“Workers have seized the upper hand in the labor market, attaining the largest raises in decades and quitting their jobs at record rates. The unemployment rate is 4.6 percent and has been falling rapidly. Cumulatively, Americans are sitting on piles of cash; they have accumulated $2.3 trillion more in savings in the last 19 months than would have been expected in the prepandemic path. The median household’s checking account balance was 50 percent higher in July of this year than in 2019, according to the JPMorgan Chase Institute.
Yet workers’ assessment of the economy is scathing.
In a Gallup poll in October, 68 percent of respondents said they thought economic conditions were getting worse.”
His by-line at the paper reads, Neil Irwin is a senior economics correspondent for The Upshot. He is the author of “How to Win in a Winner-Take-All-World,” a guide to navigating a career in the modern economy.
Which tells me a lot about Neil and his confusion
First of all, he’s a senior economics correspondent and, according to his speaker-bio, “applies economic logic to help explain and understand the world around us.” In my mind that’s sort of like trying to get the egg back into the chicken. Lots of squawking and complaint from the chicken, but not much progress.
Economics has always been a bad predicter, which is pretty much key to the ‘explaining and understanding’ part. Its strong suit is telling us how we went wrong after the bankers and investment-fund guys smashed up the family car on their way to the next great opportunity. Lately, it’s largely been financial vehicles at fault. That’s what more honest bank robbers call the getaway car.
They do that with stunning regularity at about eight-year intervals.
But it doesn’t matter
And the reason it doesn’t matter is that, although we loathe socialism, in terms even an economic correspondent should recognize, we are a socialistic nation when it comes to business. Let me explain that. I’ll slip on my economic blue-blazer for a moment—it’s hanging right here in the closet.
Every eight years or so, America wobbles economically, sometimes it almost falls on its ass, as in 1929 and 2008. Actually, our history of financial disaster is a fascinating read, forty-seven recessions in 245 years, which averages about 5.2 years, but I was trying to be optimistic.
Then we take a deep national breath and go full-bore socialistic. You see, the banks and Wall Street (who almost without fail get us into these messes) are private institutions. But when we forgive them their sins, clean up their balance-sheets, pat them on their little bald heads and send them on their way to gamble again, we do it with public money—your and my taxes.
For that brief (or not so brief, depending on the severity) period of time we are blatantly and wholeheartedly socialist, paying off private debt with public money. Of course, we never call it that. Financial easing is the popular term in recent years. Subsidy is another term used when paying farmers not to plant crops or oil companies not to drill wells.
Now back to the source of Neil’s confusion
The headline of his article reads “Americans Are Flush With Cash and Jobs. They Also Think the Economy Is Awful.” And I think he’s only connected with what amounts to a glancing-blow at his target.
Neil is white in what is arguably a racist nation, graduated from Columbia University and held increasingly cushy jobs at the Washington Post and then the NYTimes. I’m not knocking that, just acknowledging a truth. Neil is probably a hard worker and a hell-of-a-fine guy, deserving of everything he has. I am white as well and an undeniable recipient of all the social and economic advantages that presents.
I’ve never been poor, but I’ve been broke, struggled to make payrolls in my small business, signed personally for bank loans to finance contracts and fought the good fight, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. That gives me a different perspective and I am not confused.
Perhaps the key to his confusion on issues is to be found in his book, “How to Win in a Winner-Take-All-World.”
Winner takes all is not natural to an American and maybe you need to be as old as I am to remember the times when hard work and paying attention was the secret to success. It’s been half a century since that was America’s mantra and the key to the American dream.
Be that as it may, winner takes all sticks in our collective throat
That’s Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and our childlike-billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg.
We cheer winners taking a larger slice of the pie, but hardly the whole pie. All of the above are anti-union in a nation whose middle-class was built on union membership. That’s not fair and fairness is what we’re after.
It’s not fair for banks and Wall Street to be too big to fail and the owners of small businesses in our towns to lose their life savings. It’s not fair to argue about a $15 minimum wage that should be $26. It’s not fair for wives and mothers to have to take full-time work just to keep a family fed, nor is it equitable for those women to be paid less than men for the same work.
This is why Neil is confused, CEO’s have become the enemy and we wince when Blacks are shot down in the streets. We aren’t comfortable when a million poor Americans are warehoused in prisons-for-profit, while the rich escape jail every single goddamned time.
Who are these winners and by whose rules have they taken it all?
Image Credit: NYTimes The Upshot