Voters say battered US economy, candidates’ solutions are a top concern

By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The nation’s economy, which has been through the wringer, is on center stage for the November elections as voters look to what the two major presidential candidates are saying about getting it back on track.

New economic data reveals a grim picture: The nation’s unemployment rate remains stuck above 8 percent, and the U.S. has been in a slow recovery since the recession that began in December 2007 officially ended in June 2009.

As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics puts it, despite the official end to that severe economic downturn, many statistics related to indicators of U.S. economic health — such as employment, construction, manufacturing and consumer spending — have yet "to return to pre-recession levels."

In August, about 12.5 million Americans were unemployed, while 8 million worked part time and sought full-time jobs.

A report released Sept. 27 by the U.S. Labor Department indicated a slight improvement — mainly for the first time since President Barack Obama took office, the number of jobs in the U.S. has increased. In the year after his inauguration in January 2009, about 4.3 million jobs in the U.S. were lost, but new figures show that since that time 4.4 million jobs have been added.

The other slight bump in economic good news was a jump in consumer confidence in August and steady gains in home prices.

White House officials emphasized there has been steady progress in rebuilding the economy under Obama, while Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign said the president has failed to do enough to boost the nation’s struggling economy or create more jobs.

Both presidential campaigns put a lot of emphasis on the economy and claim their respective plans will better help the middle class and create more jobs.

Obama’s job creation plan puts emphasis on short-term efforts to stimulate hiring as well as promote jobs in "green technologies." His plan also emphasizes increased spending in education to better prepare the nation’s future workforce.

Romney’s job creation plan is centered on making the environment better for businesses through changing current government regulations on businesses and reworking government taxation and spending policies.

Both candidates acknowledge the sluggish economy has a long way to go to improve.

The U.S. bishops similarly have noted the economy’s poor condition but have taken it a step further to say it "represents a serious economic and moral failure for our nation."

The annual Labor Day statement issued Sept. 3 by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said: "Our country continues to struggle with a broken economy that is not producing enough decent jobs. Millions of Americans suffer from unemployment, underemployment or are living in poverty as their basic needs too often go unmet."

In their quadrennial statement "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," offering Catholics guidance for election decisions, the bishops say: "The economy must serve people, not the other way around."

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