Indicators of the Real Economy

Indicators of the Real Economy

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The big economic news last week was a rise in housing prices, and that women are now the main breadwinners in 40 percent of families. Combined with the other indicators commonly used by the government and the media, the anemic recovery looks like it’s finally gaining some steam. But anyone with eyeballs can see unemployment has been insanely high for five years while those lucky enough to be employed have seen their wages stagnate or go down.

This “recovery” is fueled almost entirely by record corporate profits. I’m not sure what’s so great about rising housing prices anyway, since that’s what caused the last bust. And I couldn’t afford a house when prices were at all-time lows. As a lifelong renter, I’m essentially a non-entity as far as economists are concerned.

I personally won’t feel like the economy’s healthy until I can buy a boat. Right now the Brian Boat Index is at a pathetic 0 Boats. Thanks, Obama.

Austerity Fever

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Europe’s dumb austerity experiment seems to finally be coming to a close. It’s the exact opposite of what should be done in a massive recession, but fat chance seeing the Keynesian spending necessary to pull the global economy out of this gigantic hole. We’ll most likely see a return to the pre-recession status quo and an anemic recovery that lasts for the next decade. Fun!

General Strike of the Unemployed

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For years, after I had a few beers, I’d start rambling about how May Day needed a revival in the United States to anyone who’d listen. Of course, I am all talk and no action. I’m hoping Occupy Wall Street is organized enough to revive the day and itself, but we’ll see.

Also, it’s insane that general strikes are illegal in this country. We only have the right to redress our grievances with the government, not our bosses. That pretty much illustrates who’s really in charge.

The Working Poor Electronics Show

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The Consumer Electronics Show was last week, and in between fluff pieces about ultralight laptops, cars connected to the cloud for no discernible reason, and dozens of other gizmos, a few stories about worker conditions at Foxconn trickled through. If you haven’t heard it already, the This American Life episode about it is probably the best overview, although the focus on Apple glosses over the fact that pretty much every electronics company uses parts made by the same company.

The bad press might have been enough to spur Apple to do more, since they announced they’ll be more open about their supply chain over the weekend. It’s obviously not a cure-all, but at least people are starting to become aware what the invisible hand of the free market has been up to in China.

The asshole in the rotary phone panel is Robert Rector, who wrote this charming bit of stupid last year. In addition to being an asshole, he has the worst mustache in the world.

UPDATE: I merely gave it a fleeting mention in the comic, but The Daily Show’s Foxconn segment on Monday was perfect.

Occupy Action Items

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The encampments were/are important symbols, but the underlying message of the fucked-upedness of our financial system that they helped bring to to the forefront of national debate can be kept alive by other means that don’t result in a riot-cop’s boot stomping your face. Of course the suggestions in this cartoon are mostly tongue-in-cheek, but there are more sincere and practical analogs to most of the jokes in here.

One that I especially approve of is a debt strike, the real-life version of putting a negative number on your checks. Banks and corporations have been sitting on cash, refusing to lend and spend in what’s essentially a capital strike. It’s especially bad for the banks, since the money they’re not handing out, (All $8 Trillion or so.) was given to them by the Fed for free. Companies have reasons more than simple greed to hang on to that cash, since there’s no demand for anything they make in our broke country. Except for shitty vampire movies, apparently.

Anyway, the real point of this cartoon is to get you to help Save Community, and maybe, if you have some time after that, fight economic injustice.

Secrets of the Super Committee

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The Occupy movement has thankfully shifted the media’s and public’s focus on jobs and income inequality. But last summer’s ridiculous “debate” about the debt ceiling, where the GOP held the country and the global economy hostage to get its way, resulted in the formation of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, AKA The Super Committee. They’re supposed to reach to an agreement before Thanksgiving, or automatic cuts in defense and social services go into effect…in 2013.

Fans of war are shitting their pants at the prospect of cuts, although they’d only go down to 2007 levels. Remember 2007? Our military industrial complex was so tiny back then; only involved in two quagmires and who knows how many surveillance and assassination actions. Surely going back to that is the equivalent of turning the military into a ragtag group of militia men, who have more money than the rest of the world’s defense budgets combined.

