Ian Welsh: Some basics on the economy

By Ian Welsh, cross posted from IanWelsh.net.

1) the majority of new jobs are bad.

2) the economy has still not recovered all lost jobs, either in absolute #s or as a percentage of the population

3) so there are fewer jobs, and what new jobs have been created are worse. They pay worse.

4) The upper middle class job market has recovered, which is why those folks are no longer panicking and are telling you that the economy isn’t so bad as all that.

5) the failure to force the rich to take their losses and to break up the banks means that the same people who caused the 2007/8 financial crisis still control the economy and the government.

6) failure to restructure the economy to get off oil and over to an electrical economy means that the US (and the world) are caught in the oil price dilemna: any real recovery increases oil price and will be derailed by those high oil prices.

7) Europe, ex. Germany, is in recession.

8 ) the developed world is in depression, it never left depression.  During depressions there are recoveries (such as they are) and recessions, but the overall economy is in depression.

9) China’s economy is slowing down.  Since China is the main engine of the world economy, followed by the US, this is really bad.  If it goes into an actual recession, bend over and kiss your butt goodbye.

10) Austerity is a means by which the rich can buy up assets which are not normally on the market for cheap.

11) the wealth of the rich and major corporations has recovered and in many countries exceeded its prior highs.  They are doing fine. Austerity is not hurting them. They control your politicians.  The depression will not end until it is in their interest for it to do so, or their wealth and power is broken.

12) The US play is as follows: frack. Frack some more.  Frack even more.  They are trying the Reagan play, temporize while new supplies of hydrocarbons come on line.  Their bet is that they’ll get another boom out of that.  If they’re right, it’ll be a lousy boom.  If they’re wrong (and the Saudis think they are, and the Saudis have been eating their lunch since 2001) then you won’t even get that.  Either way, though, they’ll devastate the environment, by which I mean the water you drink and grow crops with.

13) For people earning less than about 80K, the economy never really recovered.

14) If you’re out of work more than 2 months your odds of getting another job drop through the floor.  If you do get one, odds are it will pay much less than your previous job.

15) Canada is undergoing austerity madness at all levels of government, and the corporations, with historically low tax rates, are not going to spend either. With Chinese demand for commodities dropping, expect a nasty recession.

16) Australia, having tied itself completely to China is about to reap the downside of that decision.

17) Wages are being systematically broken in the developed world.  The rich do not believe they need you, except as wage-slave labor.  You will all be company store slaves, paying rental streams to everyone to be allowed to continued to eke out a miserable existence.

18) Since the US sells protected works (so called “intellectual property”) you will continue to see a massive attempt to break anyone who doesn’t pay IP rent to the US.  Some countries (Sweden, Germany, among others) are going along.  But there are signs of rebellion.  Apple may have won against Samsung in their ridiculous attempt to enforce patents on obvious solutions, but both Japanese and Korean courts threw the cases out.  Paying rent to America, the hegemon, when the world system is working is one thing, paying rent when the world isn’t working is another.

19) Stirling Newberry says, and I agree, that none of this is stable, but it will last as long as the majority of the baby boom, the silents and a good chunk of the Xers still think they can hang on to their little piece of the pie, and screw everyone else.  It will most likely break down in 2020/24, which is when the demographics turn.  Young people today are completely screwed, they have astronomical student loans, no or shitty jobs, can’t afford a house and can’t afford to start a family.  Note that the places where revolutions, peaceful or otherwise, are happening, are places where the majority of the population is young.  Latin America, the Middle East.


20) The economic numbers you hear don’t mean squat. Headline inflation does not matter, ask yourself instead “what are my fixed expenses?”  Start with food.  Jobless claims #s cannot be compared to prior numbers because less people have the sorts of jobs that let you make those claims.  For the #s to make sense you’d have to adjust them for the reduced # of jobs which allow claims.  The unemployment rate has dropped even though there are, in absolute terms, less jobs, because people have given up looking.

21) The money the Fed floods into the financial markets (quantitative easing, among others) is mostly NOT getting to ordinary people, and whatever Bernanke and his apologists say, it was never intended to.  It is intended to prop up financial actors, and keep the rich richer.  It has done what it is supposed to do.

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About Matt Stoller

From 2011-2012, Matt was a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He contributed to Politico, Alternet, Salon, The Nation and Reuters, focusing on the intersection of foreclosures, the financial system, and political corruption. In 2012, he starred in “Brand X with Russell Brand” on the FX network, and was a writer and consultant for the show. He has also produced for MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. From 2009-2010, he worked as Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Alan Grayson. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.


  1. kevinearick

    pretty good summary…

    how much of the middle class must capital preserve, at what collapse rate, to stay in power? does it matter?

    1. kevinearick

      capital has automated the pipe from input to output, with what remains, Maine, of the service/tourist, cutting out the bottom of the middle class to keep feeding the top 60% of the middle class.

      in january, another 20% is going to get whacked, regardless. those holding pm hd better have a well connected currency trader on hand. retail price is one thing…

    2. riversouth

      Ok, the working class spending is 70% of the economy. Wages(our standard of living) has been forced down(in real money)since the sixties(experts agree). Now lets extrapolate from these widely reported figures and facts. The economy in the tank because the 1% sent it there by lowering wages to compete in the world economy. i.e. replacing the American spender with emerging country spender.
      Where would the entitlement programs be today if we had a modest pay increase per yr. across the last 50 yrs. if the gov. had been able to collect the taxes on those loss wages?
      So my point is, this is all orchestrated, this whole problem was brought about by programs to to lower the standard of living in America.

  2. Eric Patton

    The depression will not end until it is in their interest for it to do so

    This can only be accomplished with a threat to the system — an anti-capitalist movement of sufficient size and scale to put the fear of God into the ruling class.

  3. JGordon

    All that may be accurate, but the question people should really be asking is whether or not it is even possible or desirable to salvage the system.

    One very good solution to our problems on a whole range of fronts, from the unconstitutional destruction of our civil liberties to global warming, etc, is to simply push stop caring. This thing is going to collapse whether or not you annoy the corporate state authorities enough so that they wipe you out.

    Much easier to just sit back and cynically watch the industrial society decay into a festering septic hole while making appropriate preparations on the side that will allow your community to survive, and even prosper, through the horrors that are inevitably coming.

    Think about it this way. Most Americans are diseased and obese from eating too much vile, fake food. Those of us who are left after society collapses will stronger, healthier, and happier. That’s certainly something to look forward too, and complaining about or trying to halt the collapse isn’t something a rational person should be engaged in.

    1. TK421

      “Those of us who are left after society collapses will stronger, healthier, and happier.”

      Or we could enter a second Dark Age.

    2. Heretic

      JGordon…. Your attitude toward the rest of society can be summarized as live and let die, an unacceptable outlook for anyone who has the least sentimental attachment toward their friends and family and community…

      And do not think for a moment that if ‘society collapses’, that you and yours will escape. A swift implosion would cause a mass panic, and the norms of respect for rules, civility, and respect for other persons, (the societal memeswhich are necessary for individual safety and peaceful co-existance or cooperation in society), would collapse also. People will become desperate, and desperate people can resort to extreme measures of cruelty or violence to protect themselves and their families.

      1. I of Horus

        ^This.. It’s not going to pretty for anyone, not the poor, not the ‘preppers’, not even for the 1% when (civil) society collapses. One way or another, we all depend on society.
        How are you going to get healthcare when you break your leg when just getting out the door of your mountain cabin is a dangerous endeavour?

    3. Patrick

      Funny. JGordon has exactly the sort of attitude towards fellow countrymen that will make the Collapse, if and when it happens, a grudge match between classes rather than an organized toppling of the corporate state.

