Productivity? What Productivity?
By James Donahue
There is an old saw stemming from Hitler's Nazi reign. Whether true or not, it
is commonly believed that Hitler once said that if you tell a big lie, and repeat it often enough, people will eventually
accept it as fact.
I have noticed with interest the various positive economic reports spewing from
the mouths of the talking heads on our television. Christmas sales in December, 2012 were “better than expected,”
and unemployment numbers are dropping. We hear of new businesses and factories opening their doors and hiring workers. We
are being told how retail sales are growing and people are starting to spend money once again.
The Labor Department in the US reported an increase in productivity in the manufacturing
sector of 2.8 percent in 2011, saying this reflects a 4.9 percent increase in output and a 2 percent increase in hours. “This
is the largest annual increase in manufacturing sector hours since a 2.3 percent gain in 1994,” the report said.
A mid-February unemployment report also casts a somewhat rosy picture depicting
positive job growth. The Labor Department statistics show that weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped 13,000
to a seasonally adjusted 348,000. The report said this was the fourth drop in five weeks and the fewest number of claims since
March, 2008, six months before Lehman Brothers collapsed and the nation fell into “the Great Recession.”
We have to wonder the origin of all of these statistics. If productivity actually
rose was the Labor Department counting the business done by foreign laborers at all of the American-based companies with factories
now located in Mexico, China and various other places where cheap labor is readily available?
While a few manufacturing plants are beginning to gear up for increased production,
and we are hearing stories of factories that are returning to the United States, progress has been slow. The shut-down plants
where we live are not humming. And there still are a lot of boarded up store fronts in the downtown shopping districts. The
second-hand and discount stores are doing a booming business as are the yard sales when weather permits.
The news reports say unemployment levels are dropping and everything is starting
to look rosy. I think that rosy look may be the Prozac talking. If the truth were known, the uncounted applicants
for unemployment probably dropped off the rolls and stopped looking.
In my Michigan neighborhood unemployment is peaking, food pantries are running
out of food and local factories and business places keep right on shutting their doors. Bankruptcies, sheriff's property sales
and bank foreclosures are going on all around us. There are more people moving in with relatives and friends for lack of anyplace
else to live. Homelessness is getting to be a problem where it never seemed to exist before.
Some of these homeless people are working, but they are earning such menial wage
on farms or fast food shops that they can't afford the rent that landlords continue to charge. Families are now bunched up,
living in vans parked behind churches or in county parks.
When I see this going on in Michigan, a normally productive state where most people
still share a work ethic, I know we are in trouble. And I find those rosy financial reports spewing from the Labor Department
only months before a contest for the next Presidential primary is kicked off, to be highly suspect.
One tried and proven trick has been to try to make the masses believe the good
times are back so they will get out the plastic credit cards and go to the mall. Because the economy is buoyed on
public faith, that would work if the people had real money and jobs to back up their cards. These factors,
however, are sadly lacking in most American homes this year. Other workers are worried about job and economic security
so they won't be tricked into debt spending either.
Hypothetically, when products are being made in China and Mexico, they should
be sold in China and Mexico. But since the people in these two countries aren't making enough money on the job to buy
the products, there seems to be a dilemma. Who, then, is left to buy anything?
The old tricks no longer work when so many people are out of work and in the streets.
This is why the occupy movement has grown like mushrooms all over the country.
One would think that all of this would be having a big impact on the presidential
campaign occurring in every state. But it seems that the rich people seeking that job are missing the point.
The candidates for that high office are instead more bent on using that
corporate PAC money to destroy each other’s reputations than they are willing to stand up and talk about the issues.
And the issues are jobs, housing and medicine. Nobody really cares that much about contraception, immigration or even the
national debt at this point. They just want life to get back to a level of normalcy.
We have watched President Obama make economic proposals that have appeared to
be good ideas for turning the nation back on track to prosperity, but he has been hampered by a gridlock in a House and Senate
that has blocked nearly every proposal from becoming a meaningful act of legislation.
Polls show that the public is not happy with our elected leadership. They are
not enthused about any of the Republican candidates fighting each other over who will stand up this fall against Mr. Obama’s
bid for a second term. With all of the corruption . . . so blatant that even the sold-out media cannot hide it . . . people
are waking up to the thought that we really have no choices on Election Day. We are being “set-up” to give the
corporate crooks even more power in Washington than they enjoyed in the past.