DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®
Collapse trends - May 16-30, 2003
[Commentary] ©2003 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080 - HOMEPAGE
5/29/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
5/28/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- Looking longer [for a job] - Why for many this recovery feels more like a recession - As economy expands slowly, payrolls keep shrinking; Downside of productivity..., by Jon Hilsenrath, WSJ, front page.
[The interesting thing here is the mention, on the frontpage of the nation's big cheerleader newspaper, of a "downside" of productivity!?! Perhaps even these blindered guides are beginning to question productivity without regard to marketability.]
Economist Robert Hall has been puzzling over a thorny question for nearly a year: What do you call an economy that has started expanding again but keeps destroying jobs?
[That's easy - a High-Tech or Robotized Economy in an officially and professionally denied depression - "professionally" meaning the economics profession, whose assessment of an "expanding" economy is based on irrelevant criteria, irrelevant either because they were appropriate to earlier decades of stronger tax-based money-centrifugation, or because they are the result of self-serving relaxations of the criteria (as for example the "low" unemployment rate).]
Mr. Hall heads a committee at the National Bureau of Economic Research, an academic group in Cambridge MA that declares when U.S. recessions begin and end. In May of last year, Mr. Hall and his colleagues believed the latest recession might be over. Consumers were spending more and economic output was rising. All that the committee members needed to see was a few months of uninterrupted job growth to announce the end of the recession.... But Mr. Hall is still waiting.
[That means all the media language about "stumbling recovery" was jumping to conclusions.]
Instead of expanding employment, companies are continuing to shed jobs at a furious pace - 525,000 nonfarm payroll positions in the past 3 months alone. Since March 2001, when the recession began,
[We regard it as a depression that began when computers really hit the workplace and the postwar babyboomers replaced the World War II kill-off in the 1970s and began the definitive re-surplusing of labor, downward pressure on wages, and astronomical concentration and de-activation of spending power in the top income brackets. This was followed by the entry of women into the workplace in and around the '80s and the Democrat-engineered record immigration of the '90s. All this while worksaving technology continued to flood into the American economy and the standard response to it was not the intended timesizing to make life freer and better but a shortsighted luddite (anti-technology) reflex of downsizing.]
Since March 2001, when the recession began, the U.S. economy has lost 2.1 million jobs.
[as officially, low-ball-ingly counted.]
The total number of people unemployed - including discouraged workers who would prefer to work but have stopped looking - is about 9.2 million. And the number of people who are working part time because they can't find full-time work is 4.8 million, up 46% since 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
[So we have a total of 9.2+4.8= 14 million un- or under-employed people based on a 63-year-frozen 40-hour workweek. And for God's sake, don't even think about the ?? million people on 5-year-capped welfare, the 5.4 million Americans now on disability, the ?? million homeless Americans, or the 2.1 million Americans in prisons and jails, for a grand total of 14+5.4+2.1+??+??= 21.5 +???? million wasted consumers. Clearly our economy would be HUGELY and solidly booming beyond the wildest estimates of our low-ceiling economists if we timesized our way into activating this huge additional portion of the consumer base.]
In short, the U.S. is experiencing the most protracted job-market downturn since the Great Depression. It has left behind a remarkably broad swath of workers - from young to old, and from high-school dropouts to the highly educated - even as the economy has started 'growing' again [our quotes]. Why is this happening?
[Aha, a version of The Big Question. But answered here only with the uninformative and obfuscatory buzzwords,
And the bubble of the late '90s is still referred to as a "boom."]
- "structural change" with no illuminating description of that change, and
- "a new economic order" - oh brother!
...Intensifying competition from abroad, slow growth at home and a relentless push for productivity are driving this change. What has surprised economists is not so much how harsh the adjustment has been -
[Note the false metaphor - as if there is something objective out there that we have a big but one-time adjustment to, rather than the actual case - that we are continuing to deactivate our spending power and reduce our consumer base by responding to technology with downsizing instead of timesizing. This is not "big but one-time" - it is ongoing and has no practical endpoint. We can downsize ourselves - while concentrating yet-unrobotized employment and wages - all the way down to China's level, then India's level - in fact, all the way down to Bangladesh's level and then Haiti's level. Even globalization is not something fixed and objective out there - it is something we are doing to ourselves, with a simple-minded policy that few decades in the history of the last 200 years have been suicidal enough to implement, let alone widely generalize.]
- after all, the unemployment rate remains relatively low at 6% -
[yeah sure, when at the time during World War II when we had solid growth, any unemployment rate approaching 2% was cause for alarm, and yet undiluted by redefinitions designed to flatter incumbent administrations]
but..\..what has surprised economists is...how long it is taking to play out and how broadbased it has become.
