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Neoliberalism as a Cause of Structural Unemployment in the USA

News  Over 50 and unemployed Recommended Links The problem of inequality Computers eat people Underemployment Eroding Western living standards
The neoliberal myth of human capital Perma Temps Adverse Selection The problem of inequality Productivity Myth and "Rising labor costs" hypocrisy Scapegoating and victimization of poor  
Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism Corporatism Casino Capitalism If Corporations Are People, They Are Psychopaths Toxic Managers Office Stockholm Syndrome Learned helplessness
Unemployment after graduation Fake Employment Statistics Destructiveness of GDP Mania   Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability

Economics Pseudo Theories

Notes on Republican Economic Policy
John Kenneth Galbraith Invisible Hand Hypothesis Inflation vs. Deflation Lysenkoism Financial Humor Humor  Etc

Unemployment offices, homeless shelters,  hospitals, prisons and casinos. and are the only real growth industries of Obama Administration. In Jan 2010 35 millions, or one in eight Americans, were on food stamps.

Obama's  biggest — and only major — jobs program is the U.S. military


When I was a kid they told us that automation would "free" us from working long hours. What they didn't tell us what that they weren't going to pay us for all this leisure time we'd get.

Mass unemployment is the primary indication of the collapse of a given form of society -- James Burnham


Introduction


"Unemployment" statistics has been the political advertising media for every Administration in modern times

From comment in
The Rise of Invisible Unemployment
 The Atlantic, Nov 9, 2014

 

The institutions of neoliberal capitalism, while promoting an expanded role in the economy for "market forces" (read "financial oligarchy")  simultaneously transform labor relations. The “market” under neoliberalism certainly no longer refers to competition as a form of the production and distribution goods and services. Instead, it means something more along the lines of international financial monopolies protected by collusion between captured vassal state institutions (including neoliberal fifth column domination in the all major branches of government, especially executive and  legislative branches, educational institutions and media) and multinationals, which pay money to sustain this social order. The term “Free markets” under neoliberalism means letting rich people do what they want, not promoting efficient allocation of resources through competition and the price mechanism. The core of the fifth column are local oligarchs and so called "Chicago boys": sons and daughters of local elite who are trained for and indoctrinated for this purpose in Western universities. As aptly noted Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems ( The Guardian,  April 15, 2016)

We internalize and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don't have a job it's because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you're feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it's your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

Under neoliberalism labor relations assumes the form of full domination of labor by capitalists. Unions are officially suppressed and large part of middle class is brainwashed to hate using set of propaganda stories about unions corruption, welfare quinsy, lack of competitiveness in unionized industries (with Detroit as a prime story), etc.  In this sense crushing by Reagan of the strike of air controllers was one of the first manifestation of this dominance. Workers again are downgraded to the role of debt slaves, who should be glad to get subsistence wages. And, for example, wages in Wal-Mart are really on subsistence level, no question about it (Making Change at Wal-Mart » Fact Sheet – Wages):

Wal-Mart jobs are poverty-level jobs.
Wal-Mart's average sale Associate makes $8.81 per hour, according to IBISWorld, an independent market research group. This translates to annual pay of $15,576, based upon Wal-Mart's full-time status of 34 hours per week1. This is significantly below the 2010 Federal Poverty Level of $22,050 for a family of four. The Wall Street Journal reported that the average Wal-Mart cashier makes just $8.48 an hour, far below the $11.22 national average for all cashiers.

This contrasts with the capital-labor compromise that characterized the state capitalism that existed several post-WWII decades and that was crushed by neoliberalism in 1970th. Neoliberalism also brought change in the relation between financial and non-financial capital: financial capital now again like in 1920th plays a dominant role dictating the rules of the game to manufacturing sector and controlling it via banks.

Under neoliberalism the wealthy and their academic servants, see inequality as a noble outcome. University professors of economics form the most corrupt part of intellectual elite – they are nothing more than employees of the financial oligarchy paid to administer intellectual anesthetic to those among debt slaves, who still have enough time to ask what’s going on. They want to further enrich top 1%, shrink middle class making it less secure, and impoverish poor.  That's an officially state goal. Then in 1992, when asked what Iran-Contra was really all about, Bush I replied that it was done for "...the continuous consolidation of money and power into higher, tighter and righter hands."

