by David Glenn Cox
There is a phrase that the media likes to use in their flirtations with reality. The phrase is the “jobless recovery.” It makes me angry enough to punch someone because it is a diminution of the millions of Americans that need jobs for basic survival.
It is saying that if we can stem the flooding to just third class and steerage decks then the problem is solved. As long as the first class and the promenade decks are clear, all will be well. The grand design is to alter the focus and draw the eye from the wreckage of the American economy. Not a half a mile from here are two large and empty used car lots, and directly across the street is a shiny new title loan building. Some politician is taking credit for creating those title loan jobs when they are societal parasites, legal loan sharks that don’t add but subtract from the economy.
I read the following line in an article about the new unemployment numbers: “At the same time, the report did underscore that the economy is on the mend and pulling out of the deepest recession since the 1930s.” Except that there was no recession in the 1930s; there was a full-blown depression. And rather than ignoring it or putting flowers over it the administration of that time responded to it.
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.”
Sept. 5 (Bloomberg) — Employers kept Americans’ working hours near a record low in August, signaling that economic growth is poised to reward companies with added profits while postponing any recovery in the job market.
“More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.”
Here in Atlanta the grocery store chains of Kroger and Publix have begun to quietly close less profitable locations. It says one thing about the economy when FootLocker closes stores, but it says quite another when grocery stores begin to lock their doors.
The sanitized unemployment numbers are at 9.7%, unsanitized closer to 16%; the number of hours worked per week has fallen to an all time record low of just 33 hours. The number of part time workers rose to the highest level in over fifty years. The media scions cheer because the number of job losses in August has slowed to just 216,000; that is hailed as good news. Ignoring that true good news would be the addition of 216,000, or even just one new job. Even the ranks of temporary workers is beginning to fall, which is reflected in back-to-school retail sales figures being down.
“It’s disappointing and it tells us that we are not quite there yet,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York who used to work at the Federal Reserve. “It’s great for business and terrible for households,” Feroli said.
“Ian Morris, chief U.S. economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc., projects the economy will expand at a 4 percent to 6 percent pace this quarter, and says that means worker productivity may exceed the second quarter’s 6.6 percent jump, which was the biggest gain in almost six years.
“This is set to flow straight into the corporate bottom line,” he said in an e-mail to clients. “That indicates the ‘strong’ earnings for companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in the three months to June will continue this quarter,” he said.”
This figure of productivity is the measure of how much work you do versus how much profit they earn. The equation of worker earnings being reflected in the company profits is considered archaic and obsolete in the modern economics.
“Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.” (FDR)
I am beginning to wonder if this whole health care debate has been nothing but a brush fire to distract us from noticing that the economy is sliding and not recovering. It is becoming a vortex, a giant black hole. Without jobs there can be no recovery, and falling wages and shorter hours means less purchasing power and an increase of speed around the drain. I see universities advertising programs for bachelors’ and advanced degrees, but zero job growth means zero jobs. There is no more need for an engineer with a master’s degree than there is a shipping clerk if the company builds nothing.
The profit numbers are a temporary aberration as the economy collapses in on itself. Falling wages and shorter hours mean higher profits today but inevitably lead to a dead end.
“Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.” (FDR)
What does our current government have to say? (cricket sounds) What does Congress have to say about this? (cricket sounds) The Obama administration passed a stimulus package that was 40% tax cuts so as far as they are concerned they are done with us. Wait two years and we’ll see, was the answer from the White House, but two years is too long to wait. These are people and not numbers; they need something done and done now!
“This Nation asks for action, and action now.” (FDR)
Our current administration finds itself in a crisis mode over healthcare reform. Despite a public mandate it has begun to back up and admit defeat in the face of difficulties and I begin to ask myself which is worse. A man with bad ideas who works to force them into law, or a man with good ideas who is unwilling to fight for those principles? A man who would rather win nothing than to risk losing anything, for what good is his victory if we lose out in the end? Contrast the two leadership styles.
“I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.
“But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis—broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.” (FDR)
In other words, I’ll do it with you, I’ll do it without you, or I’ll do it by myself. FDR called those of his era “The Forgotten Men,” and in this era we are not forgotten but ignored and marginalized by the media. Made to feel that we are alone in our suffering, but as our numbers continue to grow it will become ever harder to maintain the big lie.
“What we must do is this: revise our tariff on the basis of a reciprocal exchange of goods, allowing other Nations to buy and to pay for our goods by sending us such of their goods as will not seriously throw any of our industries out of balance, and incidentally making impossible in this country the continuance of pure monopolies which cause us to pay excessive prices for many of the necessities of life.
“Such objectives as these three, restoring farmers’ buying power, relief to the small banks and home-owners and a reconstructed tariff policy, are only a part of ten or a dozen vital factors. But they seem to be beyond the concern of a national administration which can think in terms only of the top of the social and economic structure. It has sought temporary relief from the top down rather than permanent relief from the bottom up. It has totally failed to plan ahead in a comprehensive way. It has waited until something has cracked and then at the last moment has sought to prevent total collapse.” (FDR)
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.