Archive for category Unemployment
A couple key passages:
The US elites, similarly, took the smooth functioning of the political-economic system for granted. The only problem, as they saw it, was that they weren’t being adequately compensated for their efforts. Feelings of dissatisfaction ran high during the Bear Market of 1973—82, when capital returns took a particular beating. The high inflation of that decade ate into inherited wealth. A fortune of $2 billion in 1982 was a third smaller, when expressed in inflation-adjusted dollars, than $1 billion in 1962, and only a sixth of $1 billion in 1912. All these factors contributed to the reversal of the late 1970s.
Three years ago I published a short article in the science journal Nature. I pointed out that several leading indicators of political instability look set to peak around 2020. In other words, we are rapidly approaching a historical cusp, at which the US will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval. This prediction is not a ‘prophecy’. I don’t believe that disaster is pre-ordained, no matter what we do. On the contrary, if we understand the causes, we have a chance to prevent it from happening. But the first thing we will have to do is reverse the trend of ever-growing inequality.
And finally this one:
How does growing economic inequality lead to political instability? Partly this correlation reflects a direct, causal connection. High inequality is corrosive of social cooperation and willingness to compromise, and waning cooperation means more discord and political infighting. Perhaps more important, economic inequality is also a symptom of deeper social changes, which have gone largely unnoticed.
Source: Mother Jones
The federal government’s latest annual deficit was $680 billion, the smallest it’s been since 2008, according to Treasury Department data released Wednesday. Federal spending in 2013 totaled 20.8% of GDP, down from 22% the year before. The FY 2013 deficit was less than half the record $1.413 trillion figure inherited by the Obama administration from President George W. Bush. It’s becoming clear to everyone, not just economists, that deficits are not that hard to control. If we can fix the economy and get the rich to pay their fair share of taxes, deficit spending will vanish completely.
The so-called “sequester” austerity budget has effectively sabotaged our economic recovery, but at least it accomplished one good thing. Washington politicians are no longer talking seriously about a proposed “Grand Bargain” to cut Social Security and Medicare. Progressive blogs have labeled this the Grand Betrayal, an attack on the social safety net that has kept millions of Americans out of poverty.
Paul Ryan killed any lingering hopes of a grand bargain within moments of the budget conference kickoff on Wednesday.
In his opening remarks, the Wisconsin congressman and chairman of the House budget committee laid down a firm marker against new taxes, which are essential to any major deficit reduction proposal that can pass Congress and be signed into law.
…His comments reflect the no-compromise mood of the GOP. That means the two chambers are unlikely to strike a major debt deal or reconcile the different budgets passed by the House and Senate earlier this year.
Party of NO, do your stuff!
OTOH it would be good if the 29-member budget conference committee can find some way to avoid another government shutdown on January 15 next year. Hopefully, that’s not too much to ask. They have until December 13 to reach a compromise agreement.
Source: Calculated Risk Blog
The excruciatingly slow and anemic recovery from Bush’s Great Recession continues, according to the August jobs report.
Employers added 169,000 jobs in August but many fewer in June and July than previously thought, the Labor Department said Friday. Combined, June, July and August amounted to the weakest three-month stretch of job growth in a year.
The unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent, the lowest in nearly five years. But it fell because more Americans stopped looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed. The proportion of Americans working or looking for work reached its lowest point in 35 years.
Americans are not impressed with a so-called “economic recovery” that has produced mainly low-wage jobs.
Low-wage jobs, defined as those that pay no more than $13.83 an hour, accounted for 21 percent of recession job losses but have accounted for 58 percent of the recovery growth.
Meanwhile, Congress is debating a potential $12 billion war against Syria. If the past is any guide, that will prove to be a gross underestimate of the cost.
Civilian Employment-Population Ratio from St. Louis Fed
Antidote to economic happy-talk. Fewer Americans are working than at any time in the past three decades. The employment-to-population ratio has collapsed.
There are still over 20 million people in need of full time work. The employment rate — the percentage of the population in the workforce — hasn’t budged from recession levels. At current rates, the U.S. won’t return to the pre-recession 5 percent unemployment rate until 2022 — and even at that level, American families were losing ground.
Corporate profits are up, but wages aren’t. Wages are now at the lowest percent of the economy on record. The median wage hasn’t budged this century. College and non-college grads are now losing ground. The good jobs that were lost are being replaced by low wage and part-time jobs. Young people are starting out behind, unemployed or underemployed at ruinous high rates. Our Gilded Age inequality is getting worse, with the top 1 percent pocketing all of the rewards of growth.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget promises to create 7 million new jobs in one year, and includes $4.4 trillion in deficit reduction and $112 billion in infrastructure investment. That beats any other budget proposal in Washington, by far – including the Obama administration’s yet-to-be-released budget. And it won’t cut Medicare benefits to pay for more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.
