home our amazing 21st Century After the Great Recession

After the Great Recession

by David Brin, Ph.D.

The era of employee ownership has arrived. Show what you are made of, by turning these companies profitable! And then pass out those profits to member-owners.

After the Great Recession

In 2009, the new Congress and President buckled down to fix the economic mess of the Great Recession of 2006-2008. We all wished them luck and wisdom... and it seemed that everybody — columnists, political sages, bloggers and citizens — was chirping in with suggestions from the wings. Here are David Brin's, calling for more than a bandaid-and-a-bailout solution. Were any taken? Can they still be implemented?

For example: Demand equity and restitution. Use TARP and other bailout funds to buy only items that might offer good returns, when things turn around. Those who long howled that "government should be run like a business" have no right to complain when the United States takes advantage of an opportunity to buy low in order to sell high later on. Whiners who don't like this are hypocrites. Note that the Big Three automakers qualify under this condition, while distressed derivative wagers, held by foolish aristocrats, do not.

Also: Require that beneficiary companies make good faith efforts toward reclaiming unfair and absurd executive compensation. In fact, all future aided companies that have experienced outrageous executive compensation should be asked to file a lawsuit against those past executives, at least on a pro-forma basis, in order to establish a legal basis for discovery processes.

So much for repair. Now — what about renew? Similar principles should guide the new economic stimulus plan, including investing some of the $850B that soon-to-be President Obama and Congressional leaders plan to spend on public infrastructure projects. Among the guiding principles for how they do spend it ought to be:

Spend quickly, so that a maximum number of unemployed get to work, but...

Spend in ways that also maximize national benefit — the purpose of concentrating on infrastructure.

Do not stimulate with tax or other changes that will be hard to rescind once the crisis is over. (Unless this is part of an overall plan, e.g., reducing FICA payroll taxes in exchange for a permanent percentage-based fuels tax or a windfall bonus tax.)

Do not fall for "emergency" scams that favor specific companies, cronies, or Congressional districts. (This was done by the Bush Group, using 9/11 and Iraq as excuses to sign "emergency" bypasses to contracting laws, favoring pals to the tune of tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars. This is, in fact, history's largest loophole-for-theft, and it's gone unmentioned in the press.)

Establish a principle that no region of the country will benefit more than 10% more than the tax-proportion they contribute. Yes, Red America will howl, and Obama might have to back down on this one. But even broaching it would be a great way to make a political point: to drill into peoples' minds how hypocritical it has been to bash the blue zones, while they have been carrying more than their fair share of the burden. Ironically, this could help ease the "culture war" by making clear where Red America's self interest lies — and tone down the bitterness!

Finally, I feel I really need to reiterate my assertion that any bailout of the Big Three U.S. automakers ought to entail an imaginative compromise deal with the workers. Neither side has been either up-front, or right, in the tussle over further UAW concessions. The Unions must realize that their present deal is archaic, brittle and contributing to the collapse of a U.S. motor industry. On the other hand, those troglodyte Southern senators who demanded concessions simply in the form of across the board pay and benefits cuts are at-best waging civil war on behalf of the South and the horrifically stupid managerial caste that ran Detroit into the ground.

Common sense demands that the workers accept that a third or more of their rigid wages and benefits should change its form — but not necessarily go away! It is time for labor and pensioners to accept the blatantly obvious: that their enforceable obligations make them the top creditors of Ford, GM and Chrysler. For once George W. Bush said something right. Treat this as a bankruptcy! With present shareholders and management dropping to the bottom of priority, that would leave the workers and pensioners — effectively — the owners of the Big Three.

Live with it. Yes, both labor and management have struggled desperately, for decades, to avoid facing this inevitable day. But the era of employee ownership has arrived. So? Turn lemons into lemonade. Show what you are made of, by turning these companies profitable! And then pass out those profits to member-owners. That ought to make up for bringing formal, line wages down to competitive levels.

Think about it. As both workers and owners, UAW folk ought to come out ahead! That is, if they believe in themselves and in their products and potential.


After the Great Recession

about this article

"After the Great Recession" (published in full here) was one of a series of 21 "Unusual Suggestions" Brin posted following the election of 2008, when it seemed that everybody — columnists, political sages, bloggers and citizens — wrote missives about "what I'd do if I were president."

Copyright © 2009 by David Brin. All rights reserved.

join David Brin's discussions

David Brin blogs at Contrary Brin and posts social media comments on Facebook, Twitter, Quora, and MeWe specifically to discuss the political and scientific issues he raises in these articles. If you come and argue rationally, you're voting, implicitly, for a civilization that values open minds and discussions among equals.

cited in this article

David Brin, "Conservatives Keep Pushing Fairy Tales About Taxes and Job Creation"

David Brin, "How Americans Spent Themselves Into Ruin... But Saved the World"

David Brin, "Power of Consumption"

David Brin, "A Primer on Supply-Side vs. Demand-Side Economics"

making economic sense

letting others have their say

John B. Judis, The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics

Raghuram G. Rajan, Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy

Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big to Fail

Timpthy F. Geithner, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises

John C. Bogle, The Clash of the Cultures: Investment vs. Speculation

Inside Job (film)

Brian Alexander, Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town


a brief intro to author David Brin

DAVID BRIN scientist


David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!).
Learn More

shorter fiction

Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form.
Learn More

Contrary Brin blog

Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore.
Learn More

social media influencer

Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages.
Learn More


David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research.
Learn More

transparency expert

Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy.
Learn More

speaker & consultant

Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 200 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings.
Learn More

future/tech advisor

Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others.
Learn More

Contacting BRIN

All the Ways in the World to Reach David Brin

an ornery, contrary BLOG, and other insightful wormholes!

Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's incendiary posts on science, sci-fi and politics and its engaged, opinionated community poke at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate — and infuriate. See for yourself, and if you like — subscribe for more.

Questions? Concerns? Email DAVID BRIN


facebook followers and fans

  join me on Facebook


twitter followers

  join me on Twitter


quora followers

  join me on Quora

get on the Brin newsletter!

DAVID BRIN newsletter sign-up

subscribe to David Brin's newsletter and keep up to date on his books, signings and appearances

pinterest boards

DAVID BRIN Pinterest

share David Brin's pins from these Pinterest boards and share the word about science and science fiction

other points of departure

visit other pages on this website

pages about DAVID BRIN

  • latest news and activities
  • information about DAVID BRIN
  • public speaking and consulting & popular topics
  • speaking/consulting references and testimonials & a list of past appearances
  • print and podcast interviews
  • video interviews and talks
  • Brin's presskit and complete biography
  • traditional media and social media
  • Brin quotes and frequently asked questions
  • pages about BRIN's science fiction

  • Brin's novels and books
  • Brin's short stories and novellas
  • all about Brin's uplift universe
  • a selection of book reviews
  • Brin's special-order books for sale
  • Brin's advice for new writers
  • Brin reviews sci fi films — including The Postman
  • a compilation of great sf books to read
  • recommended sf films
  • science fiction that teaches
  • BRIN's nonfiction explorations

  • privacy, security, accountability and transparency
  • designing and crafting our amazing 21st Century
  • predicting and projecting our near and far future
  • leading and following our politics and economy
  • keeping track of changes in science and technology
  • scanning our sky for habitable (inhabited?) worlds