      1. Nalu Girl

        Jgordon probably thinks his guns will save him AND put him on the top of the heap. People who desire a collapse usually think that way.

    4. pws

      The fittest survive.
      What is meant by the fittest?
      Not the strongest; not the cleverest —
      Weakness and stupidity everywhere survive.
      There is no way of determining fitness except in that a thing does survive.
      “Fitness,” then, is only another name for “survival.”
      That survivors survive.

      — Charles Fort

      This is a response to:

      “Those of us who are left after society collapses will stronger, healthier, and happier. That’s certainly something to look forward too, and complaining about or trying to halt the collapse isn’t something a rational person should be engaged in.”

      This is just Social Darwinism. Whatever you may think of real Darwinism, at least real Darwinism doesn’t pretend to support human aesthetics. In other words, in real Darwinism, if hagfish are better survivors than humans, then that Darwinian god is perfectly happy to see all the humans wiped out in favor of hagfish.

      Social Darwinism is only a way to say that some aristocracy that is supposedly “naturally superior” will be tried and tested and come through the fires of capitalism (or in this case, the collapse of civilization) even better than when it went in.

      They did a Taxi episode where Louis DePalma set aside part of the garage as an apocalypse shelter. Because everyone thinks of themselves as part of the natural aristocracy.

      The reality? The rich will continue to eat fine Kobe steak and live in air conditioned mansions, post collapse, and the rest of use will be eating Soylent Green. Social Darwinism is always garbage. Post apocalypse, everything is going to suck. I remember when people were looking forward to a nasty fuel crisis and a depression to clear out the dead would.

      How’s that working out for everybody?

      1. pws

        “Dead would” is supposed to be “dead wood” but I look forward to being a natural aristocrat in the post apocalyptic world where things like spelling and grammar won’t matter!

  4. Susan the other

    Germany is in recession, they are just hiding that fact. They’ve been clocked. China couldn’t distribute wealth fast enough to the poor and, like a plant that grows too fast looking for the sun, their economy toppled. The 1% has been clocked. Corporations are dinosaurs. And we still think they are out to get us. The Pacific Trade Agreement is primarily a military tactic. Just thinking how that works… And the price of oil is entirely of our making. We control both production and distribution. But above and beyond our control of it, the hard fact underlying oil prices is that no military can be run without it. It is essential for any MIC.

    1. JTFaraday

      China turning itself into a slave plantation producing “First World” crap is a plan that deserves to fail.

      I hope it does. Good riddance.

      1. Fiver

        China made the greatest strategic gamble of all time when it decided to “open up” to US multinational corporate crapitalism. believing they (China) had no alternative if it was not to be left behind technologically. They avoided the Soviet Union’s error (trying to match US military strength everywhere)and were wise enough to launch the 1-child policy (which bought them a generation’s at least of time) but completely failed to see that it is our non-military technologies that have doomed most of us and much of the rest of life on this planet as well.

  5. Septeus7

    I believe that is the best summary to date and there is not much more to add other than noting the cyclic pattern and demographics are the key. I hate to be negative but I’m being to think that perhaps this is all based on biology and that humanity doesn’t really have much control the course of political and cultural evolution.

    Plato was right. We go from Aristocracy to Timocracy to Oligarchy to Ochlocracy to Tyranny. Around and Around like clockwork or the changing of seasons.

    So why vote? It’s like trying to change the tide by holding elections.

    1. Tim

      Agreed. There also appear to be a four generation cycle based on social interaction with those regimes.

      The Generation up to bat in 2020/24 is the generation willing to die for a greater cause than themselves, so they will be aptly conditioned to the task of overruning their oppressors at all cost.

    1. Magda KettleStorm

      Speaking of links,

      I have long been wanting numbers to describe unadjusted inflation (re: #20, including food and fuel).

      I found a few nice ones that include food and energy at this site:


      The problem I have is that the accepted breakdown of the CPI categories puts “other goods and services” (haircuts, cigarettes, and funeral expenses etc.) as being 41% of the pie chart, which just does not match up with the budget of anyone I know. Why is “other” weighted so heavily when it is less consequential? Does anyone have a chart that only shows inflation of food/fuel/housing?

      Does anyone have links to pretty charts that extend prior to 2000?

      1. Magda KettleStorm

        sorry, I’m still trying to read the charts and “other” was a small slice not the 41% slice, which was housing. I think I need my eyes adjusted.

  6. F. Beard

    Well, I think the solution is a nationwide debtor’s strike. That should get the PTB’s attention quick.

    Moreover, if the demand of the strike is an equal bailout of the entire population with new fiat then non-debtors can be persuaded to agitate for it too (And with moral justification since credit creation cheats non-debtors too).

    But if it comes down to it there’s many more of US than them. Let them take their money and leave the country; we’ll just switch currencies and make sure they don’t get any of the new stuff!

    1. Mud Baby

      If we had government of the people, by the people and for the people, local and state governments that are getting screwed out of revenue needed to fund basic services because of the foreclosure crisis would use eminent domain to seize vacant underwater houses, and resell them to individual buyers (not to greedy capitalists seeking to further engorge themselves on the spoils of economic war on the poor) to provide affordable housing. That would make the rent seekers sit up and take notice.

  7. Jackrabbit

    Austerity is social fracking.

    Squeeze out every drop of value and leave behind the social toxins of hate, distrust, low self-esteem, etc.

    A shorter review:
    Banks lowered their standards during the boom to get as many suckers as possible. Politicians covered these bad ‘bets’ with government claims on people’s future earnings (taxing authority). Dumb-a$$ sheeple allowed it all to happen and continue to take it up the a$$, because -like the good sheeple they are – they accept the canard that “its everybody’s fault.”

    1. Expat

      Love the slogan! And such a rich metaphor, if you imagine the rock, the gas, the fracking liquids, the fracking companies, the trucks, the waste product…not to mention setting your tap water on fire. And, alas, the corrupt polticans, which are similes for themselves.

  8. F. Beard

    Also, how is the FED buying MBS anything but a bailout of private investors? And shouldn’t the mortgage debt of the MBS bought by the FED now be CANCELED since it has already been paid by the FED?

  9. rps

    “Paying rent to America, the hegemon, when the world system is working is one thing, paying rent when the world isn’t working is another.”

    Oh how men’s history repeat their insanity upon civilization! Today’s ‘patent’claims are a new name for Roman Tribute. This repetitive rhetoric is witnessed in twelfth-century Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “The History of the Kings of Britain and 15th century Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte D’Arthur.”

    In Geoffrey of M’s Book 9, he transcribes from an ancient Cymry (aka Welsh, “welsh’ is an anglo-saxon slang-term for the conquered indigenous people meaning ‘slave’) vernacular manuscript of 6th century Arthur:

    Twelve Roman men [bearing olive branches signifying they were messengers] deliver a letter from Lucius Hiberius to Arthur. “Lucius, the protector of the Roman Republic, wishes upon Arthur, the king of Britain, exactly what he deserves. I am shocked at how impudently you have behaved in the course of your tyranny. Shocked, I repeat, shocked and appalled when I think about the offenses you have committed against Rome. And I am quite angered that you have abandoned your senses so much as not to realize this, or to comprehend that by your illegal actions you have offended the Senate, to whom, as you well know, the entire world owes allegiance. You have even presumed to defy our commands and hold back Britain’s tribute, which Julius Caesar and other noble Romans have received for ages now…..Since the Senate demands justice for the countless offenses you have committed, I command you to come to Rome…There you will pay homage to your overlords, accepting whatever punishment their judgment deems fit…”

    Long story short synopsis, Arthur states he would never pay tribute or submit to Rome’s legal judgment. Instead, “He was coming to collect from them (Rome)the very tribute they had hoped in all their legal wisdom to extract from him.” Thus, Arthur and his allies defeat and scatter the Romans. And “had the body of Lucius conveyed to the Roman Senate, telling them to expect no other tribute from Britain.”

