Friday, September 2, 2011

Sources of Economic Distress

I felt that the following was a very good non-partisan overview of some of the sources of our current economic condition, and that our many readers might enjoy seeing it - the full article is at, with additional source material at

The highlights are mine.

"In the aftermath of a financial crisis, families and businesses cut back, and any growth in spending depends on the infusion of new cash. Either exports rake in that dough or the government prints and borrows it. We're not a country that lives and dies by exports, which means that we rely of government to act as a stopgap insurer for an economic conflagration. For two years, the federal government expanded dramatically to help states and families. In the last year, the stimulus has dried up and Congress has spent more time discussing how to cut spending than how to create jobs.

But I don't want to lay this problem at the feet of the House of Representatives. Government represents 20 percent of the economy. That's a big slice, but don't confuse it with the whole pie. 

What's weighing on the recovery is what has weighed on the economy for the last decade -- perhaps the last four decades.  Competition from technology and foreign countries has driven a culture of productivity at most large companies which has led to strong profits at the cost of fewer jobs. This is not evil-doing, just a reality. 

Corporations have every right to seek higher returns and the cost of labor is relatively high in the U.S. Consumers are enjoying the fruits of cheaper goods. But cheaper information and manufactured goods means fewer dollars to pay the people to produce those goods. Productivity cuts both ways.This Great Recession has corresponded with a Greater Recession for the middle class -- captured so brilliantly by Don Peck in his cover story last month.

It didn't start with the Tea Party, or Obamacare, or the credit crunch, or even the Bush administration. It's older and bigger than all of that. 

And unless we figure out, together, whether it's possible for find or create not only thousands but millions and millions of good-paying jobs for the majority of the country that doesn't have a graduate degree or didn't get lucky with their career choice, everything else is band aids."

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