It's time to extend the nation's jobless benefits
The U.S. unemployment rate has fallen substantially since its recession high of 10 percent in October 2009. But when it finally dropped to 7 percent in November, it still remained two full percentage points above what it was in the months before the downturn.
The economy is clearly picking up, in other words, but it has been something less than a dynamo at creating jobs. In fact, fewer Americans overall are employed today than in 2007.
Those are among the reasons Congress would be justified in extending expired unemployment benefits for another three months, as President Obama has requested, and why the Senate's 60-to-37 preliminary vote Tuesday was encouraging.
To be clear, we're not suggesting that emergency unemployment benefits, originally approved in 2008, be extended reflexively every time their expiration approaches. At some point, a normal labor market will reassert itself, and the rationale for another extension will fade.
But the economy has yet to meet that definition and, until it does, we don't believe the arguments of some Republicans that the benefits are a deterrent to job-seeking have as much merit as they might.
To be sure, the granting of perpetual jobless benefits can influence recipients' behavior, which is why such benefits historically have been limited during robust periods of job creation and relatively modest levels of unemployment. But that's not the situation the country finds itself in today -- however much we all would like that to change.
Christie not ready to be president
No one is ever truly prepared to be president of the United States. Judging by this week's events and Thursday's news conference in Trenton, that includes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
No one ever became president without having a very high opinion of himself, of course, and by all accounts Christie passes this test easily. At the same time, and somewhat paradoxically, would-be presidents need an equally high capacity for growth. They start the grand quest seeming undersized. Over the course of a political career, and the elections that define and extend it, they become larger. Not larger than life, but larger than their former selves and, ultimately, their competitors.
The process involves a strange alchemy. But one clear component is self-discipline. The drive for power and fame that exists in every would-be president often has unsavory origins -- a sometimes bottomless craving for the love of the crowd, or gnawing insecurities about self-worth. (Lyndon Johnson had both.) To win and hold the office requires a willingness to confront and tame personal demons.
This, it appears, Christie has failed to do. His 2013 re-election was the perfect opportunity to rise above his reputation as a petulant bully. Coasting to a landslide victory against an overmatched foe, the governor had every reason, and boundless opportunity, to be magnanimous. Instead, his most trusted senior staff -- and did it really end there? -- blocked the entrance lanes to the nation's busiest bridge.
The emails and texts published this week reveal a deliberately engineered four-day traffic jam, apparently with the goal of punishing a political rival. The messages are mind-boggling in their pettiness, stupidity and contempt for the state's residents. The action was bizarrely, almost inconceivably, small.
"Mistakes were made," Christie said at his news conference, at which he announced that he had fired his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly. "I am heartbroken that someone I permitted into that circle of trust for the last five years betrayed my trust."
Heartbreak is always sad, and mistakes happen. The petty vindictiveness and abject contempt for public welfare displayed by the governor's top aides are, thankfully, more rare.
Christie's news conference was admirably contrite, but it did not resolve questions about his judgment, temperament or management style. He will be able to address such questions -- the adage of "show, don't tell" applies as much in politics as in writing -- through his cooperation with various inquiries over the next few weeks and months. Then, if he's lucky, he may be able to further refine his answer in a presidential campaign.