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America's Two Economies

US jobRecession is alive and well in these United States

Just as businesses in some countries keep two sets of books, we in the United States live with two economies, even if we acknowledge only one. One real that few people in the un-fine art of economics, or the press, care to report on; and one imaginary, passed on to the public as real by the US government and Wall Street: the only one that Homo americanus, in his sempiternal gullibility, is supposed to believe.

According to these government trusted sources, which carry the imprimatur of both the Fed chairman (Ben Bernanke) and the Treasury Secretary (Tim Geithner) – plus the verbal choreography of the President (Barack Obama), the recession which originated in December 2007 ended 18 months later, in June 2009; and that ever since that date the nation is in a period of economic recovery. 

Recovery, my foot, don’t you believe! If you do, you might as well stay true to the belief that somewhere in Iraq there’s still an arsenal of WMDs, and that our Wehrmacht is nothing but a strong system of defense against evil forces (terrorists nowadays) trying to take away our freedoms, whether in the Middle East or deeper inside Asia.

The 2008 recession is continuing on and likely will stay with us for several more years. In fact, socio-political change may have to occur before the economic mess is resolved.

Why the lies from Washington, we might ask, whether from politicians, self-serving military brass, or experts-consiglieri to both groups? It should come as no surprise to anyone that the rationalization at the top is “to protect us all,” to avert a “crisis of confidence” in our nation, in our economic-political system, and in those people and institutions that maintain power and control over the masses. This is one time, they will argue, when the end justifies the means.

On Thursday, August 4, the stock market took a major loss, the worst in three years, but the following morning things looked a bit rosier to the dense business chroniclers of CNBC after the July jobs report had nonfarm payroll employment rise by 117,000 during the month; and since analysts had projected a gain of 75,000, there was early jubilation. As usual, the analyses which followed from this group of B-school graduates turned analysts, commentators and pseudo-journalists, exhibited a total lack of grey matter. Never mind that to keep up with the population growth the US should be adding close to 200,000 new jobs per month… for each and every month.  But that’s not the worst of it.

We have yet to hear meaningful commentary from this sanctuary of big business and conservatism, CNBC, or from any of the media reporting on the nation’s economy, where this job growth is occurring, critiquing the fact that it is not precisely in the areas that will help the economy in the medium or in the long run.  Poisonous growth we could call it, unsustainable jobs in fields such as health care (31,000 jobs in July and 299,000 in the past 12 months!) A field where the US is already spending twice as much of its GDP as other first world nations!  We are accelerating towards having health care command 20 percent of our economy within three or four years… and we remain mute on the subject. Why? Could it be that health care is one of the many sacred cows no American politician dare touch?  But as bad as that is, it’s not the worst of it.

The jobs picture in America is dire and one that Americans prefer not to confront and analyze. It is as bad as or worse than it was a year ago with almost 14 million people unemployed, another 8.4 million involuntary part-time workers, 2.8 million marginally attached to the labor force, and probably as many as 7 million “students” of all ages, who in past economies would have been part of the work force, attending public and “for profit” post-secondary schools, hoping to acquire the training (which most are not) to become part of a labor force which will have few or no jobs to offer when they graduate. 

Bottom line: not only is our real economy not creating sustainable jobs, but investing 100 to 200 billion dollars a year in “phony” training that students will be unable to pay back, loans guaranteed by the no longer platinum credit-worthiness of the United States of America. A bubble sure to pop in the very near future, one which will add to our woes in this land of plenty, imaginary plenty these days… just like our imaginary economy.

Yet, some exalted dimwits at CNBC are still telling us that we are not Greece!

©2011 Ben Tanosborn


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