      1. rps

        Apple is protected under the umbrella of the USA. Cut Apple loose from USA patent laws and let it be an island unto itself. Steve Jobs without the societal and governing foundation and protection of the USA would be nothing more than a guy on an island climbing a coconut tree with the only idea of getting his supper. Ideas do not happen in a vaccum and neither does technology. They are supported and built and stacked upon the technological foundation of societies.

        1. JTFaraday

          Just because Apple exploits the “American” governing structure doesn’t mean the rent/tribute is paid to “America.” The rent/ tribute is paid to Apple.

          1. rps

            Plus you have no idea what contractual agreements legal and otherwise are between Apple and USA government. Clearly experience has shown the USA government makes and breaks and decides which are the winners and losers of corporations. Government protected Product patents run up against the ideology of ‘capitalism’ by inserting and enforcing protectionism laws.

          2. JTFaraday

            How many times am I going to have to repeat that just because Apple exploits the US governing structure doesn’t mean international rent/tribute is being being paid to “America” and not Apple?

  10. Jackrabbit

    20) The economic numbers you hear don’t mean squat. The unemployment rate has dropped even though there are, in absolute terms, less jobs, because people have given up looking.

    Please don’t repeat this BS. They drop off the rolls because they don’t meet the official definition of “unemployed” whether they are still looking or not.

    “Given up looking” is a convenient way for TPTB to side-step responsibility and is, I would think, offensive to those who ARE still looking/desirous of work.

    1. Zapster

      >“Given up looking” is a convenient way for TPTB to side-step responsibility and is, I would think, offensive to those who ARE still looking/desirous of work.

      This is false. Many of them actually are working–under the table, part time, or picking cans from dumpsters. The point made above, and the reality, is that most jobs now do not have unemployment benefits attached–if you are working in one of those, you are “not working”–and if you lose it, you are not counted as unemployed and you recieve no relief. We no longer have a clear picture of what the unemployment rate is anymore, because all of those jobs and people are out of the system.

      1. Jackrabbit

        Yes, we don’t have an accurate picture, and yes many of those who fall off the rolls have found something else to do (working off-the-books or on unpaid projects (e.g. writing a book)).

        But there’s likely to be a few who ARE still looking, and even more that would like to return to what they used to do/were trained to do (hopeful, even if not spending a lot of time looking).

        In any case, saying that they have “stopped looking for work” is a misnomer. It implies that ALL of these people 1) are not working and/or 2) no longer want to work. That is false whether some might be offended by the phrase or not.

        In normal times, the phrase is insipid, but during severe recessions/depressions, the phrase is insensitive and creates a false public perception.

      2. Lambert Strether

        Some percentage, my guess is a large one,* of the “discouraged workers” who have “given up” are working and have not given up: They have entered System D, the largest growing economy in the world.

        When you read about growers busted, metal thieves, prostitution, and a full spectrum of unregulated and unlicensed activities that eventually bleeds over into barter and gardening and permaculture-like activities (and ultimately local sovereignty) that is System D.

        NOTE * (adding…) For some reason there doesn’t seem to be any systematic research into this, and no news stories.

        1. farmgirl

          The unemployment figures come from the American Community Survey, which is a long-term on-going census the Census Bureau conducts that replaced the long form in the decennial census. What follows is the series of questions asked. Judge for yourself whether this accurately measures unemployment.

          “1. Last week did you work for pay at a job or business?
          (include any work even if you worked only 1hour, or helped without pay in a family business or farm for 15 hrs or more.”
          If you answer yes to this question it kicks you to a series of questions that determine how many weeks you worked, how many hours, location, time it takes to get to work, pay, etc.
          If you answer “no” to this question it sends you to different series of questions:
          “1. LAST WEEK did you do ANY work for pay, even for one hour?”
          (Caps are not mine, they are put in original question)
          “2. LAST WEEK were you on layoff from a job?
          3. LAST WEEK were you TEMPORARILY absent from a job or business because of vacation, illness, maternity leave, etc.
          4. During the LAST 4 WEEKS have you been ACTIVELY looking for work?
          To be considered “looking for work” the respondent must have conducted an ACTIVE search for a job at sometime during the last 4 weeks. Passive methods of job search, such as attending a job training program or reading the want ads do not qualify as looking for work.
          Active methods include: registered at an unemployment office, went on a job interview, placed or answered ad, checked with union rep, visited temp agency, investigated possibilities of starting own business.”

          If you answer “yes” to this actively looking for work questions I believe you are counted in the unemployed ranks.

  11. JTFaraday

    “19) Stirling Newberry says, and I agree, that none of this is stable, but it will last as long as the majority of the baby boom, the silents and a good chunk of the Xers still think they can hang on to their little piece of the pie, and screw everyone else.”

    That’s what I think, but it’s not just about pie– and it is perhaps not even primarily about pie. Boomers and X-ers live(d) in a classed society just like everyone else.

    Rather, it is about our collective inability to think outside the frameworks within which we are accustomed to think. It’s been obvious for a while that old paradigms have been passing away, but not only do we have nothing to put in their place, we can’t even clear our heads.

    Even if we wanted to try to clear our heads, someone is bound to say no. So, let’s hear it for the young people acting in the future under the strains of necessity.

    (What could go wrong?)

    1. rps

      “…old paradigms have been passing away, but not only do we have nothing to put in their place, we can’t even clear our heads.”

      I would agree and the old paradigm exists due to the perpetual “negative trance” that is a psychological swirling soup vortex of fear and anxiety propagandized by corporate governance and media’s model programing of violence, death, and discrimination. A discrimination based on inherent genetic differences designated as the “Others. The purpose to achieve disenfranchisement of humanity; that do not, nor ever will ascend the pyramid constructed by the “Ones”. In otherwords, the rest of us are propagandized to perpetuate the ‘conquer and divide’ against the “others” myth for the “Ones” who lead us by a carrot stick to become one of them.

      They psychological ‘barbed-wired brain’ model is rapidly falling apart for many reasons such as the way we communicate world-wide. TV is no longer the only source or medium for entertainment, new, ideas, information…. We are becoming a planetary community sharing at the speed of light: creativity, communications, new paradigms, and in effect, creating outside the box of the archaic models. (don’t confuse ‘global’ as in corporate profiteering with ‘planetary’ which is the recognition and celebration of all humankind.)In the last 60 years we as a species have made a tremendous “jump” compared to all civilizations previous existence. All that is barely holding us down is the psychological constructs that are quickly disintergrating.

      1. JTFaraday

        Maybe paradigm is not right word for what I mean. I think I mean that material conditions are changing but our mental constructions of the world are outmoded, have not changed.

        Perhaps these mental constructions are even beginning to change, but the issue of how to respond to them, the question of “how we are to live,” has us mostly clinging to our guns and religion.

        The psychological barriers are not melting away, they are the last thing to fall.

        1. rps

          Guns and religion are again part of the propaganda of the media “reporting”. The visionaries have been muted by mainstream corporate and government outlets pretending that visionaries are non-existent.

          Because of the advent of the communications superhighway and access via the handheld computer/android phone and internet by the ordinary person, we are at the cusp; living in the parentheses of extraordinary times. Those who resist social, financial, and governing evolution are in fact, negatively changed and moved backwards insistent on retro-stagnation.

