Defining economic failure down

The lingering economic anemia is astonishing, given plummeting energy prices. To a considerable extent, the anemia is an iatrogenic social ailment, induced by government behavior. The business burdens and uncertainties created by the Affordable Care Act are just part of the Obama administration’s regulatory mania (3,659 new regulations finalized in 2013 and another 2,594 proposed, according to Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute).

That the employment picture is not worse may owe much to the end of an iatrogenic policy. The Economist reports that during the recession, unemployment benefits were extended from 26 weeks for most workers to an average of 53 weeks, and 73 weeks in three states. Then in December 2013 Republicans blocked reauthorization of Emergency Unemployment Compensation. Now a study of 1,000 counties shows that employment grew fastest in counties where there were the biggest declines in the duration of unemployment benefits.

Barack Obama’s plan to tax the earnings from parents’ “529” college-savings plans lived just long enough to indicate why some progressives perhaps prefer slow rather than rapid economic growth. Rapid growth reduces the appeal of redistributive policies and the need for the bitter, jostling, divisive politics that advance such policies. The 529s help enable families to achieve self-sufficiency. This excites progressives’ dislike of any private provision that impedes implementation of their dependency agenda.