Thursday, December 18, 2008

Feeding the Economic Food Chain

by Dick Mac

Robert Pollin is an economist at the University of Massachusetts. He is quickly becoming my favorite economist, the pin-up boy of my economic dreams, if you will.

Though I have never studied economics, I have lived as an adult through the United States shaping its economic structure around the notions of supply-side theory, and I have watched my country plummet into moral, social, and economic decay because of it.

Though I know little about the actual theories and disciplines of economics, Pollin's ideas seem very different from the supply-side apologists who have been "in charge" of the American economy for the past 28 years. The economists who gave us "trickle-down" and the current bail-out for the privileged. (Face it, America, that trillion dollars is going to be given to people who plan to lay-off huge chunks of their workforce and slash wages and benefits for all of us.)

Writing in The Nation earlier this year, Pollin offered:

Recessions create widespread human suffering. Minimizing the suffering has to be the top priority in fighting the recession. . . . By stabilizing the pocketbooks of distressed households, these measures also help people pay their mortgages and pump money into consumer markets.

The most recent edition of The Nation uses that quote in their editorial Stimulus From Below, where they offer that we must help those at the bottom while we help those at the top. The editorial concludes:

This is why increased food stamp benefits, rental assistance and aid to state governments must be at the heart of any stimulus package. Extending unemployment benefits -- which fewer than 40 percent of the unemployed now receive -- to laid-off low-wage and part-time workers would provide an immediate jolt to the economy. We understand why it's smart politics to pitch all economic policy in terms of the middles class: the poor, as they say, will always be with us. But if the economy continues to deteriorate, the poor won't just be with us, they will be us. And they'll be much harder to ignore.

So, as we pump a trillion dollars to the people at the top of the economic food-chain (as supply-side theory insists we do), it is of vital importance that we begin to pump some money into the bottom of the economic food-chain. The economy cannot stabilize if only the "haves" are protected, while the "have-nots" are left to fend for themselves.

Dick Mac Recommends:

A Measure of Fairness
Robert Pollin, et al.

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