Monday, July 11, 2011

Can't Vs. Won't

Paul Krugman's has written an excellent column that cuts through all the bullshit and speaks plainly to the reality that jobs creation isn't a matter of "can't," but a matter of "won't."
The truth is that creating jobs in a depressed economy is something government could and should be doing. Yes, there are huge political obstacles to action — notably, the fact that the House is controlled by a party that benefits from the economy's weakness. But political gridlock should not be conflated with economic reality.

Our failure to create jobs is a choice, not a necessity — a choice rationalized by an ever-shifting set of excuses.

...The economy isn't fixing itself. Nor are there real obstacles to government action: both the bond vigilantes and structural unemployment exist only in the imaginations of pundits. And if stimulus seems to have failed, it's because it was never actually tried.

Listening to what supposedly serious people say about the economy, you'd think the problem was "no, we can't." But the reality is "no, we won't." And every pundit who reinforces that destructive passivity is part of the problem.
Meanwhile, the disproportionately devastating effects of that problem on Black USians in particular is highlighted in a piece in the Chicago Sun-Times on "The disappearing black middle class."
In 2004, the median net worth of white households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute. By 2009, the median net worth for white households had fallen 24 percent to $97,860; the median net worth for black households had fallen 83 percent to $2,170, according to the institute.

[Algernon Austin, director of the Economic Policy Institute's Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy] described the wealth gap this way: "In 2009, for every dollar of wealth the average white household had, black households only had two cents."
Unemployment and foreclosure numbers show just as stark a disparity.

The reality of "won't" is that economically and institutionally disenfranchised populations are further marginalized. Maya Wiley, director of the Center for Social Inclusion, says that, although "we're not done writing history," it will nonetheless "say the black middle class was decimated" over the past few years, reversing the economic gains hard-won over decades of civil rights activism.

This is why I'm an economy voter: Social justice is inextricably tied to the economy, for better and for worse, for will and for won't.