          Archaic religions, philosophies, ideologies, and tyrannical governance are hospice patients on oxygen. Their conservative values signify a rigor-mortis brain. They are ‘dead’ man walking and ghosts of past civilizations.

          The visionaries do exist but muted by the walking dead. Just like the Native Americans (as an example) who were unable to stop the iron buffalos bellowing steam engines whistling the progress of civilization, so too will the retro-conservatives become a life that has passed.

          Progress cannot be held prisoner by the agents of the past.

          1. Montanamaven

            “Archaic religions, philosophies, ideologies, and tyrannical governance are hospice patients on oxygen.
            I ‘m going to use this phrase when asked if I am watching the Democratic convention.

    2. PQS

      Not only that, but Xers (with kids now) don’t have time to clear our heads. I say this as one who commutes from 6 a.m. and works until 5 or 6, plus another hour commute home, which means a 12+ hour day most days. Why do I do this? Because I have a job that pays me to, and I didn’t always live so far from my current employer, but in construction (my industry), beggars (and we are all beggars today) can’t be choosers. And I can’t afford to move, thanks to depressed house prices (even if I wanted to). Plus the general instability of the job market means that I have no real interest in moving “for a job”. Why would I? The job could be gone tomorrow with no notice, no severance (HA) and no regrets on the part of my employer. I live where I can afford to and where the schools are good for my child. So when am I going to start the revolution, again? Sheesh, I’ve become my parents!

      1. SixPackSam

        Hang in there. Sounds like you’ve ditched some delusions and made quite a few mental adjustments already.

  12. mmckinl

    Welsh ~ “It will most likely break down in 2020/24, which is when the demographics turn.”

    Overall a very perceptive analysis however I think a break down will occur well before 2020/24. Peak oil is here and by no later than 2014 we will see oil production begin to decline causing prices to spike, and the world economy to once again crash.

    1. Mark P.


      If you take a good look at the numbers, peak oil has been here since 2006-2008, this around us is what it looks like — BP Gulf blowout and all — and is overrated by doomsters (in the short term) because what it represents (in the short term) is a liquid fuel problem.

      Water and food shortages and melting ice shelves are going to be bigger, more immediate problems than peak oil.

      I’m not saying we mightn’t get our hair mussed (to quote the late General Buck Turgidson). But liquid fuel is far more fungible than peak oil doomsters want to believe —

      [1] Historical evidence shows that nation states — Nazi Germany and apartheid-era S. Africa — switched over to Fischer-Tropsch coal liquefaction quite effectively for their liquid fuel needs when they had their backs to the wall. (Ghastly solution climate-wise, I agree)

      [2] Current global reality is that 10-12 million LNG-powered (liquid natural gas) vehicles already exist around the world in places like Brazil and Pakistan. It’s not exactly a recondite, experimental technology.

      There’s plenty of natural gas on the planet. If you wish to amuse yourself, for example, go do an internet search on just how many patents are starting to turn up on methods to mine those dreaded Artic methane clathrates.

      1. F. Beard

        I agree except I believe more CO2 is a blessing, not a curse since it’s plant food.

        Carbon is abundant on the Earth and hydrogen is exceedingly superabundant (though bound to oxygen in the form of H2O).

        So really, with the abundant stationary energy that thorium reactors can provide we could readily synthesize all the liquid fuel we need. And if we yanked the needed carbon out of the air, we could do it in a carbon-neutral fashion too.

        Our problem is the money system, usury for stolen purchasing power, not resource limitations.

        1. reslez

          So you’re saying… that with more “plant food” available, there will be more plants to eat it? Which means the current limiting factor for plant growth is not having enough CO2?

          What would cause there to be more plants around to absorb this extra CO2? Do they appear by themselves? Where?

          What happens if there aren’t enough plants to absorb it?

          And most importantly, what is your evidence for any of this?

          1. F. Beard

            What would cause there to be more plants around to absorb this extra CO2? reslez

            More crops to feed a growing population.

        2. Jackrabbit

          CO2 is a blessing…since its plant food.
          AFAIK, deserts are growing and we’re cutting down rain forest.

          Hundreds of scientists, collaborating for years, have warned us about the dangers of CO2.

          Prehaps you can share some biblical wisdom regarding hubris?

          Thorium reactors…
          That’s *great* news. Please tell us when these thorium reactors will be coming on-line.

          Our problem is the money system…
          Not any longer! CO2 from the sky and Thorium Reactors will mean cheap energy that will usher in a new age.

          I’m soooo glad that you have thought-out how we can avoid a nasty confrontation with entrenched interests that like the money system just the way it is.

          Furthemore, as cheap energy must certainly be part of God’s Plan, I _urge_ you to not be a doubting Thomas by posting again about the money system.

          1. F. Beard

            Didn’t you get the memo from Greenpeace? Nuclear is now good! Or have they switched back because of Fukishema?

            But even if additional CO2 is not good, we can still use thorium energy to pull carbon from the atmosphere for a carbon-neutral liquid fuel synthesis.

        3. Dan

          “I agree except I believe more CO2 is a blessing, not a curse since it’s plant food”

          This is absolutely ridiculous. Plants respire CO2, but there’s no evidence that plants worldwide are currently CO2 limited, so there’s no actual biological reason to think that increasing CO2 over current levels will be positive for plants AT ALL. It is simply not a limiting resource. That’s like saying that human beings would be better off with a much larger supply of oxygen in the atmosphere.

        4. different clue

          Every blessing contains the seeds of its own curse, if you will.

          Put enough CO2 into the air to raise the temperature enough to spread deserts into present-day semi-humid zones,
          and plant life there will die for lack of water; and all the CO2 in the desert air around that dead plant life won’t
          bring the dead plant life back to life. Just look at the present day deserts of today to see that principle in action: is the rising CO2 level “greening the Sahara”? Well? Is it?

          Did the higher CO2 feed the cornplants in America’s drought-zone? Or were the drought-killed cornplants too dead to care about all that CO2 plantfood in the air all around them?

        5. Mud Baby

          I think you’ve gone off into the weeds with this plant food idea.

          The reality is that there will be slomo global chaos generated by rising CO2 leading to rising atmospheric and seawater temperatures, rising sea levels, horrendous and massive displacement of gazillions in RE and infrastrcuture made useless and indefensible by flooding that will first trigger a morass of ultimately futile efforts to fortify shorelines (the upside will be a brief but extremely lucrative feeding frenzy for the civil engineering industry) followed by voluntary and involuntary movement of billions of people away from the coastal areas in which they are now living and working. Added to this sea of misery will be tremendous loss of arable land due to outright inundation (including backwater flooding long distances upstream in productive food-growing areas such as the Central Valley of California) and salinization of groundwater used for irrigation and drinking water. There is no way any of this can be good–even the uber-rich who screem “YES WE DID BUILD THAT!!!” will lose their shirts and maybe even their lives. If you don’t believe me, just look at downtown Boston, lower Manhattan, Miami, much of the Bay Area and ask yourself what these places are going to look like with 20 or more feet of water inundating them over the next couple of hundred years. Now mix in an explosion of tropical diseases in what used to be the temperate zones of the planet and you have the great leveler of death by mosquito bite for all, or as a best case scenario chronic malaria, survivable dengue, etc. Much of what “humanity” has built up over centuries and millenia will be washed away all because of our unwillingness to see that the physical environment does have a finite carrying capacity and our terminal addiction to ways of life that relentlessly release vast quantities of CO2.

  13. kevinearick

    if the people getting credit since the 70s have driven the economy into the ground, and you are going to take the economy back from the banks, to whom do you discount assets to, in what order, on the other side of the looking glass?

    labor cannot and will not reveal itself to capital.

