Posts Tagged recession


Posted by on Saturday, 20 August, 2011



They’re fighting about the best way to fix the economy. I don’t trust the economists on this one. Why not? Because so-called economists – the ones in the nice suits on the tube, anyway – get to pick out their own evidence. And be their own peer reviewers. They ask themselves questions like: Do the American People want corrupt bankers and crud-eating upper crust rich people who fly in corporate jets to get tax breaks?  Then they answer their own questions: Why NO THEY DON’T!!!!

Other scientists – physicists and chemists, biologists, and astronomers are jealous. How come THEY don’t get to make it up as THEY go along?


In Europe, several countries are broke. To fix things, their leaders want to put the brakes on government spending.

Well, old John Maynard Keynes wouldn’t have recommended such a solution. He believed that  in a recession or a depression, the government should spend money like a chimp at the mint. That’s what the Bush administration did when things went woozy; and the Obama administration  continued shoveling wads of money out the window. With a bigger shovel.

By the way, I guess this was the right thing to do since we ducked a depression. Even that recession everyone thinks we’re still in ended a while back in 2010.

Well, you might ask,  if  the pump priming thing works so good, why shut off the water? What’s with austerity? Are Europeans a bunch of half wits?


But maybe they think that spending’s like plastic surgery. It just makes things worse and delays the inevitable. We should “man up”. It’ll hurt –  It’ll hurt bad. But we’ll get past it and the economy will get going again in a healthier way.

That’s what they say.

Anyway,  “austerity” is the hot new idea in Europe. It’s hot with some Americans, too, which is what led to the smooth way Congress handled the debt ceiling business.

Here’s the thing. In 2006, when the economy fritzed out, Europe and the US did pretty much the same thing. There wasn’t a lotta time to  flip through old books and study. We had money to toss . So we tossed . Keynes would of been proud.

Now?We’re in a different place. The recovery hasn’t failed. Not so far. Could be better. But not as awful as the spinners make it sound. (Unless YOU’RE the one selling pencils out of a tin cup. I GET that!) We’re not trying to dodge a depression at the moment. This is “What do you do if the recovery’s losing steam” time. Maybe we COULD have inflation if we overdo. (Hard to believe.) So the austerity stuff isn’t as nuts you think. Maybe stimulating again COULD be overkill. Maybe.

Is it too early to stop spending and tighten up? MISTERScienceAintSoBad won’t say. It takes away the fun.


We kid around about economics being quasi-scientific, but it’s no worse than genetics or medicine or particle physics. If some guy on the tube is using half facts to jerk you around, you can’t blame it on REAL scientists. That’s not fair.

There’s nothing wrong with studying how the top primates (you and me), gyp each other out  of stuff .  How some get richer and others get poorer. As a science, economics is easy to quantify. Theories can be tested.  Very sciency, indeed. Nothing quasi about it.

It’s a TRICKY science.  That’s for sure! Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Human’s  culture’s so complicated. Plus we lie more than minnows do when questioned about our activities. But, so WHAT?

If you think the other sciences are so simple , why aren’t YOU Sir Isaac Newton?

Excuse me if you happen to be. I meant, in general.

Listen, I’ve defended economics before. It’s a fine kind of science.

Just don’t confuse the scientists with the entertainment.



Credits for the above illustration to myself. It’s not like I can’t draw stick figures.

Where The Jobs Are: Robot Technicians, Robot Handlers..

Posted by on Thursday, 1 July, 2010

No Humans?

Technology CREATES jobs, right?

Unemployment’s kinda high.

Slow economy.

To get through the rough spot, employers have been p-r-e-t-t-y creative. Every possible trick. Technology aplenty.

Not that I’m worried. In Business Week, I read that robots create more jobs than they destroy. Robots, kiosks, voice recognition system. All fruits of the labor of human designers, manufacturers, implementers of all kinds.

If anything, technology means more jobs and more interesting work.


Jeff Burnstein, the author of the Biz Week article I quote above,  is head of the Robotic Industries Association.



Here’s the thing. Some things’re true till they aren’t anymore.

Then, they’re not so true.

Robots have been around. We’re used to them. Nobody died. (I could research this. Maybe a robot ate somebody.)  And, at times, employment’s been just fine while “machine heads” were welding away at car companies.

In bad times, we target our rage at giant job sucking winds wafting Mexican spices our way. But technology is our friend. More jobs than it eliminates.

This is CERTAINLY what MISTERScienceAintSoBad likes to think. He is a HUGE proponent of techology and science (‘case you haven’t noticed). Huge.

But I got this day job, too. Where I’m sposed to be objective. Look at evidence. Scientific approach. (Science is an elaborate way of being honest with ourselves. You can quote me.)


What’s WITH this sticky, sticky unemployment number that’s spooking investors? Maybe something new is happening. Maybe we’re slipping into the “robotic age” – the one where all our work’s done by machines? Where we live lives of leisure, living on I don’t know what?

Matthew Bleicher’s (Robots FTW) unsure. His “bet” is that us human’ll still get to flip a burger or two. But he admits he could be wrong.  Rosemary Black (NY Daily News)  describes the way that robots are now being deployed in the work place “side by side with humans”. She describes a hospital in Silicon Valley where “..Tug robots deliver meds, take out the trash and even speak politely to human workers and patients. Leasing the robots costs the hospital about $350,000 annually, while hiring that many people would have cost more than $1 million a year.”

Katharine Gammon (Wired Magazine) is less nuanced. She says robots are “stealing” American jobs in warehousing.


Where’s  this leading?


The punch line? Marshall Brain, founder of How Stuff Works, talks about ordering food at a MacDonald’s kiosk.

Too good. Too easy. The kiosk was fun. Got him thinking. He sees a “seismic shift” in the American work force for which we aren’t prepared. He points to  five million jobs lost from the retail sector already. Just the beginning, he says. You wait.

MisterScienceAintSoBad has to let you down. Can’t give you the definitive answer here. Can’t boil down the evidence. There ISN’T “evidence” for future events. We don’t yet KNOW if technology’s starting to truly destroy the base of employment).  We DO know that vigilance is the price of living in this century. Can’t live yer life by cliches . Real estate CAN go down.  So can skyscrapers. So can economies.

Things change. Expect the unexpected.

In the past, technology HAS created more jobs than it has taken away. A truism.

We hope.

Note to investors. If, by some chance, we ARE in the middle of “the big one” where  technology crowds humans out of the workplace, this has implications. High unemployment may NOT mean recession anymore.  The “salaries” of the unhired workers wind up in balance sheets as “retained earnings”. Which isn’t very fair, is it?


In the interest of fairness, social justice, and, most important of all, social order, gotta figure out a proper way to get those resources back to the new leisure classes before they get too bony.

Should be a mere exercise in Democracy, right?

What do YOU think?