[Again, the wrong metaphor of a big but one-time adjustment to an objective non-moving target - an adjustment that can come to a natural endpoint or "play out" - rather than something we are doing to ourselves on an ongoing basis that has no near or natural end as long as we keep downsizing - with an occasional pathetic show of artificial job creation - instead of sharing the vanishing work on a timesizing basis.]
Erica Groshen, a labor economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, recently studied employment trends in 70 industries over the past 30 years.
[Note this is the period when the wage-raising and national-income-centrifuging&activating labor shortage (actually balance) of World War II was made up and overwhelmed by wave after wave of worksaving technology, without even mentioning the population factors of babyboomers, women and immigrants clawing their way into the job market.]
She found that the structural change is vast. "Before in a recession you had a lot of companies giving people temporary layoffs, saying, "We'll call you back when we need you,'" she says. "That is not what firms do anymore."
[Our simple summary of this is that, first we mechanized agriculture so everybody ran to manufacturing to get jobs. Then we automated and then robotized manufacturing and everybody's been running to the service sector to get jobs. Now we're computerizing the service sector and there's nowhere else to run. Now the un- and under-employed are pooling in the service sector and the dead-end areas beyond, and unqualified for unemployment or welfare, they are mounting up at food pantries and on disability and the streets and in the prisons. The article's less simple summary is -]
- During recessions in the 1970s and 1980s, about half of all jobs were in industries that tended to go through cyclical swings, Ms. Goshen says - meaning laid-off workers would be called back. The other half [50%] experienced structural changes - meaning jobs that were eliminated were never meant to come back.
- Ms. Groshen says this started to change in the 1990 recession and has intensified in this downturn. Today, she says, 75% of jobs are in industries going through structural changes \that are\ never meant to come back....
Payrolls in the electronics sector, and for producers of industrial equipment, have declined for 28 straight months. In communications, payrolls have fallen for 24 months. In the securities and airline industries, they have fallen in 16 of the past 24 months.
[Now we turn to our recent simple- and narrow-minded obsession with productivity, regardless of marketability -]
In some ways, this is the downside of a productivity boom that created much optimism about the economy during the 1990s. Productivity growth means that companies are squeezing more output from existing workers.
Over the long run, most economists agree productivity growth is good for workers, because it tends to lead to higher wages.
[Of course, none of them has ever shown any relationship between productivity growth and higher wages except as mediated by shorter hours to prevent said workers from becoming a surplus - and much cheapened - commodity. Since the last 63 years, and particularly the last 33 years, have seen no reduction in working hours whatsoever - quite the contrary according to Leontief and Schor - economists' fond myth that "productivity growth is good for workers" is an accommodation to their affluent employers with whom they seem to wish to identify, and certainly not upset.]
But in the short run, it is creating a problem.
[Short and long until we re-adjust the workweek to levels more appropriate to our technology levels, balance jobseekers with jobopenings and harness market forces in restoring wages and centrifuging&activating the spending power of the nation.]
Worker productivity has been growing faster than the overall economy.
[Two thirds of which is accounted for by the consumer base dba consumer spending aka effective demand. And we're clobbering our consumer base with a luddite downsizing response to technology instead of a future-oriented timesizing response.]
That has allowed corporate executives to meet small increases in demand while still eliminating jobs. "You end up with a jobless recovery," says Jared Bernstein, a labor economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning thinktank in Washington.
[And a jobless recovery is not a recovery.]
'It is indistinguishable from recession for many working families."
[Never mind the bleeding-heart rhetoric. Downsizing is an ongoing process that is draining our true potential economic prosperity. Not even the affluent have a fraction of the secure and stable affluence they would have if we had a full-employment recovery instead of a jobless one. Arthur Dahlberg ran down this whole paradox and went through the figures using the case of the US economy before, during & after World War I in his "Jobs, Machines and Capitalism" (1932), Chapter III.]
A common definition for a recession is 2 consecutive quarters of contracting GDP. The nation's GDP...has expanded at an average annual rate of 2.7% since 4Q01. During the same period, the productivity of the nation's workforce - which is defined as its output per [man]hour of work - has expanded at a much faster rate of 4.2%. While worker productivity often increases in the early stages of a recovery, this time the mismatch between productivity and overall economic growth is unprecedented.
[But that's only because we're so poor at counting productivity and we tend to grossly undercount it in contexts where it might conduce to paying employees more. Now it seems that computation and robotization have goosed productivity sooo utterly extremely that even our dogged undercounting is registering it. And then again, it could be simply that so many people have become so insecure and anxious about their jobs after decades of knee-jerk automation&downsizing that although they're working 60-70 hours a week, they're only reporting 40. Ergo ±70 hours of output are getting divided by only 40 manhours and wow, lookee that productivity!]
