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2014, ex Machina

If you had to sum up 2014 in one short sentence, what would it be? Barataria is a blog of social commentary and observation in the largest sense, which naturally includes a lot of politics and economics – the places where the citizens of this great nation express their true values. So for the the purposes of this humble effort, one thing comes clearly to mind for this year:

The system largely works.

That may sound horribly pro-establishment, especially with the terrible failures of the system that made the news this year. Police brutality went unpunished as many people came to fear that there is an open season on their families simply for having the wrong skin color. The Republicans took the Senate easily with a record low turnout, an expression of apathy more than direction.

But this points to the power of the systems we have as much as the successes do, and why the goals looking ahead have to be about getting control so that these mechanisms do what we need them to. The systems work – as they didn’t at all in 2008 and sporadically after that – but for whom?

"This is how it is.  Got it?"

“This is how it is. Got it?”

If I had to pick one story of the year it would be the tremendous success of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. A woman became the most powerful person in the world and is, by just about any measure, doing a very good job. There are those who think she is too “dovish”, keeping interest rates too low – and that will change in the next year. But this powerful organization is clearly doing everything it can to create opportunity and set up the next great boomtime, still on schedule to start in 2017.

The best example of her work can be shown in the “Dashboard” that she outlined in Congressional testimony. Not only did she tell the world exactly what she is looking at for signs of progress, she picked very good indicators from the darkest recesses of the economy – the ones that show how the “recovery” so far is not benefiting working people. And through the year there has indeed been great progress as we’ve shown in updates.

Here are the latest numbers, referring to the methodology before where a score of 100 means we have achieved the best we possibly can.

Guage 2Q13 1Q14 2Q14 3Q14 4Q14
U6 Unemployment 5.9 8.9 9.9 10.7 11.5
Long Term Unemployment 3.5 3.6 5.1 6.5 6.5
Workforce Participation 0.0 2.4 0.0 1.2 1.8
Quit Rate 5.5 9.1 9.1 12.7 12.7
Wage Growth 4.8 2.9 5.7 5.7 9.5
Total 19.7  26.9  29.8  36.8  42.1 
The Machine keeps turning.

The Machine keeps turning.

How is this possible? For all of our concerns about wage equity, there is finally a solid uptick in wage growth and an improvement in job creation. We’re still setting up the next boom, so there is two years left before we can all join the party at this rate. But it’s all working very well.

But is everything working well? Of course not. There is still a lot of much needed reform at every level, and that points to the work that has to happen. Where the machinery of our lives is clearly turning once again, will it turn in ways that produce the world we all want to live in? And how can we make it work, or even tell if it’s working, if we don’t clearly spell out what that world looks like?

That’s the downside of this way of looking at things, or at least the challenge ahead. Progressives need to stand up for progress in this changing world, which is to say an improvement in the lives of working people in every sense of the word. It takes a clear vision and it takes leadership that articulates that vision – something we are sorely lacking.

It takes on a different meaning when ya do it right.

It takes on a different meaning when ya do it right.

What we can say is that with the machinery coming back on line after a few years of sputtering, the need to control it so that we shape our own destiny is more obvious. Divisions along lines of fear, drawn up as income, gender identity, race, political identity, or any of the other pathetic excuses for crappy behavior we slouch into only bring chaos, poverty, and death.

The machines that exist to make things work really showed how powerful they are in 2014. Making them work for us all, as a people, is the next challenge. That requires a clarity of purpose and a commitment to working together, actively making the future our own.

The big story of 2014 only shows us what the big story of 2015 and 2016 has to be. “How we made it all work together” is what I hope to be writing about a year from now. But expect a few ideas about how to bring about that in the next few months.

Because we’re going to have to write the next big story together. The future is going to be ours.

10 thoughts on “2014, ex Machina

  1. I’d like to salute all those born in 1964. They turned 50 this year.

    I salute all those born in 1965 as they will turn 50 next year. But you are not part of the baby boom generation. Haha!

    • You bet we aren’t. 🙂 We still have some fight left in us, which you’ll see the moment we start giving a damn about something. Whatever. 🙂

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