Sunday, January 8, 2012

Screw Your Courage To The Sticking Place

Who wants to be the skunk at a Garden Party?  No one, not even me.  But, in keeping with the sentiments stated in Ricky Nelson's instructive song, "you can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself."

It pleases me to get the facts straight, and, therefore, to nail down the stinking point of just how bad things really are.  As if the title of the post weren't hammer enough in that regard, this economy remains a duplicate of another image from Macbeth:  "Double, double toil and trouble."  Despite the modest uptick in jobs, most potential employees remain far short of sufficient opportunity to toil for a living, and in much more than double trouble as a result. 

Yeah, I know the unemployment rate has been inching down the last two months.  I also know, that barring any dramatic external disruptions, it will continue to creep along in the right direction.  I also know that direction is the most telling factor in Obama's re-election prospects - and God help us if he fails to beat whatever clown the clown party nominates. But, all and all, the news is hardly cause for celebration.

As Paul Krugman makes clear in The Soft Bigotry of Low Employment Expectations, it would take 9 to 10 years of this slow motion type of job creation to get us out of the 11 million job deficit the current and continuing economic crisis has produced.  That fact alone implies a horrible lost decade for young newcomers to the labor market, as well as formerly well established workers cast aside in the crunch.  Add in the fact that the next round of replacement jobs will pay significantly less on average than those we've lost, and you've got a situation best described only one way: long term decline.  And that, my friends, is the most optimistic outlook.  Moreover, ten years of simply moderate and steady job growth is not the most likely scenario, given the state of the world at large as well as our own ridiculously dysfunctional political establishment.

Virtually the entire continent of Europe is headed for recession.  Yet, the leaders of the euro zone remain wedded to austerity policies which can do nothing but guarantee more severe contraction and prolonged suffering.  Clearly we will not find a healthy trading partner there any time soon.  Perhaps even more troubling is the nasty problem of significant pockets of fascist style political movements on the grow there as the economies shrink.

It's going to be very difficult to expand this economy rapidly without having  access to strong markets for exports.  So what about China?  Not a chance, they depend more on us than the other way around.  And as for Japan, they are still on track to turn their so-called "lost decade" into a lost century.

That means the only traditional avenue for a strong recovery would have to be opened by aggressive stimulus domestically, and that won't happen without a very big push from some not so traditional political pressure.  All of which, brings us to the need for courage and tenacity of the type displayed by progressive protest and reform movements during earlier times of economic oppression and political corruption.  I for one believe change can and will be demanded and achieved.  But a lot more people than the already impressively large contingent of OWS demonstrators are going to have to find a way to screw up the courage and stick with a tough effort to get it done.

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