If you can’t measure it, how can you know if it’s growing? The green economy suffers from this problem. In the past few decades, and particularly in the past few years, the green economy has expanded tremendously. By how much exactly? Well, that depends on how you define this “green economy” and what data you include in its measurement. If we look at the number of megawatts of wind power capacity installed, or the number of solar panels shipped, or other indicators of sales and installations of renewable energy or energy efficient goods, we get a sense of the recent growth of the green economy. A recent report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance documents some of the growth of various energy industries, including natural gas, renewables, and efficiency.
After the near collapse of the financial system and the Great Recession, unemployment has significantly increased worldwide. According to the ILO Global Employment Trends 2013 report, a special edition warranted by the global employment crisis, the global unemployment rate is around 6 percent, which translates into a total of 197 million unemployed worldwide – and this number does not include the 39 million who have dropped out of the labor market.
The Dow may be back over 14,000, but the troubles of the unemployed are far from over. Although the official unemployment rate has fallen to 7.7%, the lowest level in several years, many of those back at work are working for far less than before. Meanwhile, the states and the federal government are enacting new unemployment insurance eligibility restrictions and directly cutting benefit amounts.
During the last presidential elections in the United States, the American people resoundingly rejected the proposal of an economic policy aimed at taking the breath out of a recovering economy through fiscal contraction. Of course the politicians never take the people’s views seriously. The same strategy has been brought to the table, but this time it’s no longer a proposition, it’s rather an imposition. That’s what sequestration accomplishes. As recent data indicate, the U.S. economy was beginning to register signs of positive effects of the stimulus packages implemented during the recession — rising housing prices, improving investor and consumer confidence and private spending, and, of course, strong gains by financial conglomerates. Those positive developments are, to a large extent, a result of the use of expansionary fiscal policy and monetary policy to support domestic demand.
We are writing from Germany, where we just finished participating in a highly enlightening conference in Berlin titled Transatlantic Agenda for Shared Prosperity. The conference was co-sponsored by the AFL-CIO from the U.S. side of the Atlantic, and the Macroeconomic Policy Institute and Friedrich Ebert Foundation from the German side.
The basic theme of the conference was how to advance viable alternatives to the austerity agenda that is presently consuming both the U.S. economy, and even more destructively, the Eurozone economies, including Germany. The full program for the one-day conference is here. Among the Eurozone economies, Germany has fared relatively well. Of course, this is all relative, since other Eurozone economies, such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, are in severe recessions.