The Times crafts an excellent editorial on the economy

The Times has an excellent editorial today on the challenges the economy is posing to policy makers.   It is deeply consistent with what NDN has been advocating for these past several years, and makes a strong case for why we need a New Economic Strategy for America:

How Slow Can It Go?

Last week, when the government reported that the economy had slowed to a crawl in the first quarter of the year, any lingering hope for robust employment growth was tempered accordingly. But no one was quite prepared for a job report as weak as the one released yesterday. Only 88,000 jobs were created in April, the smallest gain in nearly two and half years and a sharp deceleration from job growth in the recent past.

Predictably, the slowdown was reflected in Americans’ paychecks. Weekly earnings are up over the past year. But of late, the rate of increase has dropped significantly. A squeeze on jobs and paychecks is the last thing Americans need right now.

Though the economy has been expanding for more than five years, wages and salaries for most workers have picked up in earnest only in the past year. And now hiring and pay increases appear to be slowing before many families have had the chance to rebuild their finances. For many people, mortgage payments are also being adjusted upward as home prices fall, making it harder for them to refinance their debts. At the same time, the price of everyday essentials, like food and gasoline, is rising. And life’s big-ticket items, like health care and education, are increasingly expensive, even as employers and government shoulder less of those costs.

If this strain on family finances ends up curbing consumers’ spending, the economy at large will be in danger of a recession. The Federal Reserve would probably try to counter such a downturn by cutting interest rates. But rate cuts are not magic. Their effectiveness would depend on the depth of the recession and the ways the lower rates reverberated through global markets.

More likely, the real solutions will have to be political, not merely technical. When the next downturn hits in force, it will become painfully clear that American workers have not shared in the benefits of Bush-era economic growth in any way commensurate with their hard work and productivity.

The nation will need policies — and leaders — to reconnect economic growth with rising living standards, for all.