Long-term unemployment and the debate

Tonight’s debate focused on an issue rarely discussed the campaign: the plight of the long-term unemployed. Government data shows that nearly 5 million people have been unemployed for six or more months, a terribly long time that reduces a person’s odds of finding new work. 

Asked about the issue, Romney used the opportunity to critique Obama’s jobs record. He said there are fewer people working today than when the president took office. Including all data revisions, this was not true. Slightly more people are working today than in January 2009.

But Romney did correctly point out that the unemployment rate would be much higher if all the people who had dropped out of the workforce had rejoined.

Romney says he has a plan to get 12 million new jobs created over the next four years. The economy is likely to generate millions of jobs over the next four years no matter what. Romney says his plans will “help people across the country that are unemployed right now,” but as it happens, his policies are fairly clear that government does not have a big role to play in reducing unemployment. His philosophy is that by stepping back, government will create the conditions necessary for the private sector to hire.

Obama did not directly address the plight of the long term unemployed. Rather, he said Romney’s plan to help the economy consists of one point – allowing the wealthy to prosper at the expense of everyone else.

Zachary A. Goldfarb is policy editor at The Washington Post.
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Melissa Bell · October 16, 2012