Although there is a lot of 'sound and fury' in the political/economic situation all the noise 'signifies nothing.' The talking heads keep talking about a 'double dip' or a second recession but we don't see where we had even started to recover from the first one. Now with the drop in the stock markets they are bemoaning the lost 'wealth.' I am afraid I simply don't see stocks as wealth. They are merely pieces of paper whose value depends on the willingness of someone else to buy them when the owner wants to sell. Theoretically, stocks are at least tangentially backed up by the value of the company that issued them and bonds are somewhat related to the ability of the issuer to redeem them. Unfortunately, too much of our financial paper is totally divorced form the real economy. After all, CDOs are simply pieces of paper that are at least once removed from the debts that are simply valuable only because of a promise to pay the debt. What was it the Bible said about a 'house built upon the sand?'
Well, this came out of nowhere. At least no where as far as the news on this side of the Atlantic goes. They are scrambling for explanations. "Thuggery" say police officials. Someone yesterday noted the economic situation, especially bad for young people. The original reports (three days ago) reported on demonstrations over a disputed police shooting that spiraled out of control. But the way the riots are spreading indicates some seething anger underneath.
Do you ever get the feeling that our political leaders and economic experts are mostly engaged in boosterism? I get that feeling because most of them busily insist that everything is fine and, if not exactly fine, then 'immanently fixable,' as our President said in his very short and very non-specific remarks yesterday. They seem to be operating on the principle that if they express positive thoughts long enough and emphatically enough it will translate into a positive economic and political environment. I keep thinking of Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright Sided, here. Unfortunately, reality is sometimes not so obliging. This little piece from the New York Times provides an explanation for this boosterism.
I found this Stratfor report in my in-box this morning. I think the assessment is right on. I would go a bit further. While we have a 'global' economy we don't really have a global political system. Each individual political economy is trying to deal with the problems in their own bailiwicks generated by events that have connections to problems in other areas. This is the downside of a global economy. The last point of the report is the most troubling. We can see the incipient crisis in legitimacy and, if it becomes something more than incipient, we will be in very deep s**t.
I read Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickeled and Dimed back when it first came out. What she wrote closely reflected my own experience in the low wage work force. I had a number of such jobs over the years. Usually they were tolerable only because I expected them to be temporary while I finished that degree or this program which I hopefully expected to lead to a career earning a secure income that would support me comfortably if not luxuriously. I got the degrees and finished the programs (mostly) but the second half of that equation never appeared. Instead the mirage of a single job that paid me a living wage was always out of reach. I think the most depressing point came when I realized that, if I somehow could do with out eating or sleeping, I might be able to support myself--if I could hold down 3 of those jobs simultaneously. Ehrenreich has a guest post on Tom Englehardt's tomdispatch this morning titled "Nickeled and Dimed (2011 version)." Like the original, the new version confirms my intuitive notions of what is happening. Life has become much harder for those who have little while those who have much want, and feel entitled to, more.