At the beginning of 8 recoveries between 1948 and 1982, GDP grew faster than productivity. In those cases, companies had to add workers to meet demand for their goods and services During the recovery of 1991, productivity grew slightly faster than output in the early stages, but the difference wasn't as stark as it is now.
[Gettin' late. More anon.]
- Future of globalized economy is issue as world leaders meet, by Christopher Rhoads, WSJ, front page.
After a spring of extraordinary diplomatic rancor, world leaders gathering this weekend in Evian, France, for the annual economic summit [erstwhile "G8"] are facing rising concerns about their broad commitment to a globalized economy....
[Interesting (hopeful?) replacement of the simpler, more de-facto and set-in-concrete term "global economy," with "globalized economy," implying changible artificiality.]
- Amnesty calls world less safe, by Sarah Lyall, NYT, A14.
...and governments more repressive since the effort to fight terrorism began after 9/11/01 attacks on the U.S., the human rights group Amnesty International said [yester]day. Releasing its annual report, the group singled out the U.S. for particular opprobrium, condemning its detention of 600 foreign nationals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a "human rights scandal" and calling on the government to release or charge those held there. ...The report said that the problems were not confined to the U.S., or to Britain, which it also criticized for post-9/11 antiterrorism legislation that it said had allowed 11 foreign nationals to be interned without charge in high security prisons.
"The 'war on terror,' far from making the world a safer place, has made it more dangerous by curtailing human rights, undermining the rule of international law and shielding governments from scrutiny"..\..Irene Kahn, Amnesty's secretary general, told reporters....
- Companies cry 'security' to get a break from government, by Stephen Power, WSJ, B1.
In Kansas, utilities want to raise rates without having to tell their customers why. Elsewhere, grocers and mall owners seek tax breaks for equipment purchases. And at sports arenas, teams want to keep banner-trailing planes away from their stadiums.
Sept. 11 to the rescue....
[Followup - Garry Trudeau nailed it on Sunday -]
Doonesbury, comic strip by G.B. Trudeau, 6/01/2003 Boston Sunday Globe, cartoons 1.
[6 frames total, first 3 -]
- [view of front of White House, voice from press conference inside -]
Before we start today, I have a general announcement to make.
- [view of reporters in audience, voice continues -]
I'm sure that most of you appreciate that national security isi at the heart of all public policy.
- [silhouette view of audience and spokesman from behind him -]
Therefore, starting today, and continuing through next year's election, the answer to any question posed to this White House will be '9/11.'
5/27/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- In shift, U.S. to offer grants to historic churches - Bush officials remove another bar to payments to religious groups, by Laurie Goodstein & Richard Stevenson, NYT, A15.
[Another chip out of the separation of church and state, religion and politics, when we need to be moving on with the separation of state and market, politics and economics, to use timesizing for full employment instead of massive government jobs programs, patronage and pork.]
- [anybody get the 'da-vida' in this headline? -]
In-a-Gadda da-vida we trust - From yellow submarines to orange alerts, op ed by Maureen Dowd, NYT, A23.
...The Bushies are playing up Al Qaeda terrorists they say are hunkered down in Iran, even as they overlook all the Al Qaeda terrorists crouching in countries the administration doesn't want to demonize, like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. And the hawks have turned to grooming Iranian exiles, who are pumping out reports of secret nuclear labs. Sound familiar?...
[The history of the once-great USA has turned into a horror movie. A repeating nightmare. The most fearful among us occupy the White House and are spreading their self-righteous, self-fueling, self-referencing fear.]
5/24-26/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- [Paul Krugman's most outspoken op ed to date -]
Stating the obvious - Engineering a fiscal train wreck, op ed by Paul Krugman, NYT, A27.
'The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum." So wrote the normally staid Financial Times, traditionally the voice of solid British business opinion, when surveying last week's [US] tax bill. Indeed, the legislation is doubly absurd: the gimmicks used to make an $800-billion-plus taxcut carry an official price tag of onyl $320B are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large that the nation can't possibly afford it while keeping its other promises. ...The Financial Times suggests that "more extreme Republicans" actually want a fiscal train wreck: "Proposing to slash federal spending, particularly on social programs, is a tricky electoral proposition, but a fiscal crisis offers the tantalizing prospect of forcing such cuts through the back door."
Good for the Financial Times. It seems that stating the obvious has now, finally, become respectable.
It's no secret that rightwing ideologues want to abolish programs Americans take for granted. But not long ago, to suggest that the Bush administration's policies might actually be driven by those ideologues - that the administration was deliberately setting the country up for a fiscal crisis in which popular social programs could be sharply cut - was to be accused of spouting conspiracy theories.
