It's time to focus on true crisis

Who knew we needed another missile treaty with the Russians?

Was it on your top 10 list of things needing top-level attention?

Wasn't on mine.

A pattern is emerging of issues taking center stage that seem plucked from an agenda formulated in another time and place.

Like health-care reform. Who knew it was a crisis?

Expensive? Absolutely. Confusing? Don't get me started.

The uninsured? Still with us, but this deal is about far more than them.

Regardless, these are the same issues we've been arguing about for years. Which hardly constitutes a crisis. Except for the cost.

Then there's the environmental crisis. Since 1970.

The latest fix is to tax emissions. Last year when a barrel of oil was trading at $140, that was a crisis. This summer the price is half that, so the solution to our environmental "crisis" is to raise the cost of energy. Go figure.

Both proposals for health care rationing and energy taxing are proceeding pell-mell, their advocates seemingly oblivious to the world outside D.C.

Here in the real world, there's a recession.

And not just any recession. But one of such historic proportions that it'll be the standard by which economic dislocation is measured for our lifetime.

When last we visited this war-torn arena, the recession was caused by a collapse in housing that produced a batch of toxic assets on our banks' books, which caused lenders to stop doing what lenders do.

Foreclosures and unemployment were the direct, dire results.

Today, as some giddily anticipate a new treaty with Russia and others calculate how so few can pay for so many's health care, home prices continue their three-year slide. Home building is becoming a trade of the past.

As spin meisters swear cap and trade isn't a bait-and-switch tax, toxic assets remain on the books of our banks, and lenders are growing stingier than old man Scrooge and about as cantankerous.

While commentators focus on the headline rate of unemployment, 9.5, and wring their hands over when it'll hit 10 percent, the real people number — what the Bureau of Labor Statistics refers to as measure of labor underutilization — stands at 16.5 percent.

That's 25 million Americans out of work or working part-time because they can't find a full-time job.

The disconnect between these folks and our leaders grows wider with each new initiative taken from some playbook written years ago.

The health care debate is déjà vu for anyone older than 35.

If the carbon emissions debate doesn't sound like the same Greenpeace agenda that brought us the panics over the rain forest, the hole in the ozone, melting glaciers, polar bears and Alaskan caribou, I'll eat my Styrofoam cup.

These are yesterday's headlines. They are not today's crisis.

None of these address the underlying factors of this recession.

Housing. Credit.

The green shoots some were seeing are starting to wither.

Government's ambitious tax and spending programs aren't cultivating a recovery. They are smothering it.

Thomas Oliver is a business columnist for AJCSunday. He can be reached at