George Graham

First the Good News – Such as it is

Somewhere in the darkest night a candle glows … according to some tin-pan-alley composer of my lost youth. So let’s peek out from under the bed covers and look around for that gleam of hope.

The Associated Press provides a flickering glow this morning with news that:

Hiring picked up slightly in July and the unemployment rate dipped to 9.1 percent, an optimistic sign after the worst day on Wall Street in nearly three years.

Employers added 117,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday. That’s better than the past two months, which were also revised higher.

All right!

But wait, AP dials back the optimism with a reminder that:

Still, the economy needs twice as many net jobs per month to rapidly reduce unemployment. The rate has topped 9 percent in every month except two since the recession officially ended in June 2009.


The unemployment rate fell partly because some unemployed workers stopped looking for work. That means they are no longer counted as unemployed.

it’s a silver lining of sorts, I suppose, though. AP said stock futures rose after the jobs report came out. (I’m sure you know by now that a trillion dollars worth of stocks went up in smoke as a result of the debt ceiling stand-off and the economic woes that caused it.)

Meanwhile, the Democrats are railing against the Republicans, launching a well-deserved “Accountability Month” campaign to make sure voters know who caused the debt ceiling debacle. And President Obama is on the road again, doing what he does best, which is giving great speeches.

And I am left wondering why nobody is talking about the trade deficit, which is racing toward$316 billion for the year – so far.

At a pace of about $50 billion a month, the United States economy is spiraling into a deeper and deeper hole.

Am I mistaken, or is that the road to ruin?

Even if (and don’t bet on it) the demented Tea Party Republicans relent enough to let Congress pass a “jobs bill” keyed to infrastructure repairs, that won’t solve America’s problem. As soon as that stimulus money is exhausted, the death spiral will continue.

Unless we sell as much or more to other countries as we buy from them.

Some economists believe that natural forces will even out the trade imbalance. But it’s been going on for decades and things are getting worse, not better.

It’s time for them to admit they were wrong.

The “invisible hand” of the free market is invisible because it does not exist.

Especially in a world where “free” means free for one but not for all. Not for the United States, anyway.

China taxes imports from the U.S. at 25 percent, and Chinese goods pay 2 percent to access the American market, for example.

And, of course, there are all kinds of  similar “incentives” in a flurry of trade agreements ostensibly designed to help “emerging economies” develop.

It’s high time someone started helping “submerging” economies.

Like America’s.

Click on chart at right for jobs figures, at left for trade figures.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for