(photo: athoshun/flickr)

(photo: athoshun/flickr)

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As I was surfing through various news sites this morning (April 2), I noticed a number of articles discussing problems with the European and US economies which lead directly to the question I have posed in the title of this post:

How does an interconnected global economy avoid a global recession?

Unfortunately, I do not know the answer but if I had to guess, it would be to say “It can’t.”

The first article I noticed was from tha AP via Yahoo titled, “Euro unemployment spikes to record 10.8 percent.” Reuters reported it as “Euro zone unemployment reaches near 15 year high“:

Unemployment in the euro zone reached its highest level in almost 15 years in February, with more than 17 million people out of work, and economists said they expected job office queues to grow even longer later this year.

Joblessness in the 17-nation currency zone rose to 10.8 percent – in line with a Reuters poll of economists – and 0.1 points worse than in January, Eurostat said on Monday.

Economists are divided over the wisdom of European governments’ drive to bring down fiscal deficits so aggressively as economic troubles hit tax revenues, consumers’ spending power and business confidence which collapsed late last year.

As a companion to these was this blog post from Reuters on youth unemployment across Europe:

In Spain the number of under 24-year-olds out of work is 50 percent, in Italy nearly a third of young people are without a job and in France the figure is a quarter.

However, in Germany youth unemployment is expected to sink to record lows over the coming months and is currently well below 8 percent.

…snip…

So what is Germany doing right and can Spain learn a few lessons? In an article written for the Centre for European Reform, John Springford lays the problem out clearly. In EU countries where rates of unemployment are high levels of participation in higher education and vocational studies is approximately 40 percent. In Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland, where youth unemployment is fairly low, rates are closer to 60 percent in some cases.

But it is not just high unemployment in general and among the young in particular that is problematic. Today’s NY Times had this article on the swelling ranks of the working poor in Europe:

Europe’s long-running euro crisis may be cooling. But the economic distress it has left in its wake is pushing a rising tide of workers into precarious straits in France and across the European Union. Today, hundreds of thousands of people are living in campgrounds, vehicles and cheap hotel rooms. Millions more are sharing space with relatives, unable to afford the basic costs of living.

These people are the extreme edge of Europe’s working poor: a growing slice of the population that is slipping through Europe’s long-vaunted social safety net. Many, particularly the young, are trapped in low-paying or temporary jobs that are replacing permanent ones destroyed in Europe’s economic downturn.

Now, economists, European officials and social watchdog groups are warning that the situation is set to worsen. As European governments respond to the crisis by pushing for deep spending cuts to close budget gaps and greater flexibility in their work forces, “the population of working poor will explode,” said Jean-Paul Fitoussi, an economics professor at L’Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris.

Meanwhile in the US, there was this post from Yahoo:

In addition, while the economy has been expanding for nearly three years and hiring is picking up, Reich notes, “we also see some major declines in terms of median wage. And that’s particularly true for the bottom 90 percent.”

In the past, economists argued that wage growth lagged in part because employers were spending more on benefits like health care and pensions. But that hasn’t been the case in the past few years. A recently released study from the National Institute for Health Care Reform shows that in 2010, the percentage of Americans with insurance who got insurance from employers fell to 53.5 percent, down sharply from 63.6 percent in 2007. “At the top of the talent chain, employers are providing very generous health insurance, deferred compensation, and everything you can imagine,” notes Reich. “But as you go down the job ladder, particularly to people who are doing routine jobs, they’re getting less and less. There has been a substantial erosion of health care benefits for the bottom 90 percent.

David Dayen at FDL News points out that “Austerity doesn’t work.” Austerity in Europe squeezes the 90%, throws more people into unemployment and creates more working poor. The same thing in the US. In an interconnected global economy, how can we not have a global recession when seemingly the entire industrial world is being squeezed.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor