Gravity's Rainbow

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Full employment

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After years of hibernation, will the US economy rouse itself for a big comeback over the next couple of years? With an incoming Republican administration hellbent on reflating an economy already near full employment, and with promised trade restrictions driving up the price of import-competing goods, and with central-bank independence likely to come under attack, higher inflation – likely exceeding 3% at times – is a near-certainty. And output growth could surprise as well, possibly reaching 4%, at least temporarily. [emphasis mine]

Paragraphs like these are how Trump got elected. Paragraphs like these are a slap in the face to struggling people. I’m just going to talk about one part of it.

Full employment:

Millions of Americans in communities so economically devastated people don’t even dream of looking for work. Millions of Americans who want work and have given up on finding it. Millions of Americans working multiple jobs and still not making ends meet. Millions of Americans who want more hours and can’t get them. Millions of Americans dying of drug and alcohol abuse because their economic prospects are unbearably grim and their communities devastated.

An economics prof at Harvard wrote that paragraph with a straight face in The Guardian recently. I know he’s using full employment in the very technical and specific economics textbook sense. But even if you believe that model of the world in any way represents reality, to use the phrase full employment without even a nod to the vast gap between the literal meaning and the discipline-specific meaning and without any acknowledgement of the depth of suffering occurring under this “full employment” – it is cruel, it is ignorant, and it allows the very worst kind of political discourse to flourish.

 

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