Defining Prosperity Down



Paul Robin Krugman is Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, Centenary Professor at the London School of Economics, and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. In 2008, Krugman won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his contributions to New Trade Theory and New Economic Geography. He was voted sixth in a 2005 global poll of the world's top 100 intellectuals by Prospect.

Krugman is giving witness to the terrible dynamic of under-employment and unemployment that the Scriptures indicate will seize control of the world in the "Latter Days."


I'm starting to have a sick feeling about prospects for American workers - but not, or not entirely, for the reasons you might think.

Yes, growth is slowing, and the odds are that unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. That's bad. But what's worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn't care - that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal. [Please see our article, "A Permanent 30% Unemployment Rate for the United States."]

And I worry that those in power, rather than taking responsibility for job creation, will soon declare that high unemployment is "structural," a permanent part of the economic landscape - and that by condemning large numbers of Americans to long-term joblessness, they'll turn that excuse into dismal reality.

Not long ago, anyone predicting that one in six American workers would soon be unemployed or underemployed, and that the average unemployed worker would have been jobless for 35 weeks, would have been dismissed as outlandishly pessimistic - in part because if anything like that happened, policy makers would surely be pulling out all the stops on behalf of job creation.

But now it has happened, and what do we see?

First, we see Congress sitting on its hands, with Republicans and conservative Democrats refusing to spend anything to create jobs, and unwilling even to mitigate the suffering of the jobless.

We're told that we can't afford to help the unemployed - that we must get budget deficits down immediately or the "bond vigilantes" will send U.S. borrowing costs sky-high. Some of us have tried to point out that those bond vigilantes are, as far as anyone can tell, figments of the deficit hawks' imagination - far from fleeing U.S. debt, investors have been buying it eagerly, driving interest rates to historic lows. But the fear mongers are unmoved: fighting deficits, they insist, must take priority over everything else - everything else, that is, except tax cuts for the rich, which must be extended, no matter how much red ink they create.

The point is that a large part of Congress - large enough to block any action on jobs - cares a lot about taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population, but very little about the plight of Americans who can't find work.

In the late 1800s the shocking inequalities between the huge fortunes of the nation's "captains of industry" and an ever-growing population of impoverished workers drove Americans to grapple with questions about the rights of workers and employers. This 1883 editorial cartoon mocked the claims that plutocrat businessmen were the protectors of American industries by presenting Cyrus Field, Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Russell Sage as bloated parasites sitting on bags of "millions," and protective bulwarks resting on the backs industrial workers making only $6 to $11 a week.

Well, if Congress won't act, what about the Federal Reserve? The Fed, after all, is supposed to pursue two goals: full employment and price stability, usually defined in practice as an inflation rate of about 2 percent. Since unemployment is very high and inflation well below target, you might expect the Fed to be taking aggressive action to boost the economy. But it isn't.

It's true that the Fed has already pushed one pedal to the metal: short-term interest rates, its usual policy tool, are near zero. Still, Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, has assured us that he has other options, like holding more mortgage-backed securities and promising to keep short-term rates low. And a large body of research suggests that the Fed could boost the economy by committing to an inflation target higher than 2 percent.

But the Fed hasn't done any of these things. Instead, some officials are defining success down.

For example, last week Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, argued that the Fed bears no responsibility for the economy's weakness, which he attributed to business uncertainty about future regulations - a view that's popular in conservative circles, but completely at odds with all the actual evidence. In effect, he responded to the Fed's failure to achieve one of its two main goals by taking down the goalpost.

He then moved the other goalpost, defining the Fed's aim not as roughly 2 percent inflation, but rather as that of "keeping inflation extremely low and stable."

Taking down the goal post for keeping unemployment down; that's not the Fed's business anymore.

In short, it's all good. And I predict - having seen this movie before, in Japan - that if and when prices start falling, when below-target inflation becomes deflation, some Fed officials will explain that that's O.K., too.