The upward redistribution of wealth requires high unemployment to weep prols into unconditional obedience.  In other words neoliberalism and high unemployment are twins.

Under the disguise of "free market" Newspeak  neoliberals promote a type of economy which is often called a plantation economy. In this type of the economy all the resources and power are in the hands of a wealthy planter class who then gives preference for easy jobs and the easy life to their loyal toadies. The wealthy elites like cheap labor: it's much easier to  dictate their conditions of employment when unemployment is high.

Keynesian economics values the middle class and does not value unemployment or cheap labor, so it is incompatible with neoliberal ideology and needs to be suppressed.  Neoliberals created the system which richly reward stooges of neoliberalism for their loyalty to the top 1%  bestowing on them an easier life than they otherwise merit. In a meritocracy where individuals receive public goods and services that allow them to compete on a level playing field, many neoliberal academic toadies would be losers who cannot compete.

One of the most important measures of the health of an economy is the following criteria: how many fulfilling, living-wage jobs are created or destroyed (most other economic factors can be distilled to this.). For example, widely used measure of economic growth, GDP is too influenced by financial masturbation and does not distinguish useful activity from harmful or irrelevant. 

Under neoliberalism the elite revived Roman emperor Septimius Severus advice to his sons before he died at Eboracum (York) on  February 4, 211:

"Avoid infighting, pay well the soldiers, and ignore everybody else" . 

So during the Great Recession Congress simply tuned backs to unemployed. With the implicit message you just need to die out folks ;-).

Military budget at the same time was greatly expanded and several unnecessary wars were launched.  Brainwashed American public eats all those neoliberal policies like real lemmings, demonstrating the level of groupthink and lack of critical thinking that is typical for high demand cults. So the myth about highly conscious "proletariat" that Marxists cherished remains a myth. Moreover quite opposite tendencies to creation of "enlightened lower classes" show their ugly face (Chris Hedges America is a Tinderbox naked capitalism):

ictus92, July 21, 2013 at 5:07 pm

To paraphrase Madeline Albright: “What’s the point of creating a totalitarian police state if you’re not going to use it?”

So where is the American totalitarian state going? If you look at the NDAA and the discussion around repealing the Posse Comitatus Act, the key words include quelling “domestic civil unrest”… So what are the “deep government” types anticipating so hysterically?

Well, the financial crisis keeps grinding away and is about to enter another phase of collapse as “quantitative easing” has run its course. Interest rates are rising, posing “technical insolvency” of the Federal Reserve itself. What this means is that time’s up for the 46 million in the Food Stamp Supplemental Program; 56 million getting Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and at least 20 million more needing full time employment. Obviously there’s some overlap, but the total number of people living on the margins of subsistence pushes 30% of the population.

For these, they face an immediate “Final Solution”… not exactly direct extermination, but death by deprivation, illness etc. Can work camps be far off for these tens of millions and the many millions more living paycheck to paycheck? This population and their sympathizers comprise the tinder for “civil unrest”. Hence the corollary to the famous “Collect it all” (communications) is “control it all” (civil disorder following further economic collapse).

Furthermore, prolonged neglect of key infrastructure will lead inevitably to severe food, water and electric power access shortages — another source of civil unrest potential.

Of course, overseas the totalitarian police state eliminates all expression of opposition that can change policies in the quest for “Permanent War” and “full spectrum” military dominance. This ends in global military confrontation… just as the financial crisis of the 30’s gave rise to another World War… only this time around world war will pitch towards thermonuclear war in short order. That’s how totalitarian regimes collapse into catastrophe, dragging the rest of us to an unpleasant demise.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a damn thing any of us can do to arrest this beserk Levithan…

tongorad, July 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm

This is America, not Denmark. In this country, tens of millions of people choose to watch FoxNews not simply because Americans are credulous idiots or at the behest of some right-wing corporate cabal, but because average Americans respect viciousness.

They are attracted to viciousness for a lot of reasons. In part, it reminds them of their bosses, whom they secretly adore. Americans hate themselves for the way they behave in public, always smiling and nodding their heads with accompanying really?s and uh-huhs to show that they’re listening to the other person, never having the guts to say what they really feel. So they vicariously scream and bully others into submission through right-wing surrogate-brutes. Spending time watching Sean Hannity is enough for your average American white male to feel less cowardly than he really is.

