What About This…? 12.25.2014

By Wayne William Cipriano

Well, is the economy getting better or not?

For months now all the stock markets have been setting new rec­ord highs. We hear almost weekly how the rich are getting richer, isn’t any of that “trickling” down? Stores are reporting more and more cus­tomers buying more and more stuff. Providers are selling more and more services.

The unemployment rate, a short time ago a sobering ten plus percent, is now well below six percent and has been there for a while. And, we are told that an unemployment rate of five percent is considered pretty much full employment. Of course there are lies, damned lies, and statistics, and how those unemploy­ment figures are calculated is as important and as mysterious as are the reported numbers themselves. Still, more and more jobs seem to be created or refilled. Economic ex­pansion seems to be occurring like a tidal force, slowly and inexorable. But what about levels of compensa­tion like pay, benefits, increasing our standards of living?

I remember a truly great television show called The West Wing, which told the story of a presidential ad­ministration by recounting the lives of those within. I recall one episode when the President and his staff were on a speaking tour and residing overnight in a hotel. One of the staffers, Toby, was sitting at the hotel’s bar nursing a drink at the end of an especially grueling day. It was very late, he was all alone, even the bartender was elsewhere. An every­day sort of guy walked into the bar, looked around and sat down next to Toby. They exchanged greetings. The bartender showed up and gave each of them a last-call drink on the house.

The two of them sat quietly, side by side, and then slowly began to speak of this and that, neither knowing the other’s position in life. Toby listened as his companion mentioned how he had heard that the economy was improving. And to that Toby related, as have I above, how things were improving, slowly but surely. Businesses were doing better. More and more jobs were being created.

“Yes, I know,” said his bar mate, “I’ve got three of them.”