What lies down this path? Here's what I consider all too likely: Two years from now unemployment will still be extremely high, quite possibly higher than it is now. But instead of taking responsibility for fixing the situation, politicians and Fed officials alike will declare that high unemployment is structural, beyond their control. And as I said, over time these excuses may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the long-term unemployed lose their skills and their connections with the work force, and become unemployable.

I'd like to imagine that public outrage will prevent this outcome. But while Americans are indeed angry, their anger is unfocused. And so I worry that our governing elite, which just isn't all that into the unemployed, will allow the jobs slump to go on and on and on.



D.R. McConnell, in his book, A Different Gospel, writes:

"It is a strange curiosity that those Christians who are most adamant that our's is the generation that will see the Lord's return - and the endtime deception and apostasy associated with his return - look for signs of this deception outside the church, in such conspiracies as the New Age movement, and in such cults as Mormonism, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and Christian Science.

"Admittedly, these movements pose potential threats to the church, but perhaps we would do better to look for the deception of the end-times where Jesus and the New Testament predicted it would occur: within the church, within groups that call themselves 'Christian' but which actually preach a different gospel."

We agree. The apostasy that the Bible says will occur in the "end of days" is not something that is going to take place OUTSIDE the church; rather it is something that is going to take place INSIDE it. But how? - that's the question. To understand the dynamic at work here we must put what is happening to the church in a larger context. Too many people try to understand "last things" from only the perspective of RELIGION. But that's not possible.

There are other dynamics at work - political, economic and military dynamics - and all of them one way or another impinge on the church and the apostasy that is at work within it, transforming what we know as the ORGANIZED church into the monster the Scriptures say it will become. And one needs to be clear here: IT WILL OCCUR - as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and NOTHING will stop it! The Bible says:

"Let no man deceive you by any means: for THAT DAY (i.e., the day of Christ's return, cf vs. 2) shall not come, except there come (first) a falling away (i.e., Gk., apostasia - or the apostasy of the church) first, and that MAN OF SIN BE REVEALED, the son of perdition;

"Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." (2 Thess. 2:3-4)


One of these dynamics is the increasing speed at which REAL democracy is disappearing in the world today - contrary to what one hears being trumpeted from the mainline press. The fact is, the world is not becoming more democratic, but less - and it is being driven forward in this process by the ever quickening pace of globalization and the inexorable division of the world into a small elite of wealthy "worthies" and a huge population of indigent "worker-serfs" - a division that follows in the wake of the globalization process as surely as water flows downhill.

And it is important to note here that the division of the earth's population in this fashion is occurring not only in the so-called "Developing World," but in the so-called "Developed World" as well - so that now the meaning behind that mysterious lyric in Rev. 6:6 becomes understandable:

"A measure of wheat for a penny [literally - denarius, a Greek coin which represented a WHOLE DAYS wages], and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine." (Rev. 6:6)

The meaning of this lyric is that the condition of man during this era (i.e., the "end of days") will be reduced to such that he will have to labor a whole day simply to buy a loaf of bread or three measures of barley. But the second part of the lyric [i.e., "... and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine ..."] means that the "hard times" of this period will not extend to the elites. This is the common interpretation - the one subscribed to by Ryrie, Pentecost, Ironside, Gaebelein, etc.

OBVIOUSLY, UNDER THE IMPRESS OF THIS KIND OF MALIGNANT DYNAMIC, DEMOCRACY IS NOT WORKABLE. Why? - because in societies where people are ground into the dirt by the crush of the powerful, those responsible cannot then expect those they have beaten down to endorse what they have done through the so-called "democratic process."

In other words, when the elites force the poor into what are for all practical purposes "slave-labor camps" in countries like Thailand, Indonesia, El Salvador, Haiti, etc. - and when they lock the gates to keep the workers in - forcing them to make Armani shirts for 80 cents a day at the rate of more than 100 shirts an hour in twelve hour shifts that run seven days a week, they cannot then expect these workers to endorse this kind of brutality through the ballot box. Democracy - REAL democracy - is not something the elites would want to endorse in this kind of situation.

