The Great Recession Continues:Double Dip is Here...
The importance of continuing economic woes? WJS bumps standard "What's News" column from top left almost completely off the top fold.
The Double Dip is here...
The U.S. has entered a second recession. It may not be as bad as the first. Economists say that the Great Recession began in December 2007 and lasted until July 2009. That may be the way that the economy was seen through the eyes of experts, but many Americans do not believe that the 2008-2009 downturn ever ended. A Gallup poll released in April found that 29 percent of those queried thought the economy was in a “depression” and 26 percent said that the original recession had persisted into 2011.
What is part of the deeper picture?
The language we use is part of the problem. Every would-be budget balancer in Washington should read "On the General Relativity of Fiscal Language," a brilliant 2006 paper by economists Laurence J. Kotlikoff of Boston University and Jerry Green of Harvard University (available online from the National Bureau of Economic Research). The authors write that accountants and economists have something to learn from Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, about how measured quantities depend on one's frame of reference. Terms such as "deficit" and "tax," they write, "represent numbers in search of concepts that provide the illusion of meaning where none exists."
The national debt itself is one such Einsteinian (that is, squishy) concept. The Treasury Dept.'s punctilious daily accounting of it -- $14,342,841,083,049.67 as of July 25, of which just under $14.3 trillion is subject to the ceiling and about $10 trillion is held by the public -- gives the impression that it's as real and tangible as the Washington Monument. But what to include in that sum is ultimately a political choice. For instance, the national debt held by the public doesn't include America's obligation to make Social Security payments to future generations of the elderly. Why not? ...The U.S. is in danger of reaching a generational tipping point at which older Americans have the clout to vote themselves benefits that sap the strength of the younger generation -- benefits that can never be repeated. Kotlikoff argues that we may have reached that point already. He worries that the U.S. could become Argentina, which went from one of the world's richest to lower-middle income in a century of chronic mismanagement.
Far be it that I pose the answers as I am not an economist or business expert. Spotting paradigm shifts culturally, though, is very interesting. We're in one. My progeny face a much different world now, 7 billion strong. What's news?