Robert J. Samuelson: Has the U.S. economy suffered permanent damage?

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  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    April 5, 2014 8:46 a.m.

    Fascinating to see the responses to this article.

    Mr. Samuelson writes a thoughtful piece on the intrinsic condition of our economy and then offers a number of long term macro explanations for the condition.

    Next a number of posters take Mr. Samuelson's comments and add their own experience and or analysis.

    Then out of nowhere come the ideologues who completely ignore the article, it's information, and theme and give us our daily dose of it's all Obama's fault.

    It has to be Obama's fault that the labor force has declined. Those darn boomers who are now retiring, if just Obama weren't President....huh?

    Clearly Obama is at fault for the '07 recession and it's impact on our psychic.

    The decline in innovation since the 70's hey blame Obama.

    The clash in cultures of growth and personal security that has raged since the 70's..Obama's fault.

    This is why America can't solve it's problems. We can't have an intelligent conversation.

  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    April 3, 2014 10:48 a.m.

    We are 16 trillion in debt. It is going to have to be paid off sooner or later. Preferably sooner. Selling future generation into slavery is not moral. As Lloyd Benson, Democratic VP candidate for president with Michael Dukakis in 1988 said, "If you let me write 200 billion $ in hot checks a year, I could create the image of prosperity."

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    April 3, 2014 5:23 a.m.

    @The Real Maverick - because most of those counties don't have economies that are largely based off of low wage jobs. If you look at our unemployment numbers, those who are chronically under employed here are those from the trades and low wage jobs. The recession didn't hit all workers alike. If you are a so called "knowledge worker", the unemployment rates barely budged over the last 6 years.

    The number of people needed to manage a farm has gone way down. The number of people needed to build a house of the last 100 years has gone way down. The number of people needed to manage a warehouse has gone way down. Secretarial jobs are disappearing. Customer service and Call centers are being automated. The job of long shore man is all but gone.

    It surprises me you can't see the structural changes happening in the job markets.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    April 2, 2014 6:52 p.m.

    Who said companies are not investing... and are just sitting on piles of cash. What crazy source did that come from... the same one that told everyone to buy gold because the dollar was going to crash?

    Companies are not sitting on piles of cash. They are investing it. Just not in people, or at least low value workers. I wish I knew where some of these crazy "facts" come from.

    The company I work for is a little over 30 years old. We have never posted a loss. We have never failed to show a profit. We have never failed to grow year over year. Regardless of the administration, or where people thought the president was born. Poorly run companies run poorly. Companies with solid leadership earn money regardless of who is president or the party they belong to.

    If your company isn't doing well.... don't look to Washington.... look a lot closer to home.

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    April 2, 2014 2:36 p.m.

    LDS Liberal

    100 trillion dollars is gone? As you put it. If that were true, it is a good thing that there is not 100 trillion dollars floating around our economy. Inflation would be about 200%. Big money entities are obviously putting a lot of money in the stock market, as well as having a rainy day fund. The threat of inflation is dangerous to cash holdings, no doubt. If overseas bank accounts are the holding place for that 100 trillion, you can bet that when the time comes, the money will be back in the USA. Still the most valuable place to invest in. So it's not gone for good, only for now, until we get Romney type American business understanding in the White House instead of this quasi-socialist thinking that Obama has brought from his days being mentored by real socialists. And, by the way, if it is 100 trillion, then what happened to the 7 trillion dollars Obama has run up? Is that overseas now too? Because it sure isn't here.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    April 2, 2014 1:34 p.m.

    If we are in the middle of another industrial revolution then why isn't Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, France, Brazil, Sweden, Finland, etc all experiencing similar issues ( high unemployment due to automation, technology, etc)?

    I don't buy the whole technology excuse.

    The truth is, the rich are waging a war on the middle and lower classes. Guess who's winning?

  • David Centerville, UT
    April 2, 2014 12:54 p.m.

    LDS Liberal,

    I am a small business owner and I can assure you that I am not investing because I cannot anticipate the next antagonistic move against business that Obama will do. He has created enough instability, animosity, division, and poor business/economic environment that many small businesses are hurting. I have heard that small business is the backbone of the American economy, providing a much larger portion of employment than other economic sectors. It is the small businesses that are hurting. This translates into slower growth, slower manufacturing orders, weaker employments numbers, slower wage increases, slower upward mobility of the classes, more debt among American families as they attempt to afford higher education, and cost of living expenses.

    I would agree that Obama is hurting our economy, not helping it.

  • Z South Jordan, UT
    April 2, 2014 12:43 p.m.

    We are in the midst of the next great economic revolution, and like all revolutions before it the result is a disruption of the current economic state. Of course the economy will not be what it was before, but we have known that since the 70's. The long dying of the rust belt is just one example of how things have been changing in this country.

    Does that mean that the patient is doomed? No, it just means that the future will look different. Some jobs have disappeared forever, but new jobs will appear in their place. The training and skills that applied to the old jobs are gone; prepare for the bright new future if you dare. Carpe Diem.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2014 12:02 p.m.

