Friday, July 22, 2011

Recommended Reading

On the economy...

Paul Krugman: The Lesser Depression.
Right now we're looking at not one but two looming crises, either of which could produce a global disaster. In the United States, right-wing fanatics in Congress may block a necessary rise in the debt ceiling, potentially wreaking havoc in world financial markets. Meanwhile, if the plan just agreed to by European heads of state fails to calm markets, we could see falling dominoes all across southern Europe — which would also wreak havoc in world financial markets.

We can only hope that the politicians huddled in Washington and Brussels succeed in averting these threats. But here's the thing: Even if we manage to avoid immediate catastrophe, the deals being struck on both sides of the Atlantic are almost guaranteed to make the broader economic slump worse.

...The disappearance of unemployment from elite policy discourse and its replacement by deficit panic has been truly remarkable. It's not a response to public opinion. In a recent CBS News/New York Times poll, 53 percent of the public named the economy and jobs as the most important problem we face, while only 7 percent named the deficit. Nor is it a response to market pressure. Interest rates on U.S. debt remain near historic lows.

Yet the conversations in Washington and Brussels are all about spending cuts (and maybe tax increases, I mean revisions).
And Sarah Jaffe: The Unemployed Aren't Invisible: Washington and the Media Just Aren't Paying Attention.
The New York Times said the unemployed have become invisible. Maybe in Washington, in political circles where the question is not what to spend to put people back to work but which programs to cut. But there are 14.1 million unemployed right now, scattered around the country, many of whom have been out of work for months or years.

..."People are the most precious resource that this country has; the determination that people have makes this country what it is. But they continue to step on the backs of people who have given their all, not just for one generation but for generation after generation, you work and pay taxes and try to live in a decent home, and then they say, we can't help you," Benita Johnson of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania told me. She's been out of work since May 2010, and has only been able to find temporary positions since 2006—after taking a serious pay cut to get a job that would allow her to get her bachelor's degree at night.
Both pieces, in their entirety, are worth your time.

It is truly like the people running this country have no fucking clue what's going on. All they're talking about is deficits and cutting spending, when what they need to be talking about is jobs and increasing spending. It's jaw-dropping. I've never seen a government (executive and legislature) so wildly out of touch with the needs of its people—and I've lived through Reagan and GW Bush.

The sorts of economic turmoil in individual people's lives, from very visible high rates of foreclosure to the less obvious (or less discussed, anyway) widespread lack of employment among young graduates carrying debt, is of the sort from which people can live a whole lifetime and never recover. This is grim stuff. And our elected officials are busily bickering over how austere their austerity plan should be. HOLY SHIT.