Out of the woods: Europe works to overcome the recession

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The 17 countries of the eurozone showed sufficient growth in the second quarter of 2013 for it to declare that the recession had ended there.

The growth was a feeble 0.3 percent, led, predictably, by Germany and France, but even economically ill Portugal showed 1.1 percent growth, its government having imposed unpopular, draconian measures to achieve it. The United Kingdom, not part of the eurozone, is still showing high, 7.8 percent unemployment.

The United States, too, is officially out of the recession (its second-quarter growth was 1.7 percent), but no one can argue that its economic woes are over. The Obama administration makes happy noises that the country is on its way out of hard times, but the feeble job creation rate and the ambiguous jobs figures suggest otherwise. When it is suggested that a slight drop in unemployment is due in part to people who have stopped looking for jobs, there is little room for optimism.

It is obvious that with the gridlock in Washington -- the elements in the madness being the White House, a divided Congress, split political parties and weak leadership all around -- it is no wonder that the economy continues to stagger. Unfortunately, too many people are letting themselves be distracted in 2013 by speculation on candidates for a presidential election that is still 39 months off, fueling a dangerous perception that today's leaders are somehow off the hook for solving problems in the meantime.

When Congress comes back Sept. 9 from its five-week vacation, it should set an example by dealing with its economic agenda, which includes agreement on a budget, raising the limit on the national debt (now at $16.7 trillion), figuring out what to do about $90 billion in cuts required by the sequester and not reducing Social Security and Medicare -- unless all of them want to lose the next election.

It defies belief that the Europeans, with a union made up of independent countries, can resolve their economic problems more efficiently than the United States of America.


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