Today Show to Unemployed: Maybe You Should 'Get Used' to This 'New Normal'

NBC's Willie Geist, substitute hosting for Matt Lauer on Friday's Today show, invited on CNBC's Maria Bartiromo to talk about the new jobs report and the two had a startling message for those in its audience who may be unemployed right now - just get "used to it." Geist, citing the liberal economist Joseph Stiglitz, asked the CNBC anchor if "higher unemployment may just be the new normal in this country. Do you agree with that? We just have to get used to this?" Bartiromo, eschewing any sort of American "can do" optimism, actually agreed as she responded: "Well I definitely think we are in a new normal. I think you have to have expectations of much lower growth levels in the United States, relative to the rest of the world." Bartiromo added that business aren't likely to hire in 2011 because they are expecting higher health care expenses, expecting higher taxes" but didn't blame Obama administration policies for those fears.

The following exchange was aired on the October 8 Today show:

WILLIE GEIST: Of course the economy is the key issue in the midterm elections and this morning we're getting the final monthly tally of unemployment before Election Day. Maria Bartiromo is the host of Closing Bell on CNBC. Maria, good morning.

[On screen headline: "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Is Higher Unemployment The New Normal?"]

MARIA BARTIROMO: Hey Willie, good to see you.

GEIST: Good to see you. We've already gotten some early indications of what we'll see later this morning, what are you expecting?

BARTIROMO: Well I'm expecting some job creation from the private sector, but it will be offset, likely, by a loss of jobs from government, the Census workers continue to be cut as that program winds down. So once again we're going to see basically flat growth in jobs. And it's not a great story, because we continue to see unemployment at a major issue for businesses and for the economy.

GEIST: And we've seen this month after month now. The Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz saying yesterday, look higher unemployment may just be the new normal in this country. Do you agree with that? We just have to get used to this?

BARTIROMO: Well I definitely think we are in a new normal. I think you have to have expectations of much lower growth levels in the United States, relative to the rest of the world. Because outside the U.S. is really where the vibrancy is happening right now. I think businesses managers today are very reluctant to add heads to the payroll, because they're looking at 2011, expecting higher health care expenses, expecting higher taxes. And they saying, "Look if I add new people, that comes with new benefits packages that I have to pay for." So they're basically in lockdown, it's a story, it's a story which, in some cases, is a vicious cycle.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.