Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’

quits

In a recent speech, Fed Chair Janet Yellen admitted that “the recovery still feels like a recession to many Americans, and it also looks that way in some economic statistics.”

Some of those statistics are contained in the just-released Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). While there may have been 4.2 million new job postings in February, 300,000 more than in January, many of these are low-wage jobs (temp jobs in business services, food-service jobs, jobs in retail trade, and so on), many of them at or just above the minimum wage. And, even though they’re less-then-desirable jobs at less-than-desirable wages, there were still 2.5 unemployed workers for every job posting. So, given that reserve army of labor, employers have absolutely no reason to offer higher wages. Which is why the so-called quits rate—the number of job quits divided by total employment, a measure of the willingness of workers to leave their current jobs in search of new, better, higher-paying jobs—remained at 1.7, virtually unchanged over the last 4 years.

The economic statistics are thus clear: American workers have been jolted and they’re still waiting for their recovery.

Protest_Credit_Crisis

Let’s leave aside for a moment whether the participants were the right ones to call on (I would have turned to plenty of better commentators, who have read both Marx and contemporary scholarship on Marxist theory, to offer their opinions) or even whether they get Marx right (very little, as it turns out).

What’s perhaps most interesting is that the New York Times felt the need at this point in time to host a debate on the question “was Marx right?” and, then, that most of the participants admit that Marx did in fact get a great deal right.

The problem is, of course, that at this point in time mainstream economics (in either its neoclassical or Keynesian varieties) is not a particularly good guide for analyzing or proposing solutions to the key economic problems of soaring inequality, massive unemployment, and generalized insecurity of a broad mass of the population in the United States and in other high-income countries. So, I suppose it’s not surprising people continue to turn to Marx for ideas about how to make sense of the economic contradictions that caused the Second Great Depression and the new contradictions that right now are preventing a full recovery of capitalism.

In the end, what is key to Marx is not this or that prediction (of which, as it turns out, there is very little in the texts, although there certainly are lots of tendencies that critics are hard put to ignore or effectively counter) but, instead, the idea of critique. Because what Marx set out to do over the course of the three published volumes of Capital was provide the cornerstones for a far-reaching critique of political economy. And the method of that critique—a two-fold critique, of mainstream economic theory and of capitalism as a system—is what endures, precisely as a challenge to what passes for serious economic analysis today.

Marx, then, was surely right about one thing:

if constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more clear what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.

mcfadden-29-03

Special mention

-1 college-athlete-union-cartoon-darkow-495x384

poverty-and-marriage-650

Special mention

0326toon_wasserman-1947.r 140326_Hobby_Lobby_t618

PaulRyanDogwhistle

Special mention

145851_600 McCain Leads

Take back Vermont

Posted: 28 February 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

1392815994746.cached

The new campaign to take back Vermont should not be confused with the 2000 campaign to repeal civil unions. This one is about the growing problem of heroin addiction in the Green Mountain State.

Long visible at the street level in towns and cities across the country, the extent of the opiate scourge in rural Vermont burst into the national consciousness last month, when Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State message to what he said was a “full-blown heroin crisis.” Much of New England is now also reporting record overdoses and deaths.

For some communities just starting to reckon with drugs, Mr. Shumlin’s words were a call to arms; for Rutland, they offered a sense of solidarity as this city of 17,000 moves ahead with efforts to help reclaim its neighborhoods and its young people, not to mention its reputation.

As Gina Tron explains,

Vermont draws lots of out-of-staters who move there thinking it’s some sort of promised land of maple syrup and covered bridges.

Vermont is beautiful—the view from our house was breathtaking, with rolling hills stretching for miles, full of grazing deer in the morning and howling coyotes at night. But the state is also more complicated than its reputation.

“I was expecting more overalls,” one family friend remarked during a visit a few years after we arrived. Another asked if my classmates wore clogs and pigtails to school. They dismissed my Vermont friends as hicks, and saw the state as a wholesome joke. “What kinda crime do they have up there? Someone stole a block of Cabot cheese?”

It’s not just out-of-staters who see Vermont this way—plenty of locals like to claim the state is immune to “big city problems.” But it’s not that there’s less dysfunction in Vermont. It just takes a different, often less visible, form.

That’s why it’s downright dangerous for liberals like Matthew Yglesias to claim that Vermont really is prospering. A low unemployment rate (in a state with a small percentage of formal-sector jobs) and a high median income (in a state that has refashioned itself as a tourist destination and land of second homes) signify very little. Vermont is also a state of impoverished cities and rural areas, where meth labs and sales of cheaper heroin prosper alongside sugar shacks and covered bridges.

2009-Bad-Economy-Cartoon-Wall-Street-Comic-Strip-02LRG

Here’s the link to my appearance, with Lorraine Chavez, to discuss the economics of the Second Great Depression on Liberal Fix Radio.

Chart of the day

Posted: 13 February 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

0006en

source

That’s the unemployment rate in Greece, which (according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority [pdf]) rose to an astronomical 28 percent in November.

The unemployment rate for young people (15-24 years of age) is even higher: 61.4 percent!

liberalfix

An hour-long interview today with hosts Keith Brekhus and Naomi Minogue and fellow Chicagoan Lorraine Chavez (campaign spokesperson last year for Fight for 15) on the current state of the U.S. and Illinois economies. The show will air this coming Friday night on Liberal Fix Radio.

143731_600

Special mention

143737_600 143774_600