McQuain has a good piece on the economy up over at Q&O; in fact, it makes a good companion piece to the Reason article I discussed earlier in the day. And since McQ quotes me it makes me feel all warm and gooey inside.
But, Bruce!—when I said we’d come out of the economic slump okay because Americans are “neurotically productive,” that was several months ago—before the hill we have to climb had been made so much steeper by the stimulus bill, the bailouts, the attacks on capitalism, the nationalizing of GM and Chrysler (and the big question mark about whether Ford will be allowed to retain its independence); we’re several pieces of bad news down the road from where we were when I was still wearing those rose-tinted glasses.
I remain globally optimistic about the American economy, but—locally speaking—things are looking a lot bleaker than they had been.
To back up for a minute, my main source on the first Great Depression is the Amity Shlaes book, and one of the things that hit me when I first read that was the fact that the economy had so many rallies during the 1930s, but each time one started up, FDR would do something crazy again, and he’d kill it. I realize that’s an oversimplification, but it’s true as far as it goes, and it ties into what I was saying: hope springs eternal, and it damned well should, or we ought to just crawl up into the fetal position and leave your grandkids to figure it out, because overzealous governmental agencies enjoy strangling infant recoveries right in their cribs. It’s what governments like to do.
I agree that the Japanese are just as productive as we are, but the Japanese are also “organization men” to a greater degree than we, and their welfare state, including state-run health care, has been complete and comprehensive for some time. It’s a more brittle system than what we have here: once things break in Japan, I personally believe that it’s easy for them to stay broken for a longer period of time.
The Japanese economy doesn’t appear to be as nimble as ours is—when ours is working. That is, when we aren’t doing the Dobby act from the Harry Potter books and hitting our heads against the wall every time we make a little bit of progress. NTTAWWT.
As I see it, though, the current administration is trying, um, very hard to “fix” the problem of our resiliency, by creating structures/institutions that will make recoveries much, much harder during economic downturns—which is why we need to focus on the next two election cycles and work very, very hard to get a majority back in the House and the Senate as soon as possible. I would imagine that year will be a pivotal time if we don’t want to see the economy hobbled by “healthcare reform,” and the political process corrupted by a wacked-out, politicized census.
At this moment, it will take a good seven years to undo the damage King O has done in just a few months, and I shudder to think what would happen if he were to be given a second term.
Fortunately, I don’t think that’s likely at all: he’s already lost his base over his failures to change the Bush Administration policies over surveillance, along with the fact that he won’t be able to close Gitmo (though he might simply move it to Afghanistan). He won’t lift a finger to extend gay marriage rights, though of course I’m okay with that, since I’m a states-should-do-that kind of girl—but his base will see it differently. He hasn’t done a thing, though, about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and that should be a slam-dunk when we’re still losing Arabic translators because they’re gay: If I’m upset about that, imagine how some of the lefties feel.
And the economy is going to stay bad. In fact, it is going to get worse. Something we could have pulled out of within 18 months will last more like three years, at best. And it could, indeed, drag out for most of a decade, if we continue to FDR it up this way.
In short, you are right: We are in trouble. But you know what?—where there’s a will, there’s a way.