Friday, January 16, 2009
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Official unemployment in the US has surpassed the 10 million mark and according to some estimates it is on its way to 12 million. As any student of economics knows, or should know, the official publicized figures of unemployment understate the real number by a wide margin. If one is to add the number of the discouraged workers and those that are forced to work part time then what we get is an unemployment rate that is easily in the low double digits. And that is scary.
What makes the current situation even worse is the fact that no one can yet point to any encouraging signs of a potential turn around. Most prognosticators do not expect a meaningful pick up in economic activity until the third quarter of 2009 at the earliest. Unfortunately these tough economic circumstances of economic contraction, decreasing employment, plummeting prices in the housing sector, frozen credit markets and low consumer confidence have spread to most countries. This is an especially ominous development because there are no players that can pick up the slack ,if you will.
It goes without saying that the above mentioned harsh economic conditions are being felt by all members of society. This high level of anxiety and unease are reflected in practically all fields. New all-time lows are being recorded almost on a daily basis in the housing industry, financial transactions on Wall Street, the volume of steel production, the sales volume in electronics or that of new cars, to name just a few major areas.
The current administration has already taken a number of major initiatives to steady the financial hemorrhaging and the incoming Obama-led team has already prepared a massive stimulus package whose aim is to revive the economy and create new jobs. The question that I would like to raise at this juncture is simply this: Does each of us as an individual consumer bear a special responsibility towards other members of the community that are less fortunate than we are? I am not talking about donations of food , old clothing and battered furniture. In a market economy our values and mores are being constantly revealed through our allocation of income i.e. through our consumption decisions. Now let me ask you this: How sincere is your concern for your fellow automotive worker when you decide to purchase a vehicle; that is of comparable size and quality as that made in the US; but that was built by say French labor? Are your concerns for the rubber workers genuine when you proceed to buy tires made in Germany? Do you really have the right to complain about low wages when you persist in giving most of your business to those retailers and manufacturers that abuse their labor? Should you have the right to make an issue of government deficits when you willingly under report your income or fail to report a barter transaction? Does any one have the right to raise a raucous about global warming if one happens to live in a 4000SF home; drive 15,000 miles a year;go skiing across the Atlantic ; own large flat screen TV sets in addition to a large variety of electronic gear. Is it fair to rely on government and the sacrifice of others in order to resolve a problem that each of us has helped create?