  14. JEHR

    I’m glad that Canada was mentioned because we are, indeed, going through a period of government-induced austerity. Our government first tells us that the Canadian banks are the best in the OECD but forgets to tell us that Canadian banks were given “liquidity” by the Central Bank (not a bailout), that some banks were bailed out indirectly when AIG paid GS $10 billion and GS paid their counterparties and that the Canadian banks borrowed large sums (as much as $10 billion) from the Federal Reserve window in the US. No weakness here!!

    The Canadian banks are presently getting bigger and bigger through acquisitions, through selling insurance and through investment banking and, of course, through guaranteed deposits.

    Our environmental laws are slowly being scrapped; our civil service is being treated like dirt; our ombudsmen are being ignored, the unions are being attacked and weakened and the Great Tar Sands Experiment goes full-speed ahead.

    Our PM gets rid of people who disagree with him (like Linda Keen, head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission); he has stopped funding feminist organizations, charities, and many other organizations that he does not agree with. He has asked federal departments to reduce expenses by 10% and has fired or will fire about 17,000 people. (Harper got into power with 40% of the popular vote which means 60% voted against him!)

    Worst of all, Harper has significantly reduced funding for our CBC which, I consider, is on a par with the BBC. It has often in the past done much investigative journalism which may now be weakened by future budget cuts. Harper does not like journalists and tries to avoid them as much as possible.

    We are in for a rough ride ahead.

  15. Hugh

    It is a good summary but what is missing is the sheer unadulterated criminality of kleptocracy, wealth inequality, and class war.

    The stats used to measure how our society is doing are rigged. For example, the number of unemployed is 50% higher than the official estimates: 20.8 million vs. 12.6 million. And then there are another 8.2 million who are involuntary part timers. And then, as Ian notes, there is the fact that what jobs are being created are cr*p.

    There are other tricks as well. Unemployment can come down simply by defining increasing numbers of those without a job as not being in the labor force. By definition, the unemployed are in the labor force, but to qualify for this designation, one must have looked for work in the 4 weeks before the household survey was conducted. If someone is out of a job and hadn’t looked for work in the previous 5 weeks, they would be defined out of the labor force altogether.

    Also population growth is not taken into account in the stats. Even with a declining participation rate, the result of defining people out of the labor force, there are still about 100,000 jobs needed per month just to keep up with population growth. When you see a jobs report, the first thing you should do is subtract 100,000 from it. This will tell you if we are making any progress in working through the overhang of unemployed from the recession.

    Then too it is important to realize that most of the numbers we see are seasonally adjusted. This was supposed to show what the underlying trend was. It flattens the hills and valleys. It is a mathematical fiction, but it is taken as gospel. In the real economy where people live, the real numbers that count are the seasonally unadjusted ones. If you look at those, almost all of the job creation, except for a medium spike around Christmas, has already occurred for the year.

    You can go through index and indicator, one after another, and it is the same story. What people think is being measured, or at least what they are being told is being measured, is not.

    For example, if all of the growth in the gross national product is going to the rich, who cares if it is growing?

    I have said this before but everything we are told about the economy is wrong or a lie, and the same goes for our political history, especially that of the last 40 years when kleptocracy really began to take hold.

    1. Brindle

      Excellent comment.

      I did not watch a single minute of the GOP convention and I plan the same for the Dem one.

      We are entering into a neo-feudal society– with the multi-faceted layers of propaganda the main instrument.

      1. Montanamaven

        Rps’ comment above applies to the GOP and Dems.

        “Archaic religions, philosophies, ideologies, and tyrannical governance are hospice patients on oxygen.”

        And Hugh ‘s comment is another keeper.

        “for example, if all of the growth in the gross domestic product is going to the rich, who cares if it is growing?”

  16. Lambert Strether

    As far as:

    12) The US play is as follows: frack. Frack some more.

    As I’ve been documenting obsessively, daily, in Campaign Countdown, there’s a ton of civic engagement going on around fracking and its supply chain of pipelines, sand, and so forth.

    It’s an open question what’s going to happen when the permitting process fails to deliver public good, but I certainly hope we can help make the lessons learned general rather than specific…

    1. Ian Welsh

      ex. Germany = excluding Germany. So, Europe is in recession, if you exclude Germany. One can argue this, but it takes some work (you have to dig into how they count exports), so, eh, Europe ex. Germany.

    1. Montanamaven

      If they spend their time educating instead of collective bargaining for higher wages, then maybe. Fight for more leisure, not more work. Fight usury instead of being Democratic pawns.

  17. TC

    Certainly this is only a subset of reality a broke down economic and financial system is leaving in its wake. Fixing it begins with Glass-Steagall, which, itself, requires the removal of any politician not supporting this legislative imperative, starting with Obama.

  18. Smarty Pants


    #6 Electric Economy? Really? Where do you think that the electricity comes from at the levels that we use them? Nuclear or oil/gas. There’s no electric economy that can replace that for a long long time.

    #16 any taxes that are made against corporations will only only passed on to the consumer. This whole “tax corporations” is just a way of hiding taxes that individuals (i.e. customers) pay.

    1. F. Beard

      Where do you think that the electricity comes from at the levels that we use them? Nuclear or oil/gas. Smarty Pants

      That’s his point I hope. Why waste oil and gas for electrical generation when nuclear is far more suited for that task?

  19. Local Boy

    This is partly our fault. We buy too much stuff from the big corporate chains instead of local businesses. Taco Bell instead of Mary’s Tacos.
    So, the market is very distorted. Right?

    1. Nalu Girl

      Not all of us. We don’t eat out often, but when we do, we always eat at “Mary’s Tacos”. The food is better and not as expensive, since you are not paying for expensive advertising and bloated management.

  20. Hehasnoname

    Here’s the simple truth of Unemployment. Think about your family, your friends, those you know, everyone etc. Now think of how many of them out of 10 are unemployed. Voila, there’s your percentage. For me, 1 out of 5 (2 out of 10) people I know are Jobless (not even on unemployment, as that ran out a long time ago for them). Nearly all of them work under the table or part time. So for me 20%…

    That sound right for most of you?

    1. JTFaraday

      No, off the top of my head I’m going to have to go with more like 10%. I don’t count people who were literally on their way to the social security office when their companies offed them, (and who still don’t know when to quit).

      On the other hand, I have 4 baby boomers (3 of 4 of whom were already retired and in Florida) who died in their early/mid 60s. My aunt’s husband was laid off in 2009(?), was deeply depressed for 2 years and then had a heart attack and died, at 51.

      I know two people who quit their day jobs to start their own businesses. One already sold their business and went back to a day job, swears they’ll never do it again. (We’ll see).

      Honestly, involuntarily retired baby boomers aside, I know more people who are complaining about getting more work dumped on them since 2008 than people out of work.

      I know at least two people who have, keeping their fingers crossed, successfully downsized in frustration. Several others are actively looking.

      I don’t know anyone who was looking to do that before 2008. Okay, one mommy did do that before 2008, and recently took on more work again because her husband hates his job and his neurotic control freak boss and wants to downsize.

      It’s true I’m not based in Detroit. But it seems to me this recession is not just about unemployment. This recession is a many splendored thing.

      1. JTFaraday

        Ah. What I will say about baby boomers however, anecdotally speaking, is that it seems to me that quite a number of them were involuntarily downsized out of middle management jobs in the 1990s after the Bush I recession, some of whom took jobs in Clinton’s glorious retail economy, and then again with the collapse of the tech bubble.

        So, anecdotally speaking, I guess this is why I deeply resent people who deal with the whole issue of employment with reference solely to box checking–which is pretty much everyone.

