US household has recovered a mere 45% of the wealth lost during the Great Recession, according to the St. Louis Fed.
5. The economy has 2 million fewer private-sector jobs than it did at the January 2008 peak.
6. Of course, if average monthly job gains remain close to the last twelve months’ average of 180,000, then private-sector payrolls will hit an all-time high in just under one year. But even then, job levels will still be far below where they would be if the trend from 1990 through 2007 had continued, a shortfall equaling nearly 12 million missing workers.
7. If not for a collapse in the labor-force participation rate — mostly due to weak labor demand rather than demographics, according to Goldman Sachs — the unemployment rate would be at least 9%, not 7.5%.
8. The broader U-6 jobless rate, which includes some discouraged workers and part-timers who would prefer full-time gigs — is just shy of 14% vs. 8% pre-recession.
9. There are 4.4 million Americans — a whopping 37% of the total unemployed population — who’ve been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. This group, given skill erosion and hiring bias, could become a large permanent pool of jobless Americans.
But hey, we’re better than Europe.