1.) The reality that focusing upon Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P.) as a meaningful indicator of anything socially or economically of benefit to our country's well-being is a waste of time. Yet, it is the primary focus of many armchair, wannabee economists' claims of economic recovery, even here and now; never minding the fact that our government and hundreds of our leading economists have been (in many cases, inadvertently) misdirecting us for decades into thinking that it's the greatest statistical indicator of our society's health, when nothing could be farther from the truth. (See: "The Rise and Fall of the G.D.P.")
The Rise and Fall of the G.D.P.
By JON GERTNER
New York Times Magazine
May 10, 2010
...Government statisticians...do not push any equivalency between an expanding G.D.P. and national progress. For them, G.D.P. is what it is and nothing more: a description of total national production that can be helpful when setting economic policy. The longtime tendency of politicians to use G.D.P. as a proxy for national well-being is not a practice the Bureau of Economic Analysis endorses or could necessarily control, even if it wanted to. That the Obama administration, for instance, has pointed to rebounding G.D.P. numbers rather than our unusually high unemployment numbers reflects a political calculation rather than a case of economists beating a drum for the glory of G.D.P...
Several times last fall, I visited Stiglitz's office at Columbia University, where he is on the faculty, to talk about the shortcomings of G.D.P. Sometimes we chatted about accounting issues -- why he thinks G.D.P. creates a distorted representation of our economic lives, for instance, and how that might be remedied. In his view, Americans would have had a much clearer picture of our progress over the past decade if we had focused on median income rather than G.D.P. per capita, which is distorted by top earners and corporate profits. "When you have increasing inequality, median and average behave differently," Stiglitz said. Real median household income has actually dipped since 2000. But G.D.P. per capita, he noted, has gone up. A president could go on the podium, Stiglitz said, and point to G.D.P. as proof that Americans are doing very well. But if you looked instead at median income, he said, "you could say, a) it's not sustainable; and b) most people are actually worse off." We need to focus on those median figures, he insisted...
...Stiglitz and his fellow academics ultimately concluded that assessing a population's quality of life will require metrics from at least seven categories: health, education, environment, employment, material well-being, interpersonal connectedness and political engagement. They also decided that any nation that was serious about progress should start measuring its "equity" -- that is, the distribution of material wealth and other social goods -- as well as its economic and environmental sustainability. "Too often, particularly I think in an American context, everybody says, `We want policies that reflect our values,' but nobody says what those values are," Stiglitz told me. The opportunity to choose a new set of indicators, he added, is tantamount to saying that we should not only have a conversation about recasting G.D.P. We should also, in the aftermath of an extraordinary economic collapse, talk about what the goals of a society really are...
Meanwhile, these sentiments are being further confirmed as some now take a second look at those that have been proponents of the "everything - we - know - about - our - economy - is - wrong" school of thought. A closer investigation of that minority viewpoint, as personified by Shadow Stats' John Williams in, "Meet the Economist Who Says the Government's Economic Numbers Are Lies," demonstrates that many of the criticisms of Williams' findings are little more than ad hominems.
3.) You see, this was the week when it became just a little more plausible to say that our nation's financial sector is completely dysfunctional. In fact, IMHO, as Delaware Democrat and U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman--perhaps the only person in our nation's legislative branch with a spine--reiterated it, Wall Street has become downright dangerous, and there's nothing happening as far as the so-called financial reform effort on Capitol Hill is concerned that's going to make a damn bit of difference to correct that, going forward. (See: "Senator Kaufman Was Right - Our Financial System Has Become Dangerous.")
4.) So, if decades of unbridled Wall Street greed haven't made you completely numb to these harsh truths about our Quiet Coup, the now-almost-daily, announced criminal investigations of our masters of the universe will just make you number.
Remember that can everybody claimed we were kicking down the road?
The truth is it's lying in a gutter about three blocks back.
As it now appears to be the case, week after week of late, we keep crossing over that intangible line some prematurely have called our tipping point, only to see the status quo spin that make-believe marker another week down the road. Yes, to this diarist, it's no longer "the can" that's being kicked down the road; it's our society's tipping point.
When it's alright for Democrats to rationalize throwing 400,000 Americans per month (for the balance of 2010) out into the Main Streets of destitution because our taxpayer funds are tied up fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq one may only step back and ask: Are we completely numb to human suffering here at home?
Then again, as it was also reiterated this week, we're quietly, STILL, throwing trillions--not billions--at those very same Wall Street bastards that created this mess in the first place while our state governments reach new depths of depravity that we, as a society, haven't witnessed in, perhaps, centuries?
Late on Friday, a little over 12 hours ago, buried "just right" in this even greater travesty of a weekly news cycle, we learned the following:
Schwarzenegger: Eliminate Welfare and most Child Care, reduce Health Care
by CalculatedRisk on 5/14/2010 04:26:00 PM
From the SacBee: Schwarzenegger budget would eliminate welfare
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked lawmakers Friday to eliminate the state's welfare program starting in October and dramatically scale back in-home care for elderly and disabled as part of his May budget revision to close a $19.1 billion deficit.
[Schwarzenegger] also proposed cuts to state worker compensation.
Schwarzenegger proposed eliminating state-subsidized child care for all but preschoolers
...From the LA Times: Schwarzenegger unveils austere budget plan
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger outlined a stark vision Friday of a California that would no longer lend a helping hand to some of its poorest and neediest citizens, proposing a budget that would eliminate the state's welfare-to-work program and most child care for the poor.
His $83.4-billion plan would freeze funding for local schools, further cut state workers' pay and take away 60% of state money for local mental health programs.
During the press conference, Schwarzenegger compared California to Greece. Ouch.
Numb and number...