Thursday Numbers

If you like numbers, then Thursday is a good day to stop by The Western Word.  Today I take a look at two sets of numbers:  one is the newest unemployment numbers and the other one is the number of troops President Barack Obama wants to cut from the mission in Afghanistan.  Of course I offer some commentary about both, so read on…

429,000

That’s the number of folks filing first-time unemployment claims last week.  Not good.  That is up from last week.  Last Thursday a U.S. Department of Labor press release said there were 414,000 first-time claims.  As is the norm, the Department of Labor revised those numbers and now say last week’s first-time unemployment claims were 420,000.

No matter how you slice the numbers, the country is in sad shape.  When you read the unemployment rates are at seven, eight or nine percent, remember that many folks no longer count because they exhausted their benefits or never applied.  Additionally, Veterans’ unemployment rates are even higher as are minorities.

Probably the worst part about the whole deal is most of our elected officials are not talking about it – and more importantly not doing anything about it.

33,000

That’s the number of military personnel who will be brought home from Afghanistan by the end of next summer.  This information was announced by President Obama last night during a prime-time address (in the eastern and central time zones) that preempted the first 15 or so minutes of Jeopardy at my house.

According to this Tribune Company story, “There were 38,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan when Obama took office in January 2009, but during his first year in office he increased the number to almost 100,000.”  And in the same story we find there will be around 68,000 military personnel remaining there after September 2012.

Politics have a lot to do with the timing of the withdrawal.  Just a couple months before the Presidential election of 2012, Obama will be able to say he is “drawing down” the number of troops in Afghanistan.  His opponent will be able to say there are more troops in Afghanistan now than when Obama took office.  Obama can say, “Yes, but I got bin Laden.”   The anti-war crowd (which is growing) will have to wonder if the drawdown is a start or just a carrot to get their votes.

People in the United States are weary of the wars.  As a veteran and someone who knows a little about the military, I never like to see an announcement made about our future military plans – until after they have been completed.   Announcing beforehand allows our enemies to plan ahead or hold off until we are gone.

Unfortunately, it appears that politics are playing a major role in this drawdown – and that’s not the first time it’s been done.  Surely it won’t be the last (I know, don’t call you Shirley).

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