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Is Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr. attempting magic tricks on the House floor?

February 11, 2011 | 11:18 am

Two of the key indicators to watch in the lead-up to any presidential election: gas prices and the unemployment rate. High ones of either or both usually spells trouble for a White House incumbent.

Gas prices are well above $1.50 a gallon now. Just kidding. They're well above $3 a gallon now with predictions of $4-$5 becoming common. Or worse, if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's plan to avoid retirement turns into a Brett Favre-like saga and something bad happens to the Suez Canal.

Unemployment was officially listed this morning as the nation's No. 1 problem, according to a new Gallup Poll. Thirty-five percent of Americans (the highest in 28 years) now say unemployment is the most important national issue. Related Item is here.

The national unemployment rate has now been at or above 9% since the fourth month of President Obama's reign, which beChicago Democrat Rep Jesse Jackson Jrgan with the promise that if we just spent $787 billion we didn't have fast enough on stimulating the economy, then unemployment couldn't possibly go above 8%. So, add that one to the Close Guantanamo promise pile.

The jobless rate has begun to slide recently, which Democrats did not hail as proof that the Bush tax cut extensions were working. But it did look politically promising, on the surface.

Actually, the rate has declined not because so many people have found new jobs. But because so many people have given up looking for new jobs, completely stopped. And that decision takes them out of the standard unemployment rate count. So, fewer people get counted as unemployed, even though they remain jobless.

Here, thanks to the ubiquitous lens of C-SPAN, is an entertaining couple of video minutes. It is, like President Obama, another South Side Chicago Democrat, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Jackson Jr., now in his eighth House term, is remembered nationally as the fellow who enthusiastically nominated himself to impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich as the perfect person to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by said Obama.

Blagojevich chose instead Roland Burris, another Chicago Democrat, who has since been replaced by Republican Mark Kirk.

Anyway, despite his Democratic affiliation with the president, Jackson is complaining on the House floor about the way the federal government counts -- or, more accurately, doesn't count -- those unemployed who've given up.

OK. Jackson's Second District has numerous unemployed who might conceivably be watching C-SPAN. But what in the world is Jackson doing there with his right hand? (If the video doesn't load, watch it here.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: M. Spencer Green / Associated Press. Video: C-SPAN