Redefining Recession

There just isn’t enough 40-hours a week work to go around.

The Wall Street Journal quoted the Fed Chairman today:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday that the recession was “very likely over,” as consumers showed some of the first tangible signs of spending again.

Ben–not here. Not that I can see.

There is a great disconnect between the conventional standards for judging economic conditions and our current economic condition. What Bernanke said might be true, but it’s meaningless. We need to change what we measure. GDP misses today’s America.

We also need to come to grips with the new reality–in many cases machines are cheaper than and better able to perform jobs than people. It’s happening in my business. We’re not alone.

There are jobs people did when I was growing up that just don’t exist anymore, or don’t exist at the same level of pay.

Sadly, the benefits of labor saving devices have mainly been reaped by business owners who happily do more with less. Maybe it’s time to redefine our thoughts on what a full work week is and re-align our tax structure to discourage businesses that produce profit without producing a product.

Wikipedia: The eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement, also known as the short-time movement, had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories transformed working life and imposed long hours and poor working conditions. With working conditions unregulated, the health, welfare and morale of working people suffered. The use of child labour was common. The working day could range from 10 to 16 hours for six days a week.

Here in the U.S. the 40-hour week didn’t gain any traction until the mid-1800s. Then, as now, more modern processes and tools had greatly increased productivity. It happened before. It can happen again.

There just isn’t enough 40-hours a week work to go around. I can’t see how there ever will be again.

I’m With Al On This

Former Vice President Al Gore is on the stump, promoting his new book, “Assault on Reason.” One of his points, something I agree with&#185, is the marginalization of elections, treating them like horse races or beauty contests.

Here’s what TVNewser wrote about Gore’s appearance on Good Morning America.

After promising to “dig deeper” later, in an as-yet-unaired segment, Sawyer looked off-camera and said “to dig not very deep, at my peril here, I just want to say one more time. Donna Brazille, your former campaign manager, says ‘if he drops 25 to 30 pounds, he’s running.’ Lost any weight?”

Gore laughed heartily. “I think millions of Americans are in the same struggle I am on that one,” he responded. “But listen to your questions. The horserace, the cosmetic parts of this — look, that’s all understandable and natural. But while we’re focused on Britney and K-fed and Anna Nicole Smith and all this stuff, meanwhile, very quietly, our country has been making some very serious mistakes that could be avoided if we, the people, including the news media, are involved in a full and vigorous discussion of what our choices are.”

When I first wrote about this back in Janurary, I quoted Ann Coulter. Now Al Gore. Could there be stranger bedfellows? Yet they’re on the same page here.

Looking at polls, statistics and Al Gore’s weight are simple – but that’s not reporting. That’s not news. It’s really ‘newsroom helper’… a way to fill more space with less product. And, it’s a disservice to all of us.

No matter what the election, our decisions are important. There are matters of taxes, the environment, even war and peace.

The horse race element just takes our attention off the real issues and makes the whole thing superficial. It does us all a disservice.

&#185 – As you probably know, Al and I part company on An Inconvenient Truth.