by the Sandwichman
Nothing restores a sandwichman's optimism like a pep talk from "economists" about how they've arranged things so there can't be "another depression like the 1930s"!
Case in point: an article by Charles Duhigg in the New York Times today assures readers that economists say "the odds of a full-blown depression are almost nonexistent."
Why? "incomes are more stable. Many more Americans hold jobs in service sectors, like medicine or education. And more Americans work for the government, which is less inclined to fire people just because the economy turns gloomy."
"Moreover, there are safety nets that can be traced to the Great Depression, like Social Security, unemployment benefits, food stamp programs..."
"Today, we have a lot more flexibility and we can prop up banks and the economy to give us enough time to let things stabilize..."
"... whatever name economists give the current downturn, we are unlikely to see the bread lines, shantytowns and dust bowl of the Great Depression. More likely, these economists say, would be a sudden increase in the number of people selling belongings on eBay."
For sure there won't be another depression like the 1930s. There also will not be another war like World War I or even World War II. But there already is the Iraq War and there already is homelessness, "foodbanks" and social economic exclusion. No breadlines? What about the ones that have been there throughout the boom years? Are they going to abolish those? How long those folks "selling their belongings on eBay" will have to wait for a free terminal at the public library is another question.
The public policy priority of the last 35 years has been to whittle away at the "safety nets", both regulatory and personal security. I see nothing in the NYT article about recent enthusiasm for "reforming" Social Security. Is that because those reform proposals relied on perpetually rising financial markets? Let me get this straight: Social Security, which a few years ago was headed for "bankruptcy", is the safety net that will spare the economy from the consequences of the credit crunch. Could you explain the logic again S L O W L Y, please, Mr. Duhigg?
In a word, ladies and gentlemen, BULLSHIT! Another thing that has changed since the 1930s is the carefully-orchestrated refusal to entertain progressive policy responses to emerging economic
difficulties. And economists have been at the forefront of the neoliberal gatekeeping. Policy ideas have to pass through the wringer of the market-friendly test. The result: wasteful bloat-is-growth policies that enrich the wealthiest and leave the rest to stagnate.
On cue, all the hacks and charlatans who have been clapping and chanting, "FREE MARKETS! FREE MARKETS!" will continue clapping and but begin chanting, "GOVERNMENT SAFETY NETS! GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS!" And all will be well, children.