No, seriously, economic crises are a good thing!

That’s a running theme that crops up in conservative arguments for why Washington shouldn’t do more to improve the economy——like this argument by David Brooks that tightening our belts is making us more moral. I’ve been seeing variations on it for years: Right-winger Walter Williams once argued that Social Security is bad because without it, old folks would have to move in with their kids instead of retiring to Florida (or wherever) and that would bring families together. Plus, parents who knew their kids would have to support them would damn sure make them study something useful in college instead of literature or art or any of that crap that doesn’t boost your career.
Writing in the New York Times, Edward Glaeser argues that the plight of older workers is overstated——after all, they’re almost all working retail and office jobs, not mining jobs (the fact that miners to old to work the mines are without a job doesn’t seem to phase him). And older workers bring valuable experience to the workplace! So if they can’t afford to retire, that’s all good. Just as Brooks thinks that having no choice about taking on debt or being afraid to change jobs are good things, Glaeser’s convinced that being unable to retire is really just as awesome as a seventy-year-old who chooses not to retire.
Glaeser also makes a claim that always infuriates me, arguing that the real reason we get less vacation than most European nations and don’t even use what we do get is that we have a “Calvinist backbone”——we love work, and we don’t really feel good about taking time off. And that may be true for some … but I know people for whom it has less to do with their passion for work and everything to do with how much crap piles up when they’re away (plus the fear that if their boss realizes they’re not indispensable, the axe will fall). But why spoil his glorious fantasy with details.
In another column,Tyler Cowan remains hopeful that the economic crunch will promote the values of hard work, discipline and thrift. As Kevin Drum observes, we’re in an economy where wages for the majority have been flat for years, even while productivity, corporate profits and executive paychecks go. It’s becoming harder and harder for someone to break out of the class they were born in. When the most you can hope for is that hard work and discipline will keep you from getting fired, it’s not surprising if people wonder why the hell they should bother. (Lord knows, getting a 5 percent pay cut at my last job when executives took home bonuses bigger than my salary didn’t exactly fill me with loyalty to my corporate overlords).
Meanwhile, Wall Street executives remain convinced they are (as Hullabaloo often puts it), Ayn Randian super-achievers and that people criticizing them instead of lauding their success just don’t get it.
In other matters:
•The collapse of the deficit cutting “supercommittee” wasn’t due to Democratic refusal to compromise. The Dems moved to the right, but Repubs, as always, push further right.
•For anyone who thinks Birthers and 9/11 Truthers are the same, how often do you see elected officials siding with the Truthers? Birthers, however——well, just check the link.
•The National Organization for Marriage protests that states should hide the names of people who petition the government against gay marriage because otherwise they’ll be criticized and laughed at! As I’ve noted before, people who believe they have the right to condemn, belittle and hate gays can’t stomach a fraction of what they give out.
•Some more thoughts about the militarization of our police force here, here and here.


Filed under Politics

4 responses to “No, seriously, economic crises are a good thing!

  1. Pingback: Peace? Prosperity? What we need is death and destruction! « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: The personal is political | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Wednesday’s links are full of woe | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: The importance of people who are not me making great sacrifices cannot be overstated | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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