The left won’t accept this awful truth about the American soul, a beast that they believe they can fix “if only the people knew the Truth.”

But what if the Truth is that Americans don’t want to know the Truth? What if Americans consciously choose lies over truth when given the chance–and not even very interesting lies, but rather the blandest, dumbest and meanest lies? What if Americans are not a likeable people? The left’s wires short-circuit when confronted with this terrible possibility; the right, on the other hand, warmly embraces Middle America’s rank soul and exploits it to their full advantage. The Republicans know Americans better than the left. They know that it’s not so much Goering’s famous “bigger lie” that works here, but the dumber and meaner the lie, the more the public wants to hear it repeated.”

“We, The Spiteful” by Mark Ames

http://exiledonline.com/we-the-spiteful/

Dave, July 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Please consider that the “right” is far more realistic in their assessment of human nature. The “left” wants things to be according to what they think it should be, mostly because of their left wing educators. The majority of humans are not perfectible.

Even Asians, with their highly socialized societies, have behaved very badly towards those outside their country.

This tendency of self-deception of "blue color America" and resonating of Republican Party ideas within "working poor" and lower middle class, two strata of the US society that typically votes against its own economic interests is analyzed in   What's the matter with Kansas  And to fight neoliberal machine is not easy as media dominance is total, and on a new technological level, which does not require silencing of opponents, just ignoring them, approach the level typical for the USSR or Nazi Germany.  And even if some people question the system, like (at the very beginning) Tea Party did, or later "Occupy Wall Street" movement did, they are mercilessly co-opted or crashed by well paid guard labor. The latter is one of the few  types of employment which prospers under neoliberal empire. See  The Rise of Guard Labor (dollarsandsense.org)

The reality is that many rich countries including the USA now face two problems. One is a shortage of jobs, especially middle class jobs.  The other is stagnant (or falling) wages for those outside top 1%.  This is not a temporary problem. Despite all the propaganda smoke this is an immanent feature of neoliberal regimes that now dominate in the USA and most other countries.  Neoliberalism requires high unemployment as a way to keep workers in check and prevent attempts to slow down redistribution of wealth toward the top.

As George Bush Sr . noted in November 1992 neoliberalism is "the continuous consolidation of money and power into higher, tighter and righter hands". The essence is  the consolidation of money and power to the top 0.1% or even 0.01%.  In a very deep sense our new lords from financial and political oligarchy are not that different from feudal aristocracy, may be only less educated, more prone to avoid military service and much more greedy. 

Unlike Keynesian economy which put middle class in the center of society serving a buffer between rich and poor,  under neoliberalism  middle class is no longer needed as a buffer between aristocracy and proles, as repressive power of the state and regime of total surveillance (National Security State) makes an organized opposition practically impossible. The fate of "Occupy Wall Street" movement is nice illustration here.

On the other hand neoliberalism as an ideology, while discredited by event of 2008 still does not have any viable alternative.  Socialism was discredited by collapse of the USSR (which in reality was a neoliberal counterrevolution by Soviet nomenklatura including part of KGB).  Authoritarian versions of state capitalism does not look too attractive, despite being quite effective as was proven by economic progress of "Asian tigers".

Other important factors are also in play. Technology has stripped away the ability for many to hold a job and the trend continues.  In other words automation eats jobs. Outsourcing eats jobs too. Between those two trends almost no job growth left. This is a structural situation, not transitional caused by recession due to aftermath of 2008 financial bubble bust.  In other words jobs that disappeared will never return. And jobs in construction sector and finance were artificial and unsustainable in any case, crisis or no crisis (as in "what can't last forever eventually stops." )

We are in the midst of slow motion employment collapse. Eurozone unemployment recently reached 12%. The US has probably 20% rate of involuntary unemployment now. The official unemployment "rate" is lower, but that is because both 60-65 years old and 20 to 24 year olds are dropping out of the wage force.

Add to this "peak energy" problem and the situation looks really bleak. That's the funny thing about oil and modern civilization -- almost everybody in large western urban centers is dependent on mass produced technology (much of which was invented before we were born) and cheap oil (and generally cheap energy), Those who live in those urban centers no longer have any direct control or ability to produce own food or transportation energy or heating. those three activities are completely outsourced. See Peak Oil Demand is Already a Huge Problem.