        “Employed or unemployed” really does not do justice to either the lives of the involuntarily downsized or the overworked. As for “underemployed”– this truly goofy term is used with such a lack of precision, who even knows what it’s supposed to mean.

        And whatever the economist types who use it think it means, it almost certainly doesn’t mean what you mean. Kind of like “inflation,” which also doesn’t mean what you mean–because you know there’s inflation, but they sure as h*** don’t!

        1. Lambert Strether

          Boomers. N. Those who already paid for* their parents Social Security, pre-paid their own, and from whose Social Security Robama and Obomney propose to loot what they have not already looted with the 401(k) scam.

          * * *

          The sooner the term “Boomer” is recognized as a weapon of strategic hate management used by the 1% and their shills, as opposed to a serious analytical tool, the better.

          I don’t go around making crude generalizations about Millenials, Generation X, Y, or Z or whatever because I don’t like being played by those whose values and interests are not mine.

          NOTE * Yes, I know that taxes don’t “fund” spending. Just having rhetorical fun!

          1. JTFaraday

            What the hell are you talking about? Do actually read anyone’s posts–generalizations or not– or do you just pull shit out of your own ass?

            Don’t bother to answer that. I’ve had a conversation with you before, and I am not going through that again.

          2. JTFaraday

            Seriously. I mentioned baby boomers who were downsized in the 1990s, baby boomers who were down sized with the tech collapse, baby boomers who were laid off in what amounts to early retirement– who still don’t know when to quit– and babyboomers who are already dead.

            All of these are anecdotal, people I know personally. I also, upthread, said that baby boomers live(d) in a classed society just like everyone else.

            Just like the last time you shoved your jack boot down my throat, you are out of line.

        2. Nalu Girl

          By underemployed I mean that I lost a full time well paying job close to where I live and had to take a part time job with uncertain hours that pays less that is much, much further away. So I have an additional unpaid hour in commute time.

          1. JTFaraday

            I’m sorry to hear that.

            I confess I have no idea what the economist types mean, but if it’s anything like “inflation,” it has no connection to price of your bus ticket.

  21. Norcal_Steve

    There is a lot of great clarity on NC about the rule of law being overrun by the rule of finance and the oligarchy. But imho there is also some in ‘revolution’ aka people power or whatever, possibility of progressive change which I sure don’t see.

    This piece strikes me as typical. Most of the points are insightful but #19 is a joke. Please give me a break! Just because the boomers are facing decline does not point to the beginning of the end of western ruling ideology. The 1 percent of those who really get what is going on is not going to be the vanguard of a revolution. The nation that has moved steadily to the right for the 58 years I’ve been alive is not going to wake up in less than a generation and overturn the ruling mythology.

    This is not Egypt where the current youth generation are the 2nd generation of those educated into a dead end, where the conservative religious are a main force trying to overthrow the regimes and who by the way are the only ones capable of (unified and organized enough) taking power if the revolution as a whole succeeds. If there actually is meaningful regime change in Egypt, the MB will surely be in power.

    Yes there is some very clear thinking here about the economics and the real power in the western world. But God, there is a lot of magic believe the some sort of progressive political movement is in the universe of possibility.

    Marxism – the theory of proletarian revolution – is dead buried and mummified. Even social democracy is in it’s death throes. The Arab spring is largely about repressed Islamic populism surging.  puleeze don’t tell me that has anything to do with what is a possible future in the US or Europe starting in ‘2020/2024’.

    It ain’t gonna happen. The 1% are going to remain fat and happy, the 99% are going to decline, but the circuses will continue, the myths of democracy along with ever stronger state police powers will keep the masses under control for at least several more generations, with all fundamentalist and other religious forces solidly on the side of ‘law and order’. Forget the Marxist style dreams that somehow ‘the system’ is gonna magically get rolled back or collapse under its own weight.

    “something” might happen to chance this social order at some random point in the future, but I don’t see anything even close to a theory about how and what that might be, either in China or in the West. I’m all ears, but imho nobody here is saying anything meaningful here about how political change is actually within the realm of possibility from here, or even from a starting point extrapolated to 2020 or later with youth being more and more clearly screwed and without any hope of an economic future. The future looks bleak, but face it, the middle class even as it shrinks sharply is still huge and will always be on the side of law and order. As things get worse, only the radical right has a chance of getting strong enough to bring in any major political change as far as I can see.

    There is infinite room for progressive holding action but
    although ‘the revolution will not be televised’ is absolutely brilliant but it’s a 60’s song and nothing more.

    1. JTFaraday

      Having re-scanned this thing, I concur that some of us may be smoking something on this thread, but the only person with Marxist hallucinations is you.

      (Not that there’s anything wrong with that).

      1. Norcal_Steve

        I have no idea what you are talking about, nor what viewpoint you are coming from. Sorry but your comment just does not make any sense to me. I’m saying that I can’t see any way that politically power has any chance of getting taken away from the oligarchs. I don’t know of any political theory of that might happen. How you make that a ‘Marxist hallucination’ I surely cannot understand.

    2. Jackrabbit

      Sorry that YOU can see any avenue for change. The Hollywood script you’re asking for has not been written.

      1. Norcal_Steve

        Jack, I have no idea what you are talking about either, if you indeed addressed that comment to me. Especially since I think I was pretty clear that I *don’t* see the avenue for change. And I’m not looking for a hollywood script, I’m looking for any theory of how power might get wrested away from the oligarchs.

        I don’t speak for anybody but myself but I do think there is wide agreement on this blog that both parties are owned by finance. So how is any meaningful political change possible from here?

        Your reply does not make much sense to me.

          1. Norcal_Steve

            No idea what you mean either. I can’t tell whether you even agree or disagree with me, like the rest of those who replied, what exactly is your argument. Are you arguing for the possibility of revolution or successful revolt of some kind? On what basis? If it’s revolution, my opinion as clearly stated is that Marxism is myth and I don’t know of any other theory of revolution – French revolution style? If revolt, Gandhism is a great theory but we are not trying to throw out colonial rulers.

            I didn’t think I was being incoherent but I seem to be getting a lot of offhanded responses which, with no disrespect intended, don’t seem to make much sense.

            All I’m trying to ask is how anybody thinks political change might be possible especially given that the oligarchs have most of the money, essentially control the political process, the courts, all of the media, pretty much control the hearts and minds of all but those who are total social outcasts know that they are screwed but have no political consciousness. You folks might disagree with me but I don’t see how you can misunderstand the question I’m asking

          2. Norcal_Steve

            Jack, I’m glad we understand each other a bit better. And I do appreciate your responding. I’ve posted a few times here, never seen much evidence that anybody even read my posts before. Just FYI, by your definition of activism I am very active in that in the past few years I’ve made 4 figure contributions to NC and Greenwald and I’m far from wealthy. I wish more people understood how deeply rotten capitalist democracy is now with the rule of law totally subverted – far worse than anything I have ever understood in the past. This is important for more people to understand, although I fear our efforts have all the effect of pissing on somewhere on the outside of a multi-acre steel building.

            Very importantly GG, Yves and others on this blog, are about rigor, arguing with clarity and well mustered facts, not arguing out of BS. WRT Welsh, I think pretty much all of his other points have been made more than once, backed by facts and data, in and around this blog. But his #19 is completely different – in terms of standards of rigor we should be demanding, with all due respect it’s complete BS. Yeah, it’s a prediction about the future so that makes it sui generis, but if there is even a hint of any analysis behind it that would be hidden maybe on his site although I peeked over there and didn’t see anything resembling analysis about that idea. I would love to be less nihilistic and think there might be some path for democratic pluralism to rise out of the toilet of failed capitalism, but he’s no help to me at all in conceiving what that might be. We’ve all thought enough to realize the extent of the failure, does anybody actually see any way out of this?

