Friday, October 30, 2009

On Direct Jobs Creation

This is a follow up to my previous post/rant on the continuing high unemployment rate and what to do about it based on L. Randall Wray's suggestions at Economic Perspectives from Kansas City that was mentioned by Meteor Blades over at dKos.

MB has been one of the very few Lefty Bloggers to consistently focus on the unemployment situation during this Recession, and one of even fewer to recognize the policy implications of maintaining such a high unemployment and underemployment rate for so long. I suspect the general lack of focus on unemployment/underemployment and the widespread obliviousness to the policy implications (ie: high unemployment/underemployment is being deliberately maintained in order to drive down worker pay and benefits substantially, and to keep it down "when employment returns") has something to do with age. MB is relatively old for the blogosphere, in his 60's, old enough to remember federal jobs programs and the rationale for them back in the day, and old enough to wonder at their absence during this, the most far-reaching and devastating Recession in several generations.


And it is Policy that I'd like to get into first in connection with the Wray suggestion to establish a Federal Jobs Program that would employ everyone who wanted to work and was ready to work but who could not find employment in the private sector.

While the country has had temporary programs something like this since the Great Depression, there has not even been a hint of such a thing during this Recession. The idea is so "radical" that the Wray suggestion is the first of its kind to appear in the open as it were. Not even Paul Krugman has gone this far.

There are several Policy issues to keep in mind, however:

1) Not everyone can or should work. There is a tendency when "full employment" is considered and discussed to presume "everyone" (except perhaps children under 10, the very old, and the permanently incapacitated) should be working. The fact that they don't raises the un-and-underemployment rate to rather spectacular levels (approaching 30-40% depending on economic conditions) and getting the unemployable working becomes a mission for labor reformers (especially on the right but not exclusively so)... I would suggest it is a distraction, and there should be a recognition up front that a significant part of the population cannot and should not be considered part of the labor force, should not be forced, permitted or encouraged to work, and that this is a good thing. Further, provision for people who are unemployable should be a basic right. It is not at this time (the stories of struggles that some people go through to get disability payments are legion, child care provisions are a disgrace, and elder care is lacking in many respects), and making it so should be one of the focuses of Labor Reform.

2) Federal jobs programs should supplement the private sector, not substitute for it. From appearances, the ongoing shedding of jobs in both the public and private sector is a deliberate policy choice that goes well beyond the immediate economic situation. Reduction in the absolute number of those employed appears to be intended as a permanent feature of the Labor Market, with a two-fold purpose: a) to prop up productivity; 2) to force and maintain lower wages and benefits for those who can get or keep a job. The upshot being the continued high profits to the Owners. Any jobs program would of course threaten those objectives and so would be opposed fiercely by Ownership, but a Federal jobs program that simply replaces absent private sector employment with public sector jobs at a low wage and benefit level would actually serve to reinforce the private sector's determination to reduce wages and benefits, on the one hand, and increase productivity and profits on the other. Consequently, the Labor Reform Policy must be to push the other way: to force the private sector to compete for workers -- by paying them more and better among other things. The Wray proposal basically provides low-wage drone-work for the unemployed, some of which has a beneficial public interest purpose to be sure, but it would have the effect of driving down wages for everyone, and it would give the private sector further excuses to shed more jobs, keeping the current downward cycle going.

3) Any Federal jobs program should be intended to improve the overall economic condition of the nation -- by providing work which rewards the worker and improves living conditions for all, and by providing decent wages which become part of a resurgent consumer economy.

4) Wray's notion to regionalize and localize an employment program is essential but there are risks. As corrupt as the Federal government has become, local and state governments are in many cases more corrupt. A forthright jobs program would have to run counter the widespread corruption at all levels of government. Have it help model a less corrupt future. That's a public interest most of us could agree with.

5) Finally, a Federal Jobs Program should be designed primarily as a "bottom up" economic recovery program, something that has been missing from all the efforts made so far. It should be "for" but also "by" the People. It should be empowering. Yes, Socialism. Ha ha!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Well... yes.