Globalization is yet another problem. I was actually surprised by how many jobs large corporations managed to shred during 2008-2013 without negatively affecting  profitability.  The impression is that it is no low limit.  Usual wisdom is that if you shred too much, this labor shortage will bite you in a couple of years. This is no longer the case in the USA. No visible backlash at all.  Even consumption that should be suffering due to destruction of middle class in this process is no suffering much, because it was already mostly top 1% game and, as such, is recession proof. Here is one interesting comment form Krugman column Globalization and Macroeconomics - NYTimes.com

Floxo Australia

The analysis is flawed. The issue is not goods trade - on its own, this is relatively benign. The real problem is the associated capital drain. Owners of capital will transfer productive capital abroad for better returns. This process creates deep structural problems for all developed economies. Here are some basic predictions:

Recessions are difficult to manage and may become protracted. In a downturn, capital formation dries up but the capital drain continues. This erodes the output gap. A fiscal stimulus now has less headroom for expansion. On top of that, an increase in domestic demand may be met by investment in productive capital abroad; the domestic investment response is missing. This may even cause a fall in labor productivity ( UK productivity puzzle?).

In short, globalization IS the problem.

Unemployment and well being

Recessions generate inequality in both income and well-being: people who lose their jobs bear a disproportionate burden of the recession.  As Kathleen Geier noted the impact of unemployment on well-being it’s even worse than you thought

While reading this odd and meandering New York Times op-ed this morning, I stumbled upon a link to a fascinating study from last year on the impact of unemployment on non-monetary well-being. It was conducted by Stanford sociologist Cristobal Young, who discovered that unemployment has an even more catastrophic effect on personal happiness that we thought.

The study produced three major findings. The first is the devastating impact job loss has on personal well-being. Job loss, says Young, “produces a large drop in subjective well-being”:

Job loss into unemployment, however, is a different matter; this brings on deep distress that is greater in magnitude than the effect of changes in family structure, home-ownership or parental status. The distress of job loss is also hard to ameliorate: family income does not help, unemployment insurance appears to do little and even reemployment does not provide a full recovery [italics mine].

The second finding is that while unemployment insurance (UI) is successful as a macroeconomic stabilizer, it doesn’t make unemployed people any happier. UI, says Young:

is not central to their sense of well-being… [Snip] …[ I]t does little to support their identity, sense of purpose or self-regard.

Third, job loss has a strong, lasting negative impact on well-being that may persist for years:

[J]ob loss has consequences that linger even after people return to work. Finding a job, on average, recovers only about two thirds of the initial harm of losing a job. It is not clear how long it takes for the nonpecuniary effect of unemployment to heal.

Other research suggests that what Young refers to as “the scarring effect” of job loss can last from three to five years, or even longer. He also notes that “the more generalized fear of becoming jobless” may persist.

Young’s discussion of these findings stresses the inequality theme. He points out that “recessions generate inequality in both income and well-being: people who lose their jobs bear a disproportionate burden of the recession.” He suggests job-sharing as a way to reduce the concentrated misery of unemployment. That’s a great idea that unfortunately never seems to go anywhere. Employers today seem more interested in squeezing as much labor out of employees as possible for the lowest cost. They’re looking to shrink their payroll rather than expand it. And unfortunately, there are very few public policies that promote job-sharing, let alone do it effectively.

The sheer human misery created by the economic downturn has been stunning. The economic damage is, in some ways, the least of it. Another study shows that the long-term unemployed experience shame, loss of self-respect, and strained relationships with friends and family. They even suffer significantly higher rates of suicide.

Yesterday, Paul Krugman and others discussed the impact of economic inequality vs. unemployment on income. Krugman argued that inequality has had the greater impact, and I agree. Among other things, inequality is also the root cause of the unemployment problem. Special interests which have disproportionate power in our political system prevented more stimulus and inflicted an austerity agenda, which has had a disastrous effect on employment. Enacting an economic equality agenda will be huge political challenge, but it’s the only way I can see of ultimately resetting the priorities of our government so that it starts working on behalf of ordinary Americans again.

