"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Corporatizing the Culture: Economic Metrics

Just a note for something I've been meaning to post for a while.

There's lots of news items now about how the Dow is cracking 12,000 and it's a record high, which is true. Many in left blogostan point out that means we're now just coming out of a six year slump (or in the case of the Nasdaq, still trying to claw our way back) which is also true.

Something I've heard very few people remark about is how stock indexes are totally shitty as a lone indicator of how "good" the economy is doing. Basically, it's the corporate equivalent to counting up the value of all your baseball cards.

Why isn't this a terribly good metric? Well, for one, it's a fantasy yardstick, entirely based on perceeved value. For two, it's relation to real wealth (how good folks are doing) only connects at the top end of the income spectrum. High stock values mean good ROI for your investment portfoloio. Oh, you don't have a portfolio? Funny, neither do I.

Which isn't to say that the DOW is meaningless, but as compared to, say, average wages, aggreagate totals of things produced, bought, sold, and mean/median household income, it's not terrifically indicative on how the economy is for American citizens.

This is one of the reasons I'm confused that Democrats don't hit back on the Bush/GOP line that "the economy is thriving." Stocks are up, yeah, but what the fuck does that really mean in terms of the kitchen table economy? Increasingly, not very much.


don't forget that the DOW also kicks stocks off, and pulls in others to "recalibrate" from time to time.

See, I read a lot of conservative news and web sites and they haven't been promulgating the idea that the DOW means the economy's stellar. Most of them have been harping on low unemployment, what there is of job creation, and the housing construction boom.

To counter those things you have to hit back with real wages. It's a bit of a damper to harp about job creation through the last election to now, then turn around when there are jobs and say it's not good enough, but it's true. It's great people have access to jobs, but what kind of jobs are they? How well are they paying? How many people who should be working in other fields are taking lower-paying jobs to pay the bills?

Kind of the situation I find myself in. I'm single and pulling in a modest salary, I do have a small portfolio I've built up over the last half-decade, and I can save, but I can't find a new job.

I realized that last paragraph sounds rather insensitive.

My point was simply this: I come from a middle-class family, I've supported myself since the age of 15, I have a college degree, years of experience, and relatively new connections.

While I have a job, what does the fact that I can't find a job more in line with those experiences say about people who didn't have what I started with and were unable to make the choices I am able to make?

I don't thing dow-centricism is a conservative or liberal thing; it's more a general consensus among the establishment and business media.

You're right on about wages though. There are state initiatives in a lot of places to raise the minimum (which is good), but it's still crap.

Low unemployment is also a cooked figure: it ignores people "out of the workforce." That is, those who have stopped looking for work. This number is revised a lot, and I'm not certain it's always done "scientifically."

Unemployment also doesn't take into account the 2.2 million citizens who are incarcerated.

The final point you make about being "unable to find a job in line w/your experience" also opens up a whole other can of worms called "quality of life," which isn't precisely economic, but it should be -- one would think at least to some extent -- the point of an economy, right? Yeah. Can of worms.