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Solutions for the U.S. economic crisis
October 11, 2011 10:53 PM   Subscribe

Political revolution, the Tea Party, and Occupy Wall Street notwithstanding, what actual policy steps could be taken to prevent the U.S. from falling into a Japanese-like decade of stagnation (or worse)? Economists from the New America Foundation offer a rather balanced, clearly articulated, and comprehensive proposal: The Way Forward.

Their suggestions range from rather common sense infrastructure investments to deeper, fundamental reforms to international currency exchange markets.
posted by GnomeChompsky (66 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
we've already done the decade of stagnation
posted by bhnyc at 10:58 PM on October 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


I read the overview. It seems rational, reasonable, and potentially effective. Which are precisely reasons why we would have to fight congressional incumbents tooth and nail for an even watered down version...

I am not hopeful.

A house a thousand miles a way that is underwater and unsellable...

Divorce debt and all it entails...

We are all on our own.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:09 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Find trojans designed for espionage built into CPUs and HDs made by Chinese manufacturers. Voila, instant semi-conductor industry.

There are an awful lot of nuclear plants using 40 year old Fukushima style reactors. Replace them all with new nuclear power plants.

Anyone worked out how many jobs could be created by moving to 30--35 hour work week?
posted by jeffburdges at 11:16 PM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anyone worked out how many jobs could be created by moving to 30--35 hour work week?

None. Absolutely none. Want me to work 30 hours a week? Fine I'll go get a second job.

Increasing the minimum wage would have far greater a positive effect. Increased payroll taxes, increased disposable income maybe even have some people bumped up into a tax bracket where they could pay tax.
posted by Talez at 11:20 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Talez wrote: None. Absolutely none.

Interesting you say that, given that your position flies in the face of historic experience.
posted by wierdo at 11:22 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jeffburdges, that's what Germany has done in essence in many sectors -- reduced everyone's hours slightly so that major layoffs could be averted. The result has been that they have actually improved their unemployment situation quite a bit.

Some on-the-napkin calculations suggest that full-time American workers work about 221 billion hours per year. Moving to a 34 hour full-time work week would mean that we would free up about 33 billion work hours per year or almost 19 million FTE jobs. Too bad we can't wave a magic wand and immediately implement that solution.
posted by GnomeChompsky at 11:24 PM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'd naively assume that during a recession a shorter work week would spread the money around slightly more evenly, maybe some people end up slightly poorer, but the velocity of money increases overall.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:27 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone worked out how many jobs could be created by moving to 30--35 hour work week?

Hell, America could add jobs by moving down to a 50 hour work work instead of the normal 60.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:30 PM on October 11, 2011 [47 favorites]


Hell, America could add jobs by moving down to a 50 hour work work instead of the normal 60.

Longterm, this would probably cut healthcare and crime costs too.

posted by -harlequin- at 11:31 PM on October 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


"we've already done the decade of stagnation"

And been in denial about it. Start doing something now, and you've probably still got another decade or more before efforts start to take effect.

Overall, Pillars 1 & 2 look to be the kind of pump-priming "New Deal" Keynesian economics that the US has long paid lip-service to but has either never actually done completely, or actively and deliberately steered away from. Pillar 3 is about leveraging the results of that to the US's advantage.
posted by Pinback at 11:36 PM on October 11, 2011


Interesting you say that, given that your position flies in the face of historic experience.

In historic experience:

a) High school grads could make a living wage.

b) Increases in productivity were accompanied by increases in wages. The pie was getting ever bigger and it was being subdivided into more pieces not bigger pieces.

Now that little to no increased productivity is passed on to employees it's a whole different ball game.

People need a living wage. If they have to work three shitty jobs instead of two to get the 80 hours a week @ $7.25/hour they'll go ahead and do that. Meanwhile unemployment will still continue to suck and underemployment will remain rife.
posted by Talez at 11:42 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here is a positive review of this report from an MMT perspective.
posted by dopeypanda at 11:53 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would be a lot easier to employ people if insurance wasn't so expensive.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:00 AM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


It would be a lot easier to employ people if keeping them alive wasn't so expensive.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:16 AM on October 12, 2011


It would be a lot easier to employ people if insurance wasn't so expensive.

This is why I get all my insurance from the mafia now. It's cheaper.