Official measures of unemployment

There are two popular unemployment measured U3 (commonly cited as "official unemployment rate", which dramatically understates real unemployment) and U6, which is close to actual unemployment rate as was measured during the Great Depression. U3 is often as low as half of U6 (that's why it sometimes called 50 cents unemployment rate). As The Big Picture note in the entry Unemployment Reporting

Its been pretty obvious for sometime that the Financial Media are doing a disservice to their readers by only reporting U3, given how dramatically it understates Unemployment. Indeed, consumer sentiment reports are at deep negative levels that only occur when Unemployment is much than what U3 has been saying. It is painfully obvious that U3 does not paint an accurate view of the Employment situation.

Here's the experiment I propose: Let's start reporting both, with appropriate descriptions of each. Report U3, add U6, provide monthly and year over year changes. Let the reader see the full picture, via BLS data.

See Table A-12. Alternative measures of labor underutilization

Factors that make the current unemployment structural

I would like to stress it again: many factors point to the fact that the current level of unemployment is mostly structural. In other words jobs eliminated will not be coming back. Among the most important factors we can mention:

  1. Neoliberal ideology, which prevents strong government action and direct employment by government on infrastructure projects like during New Deal. Related to the dominance of neoliberalism the hypertrophy of financial sector lead to games with "Main street" after which high, self-sustainable (aka structural) unemployment for in now a destiny for millions. Making the whole society sick.
     
  2. Outsourcing (which partially is due to much better communication channels available and computerized navigation)
     
  3. Computerization (which directly "eats jobs" much like during industrial revolution in the UK).
     
  4. High price of energy, which serves as strong depressing factor. If I remember correctly, a decade ago price of oil above $100 was considered an equivalent to permanent recession. This is never mentioned today, but still might be as true today as it was ten years ago: with the high price of oil the economic recovery is simply impossible. The only option, the only trajectory for economy is permanent stagnation.
     
  5. Growth of "lumpen-proletariat". Narcoaddicts, alcoholics, single mothers from poor families with just high school diplomas,  people with "generosity-based" high school (considerable part of Afro-Americans) and university diplomas from "diploma mills" (essentially fake diplomas),  various categories of handicapped, people with criminal records (substantial part of Afro-American male population), etc.  

The first three factors changed the distribution of power between labor and capital in favor of capital; and those guys are not inclined to take prisoners, when there is a chance to fatten their pockets.  None of the first three factors will probably be reversed soon, although neoliberal ideology is after 2008 entered a zombie state.

Also computerization and Internet allowed capital and political forces behind it much better organize politically. So like in in previous human history well organized and wealthy minority dictates its will less-organized poor majority.

I think that financial capital might eventually experience some setbacks. This bacchanalia of greed with those hedge fund  which hack financial system left and right  might come to an abrupt end with the rise of the price of oil. Even now price of oil indirectly pressure "masters of the universe".  And remember famous slogan of 2008 "Jump suckers" ;-). It reflects the society attitude to financial oligarchy and as such entail certain dangers of "blowback" for all those derivatives games.

Not under Obama watch as he is essentially a sock puppet of financial oligarchy. But eventually setback for "big finance" can happen. At the end of the day it is oil that is the real convertible currency and when oil production is diminishing or flat,  financial oligarchy will be pushed back. 

Measures taken by political elite to save financial institutions after 2008 collapse means that unemployment is a part of a general political problem with neoliberalism as a social system. Under neoliberal regime the elite can't care less about long term unemployment. National Security State ensures the security of the neoliberal elite. Elections in the USA are a sham as two party system effectively blocks candidates outside the list approved by the current elite.  The latter might even see sharp division of the society into "have" and "have nots"  as a solution of oil depletion problem (Economist's View):

bakho:

Exactly.

Monetary policy does not operate in a vacuum. Monetary policy operates in an economic system that includes fiscal and regulatory tools. It is a mistake to lock the fiscal and regulatory tools in a shed.

Fiscal policy ALWAYS operates in a recession, at least in the form of automatic stabilizers, (UI, etc.) and sometimes in the form of additional stimulus.

The meagre automatic stabilizers currently in place are enough for a mild recession, but are woefully short of what is needed in a recession like the recent one.

The primary objection to fiscal policy manipulations is that fiscal policy is more easily politicized. This overlooks the fact that monetary policy is not only political, but bankers (who constitute a wealthy special interest) have an agenda that tilts monetary policy to their own self interests.

The primary objection to using fiscal stimulus to address our unemployment crisis is POLITICAL. Wealthy special interests want pay less taxes and short term stimulus would interfere with their political agenda to roll back spending and reduce spending as a percent of GDP.