    Yes, this is like during the industrial revolution in Britain where the question on everyone's lips was "where do all of the poor people come from?" The answers were bizarre and funny.

    As usual the missing dimension is Marx. Marx's model predicts an decline in the demand for labor as capitalism's efficiency increases. This is happening. The old "full employment" line was 4.5% - it's now being established at 6.5%.

    Samuelson (I hope he reads these comments, but doubtful) should take a course in Marxian economics (as should the Deseret News). He would find whole new fields to explore.

  • Badgerbadger Murray, UT
    April 2, 2014 11:51 a.m.

    LDS kidding yourself

    Clearly numbers are not your forte. Your numbers bear no resemblance to fact. I think you produced them from your emotions, not a real source.

    No wonder you live paycheck to paycheck.

    To everyone else -

    With the current inflation, companies that understand money certainly aren't sitting on excessive amounts of cash watching its value melt away. If they are dumb enough to do that, they wouldn't be rich. What they are doing is creating a reasonable rainy day fund against the next market drop, which is a wise thing to do.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    April 2, 2014 11:15 a.m.

    clearfield, UT
    LDS Liberal

    I honestly believe that the reason American business is holding its stash of money and not investing is because they see this current administration as an "enemy" to business. Not business friendly.


    And I honestly believe you are fooling yourself.

    Our economy is one of Usury.

    I have $5,
    I spend it on a hamburger,
    That $5 is used to buy bread, meat, and pay another employee,
    The Farmer, the Rancher, and that employee then buy their own things,
    and our economy grows.

    If I took that $5 out of the country - out or usury -
    The burger flipper, the fammer, the rancher, and later on even myelf are un-employed.

    THAT'S how econmy function.

    The uber wealthy have taken $100 Trillion OUT of the U.S. economy,
    and stashed it away for themselves in Swiss and Caymen Island bank accounts.

    While the rest of us 99% are living hand-to-mouth, paycheck-to-paycheck.

    $100 TRILLION dollars, gone.
    Not is circulation,
    Not is Usury.

    BTW -- your hero -- Mitt Romney is one of them.

    That's why our economy is failing.

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    April 2, 2014 9:36 a.m.

    LDS Liberal

    I honestly believe that the reason American business is holding its stash of money and not investing is because they see this current administration as an "enemy" to business. Not business friendly. A president who first and formost was seen as business friendly would likely unleash the capital reserves and there would be investment, growth, and many more jobs coming online. This is where I think Romney would have had a profound impact unleshing the potential that is currently stifled. And, as I believe you were pointing out, the 1% are getting very wealthy off of the stock market. Ironic for that to be happening during Obama, when he was supposedly the "one" for the little guy. The 2014 and 2016 elections can't come soon enough. We need some change after what will be 8 years of this.

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    April 2, 2014 9:08 a.m.

    damage? What damage? We are headed into the 5th summer of recovery ...remember? At least that's what Barack and Joe tell us. Guess it's true if those characters say it. Right? If you like your insurance you can keep your insurance....remember that whopper of a lie? Seems like reality is finally catching up to all the propoganda from the White House.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    April 2, 2014 8:09 a.m.

    Has the U.S. economy suffered permanent damage?

    GDP is up,
    Profits are UP,
    Productivity is UP....

    Wages are DOWN or stagnant,
    Employment is still DOWN,
    Middle and Lower Classes are DOWN.

    The Rich are getting expotentionally Richer,
    The 99% of the rest of us are getting Poorer.

    Something needs to be done.
    And I don't see Businesses or the Rich willing or doing anything on the own to make it different.

    Time for either the Government to do something,
    The 99% of the PEOPLE to do something about it.

    Bastille Day anyone?

  • SCfan clearfield, UT
    April 2, 2014 7:52 a.m.


    And the irony of what you point out is that there are many people in America who really don't have the skill to do more than the old labor type jobs that have now become automated. Until Americans regain the importance of "real" education, and skill training, we will continue to have a very expensive class of unemployed citizens that will drain a lot of the revenue for the forseeable future. Hopefully there will be enough career type job opportunities left in America to supply the needs of over 300 million people. If we get TOO automated, then it may even be hard for well educated people to find a place. Brave new world.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    April 2, 2014 5:20 a.m.

    Yes.... the economy has "changed" in dramatic ways. In the years leading up to the great recession, lots of ineffeciency was tolerated within the economy, but once the excess bubble burst, those inefficiencies are not returning like they once did. Technology and automation is or has replaced many of the low value jobs.

    The number of clerical administrators has dropped off dramatically - we just recently lost ours at work, scarily with little to no impact. Our own travel department is now largely automated. We now have completely paperless expense reports, and auditing of these is completely automated. The list goes on and on.

    Even within the trades, automation has impacted the crew sizes in construction. In my industry, oil rigs penetrate at nearly double the rate of just 20 years ago, with crews a fraction the size in the past. Field automation has reduced the number of service calls to plats.

    These jobs are just not coming back - ever - under any administration. We are in the second industrial revolution, and things have just started changing.... hold on... its going to be a ride.