Saturday, March 05, 2011

News about jobs unveils America´s real religion

Every month at about this time, just a day before the Bureau of Labor Statistics unveils what it calls "The Employment Situation," we have a friendly office pool (we each bet 25 cents) on the unemployment rate and the net employment gain or loss figure. As a glass-half-empty kind of guy, I won a few of these bets when we were in what Paul Krugman calls the "oh-God-we’re-all-gonna-die period" of the recession, but I've been losing steadily as things get better.

I thought we'd hear 9.3 percent unemployment last Friday (March 4). It was 8.9 percent.

I didn't reveal any of this in my professional reporting (my job is to write "just the facts, ma'am"), but I did note how folks were cheering a 0.1 percentage point decline from 9.0 percent -- which most people don't know is not statistically significant.

A whoop also went up for the net 192,000 jobs added to the economy in February 2011 (I'd bet 50,000) -- even though one group calculated that even at that lofty rate the labor force won't get back to pre-recession levels until 2019 .

Never mind the details. The net job gain was announced with the words "job creation" in the press. These words go to the heart of this post.

If you believe the economic mythology of most major newspapers -- even the Wall Street Journal, which knows better, indulges in it -- new jobs are "created" every time this sort of things happens.

Way back when John F. Kennedy was a senator running for president, Sister Catherine Agnes had something to say about this -- and it still resonates with me today, even as an agnostic: the only being who makes something out of nothing (e.g., creates) is the one we humans call God, Allah, etc., whose existence I, of course, seriously question. Yet here are the major newspapers telling us that someone -- "employers" -- creates jobs, not in heaven, but right here in our own back yard.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph and all the saints and angels! (Sister's curse.)

This lauded economic Creator is also called an entrepreneur, a venture capitalist, an investor ... whatever. He (it's usually still a he) inhabits the pantheon of the real religion of the United States, which is not Christianity (sorry, Religious Right), but ... drum roll ... the worship of Money, Wealth, and all the Power and Sex it can get you.

Just a thought to ponder as you rush to encourage the Creator by spending your cash as fast as you get it to fuel the economy.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

People march (or revolt) on their stomachs, too!

The Muslim world's dictators, kings, sheiks and other potentates are falling like dominoes not because of some CIA plot by Western infidels (as Libya's unspellable tyrant alleges), but because food prices have risen dramatically. In countries in which food is a large part of the consumer basket of goods, such as in the Arab world, this spells hunger.

We all know that “Let them eat cakes!” is a recipe for a bad end. The last person reputed to have said such a thing of her starving subjects, French Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI, was executed in 1793.

The reality today is that people in poorer countries today are facing acute hunger and starvation. According to the World Bank, global food prices have risen an average 29 percent between January 2010 and January 2011. Before that, prices were just 3 percent down from a historical peak in 2008.

“Based on a very rough analysis, we estimate that a doubling of food prices over the last three years could potentially push 100 million people in low-income countries deeper into poverty,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick declared recently. “This is not just a question of short-term needs, as important as those are; this is ensuring that future generations don’t pay a price too.”

Food prices leading to inability to satisfy hunger is the phantom at the barricades in Tunis, Cairo, Tripoli, Teheran and Amman — not Thomas Jefferson, not Osama bin Laden and certainly not CIA Director Leon Panetta.