I too have little hope that any real solutions will find their way to the top of the heap. It seems like policymakers are being ridiculously obtuse about the whole thing. Going so far as to do things that actually make the situation worse. When economic policy is driven solely by ideology instead of what's best for the economy, the world or the nation, will anything actually be done to help the situation? Doesn't seem likely. I fear we are all on our own here.

Occupy Everywhere. While Malcolm X's targets were different I still find his words apt. "We declare our right on this earth...to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary."
posted by IvoShandor at 12:20 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone worked out how many jobs could be created by moving to 30--35 hour work week?

The French tried it, and it didn't do much to alter the unemployment level IIRC, although people were justifiably happy about only having to work four days a week.

Jeffburdges, that's what Germany has done in essence in many sectors -- reduced everyone's hours slightly so that major layoffs could be averted. The result has been that they have actually improved their unemployment situation quite a bit.

Not quite. You're thinking of the kurzarbeit scheme, which is when a company puts a bunch of full-time workers they otherwise would have laid off onto part-time, and the federal government pays the worker 60% of the salary that they lose.

It's used temporarily, mostly in manufacturing sectors (to cushion the blow when export markets slow down), and only rarely deployed across multiple industries like it was in 2009. It's a good tool for keeping people employed and giving firms the flexibility to quickly ramp up production later, but it's not a job creation scheme like jeffburdges was wondering about - a company isn't allowed to put Bob on kurzarbeit and hire Alice part-time to make up for the hours Bob is now no longer working.
posted by cmonkey at 12:22 AM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I read the report; it's hopeful and measured, with some good ideas for action.

The part (Part 2) that calls for banks to do major restructurings around debt seems problematic; I don't see banks doing that, mostly because they are run by greedy sociopaths who could care less about the health of our nation, because they can put money on the wire to optimize returns. What most don't seem to realize is that capital has no fealty to the flag; it doesn't need fealty to thrive - it needs advantage. Capital, on it's way to advantage (in the current model of capital returns) ultimately requires zero-sum. This is a fundamental and limiting factor of capital returns models in the modern economy, with massive social implications.

The weakest part is Part 3, where certain kinds of rational restructuring and cooperation are required by other regions (Europe and Asia) to make everything else work. That said, it all looks good on paper, but it requires good will and cooperation by all parties - domestic and international. It's the kind of super-rational program that "Hal" in the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" might try to carry out.

Problem: nations are not rational; individual factions within nations are not rational.

All that said, there are good ideas here, but how do you convince the current "winners" in our economy (and internationally) to change their ways for the greater good. It's going to take a while, if ever, to achieve that.

The report assumes cooperation; I don't buy the report's *expectation and assumption* of cooperation as a premise for success.

Where does that leave us? Let's start with getting the money OUT of politics, here, in America. Then well start to get the transparency necessary that unlocks the massive intellectual, financial, and social diversity of a great nation.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:36 AM on October 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Talez wrote: In historic experience:

a) High school grads could make a living wage.

b) Increases in productivity were accompanied by increases in wages. The pie was getting ever bigger and it was being subdivided into more pieces not bigger pieces.


No. This is in fact one of the most frustrating things about this whole mess. We've been almost precisely here before, and still people prevaricate. A decade of excess and consolidation of wealth in the hands of the few followed by a gigantic bust. I'm sure you can figure out which one. The economic dynamic was very similar in the then as now. Hours reductions, where they were tried, were a great success.

It would have worked even better had it been a broader effort.
posted by wierdo at 12:42 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's start with getting the money OUT of politics, here, in America

That would likely require a Constitutional Convention.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:45 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


In this environment, it might be possible. There are many Tea Partyists who are as fed up with money in politics as anybody. Moderates constantly claim to be against it, also.

Pretty much the only people that want big money in politics are those looking to buy access. I'm not sure they'd be able to astroturf their way out of it if the idea managed to get some exposure before they could counter, at least in terms getting the amendment proposed.

The real problem would be the battle to get it approved by the states. So many lobbying shops and their clients fighting for the preservation of their undue influence would attract sums of money that would make even the most profligate Presidential campaign look like chump change. I can't even conceive of a way to even come close to matching their ad spend. Organizations like the Chamber of Commerce would also spend every dime they had and borrow as much again to prevent the amendment from being ratified.
posted by wierdo at 12:58 AM on October 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hours reductions, where they were tried, were a great success.