Wealthy special interests have the upper hand at the moment because enough politicians are dependent on their campaign donations. However, this politicalization of fiscal policy, doing too little to address unemployment, is the prime force behind the Fed keeping interest rates low. If enough fiscal stimulus was enacted to quickly return to full employment and inflation at or slightly above the target, the Fed would not have to consider extraordinary measures.

Anyone unhappy about extraordinary monetary measures should be urging Congress to fix unemployment now. This is not what our elites are doing. They are complaining about extraordinary monetary measures AND about additional stimulus. This suggests that these policy elites care nothing about social problems of long term unemployment, are content to have the US become a divided nation between haves and have nots and are content to oversee the creation of an underclass in order to concentrate wealthy upward.

When one is saying that unemployment became a structural problem that means that it is immune to the business cycle. For example, during the last economic expansion (Jan 2002 -Dec 2007), the median US household income dropped by $2,000. In other words many Americans were worse off at the end of an economic cycle as jobs went outsourced to low wage countries due to wage arbitrage... 

Collapse of Casino Capitalism and unemployment

The collapse of “casino capitalism” model in 2008-2009 was so profound that all sectors of the economy became depressed. As securitization mess exploded in the face of their creators as it became clear to everybody that the king is naked. Debt overhand of financial industry is tremendous and it was just socialized, not removed. Essentially it became the problem of the USA government debt. In many ways problems the USA faces now are more serious then the problems the country faced during Great Depression because economic crisis doubles as the crisis of dominant ideology -- the ideology of neoliberalism.  And the Great Recession, despite Economic Cycle Institute premature desire to bury it, is still with us. Five years in the making as of 2013.

Ideology on which FIRE sector dominance was based is now questioned and that creates additional problems both nationally and internationally, much more internationally. Internationally it means a substantial loss of the USA "soft power", the factor that played tremendous role in the decade of 1990-2000.  When other country laugh at the US financial oligarchy tribulations it is difficult to open new markets selling old neoliberalism doctrine. due to debt overhand the US dollar is replaced by currency swaps in national currency for several major trading partners of China such as Brazil and Russia.   First of all that makes the crisis even deeper and analogies between the USSR and the USA more sinister. As with Stalinists in USSR who destroyed the country economically, there is a powerful block of republican dead enders and democratic supporters of financial oligarchy (blue dogs) who  will continue to promote the current neoliberal course with its deification of "free markets" (free as in "free shooting zone"), oblivious to consequences of neoliberal policies which eat the society and protected by the size of their accounts. There is nothing new here. Oligarchic  democracies can commit suicide. Actually none lasted long. And with such a formidable political wrecking crew in action and gridlock in Congress even over minor reforms that became less probable.

For all practical purposes two party system actually works like one-party system: democrats were also captured by FIRE industries to the extent that they should not be considered an independent party, but as a slightly more moderate wing of the Republican Party. Similarly by all accounts Obama is a moderate Republican with the policies to the right of such Republican Presidents as Dwight Eisenhower and Theodore Roosevelt. In a way, Democratic Party perform the role of spoiler: it exists for the sole purpose of attracting disgruntled left-wing electorate away from more radical parties. Republicans play symmetrical role for right wing crazies. None can or want to became the agent of change. In this sense Obama electoral slogan "change we can believe in" was a nasty, cruel joke of political insiders over political outsiders.  Note how unceremoniously Obama dumped labor after his reelection, while courting it during his reelection campaign.

As private sector is still downsizing, and government can't be the employer of last resort due to dominance of neoliberal ideology, the whole situation looks more and more like Japanese lost decade. The only area where government can expand workforce are defense contractors (military keysianism):

Minsky, however, argued for a “bubble-up” approach, sending money to the poor and unskilled first. The government - or what he liked to call “Big Government” - should become the “employer of last resort,” he said, offering a job to anyone who wanted one at a set minimum wage. It would be paid to workers who would supply child care, clean streets, and provide services that would give taxpayers a visible return on their dollars. In being available to everyone, it would be even more ambitious than the New Deal, sharply reducing the welfare rolls by guaranteeing a job for anyone who was able to work. Such a program would not only help the poor and unskilled, he believed, but would put a floor beneath everyone else’s wages too, preventing salaries of more skilled workers from falling too precipitously, and sending benefits up the socioeconomic ladder.