Thanks to Meteor Blades over at dKos, I glommed on to this this little posting from the "Economic Perspectives from Kansas City" blog:

The Time Has Come for Direct Job Creation
By L. Randall Wray

There. Exactly. It's said. By an economist, no less.

American policy makers have been dithering for years over The Problem of Jobs; they actually eagerly embrace the Bubbles, because during them employment has reached near-universality, at least temporarily, and so The Problem of Jobs doesn't have to be addressed for another interlude, and nothing is done.

But we have been in recession for over a year, and The Problem of Jobs is catastrophic, and nothing has been done about it.

Food stamps? Unemployment benefit extensions? Who am I to say "nothing is being done?" But the fact is, nothing is being done to get people back to work in any kind of job let alone one of those vaunted "good jobs" already shipped to China.

There was no net jobs creation at all between the end of the Clinton presidency and the end of the Bush Regime, and now we're down another 6-15 million jobs (depending on who's counting and what they're counting) besides. Policy makers should be running around with their hair on fire. Instead, they continue in languid indifference.

The overall jobs picture is really bleak for years to come, perhaps permanently. Europe adapted to this situation a generation ago; Japan is adapting to it. Perhaps Americans should do likewise? Well, yes, perhaps, but Americans aren't even doing that.

They are oblivious.

They're oblivious to the job losses, oblivious to the foreclosures, oblivious to the bankruptcies, to the store closures, to the bank failures, to the exodus of manufacturing abroad.

Nothing seems to move them.

Policy makers are just as happy it is so; you'd almost think they want it this way, a growingly unemployed proletariat, a shrinking bourgeoisie, continuing massive accumulations of wealth and power at the top, declining wages and benefits for workers who still have jobs, increasing debt loads on those who can still pay their debts, and strangely inappropriate price increases for basic supplies.

Others have pointed out that we will never get out of this recession until and unless middle and working class debt is relieved and jobs return paying decent wages.

This should be axiomatic, but for some reason, many so-called Progressives simply don't get it. The only form of "debt relief" they can fathom for the working and middle classes is bankruptcy and foreclosure. (Which, thanks to Joe Biden et al, does not necessarily relieve debts at all). Any number of trillions to the banksters to pay off their gambling debts, all of it loaded on to the working and middle classes -- on top of the debt they already carry -- is fine with most so-called Progressives. But even hint at debt relief for workers and the bourgeoisie, and the Scolds come out in force: "Well, I never got over my head in debt, and I don't want to have to pay your debt if you did. That shows your moral failing, and it's your problem, not mine." When it is pointed out to these cretins that they are paying gazillions of dollars for the "moral failings" of banksters, and it would be of far more benefit to the economy to use that money to pay down the debt of the working and middle classes instead, all they have in response is a blank stare.

It's beyond their ability to comprehend.

Of course many of those who don't get it are not actually "Progressives" at all; they're Propertarians who have put on a mask of Progressivism so as to foster their cause by subversion if you will. The primacy of Property and Contracts is all they really care about. Oh, and Power. Yes. Because Property and Contracts only work one way in their warped world view. Those who have Power have the right and duty to hold Property to whatever extent they can accumulate it; they also have the right and the duty to enforce contracts to the letter. Those without Power, on the other hand, are shit out of luck. Their Property -- if they have any -- can and should be taken at the will and desire of those with Power; their Contracts (ha ha, suckers!) can and should be modified and/or voided at the will and demand of those with Power.

The Puritanical aspects of Propertarianism are pretty obvious. But actual Progressives (if there really are any) have their own blind spots and Puritanical rigidity as well.

The upshot in the real world is that jobs are not being created and wages and benefits for those who still have jobs are decreasing, which means that for most people, the Recession is enduring, not ending at all.

And, of course, them that already has is getting more.

You don't address the problem by letting it fester. But that's what our policy makers have decided to do, and due to the astonishing apathy of American People, they believe they'll get away with it, too.

