Just how messed up is our economy?

John Ransom says that our economy is so messed up that economists don’t even have tools to describe what is happening:

To give you an idea how bad the jobs report released on Friday is, consider this fact: The employment situation in the country is so bad that economists can’t accurately measure it with the existing tools they use to measure jobs. In other words, we have entered a period in our country not contemplated by economists. They simply don’t have the tools to measure what’s actually occurring in the jobs market.

Modern economists never imagined a scenario in which a country with as much wealth, power and innovation as United States could stretch out a jobs recession as long as the country has under Obama. . . .

We have a record amount of money in the system doing a record amount of nothing right now. And still the government policy wonks keep thinking that by injecting more money into a system already over-burdened by its money supply we will eventually get different results. . . .

The result is that investors today are still buying US Treasuries despite the fact that after calculating for the real inflation rate Treasury bonds are delivering net negative returns. In other words, investors choose to park money someplace where they are guaranteed to lose money. Because with Treasuries at least they know that their losses will be limited. If they invest in expanding businesses, they know they could lose their entire vig to the G-Men.

This phenomenon, where investors would rather have losses than any risk, has an effect on jobs.

As most of the commentariat is noting, the top-line unemployment number- the one that makes all the headlines- is going down not because of an improving jobs market, but rather because people are dropping out of the workforce at a record pace.

The 8.1 percent unemployment number is meaningless. It actually doesn’t exist. It’s like measuring an 8 foot board with a 12 inch ruler. Shortening the ruler doesn’t make the board smaller.

The rate at which Americans are participating in the jobs market is now 63.5 percent. More than one-third of Americans qualified to work have despaired of ever finding a job under Obama. That’s the highest number of Americans who have sat on the sidelines rather than look for work since 1981. For over a year the workforce participation rates have plunged, coinciding with expiring unemployment benefits.

And the problem is not that there is a lack of money in the system to sustain the economy. But there is a notable lack of demand. Demand comes from confidence that consumers and business feel about the health of the economy. Unlike politicians, those of us in the real world can’t spend what we don’t have. We have to manage our lives using the cash that we actually have at hand.

The problem here is not that businesses and banks don’t have money. Currently the money supply (MZM) stands at a record $11 trillion. Yet the velocity at which the money has moved through the system has plunged under Obama. Money is sitting in accounts, not contributing to GDP growth, but rather just chasing the price of hard assets up because people who make decisions fear that the worst in the economy is yet to come.

Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley, TARP, public pensions, John Corzine, Solydnra and the UAW have done a fantastic job of muddying the waters for corporate America as well as small business owners and the self-employed.

These hostile acts taken by or on behalf of Big Government have our economy idling in place.

Economic conditions are so bad that the standard tools used by economists to explain current conditions can’t measure the depth of the peoples’- or the economy’s- depression. Jimmy Carter had the Misery Index. People, meet the President of the United States: Barack Hussien Obama.

The Obama Index is the new index for measuring our despair.

via The Obama Index: The Newest Index to Measure Our Despair – John Ransom – Townhall Finance Conservative Columnists and Financial Commentary.

Cardinal Dolan’s prayer for the Democrats

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, gave the closing prayer at the Republican convention, so, in an act of political balance, agreed to give the closing prayer at the Democratic convention also.  But look what he said!

We beseech you, almighty God to shed your grace on this noble experiment in ordered liberty, which began with the confident assertion of inalienable rights bestowed upon us by you: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thus do we praise you for the gift of life. Grant us the courage to defend it, life, without which no other rights are secure. We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected. Strengthen our sick and our elders waiting to see your holy face at life’s end, that they may be accompanied by true compassion and cherished with the dignity due those who are infirm and fragile.

We praise and thank you for the gift of liberty. May this land of the free never lack those brave enough to defend our basic freedoms. Renew in all our people a profound respect for religious liberty: the first, most cherished freedom bequeathed upon us at our Founding. May our liberty be in harmony with truth; freedom ordered in goodness and justice. Help us live our freedom in faith, hope, and love. Make us ever-grateful for those who, for over two centuries, have given their lives in freedom’s defense; we commend their noble souls to your eternal care, as even now we beg the protection of your mighty arm upon our men and women in uniform.

