Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why Starting an Exercise Plan Might Help To Understand How to Think About the Economy

I was recently browsing health and fitness websites for exercise "secrets" when I came across an article that started me thinking about the similarity between an individual getting himself into physical shape and a politician trying to get the economy into shape.  The article was called, "Why Crunches and Sit Ups Do Not Get You Six Pack Abs".  The first few paragraphs are what stimulated my parallel thinking on the subject.  They read:

"Doing countless crunches and sit ups are by far the most common exercise mistake for anyone who wants to slim down their midsection. The thought is that doing hundreds of crunches and sit ups will work the abs so hard that the fat covering them will disappear. If this were true, you would see people walking around with toned and defined abs and a soft and flabby body everywhere else.

Here’s something to think about:  we’re always focusing on the abs but have you ever noticed that the people who have the best abs also have a great body everywhere else? This is by design – not by coincidence. The idea that doing lots of crunches is going to get you six pack abs is a myth that is known as “spot reduction”. Fat burning is not a local phenomenon.

When you do bicep curls your biceps do not pull fat from your arm for energy, so why would crunches reduce the fat around your waistline? More on that soon.
If you want to see your abs then know this:  It all comes down to the basics of losing body fat, calories in versus calories out......."

Makes all the sense in the world.  Now think about the government's exercise plan.  If we increase the pay of all low wage workers to $10/hr, all our economic woes will disappear.  If we make rich people pay more taxes, our listing economic ship will be righted overnight. Right?  Of course not. Those kinds of spot reductions will never work because they only take from one pocket of the economy and put it in another. They don't increase the total number of dollars in the economy's pants.

The whole economy has to get more fit if the aim is to have it's midsection (or bottom) more fit.  And, as the article later pointed out, there really is no secret to getting more fit - you have to eat right and exert yourself.

Seems to me that eating right in the economic sense would be the same as spending our tax dollars prudently, while exerting ourselves would be akin to raising our production levels. By producing more, we would take care of our abs (middle class if you prefer) and wage issues in a natural way that wouldn't have us wasting energy for little to no real benefit.  But we would also take care of all the other parts of our economic body as well.

Now, we'll have to convince people like Hilary Clinton, who, like President Obama, could stand use a bit of schooling on the futility of targeted economic policies.  Pressed recently to clarify why she said, "Don’t let anybody tell you that corporations and businesses create jobs", she offered the following clarification, which was essentially an endorsement of spot reductions as a solution:

“Trickle down economics has failed. I short-handed this point the other day, so let me be absolutely clear about what I’ve been saying for a couple of decades. Our economy grows when businesses and entrepreneurs create good-paying jobs here in America and workers and families are empowered to build from the bottom up and the middle out—not when we hand out tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs or stash their profits overseas.”

In my mind, the only thing she clarified is how dumb she thinks we are.

So here's my clarification:

Lots of sit-ups or other spot reducing exercises are fine if you like wasting your time.  Lots of targeted economic policies are fine if votes matter more to you than results.  Neither is fine if you're serious about getting in shape.



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