[Being dismissed as a "conspiracy theorist" was and is one of the rightwing's major rhetorical tools against anyone who opposes them, in addition to questioning their patriotism.]
...Although you wouldn't know it from the rhetoric, federal taxes are already historicall low as a share of GDP. Once the new round of cuts takes effect, federal taxes will be lower than their average during the Eisenhower administration. How, then, can the government pay for Medicare and Medicaid - which didn't exist in the 1950s - and Social Security, which will become far more expensive as the population ages?...
The answer is that it can't. The government can borrow to make up the difference as long as investors remain in denial, unable to believe that the world's only superpower is turning into a banana republic.
But at some point bond markets will balk - they won't lend money to a government, even that of the USA, if that government's debt is growing faster than its revenues and there is no plausible story about how the budget will eventually come under control. At that point, either taxes will go up again, or programs that have become fundamental to the American way of life will be gutted.
We can be sure that the right will do whatever it takes to preserve the Bush taxcuts. Right now the administration is even skimping on homeland security [and veterans' benefits!] to save a few dollars here and there. But balancing the books without tax increases will require deep cuts where the money is; that is, in Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
The pain of these benefit cuts will fall on the middle class and the poor, while the taxcuts overwhelmingly favor the rich. For example,
The Financial Times suggests this is deliberate (and I agree): "For them," it says of those extreme Republicans,
- the taxcut passed last week will raise the after-tax income of most people by less than 1% - not nearly enough to compensate them for the loss of benefits.
- But people with incomes over $1 million per year will, on average, see their after-tax income rise 4.4%.
[And they are the ones who have enough money to be already spending to their max anyway, so the taxcut will do absolutely nothing to increase domestic demand - and jobs - and the economy.]
How can this be happening? Most people, even most liberals, are complacent. They don't realize how dire the fiscal outlook really is, and they don't read what the ideologues write.
- "undermining the multilateral international order is not enough;
- long-held views on income distribution also require radical revision."
[So the already weak centrifugal forces on income in America are to be further weakened, and the already overwhelming centripetal forces will further compact our struggling "black hole" economy and force it right down into the Third World = banana republichood indeed, where not even the affluent will have any security any more. "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"]
[We personally cannot stand to read most of what's on the daily editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. It's extremist, vomitous stuff by a letter-writing (and editorial-staff?!) rabble evidently roused to insane fury by sensationalist talkshow hosts (2 exceptions today, though, one right below).]
They [most people] imagine that the Bush administration, like the Reagan administration, will modify our system only at the edges, that it won't destroy the social safety net built up over the past 70 years.
But the people now running America are not conservatives: they're radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have. And the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need.
[Just as 9/11 played right into their narrowly interested international aims.]
The Financial Times, it seems, now understands what's going on, but when will the public wake up?
[Well said, Paul. Here's hopin' this starts the avalanche of outrage, even if it has to begin with most people rubbing their eyes and singing, "Oh how I hate to get up in the morning..."!]
- [and specifically on the Medicare front -]
The Medicare squeeze, letter to editor by Gerald Glendenning of Richmond CA, WSJ, A15.
...Our family doctor recently notified us she would no longer be accepting Medicare patients. We were referred to four other doctors. Three of the four would not accept us; the fourth did, but it took more than two months to get an appointment.
[Wasn't that what Americans used to criticize the Canadian system for? - yet all Canadians were and are covered.]
Our experience has been that Medicare pays only about 50% of what doctors and hospitals charge, on average.... I don't know how doctors and hospitals survive on such Medicare payment levels, and more and more patients are seniors every year.
[As our bankruptcy pages show, many hospitals, at any rate, are not surviving.]
So doctors are in a financial bind on both the cost and the revenue side, making tort reform that much more important.
[In other words, it makes sense to cap the insanely limitless awards for malpractice.]
- [and meanwhile, for big corporations, the government spending goes on -]
Boeing gets another boost from the Pentagon - A $16B lease deal for [air] tankers also will help commercial-jet business - Some lawmakers called the contract for flying tankers 'corporate welfare', by Lunsford & Squeo, WSJ, A11.
[or corporate medicare....]
- [and check out, on page A13, showing four TVs with the same picture of Rupert Murdoch on each of the four major networks, NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox -
This man wants to control the news in America - The FCC wants to help him, full-page ad by Common Cause & *www.MoveOn.com & Free Press *MediaReform.network, NYT, A13.
Rupert Murdoch, the Australian media mogul, already owns the Fox TV network, 8 cable networks, and local TV stations in 34 U.S. cities. He owns American newspapers, movie studios, publishing houses, and record companies.
