Thursday, September 5, 2013

Our Government's Priorities

Jeff Madrick's latest post to NYRblog, "America's Jobless Generation," injects a major shot of reality into any punditry about the unemployment crisis. Nevertheless, in his efforts to be rational about the crisis, I think he failed to rake up some of the muck that really matters. Consider one of his most important sentences, which actually occupies most of the fourth paragraph of the post:
Many aspects of our current employment crisis have less to do with technology or globalization than with the administration’s failure to adopt policies to strengthen the labor force, and more precisely, those parts of the labor force that are most crucial to the nation’s long-term social and economic health.
This is true enough, but some speculation of the cause of the failure would not have hurt the piece. After all, many of those who voted for Barack Obama did so because they expected him to adopt such policies. What happened?

What happened was that Obama had to choose between dancing "with the one that brung him" and "with the one that paid to get him to ball," so to speak. Obama may have instilled hope among those members of a declining middle class at a time when they had pretty much lost all hope of ever getting their heads above the waters of debt. However, once he occupied the Oval Office, he had just as much sympathy for bailing out all the foolish risky moves by the financial sector as his predecessor had exhibited. In other words the Presidency is as much enslaved to the financial sector as is the Congress and the 99% of the American population. The fact is that the financial sector does not care who the President is as long as they maintain their grip on the controlling strings.

What is the aim of all of that control? It is nothing more than a steady parade of quarterly reports of growth. Whether or not the reports themselves, or the numbers behind them, are nothing more than fictions of convenience, where exchange is concerned, all that matters is having the right numbers in the right places. (Remember what happened when a single cell in an Excel chart turned out to be erroneous.) Unfortunately, well-choreographed numbers have never benefited the labor force. There is no reason for us to assume that this time will be different.

No comments: