The Crisis Enters Year Five: Are We Ready to Address the Real Problem?

According to Richard D. Wolff, Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City, “The current capitalist global crisis began with the severe contraction in the housing markets in mid-2007. Therefore welcome to Year Five.  This inventory of where things stand may begin with the good news: the major banks, the stock market, and corporate profits have largely or completely ‘recovered’ from the lows they reached early in 2009. The US dollar has fallen sharply against many currencies of countries with which the US trades and that has enabled US exports to rebound from their crisis lows.

“However, the bad news is what prevails notwithstanding the political and media hypes about ‘recovery.’ The most widely cited unemployment rate remains at 9 % for workers without jobs but looking. If instead we use the more indicative U-6 unemployment statistic of the US Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, then the rate is 15%.  The latter rate counts also those who want full-time but can only find part-time work and those who want work but have given up looking. One in six members of the US labor force brings home little or no money, burdening family and friends, using up savings, cutting back on spending, etc.”

Men Are Hit Particularly Hard

We know that although both women and men are impacted by unemployment, men are particularly vulnerable to the demoralization, stress, and depression which often go with our feeling that we are not taking care of our families adequately.  According to Boadie W. Dunlop, M.D. Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, “Men in the changing economy will face the same risks for depression that women faced in older economies: trapped in a family role from which they cannot escape because of an inability to find employment.”

Research shows that since the beginning of the recession in 2007, roughly 75 percent of the jobs lost in the United States were held by men. On the other hand, women are increasingly becoming the primary household earners with 22 percent of wives earning more than their husbands in 2007, versus only 4 percent in 1970. Unfortunately, there is little reason for anyone to believe that traditional male jobs will return in significant numbers even if the economy fully recovers.

“The recent recession afflicting Western economies serves as a harbinger of the economic future for men, especially for those with lower levels of education,” says Dunlop. “Dubbed by some the ‘Mancession’, the economic downturn has hit men particularly hard, because of its disproportionate effect on traditional male industries, such as construction and manufacturing, although of course working women have also been affected.”

Getting to the Core of the Problem

We all feel the burden of an economic system that favors the 1% at the expense of the 99%.  As the hype for next presidential election gets underway, we need to remember that both parties have increasingly become dominated by the rich, though Republicans seem more hell bent on insuring that the rich get richer.

Wolff points out, “Neither party can shake off its utter dependence now on corporate and rich citizens’ monies for all their financial sustenance. Therefore neither party imagines, let alone explores, alternatives to massive deficits and debts. After all, government deficits and debts mean (a) the government is not taxing corporations and the rich, and (b) the government is instead borrowing from them and paying them interest.  So the two parties quibble over how much to cut which government jobs and public services.”

We need a new model for how we run our business life.  Up to now, the model driving our economies depended on perpetual growth, requiring ever more resources and investments. This model has inherent flaws. It leads to unjust societies, highly skewed and exploitative economies, and devastated ecosystems. The business model that defines corporate environmental responsibility in terms of size of investment, and defines corporate success as increased shareholder value and grandiose executive compensation, must be replaced. The new economy must be more effective and more collaborative.  It must become truly sustainable, introducing innovations that permit less investment, generate more revenues, and build the strengths of a community and builds up social capital – not debt.

Moving Toward a Sustainable “Blue” Economy

Gunter Pauli an inveterate entrepreneur whose scope of initiatives span business, culture, science, and education.  In his book, The Blue Economy:  10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs, he says, “the current global crisis highlights the need for an framework of economic development that is based on fundamental innovation and that will generate desperately needed jobs while sustainably addressing the needs of the earth and all its citizens.”

 “This ‘blue’ approach,” says Pauli, “is not only viable, it has already begun to take root. Four years of research has identified a portfolio of 100 innovations including whole systems models that have the potential to generate as many as 100 million jobs worldwide over the next 10 years.”  This is the business framework that will drive the new Blue Economy. This is the framework that will seek out and define true sustainability for all living species on Earth.

What do you think?  Are we ready to move beyond capitalism towards a system of economic democracy?  I’d like to hear from you.


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  1. Monte Schatz says:

    I generally appreciate the commentary you have about how men are affected by various external factors. This article is more of a political diatribe than truly addressing male issues. How did this article go from male depression from down turns to a “blue” economy and Republicans catering to the wealthy? 8.2% unemployment was started under the Bush administration and has not been improved under an equally clueless Democratic administration. While the long term goal of a shifting economy might be an admirable goal it does not help address the immediate concerns of middle age men. By the time this development unfolds the current group of middle age men will have passed away.

    My thoughts are stick to the more immediate solutions and forget the pollyana remote political issues that don’t address how men can more directly adjust to the new male unemployment. Perhaps an article more directed toward career transitions or starting your own business might be a more concrete and realistic immediate solution.

    This article hurts your credibility on addressing male issues by drifting into political ground that has no immediate impact for middle aged men.