        1. Jackrabbit

          There was clearly no way forward for the French in 1789 or for Martin Luther King in the 1960s or for numerous others that had grievences that were ignored.

          You want it to be easy, like a Hollywood script, where despite some twists and turns you KNOW that there’ll be a happy ending.

          Your request for “theories” is just a request to summarize this non-existant script.

          Even more depressing than your outlook is your moral compass where success must be assured before committing to do what is right.

          1. Jackrabbit

            OK, my last remark may be stretching a bit, but your remarks strongly imply that you will not participate in any effort for change unless it is assured of success.

          2. Norcal_Steve

            You have no idea who you are talking down to, what my moral compass is, what my experience and expectations are. Your denouncing me for wanting ‘hollywood endings’ is a crazy figment of your imagination, pure projection of your imagination onto me.

            I lived through the 60’s – did you? There was a draft and middle class kids were getting drafted and killed in Vietnam and that fact powered a mass protest movement. But the reactionaries have done nothing but grow in power over the last 50 years.

            I salute you for being optimistic and for any activism you might actually be undertaking. But it’s anything but unreasonable to ask you what you form you expect political progress to take. You won’t even engage enough to say whether you expect somehow the US electoral system to work or whether you expect it to be overthrown. What movies are you watching?

          3. Jackrabbit

            I’m not talking down to you. You are demanding an answer, and I’m giving you one.

            AFAIK, no one has the answer. AFAIK people are just complaining —> “raising awareness”.

            But you are right. There is no plan that will lead directly to change. TPTB hold all the cards.

            It’s all useless bitching that can be safely ignored. Not worth your time. Goodbye.

          4. Norcal_Steve

            Activism is great and I’m trying not to talk down to you, although you have done that to me. As an activist, knowing history can only be your friend. That’s my main point on that score wrt the 60’s – eg do you understand what happened at the DNC in Chicago in 1968 and do you think that action was a success or failure for the left? What do you think about the failure of Labor and collapse of unions in the US?

            What is your theory and strategy if you have one? Do you know anything about the Russian or Chinese revolutions? Anything about the early 20th century history of labor in the US or labor in postwar Japan? Anarchism and Communism in Germany or Spain?

            I’m not trying to bury you in intellectual and theoretical BS but honestly if you think I’m just some kind of fool then you are a moron. imo you ought to have some idea of the history of social movements especially the last 50 years and at least a theory of what/when/how your goals are, something that you can write a few coherent paragraphs about at least. that’s asking you to have a clue, not asking you for a hollywood script.

          5. Norcal_Steve

            BTW Jack, if you are an activist who takes this blog seriously, anybody reading here and/or responding who is not a troll is totally on the same side as you so you might want to take that chip off your shoulder. If you can’t find common ground with folks here I sure don’t know how you plan to influence anybody else with your ideas.

          6. Jackrabbit

            I’m glad that you have that historical perspective. You are 58 I am 50. I know quite a bit (though maybe not as much). If you’re reading NC for a while then you should have the sense, as I do, that most here are not anti-capitalism. For now, there is just a desire to stop the madness. Independent-minded people want sensible govt and fair economics.

            You seem to be looking for a movement. I suggest you look up OWS. However, while they do seem to have some plans, they don’t seem to have any leaders or demands that one would expect of a 60’s-type movement.

          7. Norcal_Steve

            Jack, I’m looking for some reason to hope for change. For me to be able to do so I need to have a mental model for how that is possible. I don’t see how US electoral politics as we know it can get there from here. Even within the democractic party I know of few who are close to subscribing to the views of Yves and others about how fvcked capitalism is now that finance has proven so successful in screwing everybody and gathering in all the chips and we are on an awful looking path for everybody but the rich.

            I’m open to just about any ideas but I don’t find that anybody here has any model that I can see. I’m a retired engineer, I need a model to start with a model, just about any model will do, but it should have some thought and reasoning associated with it.

            I think that the oligarchy will be able to subvert any populist movement that might arise because the economy and political system is too complicated for the majority to ever understand. Revolution leading to an improved system does not seem possible either. I confess I have very little hope of any kind of political progress. I’m edging toward nihilism but certainly not hollywood for gosh sakes.

            BTW when you mentioned “committing to do what is right”, what exactly should I be committed to doing – what are you committed to doing if I might ask? This is not to be nosy but to perhaps come at the above question as you see it, from a purely practical viewpoint.

          8. Jackrabbit

            Committing to do what’s right:

            At an individual level, its just not using your talents to participate in screwing others, keeping aware of what’s going on, and providing some support, from time-to-time when it makes sense to do so. Pretty low key.

            But I’m not an activist. And I don’t think that this is really an ‘activist’ site, in that it is informative, not a place for organizing.

          9. Norcal_Steve

            Jack I quite agree with you about
            “And I don’t think that this is really an ‘activist’ site, in that it is informative, not a place for organizing”

            Which makes it impossible for me to understand where you were even coming from with remarks like
            “you will not participate in any effort for change unless it is assured of success.” or ragging on me about my not “committing to do what is right” if we agree that we are not here to talking about ‘doing’ anything in the first place.

            Even though we know just from being here that we probably agree on a lot of important stuff, meaningful discussion seems difficult (in general, not just between you and I). I’m sure there are enormous differences of opinion here and no consensus of what could possibly fix this mess.

          10. Jackrabbit

            Your remarks were dismissive of the value of this blog and mere talk by progressives and others. By asserting that no change is possible in the foreseeable future, you seem to be sending the message that the discussions are useless.

            By demanding/challenging us, again and again, for a workable *plan*, you signal that neither personal nor collective action is worthwhile without such a plan.

            One might reasonably conclude, that a pragmatist who has decided that there is no possibility of a check on exploitation anytime in the near future might choose to join the exploiters rather than waste time with the moralists. That is why I made the comments like: “you will not participate in any effort for change unless it is assured of success” and that you were not “committing to do what is right.”

            You would certainly not be the first to have made such a calculation. But I _now_ sense that maybe you’re thinking about these things on a deeper level.

  22. Andrew Harris

    Wow. I got here from boingboing…. I have to say these are wild rantings. Not one citation or link to back up what is being said. This Ian Welsh dude is all over the map. If I want wild rantings all I have to do is listen to Paul Ryan. This is not helping to move the discussion forward… what are the solutions? It’s shit like this that makes me embarrassed to be left leaning these days.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Wow, way to represent “the left” there, dude.

      * * *

      As a matter of genre criticism, a post entitled “Some basics,” structured as a series of numbered points, doesn’t really have a requirement for citation. The requirement is to have a clear set of theses, a requirement I (for one) think Ian meets. Those of us who have been reading Ian for a long time know his body of work, and know he’s got the links to back up what he says, if he’s asked.

      So, rather than a “drive by” comment, you might give consideration to the possiblility of asking for links on matters you find controversial or dubious. Just a thought.

      * * *

      So, how’s Charlotte? Raining?

      1. Tag

        Not necessarily a bibliography, by evidence supported by links would be nice. There is only one inline link, on the first point.

        Also, very surprised by Lambert’s attitude toward Andrew’s comment. Even though it is “Some basics”, that doesn’t forgive the lack of citations.

        Relying on people to have read Ian’s body of work to understand the context leads to comments like Andrew’s.

        Further to this, as you state, Andrew is just asking Ian for links to backup his theses.

        Can Ian provide them please?

        1. Ian Welsh

          Nope. Can’t be bothered. This was written for people who read my blog, who pay attention just a little bit. Almost everything there is something you can confirm with, at most, a few minutes of google time or some common sense. Some of it will require you do some digging into the #s, granted, but would linking to the BLS really make any difference?

