Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Paradox of Economic Recovery

Of course we’re hoping that conditions in this nation dramatically improve in 2010.

We want Americans to find work, feel more financially secure, buy what they need and enjoy their lives.

And obviously, as Democrats, we want the economy to show enough progress that we hold our own in the congressional midterm elections.

If the standard measures of growth are pointing north, it will blunt Republican charges that Obama and the Democrats have mismanaged the economy.

In that regard, I’m rooting for a conventional recovery:

Unemployment down a couple of points; consumer borrowing and spending up; the Dow above 11,000; and an uptick in home prices and housing starts.

Yet we also know the severe limitations of simply returning to those standard measures. A drop in unemployment, though vital, doesn’t correct massive inequalities in the labor markets; buying binges by Americans don’t reverse the depletion of domestic manufacturing; fattened investment portfolios don’t mean sustained prosperity; and a return to inflated housing prices don’t make it easier for working-class families to buy.

Even more to the point, those traditional indicators don’t evoke the real promise of the Obama era: a meaningful effort to close the wage and income gap, spurred by a reinvigorated Labor Movement, and a decoupling of economic growth from wasteful consumption.

But in the meantime, we want some basic relief for suffering Americans and better-looking economic numbers. In the short term, that will stifle our opponents and bolster our prospects for positive change in the next decade.


  1. All nice ideas, but the Big O has to stop his warmongering first.

  2. I voted for change

    Im now worth 4 dimes and 1 nickel

  3. The problem goes deeper: no one in government will initiate and carry forward a national discussion which squarely addresses a crucial question about our ability to survive, not just as a nation, but as a civilization. The stark choice before us, and which politicians will not touch, is this: for our economy to survive and “prosper” we are told we need to consume more (“consumers” constitute 70% of our GDP), and for the living earth to survive, humanity must consume less, to maintain the earth’s ability to sustain life (studies indicate that if every human being alive today were to consume at the level of the “average” North American, we would need five more planets). How do we square that circle?