We praise and thank you for granting us the life and the liberty by which we can pursue happiness. Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God. Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.

See the whole text of his prayer here:   Cardinal Dolan Admonishes Democrats on Abortion, Religious Liberty | LifeNews.com.

Pro-life, pro-religious liberty (alluding to the controversy about mandated birth control and abortifacient coverage, which he has been crusading against), anti-moral relativism, anti-remaking institutions (as in gay marriage)!

Cardinal Dolan is a jovial guy, as I remember when he was Archbishop of Milwaukee.  (I actually met him.  Interesting fact:  He is the brother of Bob Dolen, a comical radio talk show host in that fair city.)  But what a strong and fearless witness, rebuke, and prayer for repentance.

Why they cheat at Harvard

Harvard University is currently being torn by a cheating scandal.  It was discovered that nearly half of the 250 undergraduates in a course called “Introduction to Congress” cheated on a final exam.  Why would so many of the nation’s ostensible best and brightest at American’s most elite university do that?  Harvard professor Howard Gardner has been studying his students and offers some explanations:

Over and over again, students told us that they admired good work and wanted to be good workers. But they also told us they wanted — ardently — to be successful. They feared that their peers were cutting corners and that if they themselves behaved ethically, they would be bested. And so, they told us in effect, “Let us cut corners now and one day, when we have achieved fame and fortune, we’ll be good workers and set a good example.” A classic case of the ends justify the means.

We were so concerned by the results that, for the past six years, we have conducted reflection sessions at elite colleges, including Harvard. Again, we have found the students to be articulate, thoughtful, even lovable. Yet over and over again, we have also found hollowness at the core.

Two examples: In discussing the firing of a dean who lied about her academic qualifications, no student supported the firing. The most common responses were “She’s doing a good job, what’s the problem?” and “Everyone lies on their résumé.” In a discussion of the documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” students were asked what they thought of the company traders who manipulated the price of energy. No student condemned the traders; responses varied from caveat emptor to saying it’s the job of the governor or the state assembly to monitor the situation.

One clue to the troubling state of affairs came from a Harvard classmate who asked me: “Howard, don’t you realize that Harvard has always been primarily about one thing — success?” The students admitted to Harvard these days have watched their every step, lest they fail in their goal of admission to an elite school. But once admitted, they begin to look for new goals, and being a successful scholar is usually not high on the list. What is admired is success on Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood — a lavish lifestyle that, among other things, allows you to support your alma mater and get the recognition that follows.

As for those students who do have the scholarly bent, all too often they see professors cut corners — in their class attendance, their attention to student work and, most flagrantly, their use of others to do research. Most embarrassingly, when professors are caught — whether in financial misdealings or even plagiarizing others’ work — there are frequently no clear punishments. If punishments ensue, they are kept quiet, and no one learns the lessons that need to be learned.

Whatever happens to those guilty of cheating, many admirable people are likely to be tarred by their association with Harvard.

via When ambition trumps ethics – The Washington Post.

In other words, the students, while bright, have no sense of vocation, don’t believe in objective morality, believe the end justifies the means, and are fanatically ambitious in a materialistic, self-aggrandizing kind of way.

Progressivism and college football

George Will reviews The Rise of Gridiron University: Higher Education’s Uneasy Alliance with Big-Time Football by Brian M. Ingrassia, in which we learn that big-time intercollegiate football grew out of progressivism and its vision for higher education:

Higher education embraced athletics in the first half of the 19th century, when most colleges were denominational and most instruction was considered mental and moral preparation for a small minority — clergy and other professionals. Physical education had nothing to do with spectator sports entertaining people from outside the campus community. Rather, it was individual fitness — especially gymnastics — for the moral and pedagogic purposes of muscular Christianity — mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body.

The collective activity of team sports came after a great collective exertion, the Civil War, and two great social changes, urbanization and industrialization. . . . .

