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Published: Monday, 9/14/2009

Economic misery

TO ALMOST no one's surprise, the U.S. unemployment rate for August rose, by three-tenths of a percentage point, to 9.7 percent, and the economy lost another 216,000 jobs.

While those who lost jobs last month were fewer than the 276,000 who lost them in July, the fact is the misery across the country continues to grow, in spite of the economic stimulus measures, the bailouts of banks and the auto industry, and the brave words of reassurance from President Obama.

The specifics of such an economic disaster for the richest country in the world are horrible.

Unemployment for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, for instance, rose from 9.8 percent in July to 11.3 percent in August. About 1.64 million Americans have served in Afghanistan since 2001; in August, 185,000 of them looked unsuccessfully for work. So much for taking care of the nation's returned heroes, who are finding it harder to land a job than the average American.

June is the most recent month for which the Department of Agriculture has released food stamp figures. Thirty-five million Americans received food stamps then, 700,000 more than in May, up by more than 6 million from a year ago.

One of the ghastly aspects of unemployment and mortgage foreclosure is the number of children who are starting school this fall with their parents unemployed and perhaps homeless as well. One report last spring said there were at least 1 million homeless children in the United States. It is impossible to gauge the impact on a child of trying to succeed in school with such an absence of stability.

It's hard to blame the Obama Administration, in office a little more than seven months, for this state of affairs. Nonetheless, the federal government pledged $12 trillion to stem the recession, while banks and financial houses passed out $18.4 billion in executive bonuses. Americans are now hearing moaning about how sad it was that Lehman Brothers was not bailed out last September, with the implication that the subsequent collapse of the world economy was because of the federal government's failure to save the firm.

The real need is located elsewhere, in the form of America's jobless, its veterans, its poor, its people on food stamps, and, first and foremost, its children.

This must not go on.

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