Friday, November 18, 2011

"The Future of Work"

From Charles Hugh Smith writing at
A growing number of workers are becoming increasingly concerned about the future viability of their jobs (if they have them) and, in many cases, that of their professions. Looking at a future increasingly defined by slower economic growth and higher energy costs, many are asking,
What is the future of work?
Given the "recovery’s" stagnant job market and the economy’s slide into renewed contraction, it’s a timely question. To answer it, we must first ask, What is the future of the U.S. economy?
In broad brush, the Powers That Be have gone "all in" on a bet that this recession is no different than past post-war recessions. All we need to do to get through this “rough patch” is borrow and spend money at the Federal level, and the household and business sectors will soon recover their desire and ability to borrow more and spend it all on one thing or another. We don’t really care what or how, because all spending adds up into gross domestic product (GDP).
In other words, we're going to “grow our way” out of stagnation and over-indebtedness, just as we’ve done for the past fifty years.
Unfortunately, this diagnosis is flat-out wrong. This is not just another post-war recession, and so the treatment—lowering interest rates to zero and flooding the economy with borrowed money and liquidity—isn’t working. In fact, it’s making the patient sicker by the day.
The best way to eliminate the signal noise of official propaganda (“The stock market is rising, so everything’s great for everyone!” etc.) and the high keening wails of Keynesian cargo cultists is to construct a model of the underlying fundamental forces that will shape the future.
The best way to do that is to glance at a few key charts.
Let’s start with debt. Clearly, the “growth” of the U.S. economy since 1980 is debt-based. Debt has exceeded growth by 136%. If debt had risen in tandem with GDP, then total debt would be a mere $22 trillion instead of $52 trillion.
The next chart reflects how every incremental increase in debt has had a diminishing effect on growth. Where $1 of debt once added 70 cents to GDP, now it adds basically nothing, or even reduces GDP.
We hear a lot of euphoric babble about households "deleveraging;" that is, paying down debt and thus setting the stage for the next ramp-up of household debt. But the reality is not quite so euphoric....MORE