The title of this short book, only 130 pages, Building the New American Economy: smart, fair, & sustainable by Jeffrey D. Sachs with a foreword by Bernie Sanders (Columbia University Press, 2017) is unfortunately misleading. There is much here about the new economy. The misleading part is that there is very little about its construction, the building of the new economy.
Sachs covers many important issues in a thorough, efficient fashion. If you need a primer or a tune up about the economy this is a good place to start. These include: investment in our society, infrastructure, Federal budget, income inequality, healthcare, energy, military and the empire (not his phrase), and innovation. If you have been reading my postings over the last 5 or so years much of this will seem a bit deja vu. Continue reading →
As the presidential campaign of 2016 fades away and the Trump Era begins, we find a national scene without any real discussion of the facts of jobs and unemployment and what the future might bring. Trump and others talk about bringing manufacturing back to the US. No plan, plausible or otherwise, has ever been mentioned for how to accomplish this. The Democrat are hardly better. Much has been made and continues to be made of the role various trade agreements have had in the loss of manufacturing jobs. Even Bernie Sanders can do no better than talking about creating millions of good paying jobs through a national infrastructure program. It is laudable to fix the infrastructure that has become third world, but that is not a long-term jobs strategy.
There are structural changes in the capitalist economy that must be understood and accepted as fact. Lets begin with a few examples. US steel production, one of those lost American industries, is now as high as it was at the beginning of the 1960s. Continue reading →
May Day 2013 brought a piece in the NY Times by Thomas Friedman, “It’s a 401(k) World” that points out the enormous changes in employment, technology, personal access to information and personal responsibility for larger swaths of life. Work changed from a steady job as a regular feature of life to a series of part-time or short term engagements with corporations who view labor as a throw away element.
Reading this op ed leaves one with the notion that these changes have arisen through some immutable forces of nature. Continue reading →
It is fairly widely known that income and wealth inequality in the US is as high or higher than at any time except perhaps the Robber Baron period at the end of the 19th century. Lots of articles and books explain how this has come about over the last 30 years. In a recent NYTimes Magazine article, “The Purpose of Spectacular Wealth, According to a Spectacularly Wealthy Guy” by Adam Davidson, we are even offered an affirmative defense of this by a buddy of Mitt Romney from Bain Capital Edward Conrad.
Conrad… “aggressively argues that the enormous and growing income inequality in the United States is not a sign that the system is rigged. On the contrary, Conrad writes, it is a sign that our economy is working. And if we had a little more of it, then everyone, particularly the 99 percent, would be better off.”
But, leaving aside the obvious disconnect between any rational measure of value add by the wealthy and their incomes and holdings, does economic inequality really matter? Is it just that those of us in the not wealthy class, now branded The 99%, are jealous of all the toys of the wealthy? Their four or five houses, countless cars, airplanes, and all the rest?
The recent scene of Jon Huntsman, Republican candidate for President, stating that he believed in evolution surrounding this with the parenthetical comment, “call me crazy”, sets out in stark relief how idiotic our politics and body politic are at this moment. Every other Republican running for President has disavowed evolution. Even the middling muddler from Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, could not bring himself to state a positive position on this bit of science.
A 2009 Gallup poll showed that only 36% of Americans believed in Darwinism. Here we are more than 70 years after the Scopes trial and Americans continue to be enormously ignorant of the science and technology that underlies much of our day to day lives. They show no increased interest in the amazing findings of research in so many fields.
This denial of fact-based thinking is tied up with the persistence of religions in their many guises. Even after a major global financial calamity that continues to reveal itself some four years into the Great Recession, most people persist in believing the endless claims of the miracles of the marketplace. History is replete with countless examples of the instability of markets. Even now, living through yet another real life example of the instability of markets, we have politicians surrounded by the hackdom of economists and Wall St financiers, continuing to feed market doggerels to the population still anxious to believe that we just need to be purer in our belief and application of market dogmas to achieve success.
As disturbing as the Republicans not believing in evolution, this matters fairly little in the short run. Their, and, to be fair, most Democrats and virtually the entire corporatist cabal in business and the academy, religious beliefs in markets is an active danger to our economy and our future lives.
I wish I could close with some path out of this miasma of received knowledge. But we seem not to have a political or social force in sight to hitch our increasingly decrepit lives to.