There is a silver lining to this economy, or the second gilded age as some have called it. There are several actually but all are being completely missed by the media, Obama and most employees around a water cooler.
The most important one is that this economy reduced the amount of work required. That’s right, less work is a good thing. The problem is that the system responds to this by slashing jobs.
When someone buys a dish washing machine, they don’t lament the loss of work washing dishes and go over to the neighbor’s to wash dishes there. They relax, put their feet up and turn on the boob tube. When the economy decides to do less, people start to run around with concern on their faces because the system requires that everyone still be employed the same amount. This is a psychosis. When a job is done early, you don’t undo it and redo it because you had a couple hours left, you’re done. You quit working.
The proper reaction in times like these is to reduce the work load across the entire economy and not dump it all on a few individuals by cutting their jobs. What is now a detriment to all, the few that lost their jobs and the rest that will see their benefits slashed, should actually be a benefit to everyone. If there is 10% less work, then the standard work week should become 36 hours. If there is 20% less work, then the new standard work week should be 32 hours. Need more flexibility? You can mandate more paid time off. The current standard is two weeks a year with 10 paid holidays but three weeks a year with the same holidays is a 2% reduction in work. There is a lot of flexibility in this method to match the loss of work appropriately.
This is not rocket science but the system pretends it is immutable to get the middle class to suffer through a recession or depression because the rich stand to gain from it. Employees will lose mightily in this recession while the poor will find it downright hard to survive. They will lose numerous benefits like 401k matching, health insurance, job security, paid time off benefits, wages, pensions if they still have them and so on. This is a huge windfall for corporations whether they are in fact cash strapped and need to make such cuts or not. Many companies who have the cash to weather the storm benefit from this economy by slashing employee benefits right along side those companies letting people go. This is a cruel reality as more and more employees dance around fewer and fewer chairs.
So who says that we have to work the same amount when there is a clear indicator that we don’t? The system does and it goes unquestioned.
There are other benefits to a contracting economy. It’s good for the environment because of reduced resource depletion and reduced pollution generation. It’s good for many markets because they find their balance. Does attaching an Italian name to a cup of joe really cost $4??? It’s also good for people who can afford to return to school to further their education.
It’s good ideologically, because it puts an end to the fallacy that has been solidly implanted in Americans that a capitalist democracy is the end point of human history. That this system is the pinnacle of human development as a civilization and all we have left to do is resolve some minor issues like the Middle East crisis. It brings into focus the unsustainable nature of systems like capitalism and fractional reserve banking.
This is not a cyclical recession but rather the onset of pain during a heart attack. If the system survives, then the very few at the top will be so much better off going into the next upturn. The problem with heart attacks however is that there’s a good chance of fatality and should you survive, you’re likely to suffer more heart attacks in the future. So the rich play their game until they kill the golden egg laying goose and the torches and pitchfoks come out.