But Murdoch wants more. Much more. And to get it, he needs to repeal the last laws that protect the public from monopoly control of the news media....
5/21/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- 5/24 $350 billion taxcut plan is approved by Congress, pointer digest (to A11), NYT, B1.
The...package, which is less than half the size [$725B?] the pResident requested in January [purely for bargaining purposes?], was approved in the House by 231 to 200 and in the Senate by 51 to 50 with VP Dick Cheney breaking the tie. While the bill was still being printed, Republican leaders vowed to bring up more taxcut proposals this year and extend the current measure for years to come.
[The fiscal irresponsibility of the Republican takes another quantum leap.]
- [and the result?]
5/24 Dollar plunges against euro, drawing close to record low, Bloomberg via NYT, B4.
[and ultimately, weak currency, weak economy, weak nation.]
- [and for your job hunting 'pleasure' -]
5/25 Specialists urge caution on career websites, by John Mello Jr., Boston Globe, H1.
...A notorious case of job spoofing occurred in October at Monster.com, the Net's largest job board, with some 25.5m resumes. An unknown person, posing as a recruiter from a $1B-a-year insurance firm with locations in eight countries, began soliciting resumes for a marketing position on the Maynard MA-based board. Within a week, the deception was discovered and shut down, but not before the bandit escaped with personal information from several unfortunate subscribers. Monster declined to go into details, but at least one person went to the trouble of changing all his credit cards to avoid any risk of identity theft....
5/17-19/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- A weakened treasury, editorial, NYT, A30.
...The Bush administration's pursuit of its reckless fiscal policy of taxcuts at any cost and its brazen willingness to embrace protectionist measures like farm subsidies have undermined America's ability to lead on global economic matters, one of a Treasury secretary's key missions....
- [then leafing forward from the back of the first section, we come to -]
House GOP leaders agree to eliminate dividend tax, by Firestone with Rosenbaum, NYT, A25.
- [we look across the page and we see -]
House vote supports thinning of trees on federal land, by Katharine Seelye, NYT, A25.
- [we look below the fold and we see -]
Drug proposal by president for Medicare faces battle - An effort to steer Medicare toward the private arena, Continued from page A1, NYT, A25.
[and we think how well the private arena is working these days....]
- [and just as we're thinking, "Why doesn't Bush just issue cyanide pills to all Americans and get it over with?", we notice on the opposite page he has a more efficient idea -]
Senate votes to lift ban on producing nuclear arms, by Carl Hulse, NYT, A24.
[Did ever before in its history this nation deteriorate so quickly as it has in the last 2½ years?
"Headlines from hell" indeed.]
5/16/2003 headlines from hell -
- 5/18 Investors hear the bad news but buy anyway, by Jonathan Fuerbringer, NYT, 3:15.
[More of the 'irrational exuberance' of suicidal 'new-economy' investing-with-no-hope-of-return, motivated by the unimaginable concentration of income over the past 30 years and the simple lack of alternative investment targets.]
Despite hints of slower economic growth, the Nasdaq composite index and the S&P's 500-stock index climbed for a 5th consecutive week and the Dow Jones industrial average finished higher for the 4th week in a row. Declines in retail sales and industrial production last month, coupled with falling consumer and producer prices in April, didn't deter investors. Neither did a falling dollar....
- [Re "College graduates lower sights" of 5/14/2003 #3 -]
5/19 Get a job, op ed by Robert ["Bob"] Reich, NYT, A23.
This spring's college grads are entering the worst job market in 20 years. With few good jobs on the horizon, many graduating seniors think it is time to get a [professional or] advanced degree.... Those who can borrow or whose parents can afford it probably figure another degree is worth the cost and will win them a better-paying job when the economy turns up..\.. They should think again.
[Bob Reich's 3 alternatives?]
- Applications to both medical and law schools increased this year...but...even before the economy foundered, the median take-home pay of lawyers and doctors was dropping..\..
- While more people than ever are taking the standardized tests for graduate school...many newly minted Ph.D.'s couldn't find university appointments.
[You mean they're not yet creating their own demand, Bob?]
College grads are more likely to discover \whether they\ thrive in a hard-charging atmosphere or need quiet and stability, [whether they] believe passionately in a cause [or want] a lot of authority, [if they] work...full time [rather] than getting another degree.
- [Go for a sh*t job -]
Many college students would do better to lower their sights in the short term and take a "go-for" job (as in "go for coffee") in an industry or profession that interests them. Even if the job doesn't pay much, it can provide a window onto that particular world of work.
