As this special issue on the economy goes to the printer, the business press is full of the news that a mild recovery from the recession that began in March 2001 may already be in the works, as was suggested by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in testimony to Congress in late February. Whether this should prove to be the case or not, it remains true that the long-term, deepening problems of the U.S. economy are for the most part ignored in such accounts, in favor of a short-run focus on an expected cyclical upswing.
In fact, the official viewpoint, presented by both the administration and the Federal Reserve Chairman, is that the recession would most likely not have occurred at all, i.e., would not have turned into the two quarter downturn necessary to qualify as an official recession, if the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks had not sent shock waves through the economy. “After several quarters of increasingly weak growth,” The Economic Report of the President, 2002 (authored by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers) states, “the terrorist attacks of September 11 tipped the economy into recession, the first in ten years” (p. 15). President Bush put it similarly in his statement introducing the report: “This past year the inherited trend of deteriorating growth was fed by events, the most momentous of which was the terrorist attacks of September 11,2001. The painful upshot has been the first recession in a decade” (p. 3).
The fundamentals of the economy, we are told, remain strong, and once the series of external shocks culminating in 9-11 are overcome, the economy will regain a respectable rate of growth again. The main reason given for this anticipated quick recovery (aside from the presumed benefits of the Bush tax cuts) is the continuing growth in productivity associated with the New Economy based in digital technology, which is supposed to engineer a rapid turnaround. “Is There Still a New Economy?” The Economic Report of the President asks in a special box on this topic. The answer, according to the administration, is yes. To be sure, the New Economy is gasping for air at present, but a resumption of its race forward is to be expected at any moment. “Structural labor productivity growth.c.remained strong through 2001” (p. 60).
In last April’s special issue of MR, we explained why such rosy expectations of continuing strong growth, based on the New Economy, were likely to be disappointed. In this issue, we explore some of the underlying, long-term contradictions of the capitalist economy, which make accumulation in the present so unstable. We also investigate the effects of this on labor, and the question of the larger global slump, which has led to massive defaults in Argentina and elsewhere. Rather than a cyclical phenomenon or a set of anomalies, these circumstances point to a capitalist reality completely at odds with the imaginary high-growth world stressed in neoliberal ideology.
In the editors’ introduction to the February Review of the Month on “Anti-Capitalism and Social Justice” by Sam Gindin, he was referred to as “Packer Chair in SocialJustice, Department of Political Science at York University in Toronto.” It should have been added that Gindin was formerly Director of Research and Assistant to the President of the Canadian Auto Workers, a position he occupied for more than twenty-seven years, prior to accepting an offer from York.
The March Review of the Month on “U.S. Military Bases and Empire” inadvertently reproduced a typo from the website of the American Friends Service Committee (). in which the Japanese publication Nihon Keizai Shimbun was referred to as Bihon Keizai Shimbun. For those unfamiliar with the American Friends Service Committee website, we highly recommend it.
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