          There are a ton of graphs which show that jobs have not been replaced in absolute #s, let alone relative #s. A 3 second google will get you that. There is a link to the fact that most of them pay less than they did before. That makes #3 just a combination of 1 and 2. Number 4 comes out of the BLS #s. That the rich’s wealth has recovered is a matter of public record and a google seearch will get you that quickly. That corporations are sitting on record wealth is covered in the business press every few days. That banks were not broken up is known to anyone who was awake during the last 5 years, and that people weren’t prosecuted in any significant numbers is known to anyone who paid attention as well.

          That oil prices increase the better the economy is doing is inarguable, that high oil prices hurt the economy has been accepted as true since the early 70s OPEC crisis. I am not going to prove the world is round, either. That unemployment rates don’t reflect real unemployment is well known and a google will get you a hundred people telling you why. That less jobs that qualify for benefits means that initial jobs claims #s can’t be directly compared to ones early in the crisis is just logic, and if you can’t follow it a link won’t do you any good. Etc…

          There is very little that is controversial in what I have written, and the vast majority is known to anyone who follows the issues. The stuff that is controversial, like whether we’re in a depression or not, you may feel free to disbelieve, I don’t care. The other stuff, like the fracking or IP enforcement is visible to anyone who reads the press and does a little bit of digging into the numbers.

          This post was not meant to be gloomy. It was not meant to be controversial. It was not meant to explain things to people who don’t pay attention and can’t be bothered to spend a few minutes using google. It was written as an overview of the current situation and where I think we’re heading, at a very high level, for people who read my blog, who are familiar with the issues. Matt asked if he could cross-post it, and I said yes. None of the early readers here, at Naked Capitalism disputed the vast majority of what I said because people who read this blog also know the facts.

          In short, this was a summary post. If you want to disbelieve it because I haven’t linked everything to a longer post, go ahead. I’m not that concerned if people believe me, because I did the posts that were immaculately sourced, with custom graphs and blah, blah, blah for many years.

          And they did no good. People don’t want to know, and I have better things to do with my time than do the equivalent of proving that the world is round, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon not a sound stage, and that God didn’t create the world 6K years ago. Especially when I’m not being paid for it.

          The fact that someone thinks that the majority of this stuff needs sourcing is depressing to me. You don’t know that jobs haven’t recovered? You don’t know that most of the jobs are bad? You don’t know that the rich’s wealth has recovered? You don’t know that the US is doing record amounts of fracking? (The FT was GUSHING about this a while back.) You don’t know that the banks weren’t broken up and that people weren’t prosecuted so the same people are running the financial sector who crashed the world economy the last time? You don’t know that DC is awash in Wall Street money and corporate money? You don’t know that Apple won a 1 billion settlement against Samsung? You don’t know…

          Just depressing. But if you wanted to know, you would.

          1. Norcal_Steve

            Ian, I don’t read your blog, I read this blog. I do rather agree with everything you said except that I take large exception to your #19 as I said above. Sorry if my tone was a bit respectful, but I’d really like to know what makes you think that the preponderance of the young and screwed as the next generation comes of age is going to help lead to eventual change. I’m saying that I can’t see any way that politically power has any chance of getting taken away from the oligarchs. I don’t know of any political theory of that might happen. What’s yours?

        2. SR6719

          Thanks, Ian, great post and comments.

          As for Andrew above, if he thinks he’s left leaning, yet considers your post to be “wild rantings”, this is a pretty clear sign he’s being screwed over by the Dem party and the corporate media, but he’s not intelligent enough to notice.

          There’s no point in listening a moment too long to those who are still defending the currrent system, or even to those who, like Andrew, simply don’t catch on quickly enough.

          If he hasn’t got the picture by now, then there’s a pretty good chance that he’ll never get it, no matter how many links or graphs you supply him.

    2. Hugh

      I think Andrew’s first misconception is that he is left leaning. If he thinks this list of Ian is “wild rantings”, then it is pretty clear his leanings go the other way.

      Then too he comes into a blog where we have been discussing and analyzing many of these topics literally for years and expects us to go back to square one, with links, just for him. Andrew, have you never heard of google?

      Type in “recovery gains go to rich” and you will find a spate of articles from March 2012 based on the work of Emmanuel Saez about how the 1% accounted for virtually all the gains in the first, and best, year of the recovery. For example, here is the snippet from that mad leftist Ezra Klein: “In the first year of the recovery, 93 percent of all income gains went to the top 1 percent.”

      It is tempting to just dismiss Andrew. Afterall, his comment lacks any detail or competing analysis. But since effectively all the gains of the recovery went to the 1%, then that means it did not go to the 99%, that is they are still where they were, in recession.

      As for how various segments are doing, Andrew can google “fed report on net worth” and he will get articles from June 2012 on this.

      Some of us use primary sources. I write an analysis on the monthly job reports. So if Andrew feels up to it, he can go through the BLS’ A (Household) and B (Establishment) tables like the rest of us. Or if he wants to read some analysis he can go read my post for the August report here:


      and if he wants to get an idea about how Obama has been doing with regard to jobs, he can look at this post from May 2012:


      Rather than being snarky, I will just say that Andrew should try to educate himself on the issues. It goes to show how upside down things are. Most of Ian’s list is fairly straightforward for those of us who have been following these things, that is it conforms to reality. The really wild rantings are what pass for the Conventional Wisdom, but much like the emperor’s new clothes we are not supposed to notice its naked failures and intellectual and moral bankruptcy.

      1. change agent

        but didn’t you hear that our First Lady just gave “the best speech everybody ever heard™ ” last night and everything will be alright when we re-elect?

    3. Zog

      BoingBoing is a great site that a browse routinely but I have to say the comment threads are utterly infested with naive, pacifist, “just be nice” millennials. Advocate some direct action and they’ll mob you. And don’t dare suggest Obama isn’t the Messiah who would have turned this planet into Paradise if only it wasn’t for those nasty Repubs who just refused to sit in a circle and with him and brainstorm solutions. They’ll learn that some problems can’t be solved by smiling stoically as you get maced. Evil can’t be embarrassed into compromise. Ask the Jews of Warsaw

  23. DataShade

    Eben Moglen of the Free Software Foundation gave a great talk earlier this year about political economy, titled “Innovation Under Austerity,” in an attempt to lay out a rough plan of how to talk to technophobic politicians about how to set economic policy that will allow for private actors, energetic young people, and start-up companies to rebuild something like a stable economy.

    The YouTube video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2VHf5vpBy8

    and there’s an MP3 of the talk if you can’t see YouTube at work or if you just want background noise:

    This talk is really good. And really important.

  24. Jon Baumgardner

    Deflation is another trend that computerization of more and more industries makes possible. As computers become more powerful robotics advances, nano technology advances, and bio technology advances. All these technologies are converging to make work and money deflate. Ultimately, the technology will replace manual work – can you visualize a MacDonalds with no workers? Press a button for your big Mac and it slides out a shute. Robot Cars will eliminate taxi drivers, truck dirvers and boat captains. Airplanes fly themselves already and pilots are paid less and less as they become obsolete. We need to all train to become repair people for robots and 3D printers.

  25. Michael Bushe

    I just spent a month in China. Everyone there believes the economy has recovered and is growing again. They mean “growing fast” instead of “growing so fast that we couldn’t keep up with the changes.”

    1 and 4 contradict each other.

  26. KK

    So, just to clarify, the point of this overview is that another recession is coming? Or that we’re supposed to stop trying to hang onto our piece of the pie? If so, how, precisely?

    Great post, but I’m still trying to understand what you want us to do about it.

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