And fans of of not living in a third world nation are equally pants-shitting about cuts to social programs, including myself. The whole charade was conducted to cut these programs, and Obama played along instead of pointing out the absurdity of the whole thing.

Yes, the deficit is a problem. But we are in the middle of the longest fucking recession most Americans remember. (OK great-grampa, you still win at Great Depressions, for now. We’re trying real hard to top you though.) Revenues were already thrown way out of whack by the Bush Tax Cuts and all that “pro-business” shit Clinton pulled. Throw in long-term 9% unemployment, and they drop precipitously.

We need growth, and the only way to do that is through government spending. The pittance we’re arguing about now is only enough to maintain our current shit-sandwich of an economy. Individuals and businesses are rightfully holding on to what cash they have, so government is the only entity that can make the unselfish decision to spend large amounts for the benefit of everyone else. Interest rates are at an all time low, and it’s a crime to not use that virtually free money to make much-needed investments in infrastructure, education, and anything else that will pay for itself through the growth and demand it creates.

I’m honestly not too worried if the Super Committee fails. Like the comic says, anything they do, or what happens if they fail to reach an agreement can be changed or nullified by a future Congress. It’s in the Constitution! John McCain’s already working on this solution to preserve his precious defense spending. And if you think the Occupy movement is big now, wait until this Super Committee super-shit hits the super-fan.

Oh, and check out Mark Fiore’s animation about the Super Committee. I’m glad I watched it before drawing this cartoon, not only because it’s funny, but I originally sketched the title panel to look like the Super Friends Hall of Justice.

Economic Executive Orders

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This was supposed to be Friday’s cartoon, but I had to put BFW on the back burner while I took care of that other comic that pays money. There will be another BFW posted on this coming Friday, or maybe Saturday morning depending on how things go. Either way, you’re getting what you pay for.

Since no piece of Obama’s jobs bill has any hope of getting through Congress, he’s been dabbling around the edges with executive orders. Pretty small stuff that will have no effect on the 9% unemployment that’s become totally acceptable to everyone who’s not hanging out in Occupy encampments.

Occupy Poor Street

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I’ve been doing a lot of cartoons about income inequality, unemployment, class war, and all sorts of economic bullshit over the past few weeks. I was hoping to branch out and avoid the subject for a couple weeks to focus on pointless wars, GOP dumbassery, and maybe even some science stuff over the next month. But Occupy Wall Street and similar protests popped up and forced my hand, resulting in this cartoon.

I am familiar with Billionaires for Bush, from those glorious days in the mid 2000’s, when we thought ironic detachment could affect change. Turns out actual, sincere civic engagement is far more effective! Except when it comes to making jokes. Next to Jay Leno, sincerity is the number one comedy-killer in America.

I listened to the Dead Kennedys Frankenchrist approximately a bajillion times while drawing this cartoon, and this song inspired the fifth panel:

UPDATE: A famous person tweeted a link to this cartoon. This is the closest I’ve come to celebrity since that time I met John Tesh.

Class-War Action Toys

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Any time the prospect of raising taxes on the wealthiest by a measly few percentage points comes up, they start screaming “Class Warfare!” But you never hear the phrase as labor is decimated by stagnant wages, productivity squeezes, and a whole host of other unpleasantness that the middle class and poor have been put through.

Obama’s speech last week was all well and good, but he only talks that way when he’s campaigning. Fool me once…

Also, check out Matt’s comic about the “class war” nonsense.

Fall Trends Forecast

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Not sure what happened to summer, but now it’s fall. Maybe not according to the calendar, but if you could see me typing this in pajama pants, slippers, and a sweatshirt, you be convinced it was mid-October. Plus, I’m sitting on a pumpkin.

There’s no specific current event that led to this cartoon, just the ever-increasing income inequality gap and the ridiculous hobbies and interests of the idle rich.