Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Great Recession

Officials finally admit the U.S. is in recession--and has been for a year (talk about a lagging indicator.) Then Friday's job report was a thunderbolt: not only a loss of 533,000 jobs in November and other terrible numbers for the month, but figures for the previous few months revised to show hundreds of thousands of more jobs lost than admitted before.

Together with the grim and grinchy financial sector (though on the unemployment news, the stock market naturally went up), this adds up to something economists and squawking heads don't have a name for--worse than a regular recession, not quite the Depression. So I'm calling it the Great Recession for now.

At least it focused some congressional minds on saving the U.S. auto industry from contributing several million more unemployed. Bridge loans are in the works--if not yet bridges to better companies, at least bridges to the Obama administration and a Congress that can get something more lasting done.

Meanwhile, the Obama transition seems focused on the next round of Cabinet appointments, rumored to be Environment, Energy, Agriculture and Interior. With announcements due perhaps Monday, what's interesting is both the complete mystery about who will be appointed, and (maybe not coincidentally) the lack of big (or at least well-known) names. About the only one with any sizzle is Kathleen Sebelius, and she's mentioned as a possibility for Energy or Agriculture, or Something.

Absent now from the speculated possibilities for EPA is Robert Kennedy, Jr., who took himself out of the running for Hillary's New York Senate seat. Possibly because cousin Caroline Kennedy is interested.

Well, I'd really like to see Robert Kennedy at EPA or Energy. These appointments are opportunities to go left of center, for better balance overall. There needs to be an Asian at cabinet level, too, if at all possible. At least VPE Joe Biden picked a notorious liberal economist for his economics advisor: Jared Bernstein. But with so little to go on, speculation is pointless. And even more important, no fun.

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