The Harvard Business School released is third annual survey on U.S. Competitiveness this month, and it is appointment viewing for anybody who wishes to speak with any degree of authority about the American economy, so don’t expect it to make it to John Kasich’s bedside reading table any time soon.
The report highlights something quite remarkable about the “recovery” of the American economy, or what the researchers call a troubling divergence: “Large and midsize firms have rallied strongly from the Great Recession, and highly skilled individuals are prospering. But middle- and working-class citizens are struggling, as are small businesses.”
This divergence of outcomes is an outlier in American history, the report notes.
“Historically, American companies and citizens have tended either to thrive together, as in the boom after World War II, or to suffer together, as during the Great Depression,” it states.
This isn’t a problem that began with the recession, either. Labor force participation in America peaked in 1997 and has now fallen to levels not seen in three decades. Real hourly wages have stalled even among college-educated Americans. These trends began before the Great Recession. “They are structural, not cyclical,” the report notes.
Take this next paragraph from those pinko socialists at Harvard Business School: “Shortsighted executives may be satisfied with an American economy whose firms win in global markets without lifting U.S. living standards. But any leader with a long view understands that business has a profound stake in the prosperity of the average American. Thriving citizens become more productive employees, more willing consumers, and stronger supporters of pro- business policies. Struggling citizens are disgruntled at work, frugal at the cash register, and anti-business at the ballot box. We agree strongly with this view: businesses cannot succeed for long while their communities languish.”
Sweet Sassy Molassy!
Of course, a tremendous “well, duh,” can be heard from most of us in the working class who live this reality every day, who know that the “recovery” was Hoovered up by the fat cats what shat the sheets in the first place, who recognize that our wages have stagnated, our standards of living are dropping, and inequality has exploded.
But this little report is an important piece of firepower to shell people like The Guv, feverishly redirecting money toward people who don’t need it, at the expense of the people this report shows clearly do. Apparently, The Guv thinks those who have already recovered need even more recovery, while the rest of us who have been left to rot could use a few more spoiled apples thrown in our barrel.
This report is actually directed at the business community, not politicians, and is formulated around how the business community can, y’know, help their actual communities. And that’s a nice step in the right direction, though the report also bemoans extreme political dysfunction (see: the demented vandals of U.S. Congress) as the biggest impediment to raising living standards and creating better outcomes for the average American.
One line in the report particularly struck me: “To make wise choices about how to bolster U.S. competitiveness, (policymakers) need an accurate and nuanced view of the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. economy.”
Nuance? NUANCE?!? Knock me over with a feather, you mean it ain’t so simple as “makers v. takers”? Whoddathunk it?
David DeWitt is a journalist and universal minister based out of Athens, Ohio. He can be found on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.