Ah, Labor Day. It was nice to have a day off yesterday. But isn’t it supposed to mean something? Per Wikipedia, it does. “Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September (September 5 in 2011) that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers.” Except it’s difficult to celebrate the contributions of workers when so many people aren’t working. Unemployment is currently at 9.1%*, with at least 14 million people currently out of work. Of course, those are the official numbers. We all know real unemployment is far higher.
With the American economy circling the drain, everybody has an opinion of how to get things back on track. Although there are brilliant ones, some of these ideas are really out there. Like alien invasions. No really, alien invasions. Check out the following statement from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.
“If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. And then if we discovered, whups, we made a mistake, there aren’t any aliens, we’d be better–“
This was from his recent appearance on the CNN program Fareed Zakaria GPS. He was interrupted by the show’s other guest, who mentioned that this sounded like Orson Wells. Krugman replied that there was actually a similar thing that happened on The Twilight Zone. But this really just reminds me of the graphic novel Watchmen. “To frighten goverments into co-operation I would convince them that Earth faced imminent attack by beings from another world.” That was written by Alan Moore in 1986. What Krugman was really getting at was that we could use some inflation. But since it’s very hard to get inflation in a depressed economy; you would need “a program of government spending plus an expansionary policy by the fed.” He states you could accomplish a great deal if you use these things together. The alien invasion idea was just given as a modern example of something to galvanize and unite the country, like what happened during WWII.
What’s weird is that this is not the first time this idea has come up. A few days earlier, renowned physics professor Michio Kaku appeared on The Dylan Ratigan Show on MSNBC. Michio, who is also a consultant for the Discovery Channel series Curiousity, spoke about what might happen if aliens invaded the Earth. This wasn’t a joke. His area is theoretical physics, and this idea was tied to an episode of Curiosity. He mentioned that when President Reagan met Mikhail Gorbachev, he said the Soviets and the US would be allies if we were attacked by the Martians. This is verified per written transcripts of the meeting. Regarding the concept of global governance, Michio said that a “common enemy from outer space could help to unite the Earth, just the way Ronald Reagan said.”
During a recent Q&A session on Reddit, former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich was asked if Krugman’s alien invasion theory had any merit. He answered, “I think we already have an alien invasion from space. It’s being led by Michele Bachmann.” However, on a serious note Reich gave some real ideas to help fix the economy and create jobs. Like reviving the depression era Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corp to hire the long-term unemployed.
“The ratio of profits to wages hasn’t been this high since before the Great Depression. Part of the answer is education: From early childhood through college, we’ve got to be training more of our people how to identify and solve problems, work creatively and constructively in teams, see patterns and integrate different disciplines and ways of thinking.”
He also said that the President should ask for a trillion dollars to boost the economy, for infrastructure investment and loans to cash-starved states and localities. Good ideas all, but the concepts are difficult for the everyman to understand…and they’re boring. It’s much more fun to just hope for a quick and easy fix like the whole alien invasion scenario. I think I’ll go read Watchmen again.
What do you think: can we pull the economy out of the abyss, or will it take something like a fake alien invasion to get things moving again?