Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Upward Jobs Tick

Apologies for the lack of updates. Been occupied (heh) of late.

Not quite sure if I buy that the latest upward tick in the jobs numbers is a good thing or not. Certainly it's a good thing for the newly employed. No-one would deny that. But any sort of improvement is going to be seen as a reason to lay off on low interest rate policies, to deny any further need of stimulus, and even to avoid changing anything at all about US economic policy.

That's not a good thing. America still has the same problems. It still has manufacturing jobs moving to other countries, especially China: not because of low wages, but because of the ease of access to suppliers and appropriate human capital. That's why Apple's there, that's why everybody else is there, and that is NOT something that Indiana is going to solve by nuking public-sector unions.  It requires a sophisticated understanding of the role of public investment. Those Chinese factories didn't spring up out of nowhere. Read the story: the Chinese government had a hand in it. As long as America is still led by people who think that government is the enemy of success, America won't have success.

America also still has the problem of financialization, and the fallout from that sector's dominance. Matt Taibbi's right that it's good that the foreclosure scandal hasn't been completely buried...but considering it was one of the biggest and more prevalent scams in U.S. history, the fact that it came as close as it DID is a problem.  Smart people are still moving out of the real world and into Wall Street chasing the big financial dollars, or simply trying to find a decent job as other sectors empty out. That's not right. That's not sustainable. And it's nothing to build an economy on.

But, mostly, America is STILL behind on one of the most important trends in the 21st century: renewable energy. Look at this story on India: the price of solar panels is absolutely crashing there. That story in the New Scientist quoted analysts as saying that solar could as cheap as grid energy across half of the globe by 2015. That's three years from now. This will absolutely revolutionize how the world looks at energy...and what is the United States doing? FRACKING! Jamming toxic chemicals into the earth to extract more hydrocarbons, possibly causing honest-to-goodness earthquakes, while the increasingly-inaccurately-named "developing world" says "heck with it" and just builds cheap solar panels! Panels that they may soon produce without any sort of American help whatsoever!

So, yes, this is good news. But it doesn't address the underlying problems.

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