Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What have we learned from the great recession?

Sen. Debbie Regala from Tacoma asked the question in a Senate Democratic caucus meeting late in the session. What can we say that we have really learned from this great recession ? What are we going to do differently because we are living through this? We can we take away from this that will make us a better people?

That's a tough question. No one answered the question that day. We should know that things will be different when we emerge. But do we we know what is actually changing and do we have influence on it?

In the 1980-82 recession economic game changed entirely. At that time, our old economy transitioned to the new economy as our large mass production economy teetering under high operating costs and declining productivity floundered. After the recession, companies laid off a lot of workers and lowered their pay scale to save costs. They reinvested in new capital equipment that raised productivity on new scale through investments in electronics and information technology and that started to rebuilt America's competitiveness which had lost ground to the more productive Europeans and the Japanese in the previous decade.

This helped our economy emerge from the downturn but kept wages down for another decade or so and unemployed high for another three years. For the next decade productivity increased but wages did not and money moved from labor to capital on a massive scale.

This time are we on the other end of the scale? Does the now 25 years of a casino economy that rewarded handsomely risk taking and even greed now take a turn towards a more equitable society. Does the next round of productivity and growth come from investments in the green economy? Or do we begin to focus on family prosperity and stability over risk taking and high growth?

Definitely worth thinking about.

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