What's holding back the U.S. economy?
What ails the economy, various wise men tell us, is that we're not innovating like we used to. Personal computers and the Internet may look like a big deal, but their impact on our lives - and incomes - pales alongside the effect that electric power, the automobile and the airplane had on our 20th-century forebears. Much as onetime California Angels manager Lefty Phillips said of some overhyped rookies, "Our phenoms ain't phenominating."
Business Is Booming
America's leading corporations have found a way to thrive even if the American economy doesn't recover. This is very, very bad news.
When he was CEO of General Electric, in 1998, Jack Welch pithily summarized his vision for corporate America: "Ideally, you'd have every plant you own on a barge to move with currencies and changes in the economy."
Since then, corporations have discovered that they don't need barges in order to unmoor themselves from the American economy. As corporate profits skyrocket, even as the economy remains stalled in a deep recession, Americans confront a grim new reality: Our corporations don't need us anymore. Half their revenues come from abroad. Their products, increasingly, come from abroad as well.
Obama's economic proposals: Okay, as far as they go
America, President Obama emphasized in his State of the Union address, must really be open for business. It must create growing markets for the alternative energy industry. It must generate more scientists and engineers. It must build high-speed rail and Internet to compete with other nations'. It must adjust corporate taxes so they're more in line with our global competitors'.
Murdoch's Fox propagandists, degrading journalism
Amid the recent hubbub over the violent and paranoid rhetoric that stems from much of the American right, one name has been conspicuously absent. We've heard a great deal about Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly - the usual suspects. We've heard very little about the man who employs many of them for his financial and political gain: Rupert Murdoch.
Most coverage of Murdoch for the past couple weeks, in fact, suggests a very different story. The Good Rupert has been hard at work with Apple's Steve Jobs developing a digital newspaper, to be called the Daily, for the iPad. Veteran journalists have been hired. For a modest fee, reports the New York Times, readers will be able to subscribe and have the Daily pop up on their iPad tablets every morning.
Dangerous outcomes from a culture of paranoia
Last October, Glenn Beck was musing on his radio show about the prospect of the government seizing his children if he didn't give them flu vaccines. "You want to take my kids because of that?" he said. "Meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson."
Last April, Erick Erickson, the managing editor of the right-wing RedState blog and a CNN commentator, was questioning the legality of the Census Bureau's American Community Survey on a radio show. "We have become, or are becoming, enslaved by the government. . . . I dare 'em to try to come to throw me in jail. I dare 'em to. [I'll] pull out my wife's shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door."
Corporate America, paving a downward economic slide
The city on a hill and the last, best hope of mankind has entered a new period in its history. We are now America, the downwardly mobile.
The problem isn't due to the recession. Would that it were. The decade just concluded is the first in which Americans, on average, have seen their incomes decline. Median household income increased by about $4,000 per decade in the 1980s and '90s: from $42,429 in 1980 to $46,049 in 1990 to $50,557 in 2000 (in 2007 dollars). In 2009, the most recent year for which we have figures, it had declined to $49,777 - but 2009, of course, was a year of deep recession. If we go back to the peak year of the last decade, 2007, we find that median household income was just $50,233- roughly $300 less than it had been in 2000.