This morning I sat down in front of the old 'puter in order to check the progress of the markets and to read the latest gas about the state of the world today. I noted an improvement in the unemployment picture, but as usual, there were notes of caution. Reading on, I noted the Gordian knot that seems to have given our economy a rather severe case of constipation. I've highlighted it below in the two quotes taken from the AP story I was reading.
“Even so, October's modest job growth is barely enough to keep pace with population growth. About twice as many are needed to lower the unemployment rate. Many employers are hesitant to step up hiring until they see steady demand from consumers.”
“Without more jobs and higher wages, consumers are likely to pare spending in the months ahead. Consumer spending is important because it accounts for 70% of economic activity.”
The Gordian Knot, you'll recall, is basically a quandry, a knot with neither beginning nor end – a puzzle – that seems unable to be solved. The reason for the lack of solution is probably because politicians and economists lack the Archimedean point from which to properly observe the problem. So be it. One would have to be a time traveler – able to see all sides of the question – past, present and future – at once in order to correctly solve the problem.
Hence, the quandry seems to present “a rock and a hard place”, or “the horns of a dilemma.” We are indeed threatened by the economic Scylla and Charybdis of this day and age, or put another way, with a choice between “the devil and the deep blue sea.” The issue seems as intractable as the Gordian Knot. And yet the problem of the knot was solved by Alexander the Great.
Alexander, it seems, toyed with the knot for a while, but eventually grew frustrated because he could not find an end to the knot from which to start untying it. I've had the same problem my self when the grandchildren snarl up the catgut fishline. It seems to have no beginning nor end that is discernible. And I do what Alexander did. I take my knife, and cut the knot in half producing the requisite ends and a solution to the snarls.
The question here is who will take the bold action to set the economy right again. Who will slice through the knot and create the means to make government work, and hence get employers to start hiring and consumers to start spending. FDR took the bold action in the 1930's.
Perhaps President Obama has finally grasped the situation. In recent weeks he has begun to take some unilateral action to get things moving again. He has said on some occasions that he would be okay with being a one term president so long as he had done his best during that one term. He has not need to worry about being a one term president. What he needs to concern himself with is whether he is doing the bold and decisive thing. In short he needs to cut our own economic and political Gordian knot.