How are men doing in our anemic economic recovery? David Brooks, after discussing his favorite Western movie, argues in his latest column, Men on the Threshold, that men are “unable to cross the threshold into the new economy.” Though he’d probably argue that he’s talking about generational changes, he focuses on a few data points from the current recession, including that “all the private sector jobs lost by women during the Great Recession have been recaptured, but men still have a long way to go.”
Is he right? And what are some facts we can put on the current recovery when it comes to men versus women?
Men had a harder crash during the recession, but a much better recovery, when compared with women.
Indeed, during the first two years of the recovery expert analysis was focused on a situation that was completely reversed from Brooks’
“All that time he’s collecting streetcar transfers off the street and selling them, see. Nerve? Nerve.”
Yesterday Americans began reading about a different kind of business nerve. According to the New York Times and other sources, American International Group, the insurance titan and poster child for government bailouts of the financial sector, is considering suing the very government that loaned it $182 billion. AIG’s legal thinking is that, while it was all very good of the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Bank of New York to come to its rescue, the terms of that rescue inflicted unfairly high losses on the company’s shareholders.
All this comes during a publicity campaign in which AIG has been thanking Americans for saving its skin during the 2008 economic meltdown that led to a long recession.
There is little disagreement that consumer spending is a critical driver of American economic growth. The recession that began in 2007, while precipitated by the meltdown in the financial sector, is at root a crisis of aggregate demand. The halting recovery has been punctuated by disappointing monthly job reports and—just as important—by gloomy predictions from the Conference Board’s monthly survey of consumer confidence. Even business surveys admit (here and here) that anemic consumer demand (not “job-killing regulations”) is holding back new job creation and economic recovery.
Yet, despite worries about sagging consumer confidence and shrinking paychecks, business leaders seem unconcerned about the declining standard of living of middle-class America, or about the growing number of American families slipping into poverty. Over the last generation, wages for middle-class workers haven’t budged, while compensation for corporate executives and owners is reaching stratospheric levels.