Now that unemployment is the lead headline every day it's time to realize that this is no longer about 'the economy'; it's about technology and population. Yes, we've had a veritable parade of fiscal hurricanes—offshoring, Enron, banking and housing insanity, and trillion-dollar wars—but those are merely storms. And in the same way that storms knock dead wood off trees, it's not the storm that kills the tree, and it's not the economy, or even China, that takes jobs away by the millions.
Every day it takes fewer people—and jobs—to produce the same amount of goods and services. This is far-and-away the dominant force in our employment picture. (The only way we'll get those jobs back from China is if we somehow have 1.3 billion people and they have 300 million. Be careful what you wish for.) Every day that we continue to expect an upturn in the economy to solve our unemployment problem is a day lost in working toward a real solution. No number of cars or homes sold can solve this problem because, it turns out, growth is precisely the opposite of sustainability. Thirty years ago we talked about population but not any more. If we continue to attack the problem solely with increased production and consumption, the peaks and valleys of economic peril will only get more pronounced.