Reducing your hours from 40 to 35 is also a reduction in pay by 12,5%.

I guess everyone here makes more money than I do because this would not be a success for my own economy.
posted by three blind mice at 1:01 AM on October 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Nationwide shopping strike. The 99% (which totally includes the teapartiers whether they admit it or not) straight up buys nothing for one week. Sure the week before and the week after they'd make the money back. It'd show we could do it though. Say during Christmas season. Or better? Straight up cancel black Friday. Nobody shows at the sales. They would remember who had the whipping hand really fucking quickly.
posted by Peztopiary at 1:03 AM on October 12, 2011


Nationwide shopping strike.

NO. NO. NO. You want to help the little retailer at the expense of the bankers and big corporations? Just use cash for everything. No credit or debit cards. Get rid of them. Doing all of your transactions in cash means that the money doesn't sit in the banks' accounts, but sits in your pockets or the pockets of the retailer.

If you use cash then the banks can't skim off every transaction. You deny them their national sales tax (in the form of transactional fees) and leave that money in the real economy.

You would also force the Fed - as a practical matter - to put boost the M0 and M1 money supplies and more cash into the hands of people instead of into Wall Street.
posted by three blind mice at 1:34 AM on October 12, 2011 [17 favorites]


Straight up cancel black Friday. Nobody shows at the sales.

"All those sales... and no lines!!!! Tee hee, I'll go shopping, just a few items couldn't hurt..."
posted by codswallop at 1:51 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


codswallop you are probably correct as to the actual response to an attempted strike. three blind mice I want to hurt every single member of every single chamber of commerce preemptively. Then I want to present the list of demands. I want to use capitalism as a weapon of terror. Fuck it. A willingness to martyr ourselves is infinitely more scary than anything they've got. One day that's all I'm asking.
posted by Peztopiary at 2:04 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


decade of stagnation (or worse)?

We could start by not defining a sustainable, constant level of resource usage as "stagnation". Continual growth is not mathematically possible, but even before that it's not maintainable.
posted by DU at 2:47 AM on October 12, 2011 [15 favorites]


Pretty much the only people that want big money in politics are those looking to buy access.

And those looking to be bought....
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:12 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


maybe we could all just get jobs at thinktanks...

about the New American foundation:
Launched in 1999, the foundation was guided through a period of rapid growth by founding president Ted Halstead. The institute is now led by President Steve Coll and an outstanding Board of Directors, chaired by Eric Schmidt. New America is headquartered in Washington D.C. and also has a significant presence in California, the nation's largest laboratory of democracy.
how's that experiment working out?
Since 2008, Mr. Halstead has split his time between launching an eco-development project on 600 acres of ocean-front property in Costa Rica, and sailing around the world with his wife Veronique aboard their catamaran.
I guess if you have floated into the stratosphere on a bubble, you at least have a perspective on the problems caused by it's collapse? but then, oh, what is this stuck into the report:
Offering multinational businesses the opportunity to fully repatriate profits from abroad with no
additional taxation, on a dollar for dollar basis for all investments in the above mentioned Reconstruction Bonds.
I guess silicon valley has to get something back for all the money they've dumped into this foundation... but, say you were worried that homeowners might get a "free lunch" out of principal reduction:
The reader, before digging into the Appendix, should note
that all of our proposals were drafted with an eye towards
minimizing possible moral hazard. That risk is undeniably
present, in potential at least, in both (a) any offer of
settlement of a debt for less than the amount owed and (b)
any regulatory forbearance with respect to delayed
recognition of losses. We have therefore carefully crafted
our proposals to avoid the prospect of any “free lunch,”
the fact they can use the words 'moral hazard' non-ironically after the bailout of the FIRE sector speaks volumes. so, if you read the appendix you will presumably find out how their prescription for deleveraging inflicts pain on underwater homeowners. that sounds like a winner.

people who will never have to work another day in their lives funding 'solutions' for unemployment and indebtedness.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:17 AM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


... I want to hurt every single member of every single chamber of commerce preemptively. Then I want to present the list of demands. I want to use capitalism as a weapon of terror. Fuck it. A willingness to martyr ourselves is infinitely more scary than anything they've got. One day that's all I'm asking.