[T]alk of a fiscal crisis has subsided. Yet the deficit scolds haven’t given up on their determination to bully the nation into slashing Social Security and Medicare. So they have a new line: We must bring down the deficit right away because it’s “generational warfare,” imposing a crippling burden on the next generation. …
…Yet there is, as I said, a lot of truth to the charge that we’re cheating our children. How? By neglecting public investment and failing to provide jobs.
My initial response to that question was to say, “Huh?”
But we’re talking about complex, interconnected systems. The argument goes something like this:
Start by recognizing that international economics and politics are a set of networks. Each national economy is a network connected to a larger, international network. These networks have key nodes. In terms of finances, the US and UK are two nodes whose influence is outsized simply because they are connected to so many other networks. The more links a network has to other networks, the easier it is to spread problems.
. . . if contagion spreads across links, network topology will have important consequences for the likelihood of spread. As it turns out, there is strong reason to believe that the international financial system is one of the latter kinds of networks rather than one of the former. On two measures of financial ties, most countries on the periphery of the network have few links to other peripheral countries, but pretty well everyone has links to the US, and many have links to the UK too.
In other words, the US exported its economic downturn to the rest of the world when our financial system crashed. What does that have to do with Iraq?
Military Keynesianism, says Thomas Oatley.
Now consider the Iraqi case. The sharp increase of military spending sparked by 9/11 and Iraq followed a massive tax cut (and coincidentally, we had a massive tax cut in 1964). Like Vietnam, therefore, the US borrowed to pay for the War on Terror. If the Vietnam War experience is any guide, this budget deficit must have had consequences for US macroeconomic and financial performance. The deficit was larger and persisted for longer than the Vietnam case. I argue that the choice to finance the War on Terror by borrowing rather than by raising taxes worsened the US external imbalance and the resulting “capital flow bonanza” triggered the US credit boom. The credit boom generated the asset bubble the deflation of which generated the great global crisis from which we are still recovering. Obviously, it takes a lot of heavy lifting to get from the war-related budget deficit to the global financial and economic crisis.
Oatley is writing a book exploring this theory.
In a less networked, less connection international economy, the effects of the US economic crash might have been limited to the US. Instead, however, the distortions of the US economy caused by the spending for the War on Terror in general and the Iraq war specifically, and the massive tax cuts that caused us to pay for it through borrowing, created ripples in the US economy the ultimately caused a US crash which, through our connection to all the networks, casued a worldwide economic crash.
Everything is connected to everything else. We’re talking aobut complex systems here, systems playing out in unexpected ways. It’s a prime example of the levels of complexity Adam Kahane talks about – social, dynamic and generative complexity working concurrently in crazy making ways. Tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 causing a crash in 2008? The Iraq war causing a global economic meltdown? It seems daft until you start thinking about interlocking parts connected to other interlocking parts. So, in a way, you can start building a case that the 2001 Bush Tax cuts are ultimately responsible for the economic problems in Greece, Spain and Cyprus.
One of Oatley’s colleagues explores the idea further, arguing that there’s a distinction between core and peripheral nodes and their crises. A peripheral node crisis is unlikely to spread further while a core node crisis will spread further:
Or take the examples of Iceland and Ireland. Iceland repudiated the debt of its banks, imposed capital controls, and told international investors to take a hike. Once again, this is a recipe for contagion yet systemic crisis did not result. Ireland did the opposite: it guaranteed the debt of its banks, did not institute capital controls, and paid off international investors. Systemic crisis also did not result. The opposite local policy response produced the same global outcome. Only the local outcome varied.
Contrast those cases (and all the other eurozone cases, and Argentina, and E Asia, and etc.) with the US in the Fall of 2008. A couple days of dithering — of the sort that the eurozone has made its speciality — lead to an immediate and profound downturn in global markets, including the largest single-day evaporation of wealth in absolute terms in history. The US tried to kick the can down the road, but couldn’t because it is the core node; the EU has been able to repeatedly kick the can down the road because those crises are in the periphery.
I conclude from this that policy always matters locally, but it only matters systemically when the crisis is in a core node. No matter what the policy response to peripheral crises is, systemic contagion is exceedingly unlikely.
This is a fascinating intellectual exploration. The part that should have been predictable but apparently wasn’t is the transmittability of economic problems throughout the network designed to facilitate capital flows. The US exported its financial crash to the rest of the world.
Worst. King. Ever. “Game of Thrones” Joffrey Baratheon. “You can’t talk to me like that. The king can do as he likes!”
HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is the best show on TV. Unfortunately, powerful people behaving badly isn’t only the stuff of fiction.
Out of 141 countries, the U.S. has the 4th-highest degree of wealth inequality in the world, trailing only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon.
In 1983 the poorest 47% of America had $15,000 per family, 2.5 percent of the nation’s wealth.
In 2009 the poorest 47% of America owned ZERO PERCENT of the nation’s wealth (their debt exceeded their assets).
