Byron York: With public focused on jobs, Washington fights other fights, Washington Examiner, February 7, 2013
A new survey on the effects of the economic downturn shows many more Americans than previously reported have been profoundly touched by joblessness and its related hardships.
In addition, the survey, by scholars at Rutgers University, shows more Americans than previously thought blame illegal immigration for the problem of unemployment — more than blame Wall Street bankers, or George W. Bush, or Barack Obama.
So what is Washington doing amid these deep economic anxieties? Working on a bipartisan plan that would begin with the mass, immediate legalization of illegal immigrants, before any border security or enforcement measures.
That those two facts exist simultaneously — deep fears about the economy and a political fixation on immigration reform — is just one illustration of a disconnect between national political leaders and the people who elected them.
In “Diminished Lives and Futures: A Portrait of America in the Great Recession Era,” the Rutgers researchers found the impact of unemployment reaches far beyond today’s jobless rate of 7.9 percent. A much larger number — 23 percent of those surveyed — have lost a full- or part-time job in the last four years. An additional 11 percent who have not lost a job said someone in their immediate family had. “Together, the data indicate one-third of American households — approximately 39 million — lost work as a result of the recession during the past four years,” the report concludes.
The researchers asked people — unemployed and employed alike — about the “major causes” of joblessness. Seventy percent named “competition and cheap labor from other countries.” The next-highest number, 40 percent, blamed “illegal immigrants taking jobs from Americans.” That 40 percent is more than blame Wall Street bankers (35 percent), the policies of George W. Bush (23 percent) or the policies of Barack Obama (30 percent).