You do not get this. Capitalism is also the way the little guy makes a living. Just because the boys at the top have rigged the system doesn't mean you should get at them by shitting on the poor slob just trying to earn a living.

Cash brother. Keep the money out of the hands of the banks and that is the most effective form of "capitalist terrorism" you can use against them.

Stop the 401k contributions to Wall Street, take out the money in cash and stuff it in your mattress. Giving it to Wall Street is giving it to Wall Street. Whatever bright promises they might make about a comfortable pension your tax free "investment" is going right into their bank accounts. You cut that money off, you keep it as cash, and you'll nail those bankers where it hurts.
posted by three blind mice at 3:19 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


also, read this old WaPo article about Ted Halstead if you want to puke.

what I would like to know is how someone, who apparently has worked in public policy his whole short life, manages to spend his time now sailing around the world in his own catamaran while developing eco-real estate in Costa Rica?

at least the Chamber of Commerce is honest about who they are working for...
posted by ennui.bz at 3:22 AM on October 12, 2011


Actually the historical answer is having a large group of people being willing to kill and die for an alternative ideology, and having them be real enough, and powerful enough, to scare the structures into making concessions.
posted by Grimgrin at 3:22 AM on October 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


If a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics and transparency in, could be written as just one or two sentences - plainspoken and clear and thorough, then it would be pretty hard to smear, and very popular - because a lot more people would know what it actually said and did and intended, and it would resonate.

That Aizona anti-immigrant law written by the prison industry last year was a national story, but the bill was large and dense and everyone believed what their favouite partisans told them to think about it, because no-one would read the complex mess themselves.

My understanding is that the constitution doesn't have to be written like that.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:22 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm afraid nothing is going to change (and will probably get worse) as long as worker pay, benefits, and available jobs featuring a living wage head in one direction, while the real cost of simply living (shelter, food, medical, education, etc.) keep heading the opposite direction.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:35 AM on October 12, 2011


Stop the 401k contributions to Wall Street, take out the money in cash and stuff it in your mattress. Giving it to Wall Street is giving it to Wall Street.

I haven't done enough in the stock market to know much about this, but someone here at meta made the point a while back that if you own shares in a company that you've invested in because you believe in them or support them, you should get those shares made out in your name - an extra step that no-one does. Normally, you buy from a broker (or whatever), and the shares remain technically in that company's name, while on their books they owe you that many of those shares (or their value) whenever you want them. Ie You only own the shares by proxy. (Much like how a bank doesn't keep your cash on hand, they use it while you're not using it - except banks pay you for that privilege.)

This means among other things, that the company holding your shares in proxy can short your company's stock, at no cost to themselves, which means it's in more people's interest to see your company (and your assets) fail.

It also enables more speculation and instability and Wall Street gamblers in general, because those shares are part of a huge liquid pool that these players can play with, a far far larger pool than they could afford to own themselves etc.

If you get your shares certified to you, then no-one can trade them in the back room, fling them around, short your stock, and other Wall Street shenanigans, your investment in that company is solid, not working against the interests of the company you support and working against your interests.

Anyone care to elaborate?
posted by -harlequin- at 3:37 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you use cash then the banks can't skim off every transaction. You deny them their national sales tax (in the form of transactional fees) and leave that money in the real economy.

Cash brother. Keep the money out of the hands of the banks and that is the most effective form of "capitalist terrorism" you can use against them.


Pull your money out of the bank and join a credit union. Get one of their debit cards.
posted by tommyD at 3:47 AM on October 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


Anyone worked out how many jobs could be created by moving to 30--35 hour work week?

The French tried it, and it didn't do much to alter the unemployment level IIRC, although people were justifiably happy about only having to work four days a week.


(I have no cite, and I imagine it's a partisan issue which would muddy things, but last I heard, the French approach was an economic drag during the bubble-boom times, and an economic godsend when the global shit hit the fan. To me, that sounds like sound policy.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:49 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been with my credit union for 13 years and have never been gouged for anything, ever. I can't understand why anyone would use a bank for their personal finances.
posted by double block and bleed at 3:52 AM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've been with my credit union for 13 years and have never been gouged for anything, ever. I can't understand why anyone would use a bank for their personal finances.