In my next post, I'll try to deal with the Kansas City Solution in more detail.

But I had to rant, again, about the negligence and greed that still motivates those at the top of America's economic pyramid.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Still drives me nuts

More administration analysts claim that the unemployment rate will remain high through next year, maybe longer, even though the so-called recovery is under way.

And no further stimulus is needed.

The take away from this repeated administration claim is that the high unemployment rate (the actual rate is much closer to 20% than 10%) is intentional.

Why would it be intentional? Well, of course: to drive down wages and reduce benefits. The reason? To keep profits high -- at the expense of workers, the working poor, and the massive numbers of unemployed.

It's intentional.

The only people who can possibly benefit are the already over-upholstered rich and their lackeys in Government.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oh, New Mexico ("Why Not Bill?" edition)

I arrived at our place in New Mexico last Sunday and have been continuing my projects while here. Old adobe ranch houses require a lot of maintenance, to say the least. There's still plenty to get done before winter comes on, but about as far as I got this time was to gravel the front walk so it isn't as likely to be a path through the big muddy when the rain or snow or slush comes, make arrangements with Critter Control and the neighbor lady to deal with the skunk infestation (this is an ongoing challenge. I will say these skunks are really beautiful, and everyone claims they make great pets if you get them when they're little), and mow some of the dust.

Well, there's been a real drought here, not like the pseudo-drought in California that has had everyone in hysterics for the past year or more. There hasn't been any rain in this part of New Mexico, not even close to normal, though it's been tropical up in Santa Fe, downpours all the time, and our unlandscaped property looked rank and dry and sere. So I mowed the dust. Looks better. I guess. Have to do something about xeriscaping eventually, but I'll have to have more time to do it.

My internet here is now dialup as the source of the high-speed that used to work from time to time has disappeared. I think I know what happened, but cannot be sure. Many of the neighbors have moved, new ones moved in, my next door neighbor is moving out at the end of the month, and yet things aren't really as bad here as in many other places.

It's just that in rural anywhere, but especially rural NM and regions contiguous, it's tough all the time, and when a recession like this hits, it can be devastating.

But to the topic, I was listening to NPR, and one of the local persons had an editorial opinion to the effect that all this hoo-hah over Obama's Nobel Peace Prize was keeping people buzzing, to be sure, but real Worthies weren't being mentioned as substitutes for the President. "Why not?" he said.

"Why not Bill?" Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico, in other words.

The guy went on at some length about all of Richardson's many peace-making accomplishments (quite a list), and yet, he said, nobody much knew about it and it seemed like fewer people cared.

I've got plenty of issues with Richardson (Wen Ho Lee, anyone?), but when it comes to actually doing something, accomplishing something, sticking to something, in the realm of what you call your mediation and your peace, Richardson is right up there with some of the giants in the field, and his neglect (apparently he's been nominated several times) by the Committee tells you pretty much all you need to know about them and what they're up to.

And, no, I don't hold it against them. You see, I don't get a vote on the Nobel Prize Committee, and neither do you (well, I assume!). They make their choices based on whatever they think is important at the time, and they don't consult us about it; they consult one another.

Yes, Richardson is worthy of Honor -- at least for some things -- and there is nothing to stop anyone at all from honoring him appropriately.

Why wait for the Nobel Committee to get its Norwegian ass in gear?

I never understood that.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


My God. The almost universal reaction in this country to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to His Serenity Barack Obama was more than over the top. It was darned near insane. The ruling class and the Permanent Palace Functionaries (those that His Serenity didn't bring with him) of course decried the whole thing, practically spitting their contempt for Obama and the Prize Committee, yowling their disgust, fuming in their fury. They were apoplectic, niggardly, and everywhere.

Quite obviously Cokie Did Not Approve. And there will be Hell to pay.

As for His Serenity himself, he popped out of the Oval Office for a brief statement in the Rose Garden, one he fumbled and mumbled and bumbled his way through, expressing how honored he was, how humbled, how unworthy. For all the awkwardness of his presentation, he actually seemed quite honestly stunned by the news of the award.