[Bob ignores the fact that once you get into what we used to call a "gofer" or "gopher" job, not only do your colleagues often "type" you in that job at that level, but more insidiously, you can hemorrhage self-respect and self-confidence because of the way people are treating you. After all, you're the secretary, or the office boy, who gets sent for coffee, who gets pressured to run job-irrelevant errands for the boss, who may even get subjected to sexual harassment, because you're desperate - you have no power. Approaching at that level an industry or profession that interests you may be the surest way to lose interest. God, this is all the result of that horrible mistake we made in 1933 and it's all sooo unnecessary. With all this wonderful, work-saving technology from our predecessors, we should ALL be living like poohbahs with all kinds of free time and extremely high wages. But since our CEOs went for downsizing instead of timesizing, and our government responded with makework instead of work sharing, our lives have been getting worse and worse.]
- Alternatively, with few responsibilities anchoring [new graduates] in one place, they can pick a city with relatively low unemployment (say, Portland ME or Lincoln NB), get a job with better pay and more responsibility, and see a part of the country they might otherwise miss.
[Sounds like a better alternative if you're capable of simultaneously taking on more than one battlefront of massive change in your life without committing suicide.]
- [Then Bob gets back to one of the major focuses of the 5/14/2003 #3 article -]
If they can afford to go without a paycheck for six months or a year, they might consider taking an internship or volunteering - thereby gaining some useful experience while doing some good. ...The major benefit is not academic or professional knowledge so much as self-knowledge....
[Yeah, but Bob, pushing them toward "self-knowledge" is sortof like saying it's their fault cuz they don't have enough self-knowledge. It's sortof like blaming the victim. Which is something our current power structure does sooo well, even before the Bush administration accelerated our national slippage toward the Third World. A guy with your kind of grasp on the Big Microphone, Bob, should be using it to talk about the big alternative, the relatively small design modification (eg: Timesizing) that would get our economy back onto the kind of upward track we should be on with our vast technological heritage.]
[But bottom line, Bob. Your 3rd alternative isn't really "work" because it's unpaid. As the old saying goes, the only difference between art and art therapy is "Does it sell?" If it don't pay, it's a hobby, not a job. And the more the power structure can get done by volunteers, the less it has to pay for. That's why actors and musicians have such a hard time in Boston - there are so many schools here virtually giving it away performance-wise. Volunteer work is functionally indistinguishable from slavery, excep' dese slaves is happy slaves, yass'um - or are they? And aren't we trying to put slavery behind us, Bob?]
Once [college grads] learn the[se sorts of things], they will have a better chance of finding work they love when the economy rebounds.
["When the economy rebounds"?? Bob, you might want to consider the foreboding felt by the recent grad in our next excerpt -]
- 5/17 'Pomp and circumstance' [graduation march] - Then what? letter to editor by...Nicholas Kruse, NYT, A26.
Re "College graduates lower sights in today's stagnant job market [- A dead end after commencement - With good-paying jobs scarce, more graduates apply to service programs" ( 5/14/2003 #3)]:
As an '02 grad, I saw my classmates introduced to the disheartening dose of reality known as the American job market a year ago. This year is no better. Yet a majority of students still seem...to harbor the comforting belief, as one put it, that "it's definitely temporary. Everybody has that feeling - two or three years, and everything will be back to normal."
This is the kind of ignorant optimism that mires our country in economic (as well as social and political) woes. How bad do things have to get before Americans wake up and take notice?
[Bob Reich, take notice. We agree with this recent graduate. We think Bob Reich's analysis of economic evolution is superficial and strongly colored by "the kind of ignorant optimism that mires our country is economic, social and political woes." Bob still hasn't lost the branded-on smile of the political candidate and faced the Third-World abyss into which we're sinking. He hasn't considered that every major advance in human evolution has been a new insight into how we can be more available, more accessible to one another, because one another is, bottomline, all we've got. The real locus of progress is not class struggle a la Marx, or mechanical/computational technology a la Buckminster Fuller, but advances in our leading technology of sharing, involving finer and finer balancing of the centripetal and centrifugal forces on the currently bottlenecked currency base, next up, fading human employment. Plus we think a case can be made for the proposition that there's no such thing as automatic business cycles in the sense of automatic market-cause upswings. The irregularity of the supposed cycles is one argument here. But we believe that once technological efficiencies started figuring in the economies of Europe and North America 200 years ago, and were responded to by downsizing, there developed a secular, not cyclical, downturn that was sporadically reversed by wars, plagues, financial bubbles (investment manias that realized little or no direct, narrow and immediate returns) and on the purely positive side, timesizings dba workyear and increasingly workweek reductions, which spreading around more widely again the concentrating human employment, thereby rehiring deactivated consumers, raising pay by reducing the wage-depressing labor surplus, and thereby dynamizing spending.]