Same here. It's like 80% of the population is saying "Doctor! It hurts when I hammer this nail into my leg each day!" and then not listening when the doctor says "Well stop hammering the nail into your leg each day!".

It's mystifying.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:59 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was talking to my mom about that the other day and I seem to remember back to the membership-oriented credit union world there was talk about credit unions being inferior because they weren't FDIC. Nowadays it's opened up of course, but there's still some kind of "uninsured!" bug niggling at the back of my brain about credit unions.
posted by rhizome at 4:04 AM on October 12, 2011


Credit unions have their own version of the FDIC, the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund.
posted by tommyD at 4:09 AM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Credit union>> mattress. If you have cash and want to help the economy, you want to make that cash available for lending, which can't happen from your mattress. Well, most mattresses.
posted by nat at 6:52 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


We could start by not defining a sustainable, constant level of resource usage as "stagnation". Continual growth is not mathematically possible, but even before that it's not maintainable.

DU, you appear to be one of the very few people on the site (or indeed anywhere) who, in threads about how to get people working and buying again to get the economy growing again, manage to remember other threads about how we must wean ourselves off of the growth model and cut back consumption permanently in order to, like, save the planet. fuller tips hat.
posted by jfuller at 6:56 AM on October 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


sorry, left out the quoted-test markers. "We could start...maintainable." was DU
posted by jfuller at 6:58 AM on October 12, 2011


I can't understand why anyone would use a bank for their personal finances.

Big banks are, well, big. The reason why most people choose the bank they do is location. Bigger banks have more locations and are more likely to have locations in all of the places where I go. Not only that but larger banks do so many things that I can manage all of my financial relationships in one place and the bank will reward me for that.

I can find a credit union near my house but its hard to find one with a branch or ATM in all of the places I might go and hard to find one that will let me deposit, barrow, and invest on the same website.

There are some great advantages to credit unions but they don't work for everyone.
posted by VTX at 7:04 AM on October 12, 2011


credit unions wont get bailed out if they fuck up though, right?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:33 AM on October 12, 2011


VTX, the claim that "there are not enough atms around me to join a credit union" are rather null if you live anywhere minus rural areas. There are a huge amount of Co-op network atms are in pretty much every area. Thus avoiding fees.

This may have been a huge issue back in the day, but in 2011it isn't hard to find an atm nowadays.
posted by handbanana at 7:50 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


A quick skim of the plan says nothing about what to do about student loans. Color me unimpressed.
posted by bswinburn at 8:09 AM on October 12, 2011


credit unions wont get bailed out if they fuck up though, right?

If recent history's any indicator, who knows?

The big investment banks weren't supposed to be federally insured either, but we bailed them out on the grounds that not doing so would be too harmful to Main Street to contemplate (well, except for one of them).

We just do whatever the big money wants to do and will tolerate nowadays; there's no rhyme or reason to it.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:15 AM on October 12, 2011


bswinburn: "A quick skim of the plan says nothing about what to do about student loans."

That's because I firmly believe that there are no good solutions to that problem.
posted by schmod at 8:18 AM on October 12, 2011


There are a huge amount of Co-op network atms are in pretty much every area. Thus avoiding fees.

The people in the rural areas are often the only ones who know that though. There is often one or two small community banks or credit unions to choose from so they find out about the ATM networks that way (the bank in Wife's home town lets her use any Wells Fargo ATM without a fee).

It isn't just about the ATMs either. I can bank with Wells fargo and know that there will be a physical branch near me no matter where I move to in Minnesota. There is still the issue that credit unions don't have as many services (specifically a brokerage arm) as a large bank.

For most of the rest of us though, we just see a Wells Fargo ATM near where we work or notice the branch by our homes and decide to open an account there. Once you've started that relationship, it gets really hard to change. This is why (at least here in Minnesota) TCF tries so hard to get on every college campus.

Most of these things aren't huge issues in reality but people perceive them to be large enough issues to prevent them from switching to credit unions en masse. I've never really had an issue with my big bank. I don't really care about deposit rates, I don't get charged any fees, and changing banks is a PITA. The advantages of a credit union aren't big enough to prompt me to rearrange all of my personal finances.

I'm not saying that big banks are better in general, I'm just saying that it isn't as cut and dried as some people make it out to be.
posted by VTX at 8:42 AM on October 12, 2011


I've been with my credit union for 13 years and have never been gouged for anything, ever. I can't understand why anyone would use a bank for their personal finances.

