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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

 
The Dow hit another record high yesterday. So where are all the jobs?

by David Atkins

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit another record high yesterday, closing at a nosebleed-worthy 15,680.35. This isn't exactly a surprise, given that corporate profits are at or near record highs and still growing strongly.

So where are all the jobs?

The entire economic battle between the left and right is about supply and demand. The right believes that if you boost the supply side the economy will grow and people will thrive. The left believes that the best way to economic prosperity is through boosting demand. The right says that if you cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy while cutting regulations, business will make more money which it can spend on investing in new products and new markets, thereby creating jobs. The left says that doing so will only put more money into the pockets of a few while generating no job growth, whereas boosting wages will grow middle-class consumer demand, thus creating the desire and capacity for new product purchases that companies will then deliver.

It's a simple debate. It's also one in which the media refuses to take sides, pretending that the answer is an elusive and ineffable mystery. This economic debate is considered a matter of opinion rather than of fact.

And yet, we have facts that are startlingly obvious and help us easily determine the victor in this battle of ideas.

It is a fact that taxes on the wealthy are at near historic lows, and that the share of the wealth controlled by the rich is at historic highs. It is a fact that corporate profits are at record highs, as is the stock market. Business, and big business in particular, is doing very, very well. Yet unemployment remains high, wages are stagnant, economic mobility is weak and the middle class is shrinking. Corporations are sitting on vast accumulated wealth, but are not investing that wealth in human capital that advances broad-based prosperity.

We do, on the other hand, have plenty of evidence that high levels of income inequality are very damaging to an economy. We have plenty of evidence that corporations are unwilling to invest in new products because they're not certain that consumers will be able to afford them. Moreover, we know that unemployment was lower and the nation more prosperous when taxes on the wealthy were higher, when regulations on Wall Street were more stringent, and when organized labor was more powerful.

The argument should by all rights be over. Much as in other areas of scientific debate, conservatives have plainly lost this argument in the realm of fact, and have resorted to restating ideological opinions in the hope that repetition will become accepted truth.

The difference is that the media have finally begun to accept and report that climate change and evolution are incontrovertible facts, while Young Earth creationism and climate denialism are fiction undeserving of publication.

The same standard should be applied to the obvious fiction of supply-side economics. Record profits, record stock values and record inequality coupled with high unemployment should end the argument among serious thinkers and objective analysts once and for all.


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