Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What's the purpose of an economy? A 2012 reminder what "a recovery" means in the lives of real people.

In October 2009 post here, a question was raised was: "What's the purpose of an economy?"

As I review headlines in the news media, it's obvious that the typical reporter covering the economy doesn't ask that question. And as I read the headlines in the news media, it's obvious that California's politicians don't ask that question.

To review, in that post I offered two different perspectives on the "purpose" of an economy. The first perspective is that of most 21st Century economists and international corporations.

It is about statistical data related to something called "productivity" measured in terms of computers recording data, data that could be about the production of food for people.

But it could be and, in the economic data we see reported, is frequently about robots that produce more robots designed to produce robots creating income for corporations retained in the bank accounts those corporations. The benefits of productivity are quantified only in the sense that electronic numbers representing value transfer between the producer and the entity receiving the product are acknowledged. In an obvious sense today, everything that the economists measure are really the results of computers exchanging data.

The other perspective is data about how well the economy is servicing the general populace as they attempt to meet their material needs. This can be found in statistics examining how well the economy is distributing among the people the resources necessary to acquire food, clothing, housing, health care, and education.

The following graph is a reminder that here in California, while The Great California Slump appears to have bottomed out, we are nowhere near a recovery if the purpose of an economy is to provide our people with income needed for food, clothing, housing, health care, and education.

It's nice that new unemployment claims are down. It's nice that the number of foreclosures is down. It's nice that as reported per capita personal income in California "grew at the fastest rate in five years during 2011" and is now only 4.75% below 2007, though we know it that income is distributed less equitably than in 2007.

Let's just not forget that we have a 1.4+ million job recovery gap and are not likely to see that number change significantly in this decade.

While The Great California Slump has bottomed out, it is not over, our economy has not recovered. As I wrote here in a previous post:
...The goal of our California grandfathers and fathers as reflected by the writings of Steinbeck and the speeches of Pat Brown were being achieved in the 30-year period from 1950-1980. In the next 30 years, 1980-2010, there has been a slow, but systematic decline in access to the middle class, culminating in the effects of The Great California Slump which I now believe will be the period from November 2007 through late-2017.
We are in the era created by Jerry Brown and his generation, not in the era created by Pat Brown and The Greatest Generation.

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