President Barack Obama has become adept at deflecting policy criticism and shifting the media narrative away from unpleasant scandals and onto issues more palatable to his administration, e.g. shifting focus off of the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal and onto the Sgt. Bowe Berghdal swap, although that shift in focus did not work out quite like the administration had hoped for.
One thing the Obama Administration cannot shift away from, however, is the widespread, latent demoralization of the American people brought on by the moribund Obama economy. Recent polling data by CNN/ORC shows that amidst an economy characterized by persistent unemployment, underemployment, and uncertainty, many Americans have simply given up.
In the most telling data point of the survey, nearly six in 10 Americans believe the American Dream to be dead with the highest percentage of respondents coming from those aged 18-34. Among that demographic, fully 63 percent feel that it is impossible for them to achieve their vision of the American Dream.
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
This shocking turn toward pessimism is a dramatic turnaround from only three years ago when a study on the American Dream, conducted by Xavier University, found that 63 percent of Americans at the time were confident that they would achieve their vision of the American Dream and nearly 75 percent felt as though they already achieved a part of it.
To understand this pessimism it is necessary to dig deeper into the recent jobs report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate may be holding steady at 6.3 percent, but many of the underlying numbers shed light on why so many Americans have given up under the weight of the Obama Administration's penchant toward over-regulation and excess.
Labor force participation, the percentage of "persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, who are not inmates of institutions, and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces" actively working or seeking work, as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, maintained a 36-year low at 62.8 percent.
Sharp increases in the number of retirees, those enrolling in school, and a large bump in the number of Americans drawing Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) have factored into the drop in labor force participation. These numbers have no doubt been exacerbated by the scarcity of available jobs; but a declining labor force participation rate also masks the true employment picture in America.
While the Obama Administration has been quick to tout its official unemployment rate at 6.3 percent, the true unemployment rate continues to hover near 13 percent when considering those only marginally attached to the workforce, those discouraged from finding work, and those only working part-time for economic reasons.
In sum, 7.3 million Americans were being forced to work only part-time due to factors such as their hours being cut or their being unable to find full-time work while an additional 2.1 million Americans willing, wanting, and able to work, were not counted against official unemployment numbers because they had not looked for work in the past four weeks.
Adding to an already depleted labor force, those workers mired in unemployment but actively seeking a job have seen their average duration of unemployment skyrocket. Since Obama took office the average number of weeks spent unemployed has jumped from 19.8 weeks to 34.5 weeks.
And the employment picture only worsens for younger Americans just entering the work force. Teenage unemployment remains near 20 percent and that number will only increase if President Obama follows through with his stated desire to see the federal minimum wage law raised by nearly 40 percent.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that a minimum wage increase in line with what the president is seeking would slash 500,000 jobs from the economy. Without question, many of those jobs would come at the expense of young Americans trying to enter the workforce.
People looking for jobs come to Worksource Portland Metro for help with their resumes, fill out unemployment forms and look at posted job openings at the Tualatin, Ore. office, June 18, 2013. Credit: AP
Just scratching the surface of the underlying economic picture leaves little doubt as to why so many Americans have given up on the American Dream. Even more unsettling than nearly 60 percent of Americans feeling that the American Dream is dead is the fact that just over 30 percent of adults feel that their children will "grow up better off" than their parents.
"The pessimism is reflective of the financial realities a lot of families are facing. They are treading water, but their income is not translating into solid financial security," stated Erin Currier, head of the Economic Mobility Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Americans have never been a pessimistic lot. The future has always been a time of promise, not one of dread. Excessive taxation and over-regulation during the Obama Administration has seen that attitude shift. Coupled with an emasculated foreign policy that has seen America regress on the world stage, it is no wonder Americans have little faith in the future.
This may end up being the true legacy of the Obama Administration as it will be reflected upon as a time marked by uncertainty, regression, and pessimism. Not the Hope and Change millions of Americans voted for in 2008 but a significant change nonetheless.
Scott G. Erickson is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and is a conservative writer and law enforcement professional from California. He can be found at www.scottgerickson.com or @SGErickson
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