Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Recession is dead; long live the Recession!

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research's Business Cycle Dating Committee, the "Great Recession" officially ended in June 2009, reports the Wall Street Journal. It's always nice to know when the academics define these things. It helps to have a good handle on how we use our economic terms.

And the article goes on to make plenty of sense. Americans still have no job prospects, they're exhausted, Obama has done nothing. Jobs may not come back until 2013 (plenty of time for a new Republican administration, or at least legislature, to claim victory for cut-throat economic policies that will rob working people of decent living standards). And those gains in employment - will they be largely service-sector jobs? Inquiring minds would like to know.

There might be solutions under capitalism, but they're not very ambitious ones. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international non-government organization (NGO) says the government could help by providing "additional job training and education programs to better match workers' skills to business needs."

But I find that questionable. What, exactly, are the "business needs" of today? The bottom line is - the bottom line. Businesses aren't hiring much because they can't profit off of it. Productivity soared on the heels of the recession as the bosses squeezed what workers remained for all they were worth (literally!). Now productivity has, according to one WSJ blog, hit its cap, so to speak. This leaves only hiring as a way to increase output.

But there's no reason to increase output if the revenue isn't there. And where is the money going to come from? It isn't infinite. It has to come from sales. The American middle class is not just broke - it's in debt up to its eyeballs and has only seen the tiniest relief. Mergers seem to be the tactic of the moment, with airlines and other industries looking to gobble down "post"-recession (stagnation?) deals. But any dolt who paid attention in high school economics knows that this leads to that most awful of capitalism's by-products, the (gulp) monopoly. (And Mr. Mathias makes the amazingly astute point at the end of his article, one we Marxists have been saying for forever - monopolies are the perfect opportunity to nationalize the industries that provide for people's needs.)

Republicans, Tea Baggers, Libertarians, and other denizens of free-market-fantasy-land (including many liberals and moderates) will probably insist that the ony way to deal with today's resultant monopolies is to bust them up the ole fashioned way (thank you President Taft). This is actually an idealist back-peddle, to think you can drive corporations backwards through time and make them behave like a small business again.

The only way to build jobs, to really build jobs and fix the economy, would be to take the monopolies and cartels (healthcare and finance and energy especially) and nationalize them. Then it wouldn't be up to the fickle whims of the capitalists to provide people jobs; federal aid would be direct and efficient. Not as a temporary stop-gap until the free market feels like playing ball again, but as a threat to corporate sovereignty altogether. Only then will we see actual nation-wide programs to create a green economy, float aid to the unemployed, and provide healthcare (and healthcare training!) to every American.

But it's clear the Democrats won't do that, so what are our other options at this point?

1 comment:

comrade x said...

I heard MSNBC's Ed Schultz talking about a group of the unemployed organizing a boycott of the elections in Novemeber, to send a message to the Democrats that their business as usual antics are not appreciated. Schultz is an interesting media personality and his shows are entertaining but ultimately he is a creature of the DLC so he had to denounce this movement, which he did with tortured logic and bombast in the best FOX Newz tradition. " People died for your right to vote. This action is unamerican."
( X makes a mega- eyeroll).