The Recovery That Wasn’t

The most surprising thing about the numbers of unemployed released by the labor department on Thursday was the incredulousness with which it was met by the media who, it seems, had come to believe in their own little bubble of hope that the economy was on the road to recovery. “Recovery Hopes,” deflated the NYT reported. The Washington Post led with, “Job Losses Dampen Hopes for Recovery.” Every one was looking for a silver lining but realized that things are still bad and that they might still get worse. The only hope left is that Independence Day might provide some relief. At least that’s a day off everyone is familiar with.

It wasn’t only the papers that seemed surprised to learn that a lot of jobs had been lost. We can’t leave out the greatest barometer of all: The stock market, which fell sharply after learning that 467,000 jobs were shed in June. What did they expect? That loosening up a bit of credit and making sure the banks didn’t fall over the precipice would somehow create jobs? That the stimulus of $787 billion would make up for the millions of jobs lost? There is a fine line between having a bit of hope or faith in things and in being naïve or simply deluded. Our leaders and opinion makers seem to be more inclined toward the latter. And as those glimmers of hope were being discerned, like so many visions of the Virgin Mary, no one really bothered to ask one of the millions of unemployed whether they thought the economy had turned the corner. You see, when looking at a mirage it depends on where you’re standing and how dehydrated you are.

Of course it wasn’t just the media who had decided that recovery and salvation were in sight. The information flowed from on high—from the White House that is—when about a month ago Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, and Barack Obama indicated that we had quite possibly turned the corner and that there were, “glimmers of hope.” The media seized on those words like drops of water in a lonely desert. But at that time jobless numbers were as bad as ever. Over a half million jobs had been lost every month since January. The official unemployment rate was over 8 percent and the beneficiaries of the bank bailout were not your average Americans.

But then again, the “recovery” and bailout were never about your average American, but about Wall Street and the financial sector. The idea being that if we save the banks and return to normal i.e. a relatively unregulated, free market that allows for orgies of speculation and high returns, everyone will be better off. We may be returning to that sacred marketplace of inequality, and call it what you like, but do not be fooled by false glimmers of hope and claims of recovery that will undoubtedly surface again.



Adam Federman is a contributing editor at Earth Island Journal.He is the recipient of a Polk Grant for Investigative Reporting, a Middlebury Fellowship in Environmental Journalism, and a Russia Fulbright Fellowship. You can find more of his work at