Friday, May 29, 2020

#150 / Twofer

The picture above graces an article published on Medium on May 22, 2020. Here's the title of the article: "It's Not That I'm Negative, America Really is Screwed."

Alternatively, you can get pretty much the same bad news from a May 22, 2020, article in The New York Times. That article is titled, "Another 2.4 Million Jobs Vanish, And Many May Be Gone Forever." 

In my continuing effort to make sure that those who read this blog don't miss any bad news, you can consider today's posting a "twofer."

Looking at our contemporary economic situation, it does seem that things are bad and that we are, to use that technical term, "screwed." Can I just remind everyone, however, that observing all the bad news is only step one. After we assess the territory, we then have the option of changing our situation by taking action. 

umair haque, the author of the article in Medium (and I gather he doesn't use capitals when he spells out his name), actually does admit the possibility - slight though he may believe it to be - that we could escape our current social, economic, and political disaster, and he even points out one way we could do it: 

Give people money. No strings attached, no questions asked, now, on a large-scale, more or less permanently, forget how much needs to be borrowed to make it happen. So people can fund a working society again. Or else. That’s the big question for America. The rest is noise. Until something along those lines begins to take shape — my answer is simple: Americans made themselves too poor to now afford to have the luxury of a functioning, civilized, modern society. Or is all that a necessity?

Quoted above is the conclusion to haque's article. You really do need to read the whole thing to understand exactly where haque is coming from. As for The Times, its article is more reportorial than hortatory, but the economic message is similar. 

As I intimated in my blog posting last Tuesday, there is a way to accomplish what haque is calling for, and something that would probably have considerably more political appeal than just "giving people money." As mentioned in that recent blog posting, the New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps was a great success. People got paid, and good work was done. Let me also alert readers to the Works Progress Administration, a more comprehensive example of governmental action based on the same idea: people get paid and good work gets done. 

haque's article is on target in pointing out that the United States has not invested in the kind of physical and social infrastructure needed to maintain a successful society. But.... we are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, and we could decide to do something like this: 

  • We, collectively, could decide that we will act as an "employer of last resort." The private market for everything will continue to work, just as it always has; however, we, collectively, will pay any person in this country a living wage, if they want to work for us, and we'll find work that they can do, and that will help build and strengthen the nation.
  • That work can include (as examples only, and not by way of limitation), planting trees, building public works, providing childcare services, taking care of and fostering community gardens to provide low-cost healthy food, acting as home health aids, providng artistic services, including free public music and public art, building houses that the government will own, and then make available to those who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford a place to live, etc. You get the idea. There is lots of work to be done, and if people need money, they can come work for the community, because we all are, in fact, part of the community. 
  • That plan will do what haque says needs to be done, and that conventional economists at the Federal Reserve say needs to be done; namely, it "gives people money." It also gets good work accomplished. 
Any chance this will happen?

Well, not if we read articles online and in the newspapers and then tell ourselves "we're screwed," and make that determination based on the judgment that what we see right now is the best we will ever get, and that what exists now is the definition of all possibility. 

Sure, our politics is all screwed up, with corporate corruption fully in charge. 

Step one, observe what exists.

Step two, change what is unacceptable. 

In the end, we can be in charge. That was the whole idea of the original American Revolution. 

I think it's about "Time For A Replay," as I said last Tuesday!

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