I implore the fresh faces in today's job(less) market to learn more about the sorry state of our union - particularly the disastrous economic policies of the Bush administration
[unfortunately it's deeper than that, going all the way back to 1933 - Bush is just giving it the coup de grace by accelerating the strangling concentration of spending power]
- and then either work to change it, even just through vocal disapproval and diligent voting, or leave for greener pastures, as I have.
[The big question, of course, is how to change it - we recommend something like Timesizing. As for "voting with your feet," we're not sure China really qualifies as "greener pastures" - Nicholas is writing from Shanghai - but evidently Nick has found a pocket of prosperity there, though the Chinese economy sure isn't better than the U.S. for tens of millions of Chinese! - see 2/13/2003 in the top "not counting" section.]
- [But the economy isn't students' only problem -]
5/18 College students' debt, letter to editor by economist Heather Bushey of Ctr for Economic & Policy Research in DC, NYT, 4:12.
...Another problem for this spring's graduates \besides\ the worst hiring slump in 20 years [is] historically high levels of college loans. Two-thirds of graduating seniors have taken on student loans with average debt totaling just under $20,000. Over the past two decades, college costs have more than doubled while grant aid per full-time student increased by slightly less than two-thirds.
Students have made this up by borrowing more, so that today's graduates begin their careers burdened with a level of debt unknown to previous generations. A weak labor market will only increase the time it takes for these young graduates to pay off their college loans and begin saving for life's other major events like a home or a family.
[Hey, maybe this will alleviate global overpopulation.]
- [Our first story above testifies to pockets of prosperity in the Chinese economy. How's neighboring Russia doing?]
5/17 Putin tells Russians of clouds with reform-plan lining, by Steven Myers, NYT, A3.
[Also bleak -]
MOSCOW... - Pres. Vladimir Putin of Russia [yester]day outlined an unusually bleak vision of a country mired in poverty, strangled by bureaucracy [bureaucracy is a form of makework] and facing ominous threats from inside and out. Going into election season here, he offered, as an answer, an unusually ambitious platform of
- economic expansion
[oh yeah? via government borrow/tax and spend? - this is not an answer]
- governmental reforms
[what economists today are calling 'reforms' would be called 'suicide' in most eras]
- and military modernization, including the development of new nuclear weapons
[Here we go a-ga-in! These are probably to counter an "ominous threat from outside," namely, the naive and arrogant elitists who are controlling the White House, unilaterally dropping testban treaties and starting wars with countries that have something they want and no strong military. Thanks a million to that 'Turkey' George Bush Junior and his pack of self-referencing Straussian "philosophers" so keen to take us back to the ideas (and living standards) of ancient 'Grease'.]
- [And what about the neighboring economic powerhouse on the other side?]
5/19 Japan sets $17B rescue of ailing big bank - Resona Holdings bailout shows lenders' condition is worse than thought, by Singer & Fackler, WSJ, A3.
TOKYO - [The world's 2nd-largest economy] said it will bail out the nation's 5th-largest bank with...public funds, dealing a jolt to the nation's teetering financial system and raising concerns that other big banks may require similar rescues....
[It gets worse and worse, and the pressure builds for making that next big advance in the technologies of sharing, Timesizing, which would arrest our global death spiral before the flowers come up next spring, and securely reverse it by the following spring - without war.]
- [deflation was a big BIG depression symptom and guess what -]
Wholesale prices fall 1.9%, the biggest drop since 1947, Reuters via NYT, C7.
Wholesale prices posted a record drop in April, pointer blurb (to A3, B1), WSJ, front page.
...highlighting the possibility that the U.S. is flirting with deflation. The industrial sector continued to struggle, with factories operating at their lowest rate in 20 years.... Consumers are seeing prices drop for products ranging from appliances to luxury cars. But house prices remain high and the costs of many services are rising.
[And the first of the indicated articles -]
Producer prices show sharp drop - Report backs Fed warning on deflation..., by Jon Hilsenrath, WSJ, A3.
[So 8 days later we get a pretty clear answer to the Wall Street Journal's cheerleading question on 5/08/2003 #3, "What deflation?" and in fact, today, in -]
Who's afraid of big bad deflation?, by Ken Brown with Theo Francis, WSJ, C1.
[The second of the indicated articles finally encapsulates the conflicting trends -]
America's pricing paradox - Cars, TVs, toys are cheaper but don't look for leverage with plumber, doctor or dean - Goods prices fall while cost of services keeps rising, by John Hilsenrath, WSJ, B1 & B4.