Inequality is stifling our economy, because the customers business depends on are broke. The Consumer Confidence Index dropped 8 points this month, as Washington politicians imposed austerity and higher taxes on what’s left of the middle class. There are still 12 million Americans who need jobs. Most Americans have experienced unemployment at some level in the past five years. Yale Economist Robert Shiller warns that the massive losses suffered in the housing market won’t be made good anytime soon.
We need jobs and a stable economy. All we’re getting from Washington is budget cuts and more talk of dismantling Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The “Affordable Care Act” is going to make health insurance less affordable.
Tax time is coming in less than a month. Unless you’re with the 1 Percent, it will cost you. Paul Buchheit on AlterNet:
Corporations have simply stopped paying their taxes, perhaps using the 2008 recession as an excuse to plead hardship, but then never restoring their tax obligations when business got better. The facts are indisputable. For over 20 years, from 1987 to 2008, corporations paid an average of 22.5% in federal taxes. Since the recession, this has dropped to 10% — even though their profits have doubled in less than ten years.
We’re in “a golden age for corporate profits,” according to the New York Times. But not a golden age of job creation. In fact, some of the biggest and most profitable corporations are dodging taxes while cutting jobs. The list includes: General Electric, Boeing, Exxon Mobil, Verizon, Kraft Foods, Citigroup, Dow Chemical, IBM, Chevron, FedEx, Honeywell, Apple, Pfizer, Google, and Microsoft.
N.J. taxpayers protest corporate ‘dodgers’
Recently we learned that real disposable income was down in January, partly due to the payroll tax hike that was part of the “fiscal cliff” deal. The federal government went over the so-called “cliff” anyway.
Today there was a party on Wall Street as the Dow Jones industrial average reached a record high shortly after the opening bell. It’s on track to close above the previous record of 14,164 reached on Oct. 9, 2007. It’s up 7.8 percent for the year. Some call it a “TINA market,” for “there is no alternative.” Interest on savings and bond yields are at rock bottom due to Fed policy, forcing investors to rely on stocks.
However, as Pat Garofalo points out on Think Progress, workers’ wages as a percentage of the economy are hovering near record lows.
Hey, check out what happened with wages during the Clinton administration (1993-2000). Only time since 1970 that wages recovered after a recession.
As Quartz’s Matt Phillips put it, “in many ways Americans are still sucking wind after the gut punch they suffered in 2008.” In fact, the richest 1 percent of Americans have captured 121 percent of the income gains achieved during the current recovery, meaning everyone else has actually lost ground in terms of income since the economy bottomed out.
Those jobs we lost in Bush’s Great Recession have either not come back, or they have been replaced by lower-paying jobs. Party on, Wall Street.
Robert Reich: Why There’s a Bull Market for Stocks and a Bear Market for Workers
Rarely before in American history have public policies so radically helped the most fortunate among us, so cruelly harmed the least fortunate, and exposed so many average working Americans to such widespread insecurity.
Americans’ personal income decreased $505.5 billion, or 3.6 percent, in January (on a seasonally adjusted and annualized basis), according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. It was the biggest one-month drop in 20 years.
Consumer spending rose just 0.2% with most of it going toward higher heating bills and filling up the gas tank. Consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
The drop in income was partly driven by the end of the payroll tax cut, which means middle-class workers must pay 2 percentage points more in taxes this year on wages up to $110,000. But Congress has made the Bush Tax Cuts permanent for 98 percent of Americans, all except families with income more than $450,000 and individuals making more than $400,000.
Right-wing Republicans now declare that any ideas about raising tax rates or eliminating loopholes to boost revenue are off the table. They demand “cuts-only” deficit reduction. This means $85 billion in “automatic” austerity budget cuts kick in today (although Congress can cancel this so-called “sequester” anytime). The result will be a partial government shutdown, as many agencies are forced to furlough employees beginning in April.
Meanwhile, even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said that the Washington obsession with budget deficits is hurting the economic recovery. The immediate crisis is our jobs deficit. Robert Reich:
Unemployment is still sky high. The current official rate of 7.9 percent doesn’t include 8 million people (5.6 percent of the workforce) working part-time who’d rather be working full time. Nor those too discouraged even to look for work. The ratio of workers to non-workers in the adult population is lower than any time in the last thirty years — and that’s hardly explained by boomer retirements.
Wages continue to drop because the only way many Americans can find (or keep) jobs is by settling for lower pay. Most new jobs created since the depth of the Great Recession pay less than the jobs that were lost. That’s why the real median wage is now 8 percent below what it was in 2000.
…The budget deficit and cumulative debt are not the “transcendent issue of our time.” The transcendent issue is jobs and wages. Cutting the budget deficit now will only result in higher unemployment, lower wages, and more suffering.
The next opportunity for Republican economic sabotage will be on March 27, when the continuing budget resolution expires.