Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Now that I’ve got a six-year-old who is growing up in this nuthouse, I’ve come to take it all more personally."

Doug Henwood:

Throughout our history, this has been a brutal society, but at least it had a certain dynamism in both commerce and in culture. I don’t see much of that today. The last gasp of economic dynamism was that boom, which was often thoroughly delusional, but did have some energy to it, and did leave us some byproducts, like many miles of fiber optic cable. It also paradoxically presumed to address some concerns historically associated with the left—a flattening of hierarchies, the provision of meaningful work, the erasure of borders, and even peace, love, and understanding. Of course it did all that firmly within a capitalist paradigm, but it did have an embryonic aspect about it, if only in fantasy. No longer. Our most recent bubble built a lot of subdivisions in exurban Las Vegas, with no payoff either in the productive or phantasmic realms. There might be some payoff were the homeless and underhoused allowed to move into the empty dwellings, but that’s not the way the USA works—though the Occupy movement seems to be nudging things in that direction. ...

The reason that it doesn’t feel to many people like the recession never ended is that it’s been the weakest recovery since modern GDP numbers begin in 1929 and modern labor market numbers in 1939. As of the most recent quarter, the third of 2011, GDP, that most fetishized of all indicators, has only regained its pre-recession high; based on historical averages, it “should” be about 10% above. Total wage and salary income is about 2% below its pre-recession high; normally, it’d be up 13%. Ah, but profits! Corporate profits are up over 80% from their recession low; normally they’d be up about 50%. Profits are up nearly ten times as much as wages—the average in a recovery would be less than three times. Corporations are flush with cash—they’re spending some of it abroad and distributing some of it to their shareholders and executives. What they’re not doing is investing or hiring here.

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