28 August 2006

Exodus Analysis

Reader Chris commented on My "Trickle Rises to Flood" post that he fears that as entrepreneurs and business owners ("the job creators") leave, unemployment will rise, criminality will as well and the government will be as useless then than it is now to deal with the situation. (Chris said it more politely.)

At first glance, he may be right. But let's think this through for a bit.

It isn't altogether certain that entrepreneurs and business owners are a significant majority of the people leaving Puerto Rico. It might be in Chris' social group, but in Mine (admittedly small and eccentric), only a teacher and a Legal Aid lawyer have left. In My friend Laura's social circle, it's mostly professionals, but I gather many of them are self-employed. According to the local Planning Board, in 2003-2004, most of the people switching addresses to points north were in the 50+ age group, most likely retired or semi-retired folks.

Along those lines, We can assume that the exodus features a good cross-section of lower middle class to upper class income level families. One would expect that group to be weighed in the direction of highly educated men and women, with some of them creating jobs. But it seems to Me that the most successful job creators would not be inclined to leave. The ones that are leaving, I believe, are those who can uproot easily, those with the fewest commitments, and that includes those that create few jobs. (But they are still important.)

The fact that relatively educated people are leaving is disturbing, but I don't think it will be as damaging as Chris believes. For one thing, these same people are largely invisible in the maelstrom We call daily life. The prevailing attitude seems to be one of hands flung resignedly in the air in surrender, head hunched down to ignore the surroundings and get back behind their closed-access neighborhood before darkness falls.

If the exodus is really causing a rise in unemployment, We haven't seen it, and given the sub-simian quality of statistical reporting We wallow in, We might not know until the next decade rolls over Us. Let's assume Chris is right and unemployment does rise. How much does it have to rise to be significant?

The current rate is "officially" around 16%, but the true rate is closer to 26-29% and it might be higher. If the "official" rate is pushed to 20%, there might be a problem, but Our government is so pathetic right now that it will be like opening a branch ditch to an overflowing outhouse. Toss in the ham-fisted impact of the upcoming sales and import taxes and then you do have a darker scenario looming ahead. And in that scenario, criminality is bound to rise.

So is Chris wrong? Not really, but I believe he's telescoping several years into a few and who knows what the future may really bring. Then again, when it comes to making a bad situation worse, We seem to have the Dream Team of Stupid Evildoers playing 24/7.

We could use a few Caped Crusaders about now. And don't look for them amongst the ones who have left and are leaving, for We all know who are the proverbial first to leave the sinking ship...

The Jenius Has Spoken.


Anonymous said...

What is that I hear?


Holy shit, who are you and what have you done with Gil?!


I agree btw. I'm still here.

GCSchmidt said...

James, it's funny how what used to be the norm (Jenial optimism) is now the exception.

Must be the water.

And yes, it's good to know you're still here. I'd say "Misery loves company," but I'm being an optimist this week.