Out of Touch with Middle-Class America

I find it disturbing that there has been so much commotion about comedian Stephen Colbert’s testimony to Congress on the plight of migrant farm workers and the topic of illegal immigration.

The latest line of criticism from the mainstream media – and no, it’s not from FOX News – is Jonah Goldberg’s column entitled “Stephen Colbert makes a mockery of immigration debate.”

Goldberg begins, in his super-serious way, by saying, “The comedian’s appearance before Congress was an excruciatingly inappropriate spectacle.”

And continues: “The real upshot of Colbert’s shtick is that he’s mocking people who disagree with him — or with the left-wing base of the Democratic Party — on the complicated issue of immigration.”

Let me first begin by critiquing Goldberg and every other major news “journalist” for giving so much attention to this testimony.  You have just unwittingly disproved your own point by giving this testimony more attention through criticizing Colbert than you would have if Colbert was never invited in the first place. Read more of this post

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The Recession, the Rich and the Reality of the American Dream

The American public has just received news that the recession is over – and has been over for about 15 months now.

According to a statement released on Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, an organization composed of over 1,000 economics and business professors, the recession has been “officially” over since June of 2009.

Surprise!

Before beginning your much-belated celebration, there are several troubling thoughts that come to mind when reflecting on this statement that was just released on Monday.

For starters, the primary economic indicator used to judge whether or not we are experiencing a recession is GDP growth.  If the GDP shrinks for two consecutive quarters – or 6 months – then we are officially in a recession.  The National Bureau of Economic Research also uses Gross National Income, manufacturing and trade sales, and the aggregate hours of work (among other indicators) in determining that the end of our recession was June of 2009.  So according to this organization, which primarily uses GDP, GNI and business output indicators to determine the duration of downturns in the business cycle, the “Great Recession” started in December of 2007 and ended in June of 2009.

Economic Policy Institute analysis

The actual report states the following: “In determining that a trough occurred in June 2009, the committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity. Rather, the committee determined only that the recession ended and a recovery began in that month.”

Which brings me to my next point: Is it a mistake to measure economic well-being by strictly following patterns of the business cycle (i.e. changes in certain economic indicators)?  I understand the difference between leading indicators (stock market returns), coincident indicators (GDP) and lagging indicators (unemployment rate) in determining the economic performance, but should we continue valuing these indicators over others when measuring economic performance? Read more of this post