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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, the people will eventually accept it as fact.
I noticed with interest the recent prediction by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, in a "strongly improved performance" not only in Europe, but the United States and Japan in the latter part of this year.
In the US, the Labor Department reported a 5.7 percent rise in productivity (the amount an employee produces per hour of work) in the April to June quarter, a drop in applications for jobless benefits by about 3,000, and an unexpected surge in purchasing at major retail stores.
I have to wonder where these numbers came from. If productivity actually rose did they count 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?
The plants certainly are not humming on the home front. Nor are local retail stores other than the discount places that salvage goods from fire and liquidation sales and pass on the savings to customers.
The report said unemployment levels dropped during the last quarter and everything is starting to look rosy.  I think that rosy look may be the Prozac talking. Or maybe somebody in the Labor Department is actually wearing rose colored glasses. If the truth were known, those 3,000 uncounted applicants for unemployment probably dropped off the rolls and stopped looking.
In my Michigan neighborhood unemployment is peaking at an all-time high of over 12 percent, twice the "official" national figure, as factories and business places keep right on shutting their doors. Bankruptcies, sheriff's property sales and bank foreclosures are going on all around me. There are more and 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 for 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. We have a special new office created in my county to try to seek out the homeless and make attempts to help them.
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.
Mr. Bush is doing a lot of jockeying these days to get himself assured of a second term in office. His biggest problems will be the high unemployment rate and the wars that won't quiet down.
While Bush can't do much to stop a guerilla war raging against our troops in the fields, streets and rocks of Iraq and Afghanistan, he can do a few things to cover up the bad economic times.
One tried and proven trick is 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 might be sadly lacking in many 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?
How does Mr. Bush wiggle out of this looming economic impasse?
While I don't think George is bright enough to figure it out, he has economic and political advisors at his side who are. We should expect a lot of double-speak, twisted facts and just plain lies between now and Election Day. They generally call it smoke and mirrors in political circles. They will use a lot of tricks to make problems appear to go away when they really don't.
After the election, look out. It is my contention that the U.S. will be in big trouble by then, no matter who gains the White House.

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