It's tantamount to giving the whip to the slaves and expecting the slaves to willingly give it back so that they can be beaten all the more! At best, in such situations democracy must be reduced to a sham - the way it was in the South during the era of Jim Crow where blacks (and the poor in general) were "limited" in their access to the "democratic process."


If the elites, then, are unable to derive their legitimacy as a result of a REAL appeal to the "will of the people," how then can they derive it? After all, ALL authority must be legitimized. Ultimately, naked force is not enough, as the recent collapse of Communism in the old Soviet Union and Eastern Europe clearly demonstrates. No one group - especially a small minority (i.e., the rich) - can assert to any great degree and over any great length of time its superiority and right to rule based simply on brute force.

AND IT IS PRECISELY HERE THAT RELIGION PRESENTS ITSELF AS A USEFUL TOOL IN THE HANDS OF THE RICH!! In those societies where an appeal to the "will of the people" is not possible on any kind of meaningful basis, religion gives sanction to the rule of the privileged minority over and against the oppressed majority.

And not only that, it puts at ease the sometimes tortured souls of those who must exercise brute power in the name of the state - in other words, those who must do the elites' dirty work; it allows them to believe the lie that what they are doing, they are doing in the name of God and as His servants; that they hold their power as a result of "divine right" - Gott mit uns ("God is with us"), as the belt buckles on the uniforms of the SS read.

This is what sustained the army officers in the Argentine military who were responsible for dumping leftist political prisoners (men, women and children - some barely into their teens) alive over the Atlantic from the bellies of Argentine naval planes in the late 1970s and early '80s: Accompanying each of the death flights were Protestant pastors and / or Catholic priests whose job it was to "comfort" NOT the victims but the occasionally squeamish death squad functionary with various Scriptures from the Bible about the necessity of "separating the wheat from the chaff" - i.e., the Junta's enemies from the Junta's friends.


The truth is, until the relatively recent advent of broad based democratic institutions and their concomitant appeal to "the people" as a basis of legitimacy, religion formed the foundation for most social and state authority - and this was as true for the nations of Western Civilization as it was for the civilizations of Asia, Africa, the Near East and Central and South America. As a result, the state has historically been bound up with religion either explicitly or implicitly.

RELIGION LEGITIMIZES STATE POWER IN SOCIETIES THAT ARE ESSENTIALLY UNDEMOCRATIC AND CANNOT, AS A RESULT, RELY ON THE "WILL OF THE PEOPLE" AS THE SOURCE OF THEIR LEGITIMACY. And it should be remarked here that religion is important to the state in INVERSE proportion to the state's brutality. The more brutal the state, the greater the need for its rulers to undergird it by a resort to religion.

Historically, then, religion has operated as an INSTRUMENT OF OPPRESSION - A MEANS THROUGH WHICH THE RICH CAN OPPRESS THE POOR. Religion, when it operates in this capacity, has NOTHING TO DO WITH COMPASSION, TENDERNESS AND MERCY, AND EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE EXERCISE OF BRUTE POWER - and this is why the poor and the dispossessed have always hated STATE-sanctioned religion.


When Christianity operates in this capacity; when it serves the interests of the elites of this world, when it becomes the servant of the state; when it becomes an instrument of the rich to oppress the poor - IT HAS BECOME APOSTATE. That is what apostasy is all about! - AT LEAST IN THE FIRST INSTANCE!!

That's where it begins! The false doctrine that inevitably follows this condition of things - i.e., apostasy - is made necessary to mold the church to its new reality as a servant to the rich rather than to the poor; as a servant to the elites rather than to the downtrodden; as a servant to the state rather than to the kingdom of heaven.

After all, what do the elites want with a religion whose Originator says:

"LAY NOT UP FOR YOURSELVES TREASURES UPON THE EARTH, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

" But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

" For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matt. 6:19-21)

Or what good is a religion to the elites that would tell the rich -

"... If thou wilt be perfect, GO SELL (ALL) THAT THOU HAST, AND GIVE IT TO THE POOR, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me." (Matt. 19:21) ?