The government's dismal unemployment numbers released Friday may not be a game-changer in the midterm elections next month.
They may be a game-clincher.
For families to be able to put bread on their table in the years to come, our leaders must change now.
As expected, and feared, the government's measure of unemployment Friday showed no improvement, staying at 9.6 percent. But that's putting the sunniest face on it. In truth, at least 17.1 percent are either looking for work or have given up, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The numbers from Gallup are even worse: The respected polling organization puts unemployment in double digits, at 10.1 percent -- and the broader unemployment rate at 18.8 percent.
Whatever numbers are correct, they represent a crisis of epic proportions in American life -- a kind of Gone With the Wind feeling among some who fear American society is changing drastically before their very eyes.
Indeed, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs says 59 percent of Americans believe the next generation will be worse off than today's adults, and 37 percent say the country's standing in the world has diminished.
Consider, too: A record number of Americans, 41.8 million, are receiving food stamps -- up 18 percent since the summer of 2009. The increase in food stamp usage has set a record every single month Barack Obama has been in office, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Nearly two years in to the Obama administration, and with large majorities in both houses of Congress, this is now the Democrats' economy -- and the trend line indicates they are making it worse.
The much-ballyhooed $814 billion stimulus bill of 2009 was supposed to plug this leak. That it has been an abject failure -- and therefore has only added to our debt -- is not a matter of opinion, but fact: Jared Bernstein, chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, and former White House economic adviser Christina Romer predicted in early 2009 the stimulus bill would cap unemployment at 8 percent.
Everyone knows now how that turned out.
What we don't know is how much damage the health-care law will do: Sharply rising premiums are just now starting to come in, and a growing number of companies are having to seek emergency waivers from the bill to avoid dumping coverage altogether next year.
To add to the stifling uncertainty, Democrats running Congress 1) didn't even attempt to write a federal budget for the coming year and 2) left Washington without deciding whether to extend the Bush tax cuts.
Democratic leaders clearly didn't want a vote on the tax cuts prior to the November election -- that would have just been an embarrassing self-rebuke; the economically sound thing to do, as increasing numbers of Democrats were acknowledging, was what Republicans were recommending: extend the tax cuts for everyone. This is no time to raise taxes, especially on those in a position to create jobs.
That Democratic leaders ended up doing nothing on tax policy was unconscionable and can only damage the economy further: It now leaves all Americans, especially business owners, totally in the dark about what their tax liability will be next year. How can businesses plan ahead under such a scenario? How can they even consider hiring or expanding?
If Democrats wanted to kick the economy while it's down -- and lose even more seats in Congress in November -- they could hardly have drawn up a better plan.