I keep day to day bill-paying money* in a "giant monster megabank" because the online systems of the credit unions around here are universally horrible. Convenience counts for a lot when it comes to money.

I have never been gouged for anything in the 10 or so years I've been using my bank.

* Short term savings are in a local CU, long-term savings in one of the online banks.
posted by madajb at 9:04 AM on October 12, 2011


I've been with my credit union for 13 years and have never been gouged for anything, ever. I can't understand why anyone would use a bank for their personal finances.
Well, then here's why I do:

On some level, I would like to change to a credit union, just on principle, so ever so often I look into doing so, and every time, I find the same results:

Those within a reasonable distance of me do not have available safety deposit boxes that would suit my needs; some do not even have safety deposit boxes at all. Additionally, none offer me better rates of return on my deposits than my bank does.

Most people who talk up the horrors of banks (from a personal business relationship viewpoint) refer to ATM fees and overdraft fees and this fees and that fees and blah blah blah. Well, I have never overdrafted in my life and I have a difficult time imagining that I ever will (and I don't mean "I'm rich, you peasants"; I mean "I know how much money is in my account"). And my bank refunds all ATM fees that are assessed to me (there may be some monthly limit, but if so it's more than I've ever been charged in ATM fees). As for this fees and that fees and blah blah blah, I don't know, I guess I have to pay for a new book of checks every few years? That really doesn't seem all that awful to me.

I have some vague low-level image in my mind of my bank perpetrating ineffable horrors using the money that's sitting in my account, just based on the fact that they're a bank. But I don't know, they seem to treat me pretty well, actually.

Still, as I said, just on principles, I would like to join a credit union. And I would, if I could find one that treats me as well as my bank does while offering equivalent services that I partake in. But I can't find such a one. And that is why I use a bank for my personal finances.
posted by Flunkie at 9:29 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


i thought it was an excellent position paper on what could be done--balanced, no magic bullet, broad based responsibility and accounted for both domestic and international variables. Also appeared to be completely non partisan with enough to attract the near left and near right towards the center. Any single recommendation could easily be tagged radical by those wont to excessive politicization--which appears to be 95% of politicians, the public and pundits. What troubles me is that the reaction on the Blue follows a similar trend--to much posted before reading the article (it was lengthy), to many "what if", "how about" "do this or do that" and snappy but irrelevant diversions from the substance of the article. Given my age I significantly benefited from the bubble and years ago I bought the least expensive home I really liked and not the most expensive one I could afford ( a life saver ). My sympathy, empathy and concern for all who did the "right things" and must pay and continue to pay the price of what was unchecked greed ( individual, corporate, government, domestic or international ) transformative technology and the substitution of belief and dogma for science and empiricism.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:30 AM on October 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


If I had lived in my current house back in 1944, I would have been able to walk to the Monmouth Beach train station each day to take the NJ Central RR's Seashore Branch to the city each day, and back. The Southern Branch would have done the same if I lived in Eatontown and the Freehold Branch if I lived further west in Marlboro. A branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad would have also worked if I lived down in Wall Township or Howell on the southern edge of Monmouth county at the time. The Garden State Parkway works just as well though.
posted by otto42 at 9:47 AM on October 12, 2011


Whenever times get tough, armchair quarterbacks pop out of the woodwork and declare,

"You know how to fix this problem? Everyone, right now, go cut up your credit cards/skip the sale/refuse to vote for any of them/loan money only to morally acceptable blah blah blah..."

Which is just so much backpatting pablum. Any plan that requires "everyone to do X", where "X" is not clearly in their immediate best interests (eat a donut, buy the cheapest and best-looking item, take the closest parking spot), is a pipedream.

Ergo, the way has to be cleared to make "X" in their best interests... which this paper intelligently discusses. Fiscal policy flowing from intelligent government action, steering market pressures as one might steer a school of tuna or a flock of birds (i.e., without much control, but a fair understanding of the general motivators).

Instead, we have fiscal policy flowing from party ideologies (on both sides), populist sentiment (as election time approaches), and local electorate short-term interests.

