Evan Soltas has a very important question to ask all of us out there in the internets, namely: “If austerity is so bad, why is the economy doing so well?” Now this is a very serious question, because all this time long-hairs and the like have been warning that cutting back government spending and raising taxes in order to bring down annual budget deficits (austerity) is a very big mistake in a period of economic downturn or fragile, sluggish recovery. Yet US America, such as, just went through a round of fairly significant tax increases and spending cuts, but the economy is just doing GRRRRRREAT! So what the hell, economy? What gives with you, man?
Oh, wait, I’m sorry, you say you’ve been so busy, between reading today’s classified “help wanted” ads and boiling yesterday’s classifieds into a semi-edible paste for lunch, that you hadn’t seen the news that the economy is super-awesome again? Well, give these people the good news, Evan! I’m just gonna bold a little part of your good news, if you don’t mind.
Here are some numbers that make you go “wow.” The S&P 500 has risen more than 25 percent over the last year. It’s risen more than 100 percent since President Obama was inaugurated.
Median wages, as you might have noticed, have not seen the same stunning recovery.
But wages might pick up soon. After all, most everything else is. Housing prices are rising faster than at any time since 2007. Autos are doing great. Consumer confidence just hit a five-year high. These aren’t just the kinds of numbers that foretell recovery. They’re the kinds of numbers that lead to recovery. A rising stock market doesn’t necessarily mean more jobs anytime soon. Rising housing prices and car sales almost certainly do.
See? You can put those classified ads down, man, because your S&P portfolio is probably through the roof, and you can always sell your stocks to pay the bills, just like “Mitt” and “Ann” Romney did!
But hey, there are other reasons to be happy, because other economic indicators that indicate good economic news for rich people are also up, too! Housing prices are up, and somebody is buying cars somewhere, and consumer confidence is at a five-year high, which, given the last five years, is really saying, ah, something! These things mean that more jobs are “almost certainly,” a heck of a phrase right there, on their way! Meanwhile the fact that we’ve still got seven-point-fucking-five-percent U3 unemployment and thirteen-point-holy-shit-nine-percent U6 unemployment, and the employment rate is fifty-goddamn-eight-point-six-percent (back in better times it was around 63%), shouldn’t bother anybody, because if you’re out of work or underemployed or dropped out of the labor force, and the stock thing doesn’t pan out, you can, probably, pay your bills with the promise of someday “almost certainly” having a job, possibly!
And median wages “might” pick up soon, because why not? Lots of numbers are picking up, so I’m sure there’s some math reason why other numbers are maybe going to start rising too! Sure, median income in the US today is basically where it was in 1990, and income inequality has been increasing since the 1980s, but that might all change soon. Or, the Ancient Aliens might finally decide to kill us all in the next year or so. Either way, looking good, right?
So it’s a bit of a mixed bag, no? Good times for the folks at the top, more heaping helpings of GFY for the rest of us. But, in fairness, it’s slightly less bad this year than it’s been since the crash, and slightly less bad than might have been expected given the sequestration cuts and the expiration of the high-end Bush tax cuts. But as Soltas himself says, the fact that it’s not as bad as some people thought it would be doesn’t mean that things wouldn’t be considerably better without the austerity (or that they won’t get worse in the second half of the year!), and better in ways that might actually benefit somebody other than the S&P class.