The 17 countries of the euro zone showed enough growth in the second quarter of this year for it to declare that the recession has ended there.
The growth was a feeble 0.3 percent, led, predictably, by Germany and France. Even economically ill Portugal showed 1.1 percent growth, its government having imposed Draconian measures to achieve it. The United Kingdom, which is not part of the euro zone, is still enduring 7.8 percent unemployment.
The United States also is officially out of the recession — its second-quarter growth rate was 1.7 percent — but no one can argue that its economic woes are over. The nation’s job creation rate suggests otherwise. When a slight drop in the unemployment rate is caused in part by people who have stopped looking for work, there is little room for optimism.
With the gridlock in Washington — the White House battling a divided Congress, split political parties, and weak leadership all around — it is no wonder that the economy continues to stagger. Too many Americans are letting themselves be distracted by speculation about candidates for a presidential election that is still 39 months off. That fuels a dangerous perception that lets today’s leaders off the hook for solving problems now.
When Congress returns next month from its five-week vacation, it should set an example by dealing with its economic agenda: agreeing on a budget, raising the limit on the national debt (now $16.7 trillion), figuring out what to do about $90 billion in further cuts required by the sequester, and not reducing Social Security and Medicare — unless lawmakers all want to lose the next election.
It defies belief that Europeans, in a union of independent countries, can resolve their economic problems more efficiently than the United States can.