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August 11, 2010

First It Was Funemployment, Now It's A "Recession With Benefits"

JWF catches the NYT pitifully spinning for the Great Recession's silver lining yet again.

But since this recent recession began in December 2007, real average hourly pay has risen nearly 5 percent. Some employers, especially state and local governments, have cut wages. But many more employers have continued to increase pay.

Something similar happened during the Great Depression, notes Bruce Judson of the Yale School of Management. Falling prices meant that workers who held their jobs received a surprisingly strong effective pay raise.

Um, hello? This is true of every single depression or recession. Those who have jobs of course actually see their buying power increase, not decrease, because prices get slashed as goods go wanting for buyers.

I am really trying to note a basic economic point here: This is always true, and always has been true, since the beginning of anything resembling an "economy."

In college, my economics-major friend noted this when I mentioned a recession, saying that a recession helped some people: In his inartful, blunt words, "A recession is great, if you have a job."

So this has been true since the dawn of time. Of course it must be true. But we never say a recession is a good thing, because those with jobs (most of the population, even during a depression) may experience greater real buying power. We say it's a bad thing, because a significant fraction of our workers are out of work and in economic crisis and may soon see their homes taken away and all other calamities.

Yes, it's true, even in a bad recession, 80% of the workforce is still working, and for them, the recession's not really all that horrible, except for the stress and worry that they'll be the next laid off, and their concern for friends and family who are out of money.

But while they have their job, it's not too bad for them.

But again, what makes a recession a recession is the economic pain borne by the 20% out of work, or working part-time when they want full-time work.

Until now. Until Obama needed a silver lining to an economic crisis. And at the moment of his need, the New York Times suddenly discovers that a recession can be totally awesome for those few who retain their jobs.


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posted by Ace at 02:39 PM

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