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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bottom Up Economics

This morning I read a great San Francisco Chronicle editorial by Robert Reich on economic policy focused on the middle and lower class. The article states: 
"Bailout or no bailout, we're heading into deep recession. One of the first initiatives that Congress and the next administration will need to take will be an economic stimulus package. But not even this will remedy the underlying problem: The earnings of most Americans haven't kept up with the cost of living. That means there's not enough purchasing power to keep the economy going.

Adjusted for inflation, the incomes of nongovernment workers are lower today than in 2000. They're barely higher than they were in the mid-1970s. The income of a man in his 30s is now 12 percent below that of a man his age three decades ago.

The long-term answer is for America to invest in the productivity of our working people - enabling families to afford health insurance and have access to good schools and higher education, while also rebuilding our infrastructure and investing in the clean-energy technologies of the future. We must also adopt progressive taxes at the federal, state and local levels."
The article identifies three coping mechanisms that the US engaged into keep our living standards growing in the face of stagnant or falling wages. Reich suggests we are out of options. Those mechanisms are:

- Women with children entered the work force.
- Americans work more hours. More than the Europeans and even the Japanese.
- We borrow.

Our nation simply has nothing more to give to allow us to grow without increased earning capacity. The article states:
"(today) ...The top 1 percent of American earners now take home about 20 percent of total national income. In 1980, the top 1 percent took home just 8 percent. Inequality on this scale is bad for many reasons, but it is also bad for the economy."
This again underscores that NCUD's initiatives such as the credit union and financial literacy places us on the front lines of the current economic crisis. The answer to many families problems is education and empowerment with a commitment to live within our means. If the U.S. is to pull our of our current economic malaise, then drastic short term action must be taken, but not at the cost of the long-term.

Yes, we have a crisis with our financial system, but our problems are also chronic - requiring a long term focus. A focus on helping the bottom rise. This goes beyond partisan politics and into the realm of "doing justice and loving mercy". However, this this type of justice action will straighten or entire nation - from the bottom up.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this John...I believe Reich has a lot of great progressive economic insights. Heard him speak last year.