So, we're fucked until the Powers in Washington (Beijing, London, Delhi) accidentally do something helpful that coincides with their desires to stay in power.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:58 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone worked out how many jobs could be created by moving to 30--35 hour work week?

None. Absolutely none. Want me to work 30 hours a week? Fine I'll go get a second job.

Talez, you're assuming that there's a surfeit of jobs for you to take... which would mean we don't have unemployment problems.

Increasing the minimum wage would have far greater a positive effect. Increased payroll taxes, increased disposable income maybe even have some people bumped up into a tax bracket where they could pay tax.

Citation from real-world data? Because the alternate theory (increasing the minimum wage decreases available jobs, as a limited payroll is divided by larger minimum numbers) is also quite logical-sounding.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:00 AM on October 12, 2011


Umm, there is one glaringly obvious improvement for the student loans situation, bswinburn and schmod. You simply halt all federally backed student loans for institutions whose commonly fail repayment. Isn't like 80% of federally backed student loan money going to bullshit for-profit degree mills like the University of Phoenix, who defraud both the student and the government?
posted by jeffburdges at 10:42 AM on October 12, 2011


You simply halt all federally backed student loans for institutions whose commonly fail repayment. Isn't like 80% of federally backed student loan money going to bullshit for-profit degree mills like the University of Phoenix, who defraud both the student and the government?

I think you've identified the problem, but I pause at the solution, because it would reward excellent vocation training and hit lousy vocation training - but it might also hit education. A good education can offer things that good vocation training doesn't, such as highly developed critical thinking skills, even though an education may not directly qualify you for work. There's probably a way to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater though, and that bathwater really needs to be tossed.

(It would also hurt good institutions in harder-hit areas, but that's not really a criticism as it would be trivial to throw in some leeway based on local economic conditions)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:06 AM on October 12, 2011


Pull your money out of the bank and join a credit union. Get one of their debit cards.

For what it's worth, my credit union has been charging a $7 monthly fee for sub-$1000 checking balances for over a year and a half now.
posted by mellow seas at 11:20 AM on October 12, 2011


I believe you are incorrect, harlequin. Students who attend non-profits universities and community collages weren't having anywhere near the trouble making their student loan payments that students who attended these for-profit fake degree mills. Yes, even students from real institutions face more trouble now during a recession, but that simply means must set this cutoff more carefully.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:24 AM on October 12, 2011


Why is the government even in the business of guaranteeing student loans at for-profit schools? This seems designed for abuse.
posted by webhund at 11:26 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why is the government even in the business of guaranteeing student loans at for-profit schools? This seems designed for abuse.

For-Profit is a tax status, not really a way of doing business. There's nothing stopping University of Phoenix from being a great institution, just like there's nothing stopping a non-profit state university from doing risky/evil/stupid things with its money.

But yeah, as they exist today, totally agreed.
posted by pjaust at 12:11 PM on October 12, 2011


DU wrote: We could start by not defining a sustainable, constant level of resource usage as "stagnation". Continual growth is not mathematically possible, but even before that it's not maintainable.

When did the US population stop growing? Since when is 16% U3 sustainable?
posted by wierdo at 2:09 PM on October 12, 2011


There are two ways of being happy: We must either diminish our wants or
augment our means - either may do - the result is the same and it is for
each man to decide for himself and to do that which happens to be easier.
- Benjamin Franklin
posted by black8 at 2:32 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are legitimate for-profit vocational education programs, webhund, including stuff like flight school. As a rule, our more fraudulent for-profit institutions overcharge students exorbitantly, they scrounge up students without the academic preparation or good sense to know better. It's analogous to banks selling expensive homes to the unemployed, except the federal government takes all the risk.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:49 PM on October 12, 2011


There are legitimate for-profit vocational education programs,

I think the point was not that that for-profit isn't legitimate, but that when it is legitimate, then because it is legitimate, the students will be highly successful at repaying their loans.

The less fully the govt guarantee the loans, then the more of the onus falls on the vocation-training institution to ensure that their programs genuinely are making their clients more employable.

And while either extreme is bad (full guarantee or no guarantee), I think that an institute that has its business model made viable by this govt assistence should have some financial skin the game and be able to put a little of their money where their mouth is. Enough at least that it's not profitable to focus on advertising over quality.

Otherwise it's just another case of privatising the profits and socializing the risks.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:06 PM on October 12, 2011


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