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Obama's outstanding non-recovery

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Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, 9:00 p.m.

Where are the jobs? That's the first question to ask in what's now become the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression — or, more precisely, the longest non-recovery since the 1930s.

“More than 23 million Americans are either unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work,” reported the Bureau of Labor Statistics in July, the federal government's principal fact-finding agency regarding unemployment, economics and statistics.

Here's the second question: Why hasn't President Obama met with his Jobs Council for six months?

That was the question asked by a reporter at the White House press briefing on July 18.

After White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answered with a non-answer, the reporter tried again.

Reporter: “So there's no reason they haven't met publicly?”

Press Secretary Carney: “No, there's no specific reason except that the president's obviously got a lot on his plate.” And that's true. He's got a plate of chicken and green beans at a fundraiser in Florida, followed by a plate of chicken and broccoli in Iowa, and then a plate of chicken and mashed potatoes in Ohio, etc., etc. In all, 120 fundraisers in six months.

Not all of it was repetitious chicken. The price of admission earlier this month to the lavish fundraiser at the oceanfront compound in Connecticut of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was $35,800 per person, $71,600 a couple.

Getting a lot on his plate that day, as Carney put it, Mr. Obama stopped in at a $500-per-person Connecticut fundraiser at the Marriott in Stamford just two hours before his motorcade pulled up at his second fundraiser of the evening at the Weinstein mansion.

Weinstein's “Presidential menu,” created and cooked by two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Michel Nischan, opened with an heirloom tomato salad over pickled cucumbers “from the chef's garden,” followed by an entree of locally raised heirloom chicken (chicken again, but politically correct birds this time), served with potato tarts and shaved sweet carrots. For dessert, local honey and local berries over pan-fried angel food cake.

So who has time to meet with the 26-member Council on Jobs and Competitiveness? Why put unemployment on the front burner when there are free-range chickens in the oven?

A research report from JPMorgan examined the prior private-sector experience of 432 Cabinet members in presidential administrations since 1900, including secretaries of Commerce, Treasury, State, Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Labor and Energy.

Half or more of the Cabinet members in the following administrations had prior private-sector experience: Eisenhower, 57 percent; Reagan, 56 percent; George W. Bush, 55 percent; Nixon, 53 percent; Wilson, 52 percent; George H. Bush, 51 percent; Franklin Roosevelt, 50 percent; Truman, 50 percent.

Prior private-sector experience ranged from 49 percent to 40 percent in the following administrations: Harding, 49 percent; Coolidge, 48 percent; Johnson, 47 percent; Ford, 42 percent; Hoover, 42 percent; Taft, 40 percent.

And the presidents with the lowest percentages of Cabinet members with prior private-sector experience: Clinton, 39 percent; Teddy Roosevelt, 38 percent; Carter, 32 percent; Kennedy, 30 percent; and Obama, 8 percent.

Jobs? We're in a record-breaking non-recovery.

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur. Email:

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