The jobless recovery, or interpreting the fossil record of our future

Posted on November 18th, 2009 in Economy,General by Robert Miller

Earlier this week Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke to the Economic Club of New York and described how we are likely to face years of high unemployment in what can only be described as a chronic jobless recovery. The signs of a jobless recovery are all around us. The unemployment rate has declined, but not by any means disappeared and companies are finding ways to do what they did in response to the recession of 2001–get by with fewer employees, ask those employed to work more hours and ship jobs overseas where employment costs are significantly reduced. While some firms are beginning to hire back American employees, others are implementing these alternative strategies to insure a jobless recovery, despite the fact that productivity is now soaring and hiring would normally follow this development. As Bernanke described it “other firms, facing difficult financial conditions and intense pressure to cut costs, seem to have found longer-lasting, efficiency-enhancing changes that allowed them to reduce their workforces. … ” The huge debt that we now face as a country, thanks to two costly wars and excessive tax cuts to the wealthy by the Bush administration have left Congress in a mood of uncertainty, even though the rational thing to do is pass a jobs bill, a second stimulus bill that will help recreate an economy that works for the middle class. Those who argue that we would be putting an additional debt burden onto our children and their children don’t understand what we went through after WW II, when our debt was high and yet we created jobs and a booming economy. Isn’t it better to have your children enjoy good employment opportunities, even if a higher rate of taxation will be required of them? Is it truly better to have a chronically unemployed work force? And, oh yes, what would the job prospects be if we adopted a single payer health care plan and shifted the costs of health care away from employment to a national system, best described as “Medicare for all?”

Obama has revealed himself to be something of wimp on healthcare, never really taking a stand and fighting for a set of principles. Indeed, it appears that he is actually against the passage of the public option plan.  And though he has talked about a jobs program following the current economic recovery package, his prospects of getting it passed seem more unlikely today than they did a few months ago. Obama’s problem is that he has taken the steam out of his own constituents, those that propelled him to victory last November. You could see that in the Governor’s race in Virginia, where his supporters mostly stayed home. The good thing for Obama is that the Republicans are engaged in a mutually destructive death spiral, with people like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh sitting next to each other in the cockpit of the failing aeronautical device, not knowing how to fly and seemingly insensitive to the plane crash they are engineering. Robert Parry has a good summary of our jobless recovery prospects in his Consortium News Blog.
If we do go through a jobless economic recovery, with years and years of high unemployment, it will only happen because we have a middle class that has helped launch its career pathway into a self-destructive, downward economic spiral, brought about by fears from external threats that don’t exist. The grand stupidity of thinking that we have to have boots on the ground to control our oil supply, when we already know that access to oil is an economic issue, not a militarily strategic one, constitutes the Mother of all Follies and our middle class seems willing to let it all happen.
We can clearly see the ascent of man through examination of  the fossil record. If we have to wait for the fossil record to illustrate the descent of man, who will be around to interpret the fossils and what will be the starting date? Those that record the fossil record of our decline might well find a date of origin beginning about now, even though those that uncover and interpret the record will come from whatever intelligent force the bacteria of today can evolve into a few billion years down the road. If we had a better health care system, we might be able to stick around a little longer and watch all this happen. We are rapidly becoming too dumb to see it ourselves! Is this the future of man–an intelligent being that generated and used a brain big enough to project far into the future and steer his way into plenetary dominance, yet ultimately failing to use his brain when it was needed most, because he was trapped by brainless ideology? Is man in the early phases of his own exercise in beheading?  It looks that way today, but let’s sleep on it and see how it looks tomorrow.

RFM

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