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October 31, 2009
USSR Humor and the Jobless Recovery
A story from the old Soviet Union helps us understand claims that a jobless recovery is underway.
Once upon a time four of the historic leaders of the old Soviet Union were on a train going across the Siberian wilderness: Lenin, Stalin, Kruschev and Brezhnev. (Suspend your understanding of time.)
Midway across the wilderness, the train reached the end of the tracks. Construction works were huddled around fires trying to stay warm. They said track supplies were short.
Lenin said he’d take care of it. He climbed down the steps of the plush private care the leaders were traveling in, had workers build a simple platform, mounted it, and started giving a rousing speech. He exhorted the crowd to revolutionary effort to advance the cause of the people. They all shouted and went back to work.
In a couple of hours the train moved down the track about a quarter mile. Then it stopped.
The leaders looked at each other. Stalin said he’d take care of it.
He climbed down from the private railcar and ordered that all the track foremen be shot and new ones appointed.
Work resumed. The train started up again. Went another quarter mile and stopped.
This time Kruschev said it was his turn. He descended from the railcar and ordered that the track behind the train be pulled up and laid in front of the train. He pounded his shoe on Lenin’s platform for emphasis.
Later the train began to roll again. This time it went further than before. But then it stopped again.
Brezhnev said he’s fix things. He scrambled down the ladder, gathered the new foremen around him, and said, “Comrades, divide your workers into two groups. Line one half along one side of the train, and the other along the opposite. Rock the train from side-to-side so that it feels like we’re moving.”
And they did. Inside the railcar Lenin, Stalin and Kruschev marveled at how Brezhnev had been able to get so much track laid in so little time, and at all the distance they were moving across the wilderness.
Outside, Joe Bidenchev, a new foreman, encouraged the workers saying, “Look, Comrades, at how many foremens’ jobs we’ve saved.”
Okay, the last part wasn’t part of the original telling.