It is important to understand that the USA is not just coping with the largest financial crisis in history, the USA is also going through a major restructuring of the American economy as well as the world economy due to plato in oil extraction. This transformation, which was postponed by two decades due the collapse of the USSR (which gave the USA companies half billion of new consumers and huge area to dollarize and buy assets for pennies on a dollar), will be very long, very painful and very slow. One additional factor that complicates the picture of "peak oil", is that it is  more properly can be called "end of cheap oil", as at higher prices more oil became economically available. So this is  not a peak but long plato.

As GDP is highly correlated with the energy consumption, the side effect of peak oil will probably be stagnant (close to zero after inflation) growth and with it speed up in permanent decline of the standard of living for middle class 

Also complicating the situation is the status of baby boomers which lost significant part of their savings during last two bubble bursts and now need to retire or will be pushed out of workforce. Pensions are already cuts either directly or indirectly (via inflation). For example, defined benefit pensions almost disappeared outside of government job force. After housing crash middle class no longer has a realistic prospect to fund their retirement and need to work longer: that increases competition for jobs. For middle aged professionals who are unemployed now the odds of finding reasonably paid work are low and they create additional competition for young people entering work force from universities. People over 50 now face especially poor job prospects.

At the same time corporate executives became corporate aristocracy (with differences in pay raising from 10-20 to 100-200 more of average corporate salary; this is the differences close to what used to exist in feudal societies). Most corporations are taking a lazy way out of the crisis with relentless cost-cutting.  This is a self-defeating strategy as cost cuttings eventually returns back via supply chain and bite the corporation which performs it. But so far this did not happened.

In addition productive sectors of economy are now under pressure of rampant financial speculation which serves as a huge tax on productive sectors of economy. Financial system is controlled by small number of large firms that permanently shifted their main activity into gambling and hacking of the financial system. There is some justice that computers which fueled all this crazy gambling on the strength of global reserve currency led to outsourcing of IT professionals to the extent that this part of US economy was destroyed and became a shadow of its former self in just ten years (2000-2010).

Another important sign of stagnation is that new college graduates face extremely bad job market which squeezes out anybody without substantial experience so for them it's Catch 22. Only graduates form Ivy League colleges has real prospect to get a job after graduation. Plus those with good family connections. In a way education is no longer a guarantee for better paying job, the same situation what was typical for the USSR and other countries of Eastern block during Brezhnev's stagnation.

There is also an interesting transformation of the quality of the education that also parallel transformation  experienced by the USSR in post-war period, but in especially acute form, three decades before the collapse. Private education became more like subprime lending.  It's quality became fake, as the term "diploma mills" suggests.  This rat rate to the lowest possible quality (quality instead of quality) was the central tendency in Brezhnev's USSR. 

In the USA in addition to devaluation of education caused by low quality "everything passes, everybody graduates, just pay" modus operandi of diploma mills, graduates from lower middle class families are now overloaded with debt, which creates for them really difficult situation and push many of them into low level service jobs like waiting. In other words excessive debt after college make getting into workforce using acquired specialty even more difficult as there is no space for long job search, relocation is more difficult and so on and so forth. 

There is also huge criminal industry that flourished around people desperate attempts to find well paying jobs. Many educational scams like "we will make you an ultrasound technician in six month; 90% of our graduates found jobs that pay over $60K in the first month after graduation"  or " software tester in four month; 100% of our graduates find jobs" are trying to capitalize of people desperate to find job, any job and getting into crushing debt trying to improve their chances in job market. Those criminals are not prosecuted.  For more information see:

The main source on new jobs is service sector and the lion share of new positions are McJobs

The employment growth comes mainly from the service sector which feeds off of consumer spending. It was hit by outsourcing especially in such areas as IT. Manufacturing no longer create jobs – outsourcing and computers eat them and you no longer need more people to make more stuff. 

Peter Dornan at EconoSpeak has the following comment which perhaps looks deeper at why the elite is so indifferent to mass unemployment and growing poverty in the U.S.

“…The process is more complicated: where one sits in society and the kinds of problems one typically has to solve leads to a way of thinking, and this manner of thinking then informs politics.

For centuries, the finance perspective has played a central role in economic theorizing, and there is ordinarily a body of research to support it. What I am proposing is this: economic orthodoxy is regaining control over policy because it reflects the outlook of those who occupy the upper reaches of government and business….”

