Economy of the Living Dead


Writing on RealClearMarkets, Louis Woodhill of Forbes characterizes the Obama Era economic recovery as a lumbering mob of zombies:

The White House is hailing the fact that the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs in America went down by 56,000 in June? President Obama’s merry band is hailing the fact that the economy replaced 272,000 full-time jobs with 432,000 part-time positions, thus eking out the reported 160,000 gain in total employment for the month? …

Despite being riddled with reality bullets, Keynesian stimulus staggers on, glassy eyed, muttering, “I blame Bush.” Stimulus is an economic zombie, stalking across the land and striking fear into the hearts of taxpayers, whose blood it craves.

As noted earlier, Obama’s economic recovery itself must also be accounted among the undead. It certainly isn’t alive in the same sense as America’s previous economic recoveries were alive. …

Zombies feast on the flesh of the living, and Obama’s zombie economic recovery has been making a meal of median family income, which is down by 5.0% since the recovery began. During this time, the median duration of unemployment has declined by a mere 0.1 weeks, to 17.3 weeks. When Bush 43 left office, this measure was only 10.6 weeks.

Woodhill blasts a clip’s worth of other “reality bullets” into the beast, but he makes the basic point early on: If we’re “on the path to a recovery” that’s “gaining traction,” we’ve had no real recovery at all.  This should not be tolerable to Americans.  Life in this country is getting worse every month that we sink more deeply into the mud, and while it may be politically expedient for a certain party to expand the number of people who see government as a necessary patron in their lives, such a path will be the nation’s death.

I would adjust Woodhill in one respect, though: The zombie image has things backwards, in a sense.  The American economy is not being kept alive by unnatural forces (stimulus and quantitative easing); that’s the talking-point dogma of Obama zealots in whose view the president can never fail because it will always be possible to close their eyes and believe that things would have been worse without him.

Rather, it is being held back by those unnatural forces and others (most notably over regulation).  Look to Rhode Island for the test case — with a General Assembly that has now concluded its session proud to have made it more difficult to live and do business in their state.  In light of Woodhill’s analogy, I’m inclined to see the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ map showing New England unemployment as a sort of infection map for the zombie apocalypse:

New England Unemployment by County, June 2012 to May 2013 Average

Unlike remote parts of Maine, there is no excuse for that big red blotch at the bottom of the region. We can — and we must — find the antidote, here.

  • Warrington Faust

    As I look at the map, I don't know what to think. I see that Vermont and Cow Hampshire look pretty good. Some of my baggage. I used to rent a ski cottage in Vermont; I couldn't help but notice every other house had a sign out front "deers skinned, lawnmowers sharpened, etc." Talking to locals, GE was the biggest employer. The hospital the largest employer in Rutland. Rutland was awash in low buck second hand shops. The "hospitality Industry" (Industry?) kept people alive in the winter, but barely. "Median Income" was high, but only because of retired New Yorkers who contributed little to the economy. I think there is much more to the story than the map even hints at.

  • Warrington Faust

    I think the truly sad testimony in the Zimmerman case "I can't read cursive", may explain more about our economy than all the government reports combined.

    A note about my post above. If I have my geography right, Rutland is purple. The surrounding areas are yellow. Could it be that the employed people are living in the suburbs?

    Not shown on the map is upstate New York, as with upper Vermont, the leading "industry" is cows. That is mostly Mexicans, are they shown as "employed", or "unemployed"? Or, are locals shown as "unemp[loyed"? Upstate New York has something like 50% of the population it had in 1900.

  • OldTimeLefty

    What Keynesian stimulus? If we had Keynesian stimuli we'd be busily engaged in repairing our infrastructure, rebuilding bridges and rail lines and expanding public transportation. None, or very little, of that is happening. What world do you live in? Certainly not this one. I recommend a spiritual practice for you from the Tao Te Ching. Contemplate on it while thinking about the excesses of the rich and the poverty of the poor which is the hallmark of our corporate capitalist society.

    The court is resplendent
    Yet the fields are overgrown.
    The granaries are empty;
    Yet some wear elegant clothes;
    Fine swords dangle at their sides;
    They are stuffed with food and drink;
    And possess wealth in gross abundance.
    This is known as taking pride in robbery.
    Far is this from the way.
    Tao Te Ching

  • Warrington Faust

    OTL, the fact that Keynes did not mention "social programs" only proves that he lived before the "Great Society". Social programs were really minimal in his day (except perhaps the Marshall Plan) so he didn't try to invent them.

    Since we are quoting as social commentary, let us try Keynes most famous observation "In the long run, we are all dead".

  • OldTimeLefty

    Sr. Faust,
    Who said anything about social programs. You are way off the mark here. Infrastructure repair, improved public transportation and rail lines are essential to the building of a healthy state, n'est pas?

    You missed or ignored the Tao completely. Maybe Aristotle will help explain, "When there is no middle class, and the poor greatly exceed in number, troubles arise, and the state soon comes to an end". Only the willfully ignorant can fail to see the truth expressed from such divergent sources. WAKE UP!

  • mike

    So the unions would tell us. Google the enormous success of wickford junction…and of course the CA fast rail debacle. These, of course, are the exception as I am sure you can demonstrate that most public transit / rail are self sustaining and don't require massive subsidies from the taxpayers.

  • Warrington Faust

    OTL, my point, social programs have severely eaten into the government's ability to provide infrastructure. If social programs were as significant a part of government spending in Keynes' time as they are now, I think he would have supported them as "stimulus". Re: Aristotle, just as much Medieval history was "developed" by socialist leaning academics in the early 20th century (i.e. Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor), I am wondering if much the same might not be true of Hellenic history. While the Greeks had a concept of the "polis", I doubt they had a concept of the "middle class" as would be understood from your quote. The same with the Romans, the "P's" in "SPQR" got rather short shrift, and asked only for the control of street gangs and the occasional viaduct . It would seem that the concept of "bread and circuses" is still with us.

  • Mike

    We lost OTL when we asked for facts, Warrington….

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