Sam Bowles and Arjun Jayadev reveal a dubious distinction of the American economy:
Another dubious first for America: We now employ as many private security guards as high school teachers — over one million of them, or nearly double their number in 1980.
And that’s just a small fraction of what we call “guard labor.” In addition to private security guards, that means police officers, members of the armed forces, prison and court officials, civilian employees of the military, and those producing weapons: a total of 5.2 million workers in 2011. That is a far larger number than we have of teachers at all levels.
Read more here.
A new economy is emerging as the old economy falters, writes Econ4′s Juliet Schor in the New York Times:
[W]hile they are no panacea, the emergent trends of community fabrication, self-provisioning and the sharing economy collectively suggest a future for work in wealthy countries that involves more making, sharing and self-organizing. There may be fewer formal jobs — but a more entrepreneurial approach to making money, one that emphasizes smaller-scale companies and collectively owned enterprises, more sharing, and less spending. As painful as the years since the crash have been, a more resilient, satisfying and sustainable way to work and live could be one beneficial consequence.
Read her op-ed piece here.
“Econ 101 is killing America,” write Robert Atkinson and Michael Lind:
Even though most economists know better, they present to the public, the media and politicians a simplified, vulgar version of neoclassical economics — what can be called Econ 101 — that leads policymakers astray. Economists fear that if they really expose policymakers to all the contradictions, uncertainties and complications of “Advanced Econ,” the latter will go off track — embracing protectionism, heavy-handed “industrial policy” or even socialism.
Read their take on the myths of Econ 101 here.
Think about it: if labor supply exceeds labor demand – in other words, there are people who want to work but can’t find jobs – is the solution to expand labor supply? How could that help if there’s already excess labor supply?? Yet some politicians think that people aren’t working because unemployment benefits are too generous. Their solution: cut benefits, then the lazy bums will get out of their hammocks and look for work. And then we’ll get … hmm … more people looking for work and not finding it.
Paul Krugman breaks it down in his New York Times column:
The war on the unemployed isn’t motivated solely by cruelty; rather, it’s a case of meanspiritedness converging with bad economic analysis.
Read his piece here.
Lessons from Recent History 101: the Bush tax cuts.
It is Orwellian that after a decade of trillion dollar tax cuts and bailouts of the rich, and a steadily worsening jobs and employment picture for American workers, we are told to be kind to the rich and give them even more money because they are the “jobs creators”.
Read more here.
Econ4′s Juliet Schor calls for getting real to create jobs for youth:
It is not surprising to learn that last year’s class suffered the highest level of stress on record, according to an annual survey of college freshmen taken over the past quarter century.
One reason the situation is so bad in the US is that nearly all the burden of adjustment since 2008 has been to lay people off, rather than share hours, as was done in Europe.
Read more here.
Writing in The Guardian, Dean Baker explains that there’s more than one way to skin the unemployment cat:
The average worker in Germany and the Netherlands puts in 20% fewer hours in a year than the average worker in the United States. This means that if the US adopted Germany’s work patterns tomorrow, it would immediately eliminate unemployment.
Read his piece here.
For more on work and time in America, check out Take Back Your Time.
In an essay for “Capitalism Unmasked,” Econ4′s joint project with AlterNet, Lynn Parramore writes on the new economic bondage:
This has been coming for some time. Ever since the Reagan era, from the factory to the office tower, the American workplace has been morphing for many into a tightly-managed torture chamber of exploitation and domination. Bosses strut about making stupid commands. Employees trapped by ridiculous bureaucratic procedures censor themselves for fear of getting a pink slip. Inefficiencies are everywhere. Bad management and draconian policies prop up the system of command and control where the boss is God and the workers are so many expendable units in the great capitalist machine. The iron handmaidens of high unemployment and economic inequality keep the show going.
Read her piece here.
“One has to recapture the idea that there is something called a good life to which wealth is a means…”
In the models of neo-classical economics times like the present are assumed away. But when we’re actually living through them, we need to recognise that measures that result in higher hours can be counter-productive by creating more unemployment and investor pessimism. Similarly, responding to shortfalls in pension programs by asking people to stay in the labour force more years further dis-equilibrates the market by creating more demand for a limited number of jobs.