[which simply (A) indicates a slight slowdown in the rate of automating services relative to automating manufacture of goods, and (B) betokens the existence of spots in the services sector where there are, if not necessarily crafted monopolies, at least shall we say, carefully fostered bottlenecks of skills - as we stutteringly tried to point out on 5/08/2003 #3.]
- 3 European economies contract, stirring a fear of wider damage, by Mark Landler, NYT, front page.
FRANKFURT...- Europe, which has struggled for more than a year to regain its economic footing, appears on the brink of tumbling back into recession - with Germany, Italy and the Netherlands reporting today that their economies unexpectedly contracted in the first 3 months of the year. The EU said growth stalled across the 12-nation euro zone in Q1....
Japan's economy, the world's second-largest, pointer digest (to C5), NYT, C1.
...posted no growth on an annual basis in the quarter ended March 31.
[Compare also -]
Mexico's economy is lackluster, pointer digest (to C5), NYT, C1.
- Paths of [televized] glory - Why Bush hasn't made us safer, op ed by Paul Krugman, NYT, A27.
The central dogma of American politics right now is that George W. Bush, whatever his other [trivial, hahaha] failings, has been an effective leader in the fight against terrorism. But the more you know about the state of the world, the less you believe that dogma. The Iraq war, in particular, did nothing to make America safer - in fact, it did terrorists a favor.
How is the war on terror going? You know about the Riyadh bombings. But something else happened this week: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, a respected British thinktank with no discernible anti-Bush animus, declared that Al Qaeda is "more insidious and just as dangerous" as it was before 9/11. So much for claims that we had terrorists on the run.
Still, isn't he Bush administration doing its best to fight terrorism? No. ...Mr. Bush strikes heroic poses on TV, but his administration neglects anything that isn't photogenic.
Still, we defeated Saddam. Doesn't that make us safer? Well, no. Saddam wasn't a threat to America - he had no important links to terrorism, and the main U.S. team searching for weapons of mass destruction [WMDs] has packed up and gone home.
- ...The Bush administration...amazing[ly] refus[ed] to pay for even minimal measures to protect the nation against future attacks - measures that would secure ports, chemical plants, nuclear facilities and so on....
- The neglect of homeland security is mirrored by the Bush administration's failure to follow through on overseas efforts once the TV-friendly part of the operation has come to an end. The overthrow of the Taliban was a real victory...but as soon as Kabul fell, the administration lost interest. Now most of Afghanistan is under the control of warlords, the Karzai government is barely hanging on, and the Taliban are making a comeback.
- Sen. Bob Graham has...charge[d] that Al Qaeda was "on the ropes" a year ago, but was able to recover because the administration diverted military and intelligence resources to Iraq [and] as former chairman [Dem.] of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he's in a position to know. ...When he began raising this alarm last fall, his Republican colleagues supported him: "He's absolutely right to be concerned," said Sen. Richard Shelby [Repub.], who has seen the same information.
Meanwhile, true to form, the Bush team lost focus as soon as the TV coverage slackened off. The first result was an orgy of looting - including looting of nuclear waste dumps that, incredibly, we failed to secure. Dirty bombs, anyone?
Now, according to an article in The New Republic, armed Iraqi factions are preparing for civil war.
That leaves us facing exactly the dilemma war skeptics feared. If we leave Iraq quickly it may well turn into a bigger, more dangerous version of Afghanistan. But if we stay for an extended period we risk becoming, as one commentator put it, "an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land" - just the recruiting tool Al Qaeda needs. Who said that? Pres. George H. W. Bush, explaining his decision not to go on to Baghdad back in 1991. Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader...worr[ies] that because of America's failure to followup, "this wonderful victory we have achieved will turn into a quagmire."
The truth is that the pursuit of televized glory - which led the Bush administration to turn its attention away from Al Qaeda, and to pick a fight with a regime that, however nasty, posed no threat - has made us much less safe than we should be.
[Not to mention the fact that Iraq-war anxiety and uncertaintly is in the process of clobbering world airlines and travel (and the whole obsession with globalization!) - SARS is delivering the coup de grace - and not only our economy is staggering but as our above story shows, so's Europe's, and they detest us for it. But Bush-Rove & Co. don't care about any of that. In fact, if crises can only just keep happening - pray-pray-pray - maybe the rubes of America will stay distracted by his TV triumphalism all the way through the '04 election!]
For earlier collapse stories, click on the desired date -May 1-15/2003.
July 1-15/2002 + Jun 30.
Earlier Y2000 months accessible via links at bottom of Dec.1-10/2000 page.
Earlier 1999 months accessible via links at bottom of Dec.1-15/99 page.
Earlier months accessible via links at bottom of Dec/98 page.
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