Intercollegiate football began when Rutgers played Princeton in 1869, four years after Appomattox. In 1878, one of Princeton’s two undergraduate student managers was Thomas — he was called Tommy — Woodrow Wilson. For the rest of the 19th century, football appealed as a venue for valor for collegians whose fathers’ venues had been battlefields. Stephen Crane, author of the Civil War novel “The Red Badge of Courage” (1895) — the badge was a wound — said: “Of course, I have never been in a battle, but I believe that I got my sense of the rage of conflict on the football field.”

Harvard philosopher William James then spoke of society finding new sources of discipline and inspiration in “the moral equivalent of war.” Society found football, which like war required the subordination of the individual, and which would relieve the supposed monotony of workers enmeshed in mass production.

College football became a national phenomenon because it supposedly served the values of progressivism, in two ways. It exemplified specialization, expertise and scientific management. And it would reconcile the public to the transformation of universities, especially public universities, into something progressivism desired but the public found alien. Replicating industrialism’s division of labor, universities introduced the fragmentation of the old curriculum of moral instruction into increasingly specialized and arcane disciplines. These included the recently founded social sciences — economics, sociology, political science — that were supposed to supply progressive governments with the expertise to manage the complexities of the modern economy and the simplicities of the uninstructed masses. [Read more…]

Obama as Messiah

The cult of Obama is back.  A big-selling (but non-official) calendar at the Democratic National Convention includes this photo of President Obama’s birth certificate, along with the title “Heaven Sent.”  Then it applies John 3:16 as if it were referring to Barack Obama!

photo (13)

From Slate:  DNC 2012: Still Kitschin’.

Compare with the divinization of  Obama in his first campaign.

I’m not blaming the president for this.  It’s just a stark example of how people with a religious void will sometimes turn to charismatic human beings to fill it.   Consider the religious devotion–the shrines, the reliquaries, the pilgrimages, the raptures–that some people have for Elvis Presley.   But to divinize a ruler is especially dangerous since the worshiper accepts the unlimited power and the immunity from moral limits in the adoration of this earthly god.  Christians were persecuted in the early church precisely for refusing to burn incense to the divinized emperor.  Don’t be surprised if that becomes an issue again.  Cultures can’t stay godless for long, but the god they turn to, by nature, will tend to be a cultural god.

Progressivism and omnipotent government

In line with the “Obama as Messiah” post, here is another example of secularism turning into paganism.  Godless people, trying to fill the void, can also invest the state with divine power and authority.  Drawing on Charles R. Kesler’s I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism, George Will shows that progressive politics, from the beginning, has an intrinsic connection to the belief in unlimited government power that can then solve all problems:

Progress, as progressives understand it, means advancing away from, up from, something. But from what?

From the Constitution’s constricting anachronisms. In 1912, Wilson said, “The history of liberty is the history of the limitation of governmental power.” But as Kesler notes, Wilson never said the future of liberty consisted of such limitation.

Instead, he said, “every means . . . by which society may be perfected through the instrumentality of government” should be used so that “individual rights can be fitly adjusted and harmonized with public duties.” Rights “adjusted and harmonized” by government necessarily are defined and apportioned by it. Wilson, the first transformative progressive, called this the “New Freedom.” The old kind was the Founders’ kind — government existing to “secure” natural rights (see the Declaration) that preexist government. Wilson thought this had become an impediment to progress. The pedigree of Obama’s thought runs straight to Wilson.

And through the second transformative progressive, Franklin Roosevelt, who counseled against the Founders’ sober practicality and fear of government power: “We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal” and are making government “an instrument of unimagined power” for social improvement. The only thing we have to fear is fear of a government of unimagined power:

“Government is a relation of give and take.” The “rulers” — FDR’s word — take power from the people, who in turn are given “certain rights.”

This, says Kesler, is “the First Law of Big Government: the more power we give the government, the more rights it will give us.” It also is the ultimate American radicalism, striking at the roots of the American regime, the doctrine of natural rights. . . . [Read more…]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X