Practically as one, the blogosphere in its entirety exploded in OUTRAGE™!!!!! that this Undeserving Little Man was awarded one of the World's Highest Honors for Doing Nothing!!!!! except give a few speeches. NOTHING!!!!1!!! I tells ya, NOTHING!!!!! He's not WORTHY!!!!!! The extraordinary level of Puritanism and judgementalism throughout the blogosphere over this Incomprehensible Action by the Nobel Prize Committee -- reactions that were practically identical regardless of political ideology -- was something to behold.

The consensus was that Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because he Wasn't George Bush. And, pretty much, that's about what the Prize Committee had to say about it, too.

I think it is impossible for the Busheviks who still infest so much of the Permanent Palace and of course the Media to imagine just how ruinous the Bush Regime was for the United States. They all sort of want to take after John Bolton, arch Bushevik, whose whole personna and value system is based on denouncing the whole wide world and everyone in it, in perpetuity, even if they go along with the addle-brained pipe dreams and schemes of Imperial Grandeur -- and Power -- that informed the Bush crew.

The whole point is to hate and despise everyone who isn't one of us. And to define "us" in as narrow a manner as possible.

What we see is that that attitude of contempt for everyone who isn't One Of Us has had a pervasive and corrosive effect much wider than we might have otherwise thought, if we didn't see this explosion of domestic OUTRAGE™!!!! for ourselves. And quite clearly, Obama is Not One Of Us.

I think that's the key insight here, the notion that there is an "us" that can be so narrowly defined that practically everyone is excluded. "Everyone is an enemy except for me and thee, and I'm not so sure about thee." And for the entire chattering class, top to bottom, in all media and venues, regardless of ideology, to denounce the award and condemn the committee and to demonstrate the belief that Obama is truly not one of us, as they define it, is shocking but not surprising.

One of the comments I heard on the radio yesterday was the question of whether, "with his polls dropping," this award would help or hinder him. "With his polls dropping...?" Obama is at roughly 60% approval, been bouncing around in that general vicinity for some time. It's lower than his start, and the trend has been declining, but it's still a very high approval rating for Presidents. It seems to me that Bush's approvals were in the 30's before the chatteratti noticed that his "polls were dropping," and they defended him no matter how low his polls went. But chip a few points off of Obama's poll numbers, and despite the strong majority approval he still has, he's losing support and practically reaching his nadir, and this Stupid Award can't possibly help him now. He's Going Down.

It's so bizarre.

The effect of the award in truth has been to shape and change the narrative. Those who opine -- myself included -- are now the outliers, whereas there may be a much stronger sense of forward motion for Something Else Again in both domestic and international arenas, working its way through a global body politic that Americans know little and care less of.

Whether that can be sustained against the onslaught of the Puritans and their chattering ilk remains to be seen.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

So? (Re: The Unemployment Thing)

Huh. After years of neglect and months of indifference, there seems to be something of a dawning among the High and the Mighty that perhaps the high and still growing unemployment rate is actually retarding "recovery" not enhancing it. Huh. Well, how about that.

Who'd a thunk?

Of course, there's still no inkling of a plan to do anything about it. Heaven forfend.

What has been so striking about the response to the collapse of employment in this country has been the consistency of the "nothing to be done about it" attitude coming from nearly everywhere, from official Washington, to the offerings of many economists, to the general lefty blogosphere. It's all been very Hooverite. And shocking. "Nothing to be done?" We just have to wait until things turn around, maybe years? Are you kidding me? Can you possibly be more Hooverite?

The pervasiveness of this attitude, especially among so-called lefties, is what really shocks and appalls me. Obviously, Reaganism (not to mention Hooverism) has penetrated so deeply into American political and economic thinking that it doesn't even occur to Lefties that chronic high unemployment is not good for the economy, and that something needs to be done about it, NOW.

