( – promoted by buhdydharma )
Ever wonder why the right wing corporate shills disparage “Europe” and everything “European” and they associate liberalism with “european” ideals?
Because many countries in Europe are better off than we are, that’s why. And because the Corporatists don’t like that. They want Americans to think that “America is the greatest country in the world” and all of that jingoistic bullshit, because, well, that fits into their brainwashing plan for the American worker.
Check this out. Turns out that the economic downturn in Germany was just as bad as it was here, save for one particular aspect: there wasn’t the mass unemployment that there was here. Far more people kept their jobs in Germany.
It’s no accident. It’s because they have these things there called “laws”. Apparently they haven’t yet had their German version of the heroic Ronald Reagan asshole to come in and convince them that that piss dripping down on them was actually rain. They actually know what’s going on, and they have this concept of “the common good” where they actually take care of their own.
Unlike here, where if you’re not frothing-at-the-mouth snarling-with-hatred at your fellow American, whether it be because they’re “libruls” or “rednecks” or “immigrants” or “tree huggers”, you’re just not part of the “TEAM”, or, to be more accurate about it, the “brand”. (it’s always all about branding)
It’s Paul Krugman who is the jist of this essay, and secondarily the folks at nakedcapitalism.com who expand on his ideas. Here’s Krugman:
Consider, for a moment, a tale of two countries. Both have suffered a severe recession and lost jobs as a result – but not on the same scale. In Country A, employment has fallen more than 5 percent, and the unemployment rate has more than doubled. In Country B, employment has fallen only half a percent, and unemployment is only slightly higher than it was before the crisis.
Don’t you think Country A might have something to learn from Country B?
This story isn’t hypothetical. Country A is the United States, where stocks are up, G.D.P. is rising, but the terrible employment situation just keeps getting worse. Country B is Germany, which took a hit to its G.D.P. when world trade collapsed, but has been remarkably successful at avoiding mass job losses. Germany’s jobs miracle hasn’t received much attention in this country – but it’s real, it’s striking, and it raises serious questions about whether the U.S. government is doing the right things to fight unemployment.
Here in America, the philosophy behind jobs policy can be summarized as “if you grow it, they will come.” That is, we don’t really have a jobs policy: we have a G.D.P. policy. The theory is that by stimulating overall spending we can make G.D.P. grow faster, and this will induce companies to stop firing and resume hiring.
The alternative would be policies that address the job issue more directly. We could, for example, have New-Deal-style employment programs. Perhaps such a thing is politically impossible now – Glenn Beck would describe anything like the Works Progress Administration as a plan to recruit pro-Obama brownshirts – but we should note, for the record, that at their peak, the W.P.A. and the Civilian Conservation Corps employed millions of Americans, at relatively low cost to the budget.
Alternatively, or in addition, we could have policies that support private-sector employment. Such policies could range from labor rules that discourage firing to financial incentives for companies that either add workers or reduce hours to avoid layoffs.
And that’s what the Germans have done. Germany came into the Great Recession with strong employment protection legislation. This has been supplemented with a “short-time work scheme,” which provides subsidies to employers who reduce workers’ hours rather than laying them off. These measures didn’t prevent a nasty recession, but Germany got through the recession with remarkably few job losses.
Should America be trying anything along these lines? In a recent interview in The Washington Post, Lawrence Summers, the Obama administration’s highest-ranking economist, was dismissive: “It may be desirable to have a given amount of work shared among more people. But that’s not as desirable as expanding the total amount of work.” True. But we are not, in fact, expanding the total amount of work – and Congress doesn’t seem willing to spend enough on stimulus to change that unfortunate fact. So shouldn’t we be considering other measures, if only as a stopgap?
Now, the usual objection to European-style employment policies is that they’re bad for long-run growth – that protecting jobs and encouraging work-sharing makes companies in expanding sectors less likely to hire and reduces the incentives for workers to move to more productive occupations. And in normal times there’s something to be said for American-style “free to lose” labor markets, in which employers can fire workers at will but also face few barriers to new hiring.
But these aren’t normal times. Right now, workers who lose their jobs aren’t moving to the jobs of the future; they’re entering the ranks of the unemployed and staying there. Long-term unemployment is already at its highest levels since the 1930s, and it’s still on the rise.
And long-term unemployment inflicts long-term damage. Workers who have been out of a job for too long often find it hard to get back into the labor market even when conditions improve. And there are hidden costs, too – not least for children, who suffer physically and emotionally when their parents spend months or years unemployed.
So it’s time to try something different.
The folks at nakedcapitalism.com think Krugman didn’t go far enough in his contrast with Germany:
Krugman does Germany an injustice by failing to contest US prejudices about European (particularly German) labor practices. If German labor practices are so terrible, then how was Germany an export powerhouse, able to punch above its weight versus Japan and China, while the US, with our supposedly great advantage of more flexible (and therefore cheaper) labor, has run chronic and large current account deficits? And why is Germany a hotbed of successful entrepreneurial companies, its famed Mittelstand? If Germany was such a terrible place to do business, wouldn’t they have hollowed out manufacturing just as the US has done? Might it be that there are unrecognized pluses of not being able to fire workers at will, that the company and the employees recognize that they are in the same boat, and the company has more reason to invest in its employees (ignore the US nonsense “employees are our asset,” another line from the corporate Ministry of Truth).
A different example. A US colleague was sent to Paris to turn around a medical database business (spanning 11 timezones). She succeeded. Now American managers don’t know how to turn around businesses without firing people, which was not an option for her. I submit that no one is willing to consider that the vaunted US labor market flexibility has produced lower skilled managers, one who resort to the simple expedient of expanding or contracting the workforce (which is actually pretty disruptive and results in the loss of skills and know-how) rather than learning how to manage a business with more foresight and in a more organic fashion because the business is defined to a large degree around its employees.
My only problem with Krugman here is his ridiculously diplomatic tone. I mean, he puts it like this: raises serious questions about whether the U.S. government is doing the right things to fight unemployment. Not to channel Lewis Black, but of COURSE the U.S. government isn’t doing the right things to fight unemployment or UNEMPLOYMENT WOULDLN’T BE SO FUCKING AWFUL.
There’s a reason the corporate media turned Reagan into a “hero”. Because, well, the corporations want us to believe that. There’s now an entire generation of Americans, maybe two, who have been brainwashed into believing this jackass was some kind of populist “hero”, and a “great President”.
Yet another way in which America, circa 2009, sucks ass.
And yes, in some countries things are done better than here. FAR better.