Not out of woods, but maybe we can see the clearing

March 1, 2012 

Economic news, good or bad, is almost always relative to one’s own circumstances. The news that fewer people are out of a job is cold comfort if you are one of the unfortunate few.

Still, the trend bodes well for millions of Americans not just hurt financially by the long economic slump that began in 2008, but also emotionally and psychologically weary of economic tidings of little joy to most people.

The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Labor might be at least a faint glow of light from the edge of the recessionary woods. The department reports that first claims for unemployment benefits are at an almost four-year low. According to an economic index that says weekly initial unemployment claims below 400,000 indicate job growth, the figure of approximately 351,000 new jobless claims the week ending Feb. 18 is statistically significant. It is even more so in contrast to the four-week average of 366,000 from the previous period.

Of course, those 351,000 newly jobless people aren’t celebrating, nor are the ones already unemployed who have been trying to get a job even longer.

But the latest economic polls say a majority of Americans now believe the economy is improving. Public confidence is in many ways the most important economic indicator of all. And few economists would disagree.

Please just slink away

The personal and political chronicles of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., just a few votes away from the vice presidency in 2004 and a candidate for the presidential nomination four years ago, are by now drearily familiar. Repeated betrayal of his fiercely loyal and terminally ill wife Elizabeth; lying about a sleazy adulterous affair, then lying about the affair being over, then lying about fathering a child from that affair (and getting an aide to lie for him), then lying about lying about all of it, ad nauseam.

And now there’s The Tape. There is a video of “a personal and private nature” involving Edwards and his former paramour Rielle Hunter, and the two sides and their armies of attorneys have been fighting over it in court. (When you’re a once-famous and now notorious public figure, “personal and private” usually means neither.)

The parties involved last week agreed to a settlement under which the Edwards-Hunter sex video will supposedly be destroyed … but there’s no definitive word on whether there might be copies around somewhere. And on it goes.

Meanwhile, criminal charges alleging that campaign money was illegally spent in covering up the affair still hang over Edwards. If it weren’t for the importance of seeing laws enforced and justice done, what a lot of us would really like is for John Edwards just to fade into total and rightful irrelevance.

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