Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Boom Was a Bust For Ordinary People

I really recommend reading a book called "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich. It's about the working poor in America and it's a noteworthy book because it was published in 2000, at the height of the dot-com boom. While there is finally awareness by even the elite that the working class are in big trouble, and that this so-called boom that America's had has completely passed us by, Ehrenreich was blowing the whistle 8 years ago. And as she points out in this column for the Washington Post, with the gains in productivity over the past few years, there were no increases in wage. If anything, counting inflation, we are making even less. The Walmart model's broken us.

At times, I feel like our economy is something straight out of "The Matrix." At first glance, it seems fine, you buy into the picture of prosperity and the American adages like "you can make it if you put your mind to it" and "pull yourself up by your bootstraps." But when you look further, and see the pieces of code that don't quite fit, than you know better. Ehrenreich notes a CNN poll that says that 57 percent of Americans think that we're already in a recession. Economists believe that we're ignorant and don't know what a recession is. But the reality is, we don't judge what a recession is based on theories made inside an ivory tower. We judge it based on what we have (or, in many cases, don't have) in our wallets and pocketbooks. We judge it based on the fact that as prices rise for the essentials, our wages never quite rise with them. If you were to base an economy on those standards, rather than what Wall Street tells you, we've been in a recession for a fairly long time.

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