Sunday, August 01, 2010

Radio moment of the week

Ava and C.I., Wally and Kat, spend nearly every week on the road and a new feature we're implementing this week is "Radio moment of the week." For the inaugural highlight, they selected Doug Henwood.

Doug Henwood: Over the long term, economic growth is a function of labor force growth and the productivity of that labor force -- that is how much workers can produce in an hour or year of labor times the number of workers and then growth would be the product of the growth of those two things. The Congressional Budget Office apparently assumes, I say apparently because they do not disclose this explicitly, the labor force will grow very slowly around .3 to .4% a year. That's half the current rate -- less than half the current rate -- and about half the rate the census bureau projects the population will grow in the coming decades. If that's true, if that is that labor rate will grow at least than half the rate the census bureau projects population will grow, then the share of the adult population working will shrink to levels we haven't seen since, well, maybe forever. At the same time, they're assuming record low growth in productivity -- something like a third below the long term average and below the rate clocked in the much maligned 1970s, the period of the famed productivity slow down. These assumptions are very similar to those underlying projections that the Social Security system will go broke. but if the economy grows at something closer to its long term average then that won't happen and the massive growth in debt won't happen either because the government will collect more in taxes than it would if we were really locked in a semi-permanent slump. So what's going on here is the CBO pushing these strange projections to promote an austerity agenda cutting social spending and privatising social security? If so, that's worth investigation. Or are they really serious that a 70 year near depression awaits us soon? Inquiring minds want to know?

Doug Henwood made those comments on last week's Behind The News which airs on WBAI Thursdays at five p.m. (here for WBAI archives). KPFA airs the show on Saturdays . . . sometimes. (It did not air Saturday.) In addition, you can stream at the Left Business Observer website. And if you're unable to stream (or do not benefit from streaming), click here and you can read a text version of Henwood's commentary.

Ideally, this feature will highlight something you should give at least a few minutes to thinking about. When possible, it will be less statement of fact and more a question posed to radio listeners.
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