FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Where Will the Jobs Come From?

by ROBERT URIE

In Ron Suskind’s book “Confidence Men” Barack Obama is reported in 2008 to have argued to his economic advisors that the unfolding labor market catastrophe was the result of “productivity gains” rather than the economic crisis. That is, with 800,000 jobs per month being lost, Mr. Obama thought the cause to be an economy that was performing as it should. The relevant difference was that there was a role for government when job losses were caused by an economic crisis, but much less so when they are due to productivity gains.

Assuming for a moment that he had correctly diagnosed the reason for the job losses, in what world would the country losing 800,000 jobs per month not be a problem requiring government attention, if only through cynical political calculations? And considering the timing of the job losses, what is the likelihood that massive, job killing productivity gains suddenly took hold in the midst of an economic collapse? Even neoliberal ideologues saw the danger to the continued implementation of their program in that circumstance. In 2008 the IMF (International Monetary Fund) offered a public mea culpa for the decades of economic misery that they had caused before jumping back onto the austerity bandwagon so as not to be irrelevant to the dissolution of the European Union.

My point here is not to dump on Mr. Obama who is busy re-inventing himself as an economic populist, most probably because pollsters informed him that citizens who vote haven’t yet joined his view that mass unemployment can be a good thing. But it is to ask the question: if job losses of the like seen in 2008 fit into one’s narrative of how the economy is supposed to function, what are the conditions under which it would be deemed not to be functioning? The question is of course rhetorical.  The neoliberal worldview, of which Mr. Obama is an apparent acolyte, is deductive and therefore only subject to challenge where facts don’t matter, at the premises.

The useful reason for trashing the neoliberal orthodoxy of the last forty years, in addition to that it feels so good, is that the only way around it for purposes of recovering civil society to solve the problems that unemployment, among other social ills, is causing, is to run right over it. Again, assume that the job losses of the Lesser Depression were the result of productivity gains, an erstwhile “good” in the neoliberal worldview. What possible offset would be needed for non-true believers to deem it to be such? Job gains overseas?  America has been set up for the employed. Americans have mortgages, school loans, car payments and food costs money. Of what value is a theoretical systemic benefit when the world consists of actual human beings with economically embedded lives?

When not acting as an obstacle, the political leadership in the West has rendered itself irrelevant to solving the social problems that we face. Democrats will bust a populist move for a few months and get a few of you excited but in the end it will turn out to be the same misdirection that they have served up for forty years. Libertarians like Ron Paul will appear attractive until you put their economic prescriptions next to Wall Street’s and see that they are identical. Be that as it may, the problems remain. So while it only wastes a few minutes to vote, looking for salvation in the existing political order is absolutely life defeating.

If the political system could be recovered, real possibilities do exist: as FDR demonstrated, every unemployed person who wants a job could be given a job tomorrow doing things that need to be done. The health care infrastructure could be converted from care-denial insurance schemes to a public health care system that provides cradle-to-grave health care for everyone. Public education could be re-engineered so that all citizens receive high quality education from pre-school through graduate school. And a massive publicly funded effort could shift economic production from a path of environmental suicide toward sustainability.

The seemingly impenetrable wall between what is and what could be today is the same one faced in the West in the 1930s. Of help back then was that an alternative system, socialism, stood ready to fill the void should capitalism implode from its own weight. FDR saved capitalism by smoothing its sociopathic excesses with programs that served human needs. It took fifty years for the West to forget the snarling beast that capitalism is. It took only a bit less time for capitalism to remind us of what we had forgotten. Whatever happens with this rebellion or that, the die has been cast. Tens of millions of unemployed and dispossessed have no other choice than to rebel. With no FDR on the horizon, perhaps we will get it right this time.

Rob Urie is and artist and political economist in New York.

 

 

 

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics is published by CounterPunch Books.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail