Merrill Goozner

Merrill Goozner is the senior correspondent for The Fiscal Times and a Prospect contributing editor. His blog can be found at http://www.gooznews.com/

Recent Articles

The Credit Drought

It's hard for small businesses to get a leg up in this sluggish economy. 

(Flickr/jczart)
Z achary Davis and Kendra Baker, 30-something co-owners of a small ice-cream manufacturing and retail shop in Santa Cruz, California, sat next to first lady Michelle Obama at the 2011 State of the Union address in honor of their entrepreneurship. They traveled a rocky road to their seats in the House gallery, one that reveals the parlous state of small-business finance—an endangered ecosystem whose diminished capacity to nurture new jobs is retarding the rebound from the Great Recession. The two friends, he a computer-industry dropout, she a pastry chef, decided to open the Penny Ice Creamery in early 2009. Though it was during the depths of the downturn, they weren’t crazy to start a new business. Entrepreneurs often see recessions as a time to start new businesses because downturns expose or sweep away inefficient, incompetent, or archaic incumbents. After surveying the chain-dominated local landscape, Davis and Baker saw a niche for ice cream made from locally procured organic...

Can Government Go Green?

If the “mission accomplished” photo-op was the defining moment of the Bush administration's foreign policy, the president's recent visit to the National Renewal Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, defined its energy policy. One week after he embraced alternative energy in his State of the Union address, Bush's budget axed 32 employees at the nation's premier alternative energy lab, a facility that developed key technologies for hybrid cars and photovoltaic cells. His political operatives didn't even know what they had done until a few hours before his visit, triggering a mad scramble to restore the jobs to avoid embarrassing the president. Too late. Reporters had a field day. But they should have paid more attention to the rest of the administration's proposed federal budget, the ultimate arbiter of national energy policy. Bush's TV rhetoric was disconnected from reality. Programs that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower U.S. dependence on foreign oil got short shrift...

Can We Housebreak Capitalism?

This year marks the centennial of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and it's sobering to imagine how that exposé of working conditions in Chicago's meatpacking plants might fare before the Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the contemporary gatekeeper for proposed regulations. The lightly fictionalized novel's most grisly passage showed workers slipping, falling, and being rendered into “Durham's Pure Leaf Lard.” Within a year, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drugs and Meat Inspection acts, thus creating the nation's first health and safety regulatory agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Things would go much differently today. The OMB would first demand a risk assessment weighing the odds that a worker might actually fall into a vat of lard. Then it would commission a cost-benefit analysis to determine if the projected earnings from the “quality-adjusted life years” remaining for those few unfortunates exceeded the employer costs of eliminating the hazard...

Throwing Away the Rules

Corporate America's ideological assault on government regulation has undermined middle America's understanding of why these rules exist in the first place. It is true that some regulations have lived past their prime, protecting monopolies and stifling innovation. But the free-market ideologues of our era were not content to adjust those regulations to accommodate new economic realities. Instead, they preferred wholesale deregulation. The results are predictable. The most spectacular market disaster of recent times -- the accounting and stock-analyst frauds that robbed large swaths of the middle class of its retirement savings and misallocated trillions of dollars of investment capital -- was a direct result of the deregulation of financial markets that began under Ronald Reagan and intensified during the Bill Clinton years. If you weaken the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and limit investors' right to sue accountants and corporate managers for fraud, you get Arthur Andersen...

Higher Skills, Fewer Jobs

In the past three years, U.S manufacturers have suffered their most dramatic job losses since the Great Depression. Even with the turnaround in job creation reported this fall, manufacturing lost another 19,000 jobs in November. The sector's low-skilled and lowest-paid workers have been especially hard hit because they engaged in repetitive work at outmoded plants. But even more highly skilled workers who performed statistical process control in automated clean rooms weren't immune. Manufacturing job opportunities for the high-school educated have evaporated across the board. The 48 percent of Americans over 25 with no education beyond high school have traditionally looked to the manufacturing sector for jobs, and for good reasons: Not only does manufacturing pay better than average but manufacturers often provide the high-school educated with a semblance of a career ladder compared with alternatives in fast food, warehousing and other low-wage but fast-growing service industries. For...

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