“The Economy”

Had some thoughts continuing from the post previous. That’s okay, isn’t it? “The same subject, continued” appears I-don’t-know-how-many times in the titles of the Federalist Papers; that “Publius” dude had no problem continuing his thoughts from earlier. So it must not be a sign of arrogance, or if it is, that Publius guy must not have been too terribly humble. Anyway. I have some thoughts on the same subject, continued.

I’ve been wondering for awhile about the different definitions conservatives & liberals seem to have in mind when they speak of “The Economy.” In fact, I wonder about this pretty much every time I read a Paul Krugman column. I’ve tried to resolve it by looking it up in various dictionaries, and I’ve come to learn this intangible noun is so utterly lacking definitions-wise we may as well not have the word at all. Now conservatives tend to be supply-siders, meaning they believe in “trickle-down.” Liberals laugh at this…which seems to be the liberal solution to every single credible idea that poses a serious danger to liberal worldview.

But if you take supply-side-trickle-down seriously for a minute or two, you see it shores up the conservative view of “The Economy” rather neatly. When the economy is robust, the wealthy — those with investment capital to spare — can see entrepreneurial opportunities. A robust economy does not entail zero risk. But a relatively healthy economy would involve relatively diminished risk in the entrepreneurial endeavors, or at least, manageable risk. In this way, the wealth is spread around, since in order to realize the endeavor, the entrepreneur needs to add staff, or acquire goods & services. We then have movement in our “economy.” The economy itself, therefore, could be thought of as the actual movement. According to the conservative worldview.

The liberal worldview is simpler, and yet I have a tougher time figuring it out. I don’t need to observe too much to figure out what arouses liberal concern when “the economy” has beached itself like a sick whale: Poor people have it tough. Their beloved social programs are running out of cash, the class sizes in the public schools are swelling, the buses are stopping every twenty minutes instead of every ten, and as we just saw we have our “looming government shutdowns.” Of course, some of these “poor” people have bigger teevee sets than some of the not-poor-people…and have generally more comfortable lifestyles…in some cases, even higher incomes! You have to be very careful when you use the word, or perceive the word, “poor” around liberals. For that reason, liberals often like to use the term “working families” to describe these people. But that breaks more linguistic things than it fixes, for very often “working families” do not consist of families at all, and much of the time nobody in these “families” is even working.

So it’s best to think of “poor people” and “working families” as liberal special-interest groups, and beneficiaries of those groups. People our liberals happen to like; people that liberals don’t think should be sharing in any pain, for any reason.

Therefore, to the best I can make out, to a liberal the word “economy” refers to the absence of discomfort or concern among these not-poor not-working not-family beneficiaries of liberal social movements. The standard of living enjoyed, or not enjoyed, by these elites determines how well “our economy” is doing. And — this next part is key — to hell with everybody else. That does pretty much frame it properly, does it not? Find any one of these people the liberals consider to be non-persons…the “bitter clingers” out there, who actually stand a chance of one day being profiled on Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs show. Describe some of the problems these folks might be having, to one of our modern-day liberals, and you’ll get nothing back in return save for a derisive sneer, a dismissive chuckle, and maybe a suggestion that the dumb schmuck should trade in his car. That goes double if the schmuck does something failing to meet with progressive approval. If, for example, said car sports a “McCain/Palin ’08” sticker. Or if the schmuck smokes tobacco, home-schools his kids, et cetera.

Now, here’s the problem. If the liberal definition of a “robust economy” or a “vibrant economy” is zero discomfort or worry among the not-poor not-working not-family people that our liberals call “poor working families,” how then do we know, according to the liberal worldview, that our economy is doing well? I presume we should be sending some of our ace reporters — you know, from those old-fashioned twentieth-century real-paper “newspapers” — out to gather some tearjerker sob stories to put on Page B1 of the local edition, otherwise known as the “whine about some lauded social program running out of money” page. And then, they would fail to find such a person because all the not-poor not-working not-family poor-working-family people are doing alright.

Problem One: That isn’t going to happen.

Problem Two: If ever it did happen, the old-fashioned twentieth-century birdcage-liner newspaper would run out of things to put on Page B1. Which means the newspaper would lose the commodity it has been selling. Which means circulation would start to take a tumble. And, since that is exactly what has already been happening…we need not speculate recklessly to figure out what happens next. The tumbling circulation becomes its own sob story. So the economy remains threadbare, slipshod, catawampus and gunnybags.

It’s kind of like a case of boy-who-cried-wolf. You can’t sound an alarm that something is in bad shape, if you aren’t capable of ever acknowledging it’s in good shape — no matter what.

Suppose I wanted to just get past that problem, but still perceive of “the economy” the way our liberals do, as a measure of standard-of-living among our “poor” people. In other words, take a look at whether they’re doing alright or not, and evaluate it in such a way that I’m able to acknowledge a good, fair or poor measurement of how well it’s doing. Well, that’s quite a contortion. But if I persist in it, guess what? Our “economy” is doing okay and has been for a very long time.

Among the ranks of our “poor” people, are people living in homes. Poor people wearing shoes that cost much more than my Nike Air Monarch III’s. Poor people who have very large teevees, and some games to hook up to those teevees. Not the old-fashioned ugly gray Xbox I have, that has all my software-engineer co-workers snickering at me when they see it. But the 360 models.

The five-word House of Eratosthenes Salute to the United States of America seems apropos here: Our poor people are fat. It was true the first time I said it, and it’s still true today. What an awesome, kick-ass country. How many thousands of years of various civilizations has this planet seen, whose jaws would drop in flabbergasted envy at such opulence they’d barely be able to comprehend it. Fat poor people!

But there is an equal & opposite, five-word curse to go with it, now: Our companies are not hiring. But you know, only our conservatives care about that. According to the liberal worldview, “the economy” is doing alright. The only reason our liberals can’t see it is, they are not wired to appreciate success even when it is realized according to the terms they themselves have codified. They are, by nature, high drama. Everything’s a crisis, all the time.

I really don’t understand how people can live like this. Perhaps that is my own unique weakness. But if it was, I would think our twentieth-century real-paper fish-wrap “newspapers” would be doing better. As it is, I expect to have to tell my grandchildren about them, maybe catch a glimpse of a Page B1 on the other side of a glass, in a museum. In other words, I expect those newspapers to become history before I do. And I’m no spring chicken.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Washington Rebel.

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