So. At least there is a dawning of recognition that the current and projected levels of unemployment are a severe drag on economic "recovery." Nothing is yet being proposed as a remedy, but it was interesting the other day that Rush or one of his clones on the radio was saying that next year, you can bet the Obama administration is going to do something about it -- that's what they're supposedly saving all the Stimulus Money for -- to buy votes and stay in office.

Interesting theory.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Chicago Thing

I didn't really follow it, but apparently His Serenity came up empty in his efforts to land the 2016 Olympics for his adopted home town Chicago the other day, and all of Wingnuttia is in ecstasy at his loss. Rio has also exploded in glee.

Which reminds me of a song, YouTube video of Hugh Jackman rehearsing it appended herewith:

Now there's nothing Wingnut about Rio, and their President Lula da Silva seems to have his head screwed on OK, but the Olympics are something of an odd duck in the corporate firmament, strangely Puritanical and blithely corrupt at the same time. Anachronistic besides.

A major reason for the IOC's rejection of Chicago appears to be the difficulties encountered by travellers at the borders of the USA, something few Americans ever actually have to endure or even witness. The stories are legion of assholitry by various customs and immigration and security officials, attitudinally suspicious and hostile, often arbitrary, and overly officious to no apparent purpose. Whether or not His Serenity addressed that issue, the fact is that for foreigners coming into the USA, the experience can be anything but pleasant.

So the World says why bother? Rio has the samba and the Copacabana -- among so many other inducements -- so why the fuck bother with the constant crabbiness of La Migra?

Of course there are many other problems, too. Apparently Chicago's reputation for corruption shocked (!) even the IOC. Oh. My. God. It must be really bad then. But maybe there is something else...

First, the Olympics have been held in the United States an abundance of times; second, some of the experiences in the USA (like bombings and such) haven't exactly been in the Olympic Spirit; third, South America has never hosted an Olympics, and Rio is one of the most unique locales anywhere, so why not have the Games there?

Besides which, one wonders whether the Olympics would be a net boon or a loss to a city like Chicago. Often the Games cost way more than they return to their host cities and countries. Given the rickety status of the American economy (job loss numbers just out are appalling), and the sheer level of growth potential in places like Brazil as opposed to the predicted continued decline in the USA, the overall cost of presenting the Games in Chicago might have proved ruinous.

All rationalizations of course.

What's striking, though, is that practically the whole right-wingnut-o-world is having a simultaneous orgasm over Obama's Big Loss. This is his Waterloo! His reign is So Over! On and on.


Friday, October 2, 2009

They're not like us

This is how they live:

It's a relatively new house in McLean, Virginia (suburban DC) now on the market listed at $17,000,000. This is the kind of price you expect in entertainment and finance communities, but in Washington?

We don't live like this because we can't afford to on the one hand, and many of us wonder why anyone would want to live like this on the other. And no, this is not one of Saddam's palaces. It's a suburban palace in McLean.

Too opulent? Well, try this one, only $15,000,000:

Still too luxe? Well, try this one, only $5,000,000:

All these properties are in the Washington DC/Northern Virginia/Maryland area. They're just a sample of the newer manors and mansions and palaces that have been built in the area the last few years to house the hoity and the toity. There are many, many more older manses and demesnes all over DC and the areas surrounding it that have long housed Old Money People who, in America, believe it is their right to rule. Their wealth and their position convey automatic Power.

And Our Government is their servant. Specifically their servant, not yours or mine.

The entire population could rise as one tomorrow (but of course they won't) and still "Our Government" would be "Their Government," because 1) they demand it; and 2) they believe they bought and paid for it.

We've seen the crippling corruption of the Congress and the White House practically every day that Health Care Reform has been addressed or discussed. It is mindboggling to see Our Government -- which is really Theirs -- consistently dismiss the interests of the People in pursuit of abundant campaign cash from people who live like the would be seigneurs for whom these estates were built.

And yet, that's America today.

Time for tumbrils and guillotines?