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Oct. 14 2009 - 2:00 pm | 112 views | 0 recommendations | 5 comments

Dow 10,000 and military recruitment goals: A tale of two numbers

Performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Index ...

This is a graph that shows how the average American feels when unemployment and lack of opportunity drives them to join the military

Perhaps you’ve heard that the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached 10,000 today, finally, at long last.

Where the market will actually close in a couple of hours is anyone’s guess. But this non-story story becomes a story because people involved in the stock market, whether they like to admit it or not, actually believe it’s a story. See, the invisible hand of our free market finds its palm a little less sweaty when it has numbers that offer it some positive reinforcement that everything is OK. See the obligatory quote about market psychology in the Wall Street Journal:

Market watchers are expecting the achievement of the 10,000 level to keep driving stocks higher. Despite the breadth of stocks’ gains over the past seven months, many investors have remained on the sidelines on fears that the rally has not been supported enough by economic fundamentals. But the Dow’s return to the 10,000 level might be enough to spur some of the doubters to jump back in, with fears of missing out on more of the rally.

“When people see the Dow moving from the 9,000s to the 10,000s, it definitely changes the psychology a little bit,” said Cleve Rueckert, a technician with Birinyi Associates. “There’s definitely still a lot of people out there who still think this is a bear-market rally and that the economics don’t support the gains, but every time the market crosses one of these round number thresholds, some of those people change their tune.”

via Blue Chips Reclaim 10000 – WSJ.com.

But it turns out that while Mr. Dow Jones believes that our Great Recession is over (that’s a joke), one invisible hand in our market doesn’t know what the other is doing. Americans are going so broke in this jobless recovery that instead of finding work in our not-so-happy-fun-time economy, they’d rather get shot up and shoot at other people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places.

That’s right, the Pentagon reported on this day of Dow 10,000 that our strained Armed Forces have beat their recruiting goals for the fiscal year, driven by economic unease. Eli Lake reports in the Washington Times:

The U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force sent about 169,000 new recruits for training in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The Pentagon said this was the highest figure since 1973, the first year of the modern all-volunteer force. The numbers also exceed the Pentagon’s goal for the year of 164,000 new service members.

[...]

Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, told reporters at the Pentagon that the number of recruits increased in part because of the economic slump in the United States.

Asked whether higher unemployment contributed to the boom in recruits, Mr. Carr said, “It was a force. And, again, because our investment that we had planned on making in recruiting, given the unemployment that we had not directly forecast, allowed us to be for much of the year in a very favorable position.”

I salute the service of our men and women in uniform, and respect the bravery of all who would choose to join at a time when it looks like we are headed for years of peril in Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires. But I’d rather salute Americans by finding them jobs that don’t involve armored vehicles and improvised explosive devices.

If there is anything that shows the divide between Wall Street and Main Street, it’s the contrast between a day when the stock market gleefully returns to five-digit territory, and the military beats its recruitment goals.


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