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2010/05/a-political-economy-moment.html

IMHO to get the economy out of this mess, government should concentrate on direct job creation (like was the case with Roosevelt administration), not on propping zombie banks hoping that they will generate credit necessary for creation o new jobs. Growth of credit will not happen and if it will happen it will not generate new jobs: most of it  is pushed into speculation.  Spectacular rise of S&P500 in first half of 2013 is a pretty good illustration of the process.

Long term high unemployment is a disaster for the country and disaster for the people, despite the fact that it is irrelevant for banksters, too busy playing in the huge casino they created. Failure to address this problem directly by Obama administration (which in economic terms is the second Summers-Bush administration making a joke in the slogan "change we can believe in") make Obama a real serial betrayer of people who elected him, the role he seems enjoy playing. 

Additional factors the complicates the picture

There are several additional factors that makes addressing the problem of chronic, structural unemployment even more difficult:

  1. The economic crisis coincides with deep ideological and political crisis.

    One can't solve the current problems the US are facing without the reform of the political system and institutions. Power of lobbyists need to be curtailed. Senate needs to be reformed.  Republican Party probably should be dissolved or temporary prohibited like Communists after the dissolution of the USSR as it is unable to reform. As there is no political will for political changes the crisis is structural and little people have to suffer.
     

  2. Real economy was damaged by excessive growth of  FIRE sector and associated "fictional" economy.  Real economy can't support the current size of FIRE sector and it needs now to downsized. There is no smooth, painless route back to the easy-money based false prosperity of Reagan-Clinton-Bush era (age of leveraging). A new economy needs to be created for sustainable recovery because the old, FIRE-based was unsustainable. In 2010 housing probably will decline further. Both commercial and residential construction continues to decline. States continue to cut back budgets creating negative feedback loop. Personal bankruptcies are up, more defaults are on the horizon. The U.S. economy needs to be re-structured, both on the "technical" and inter-sectoral level. That amounts to a collective, system-wide Chapter 11 re-organization. Obama administration has totally failed to sell the public on the validity of "stimulus", however named. Suspicion that this administration is a puppet of big banks had grown sharply. Trying to kick the can down the road will yield Republican Congressional majorities in both houses.
  3. The USA is experiencing the process of separation of workforce into two-tiers, with an elite class of highly paid employees at top companies and a subclass of minimal wage and part time laborers who work for less pay, have less job security and receive fewer benefits.
  4. Foreign wars have substantial financial costs and are an important drag on the USA economy. In the book True Cost of the Iraq Conflict, Joseph Stiglitz was estimated he cost at three trillion dollars of which probably only one trillion was offset by looting of Iraq resources. Afghanistan is about  $2 billion a week, and unless all heroin trade is controlled by CIA there is little that can offset those costs. This is the longest ongoing conflict in U.S. history.  And since Joseph Stiglitz book was written things became worse.

    The disability rates are higher. The cost of caring for the disabled are higher. Almost one out of two people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are disabled. This is an unfunded liability of—we calculate now to be almost a trillion dollars, over $900 billion. So, one of the big ways of reducing our deficit is a—is cut back some expenditures....

    With Libya and Syria added to the list, the hidden costs of foreign wars will weight on weakened economics more heavily. Annual cost per soldier oversees is approximately $1 Million per year.
  5. Rent that hypertrophied financial sector  extracts from the rest of the society continues to be a serious drag on the economy. This drag adds to substantial drag caused by foreign wars and military bases as well as huge military industrial complex. While parasites are omnipresent in nature, two large parasites instead of one might spells trouble for the host. Moreover the ascendancy of the financial sector and the decline of manufacturing in the U.S. ("Casino Capitalism" ) has implications similar to consequences of an organized crime running the country.  The creation of tangible products whose utility/quality can be more or less objectively measured were phased out in favor of "financial products," whose utility/quality is much easier to conceal behind legal/technical jargon and junk economics. That created a huge new class of white collar criminals. While Blankfein is out claiming that GS is doing God’s work, the reality is quite different: it became a training ground for new type of ruthless criminals, much more dangerous then bank robbers. Killing of Glass-Steagall by Clinton and leverage obtained by financial sector operating without regulatory limit created prerequisites to the financial panic of 2008. Glass-Steagall enshrined two principles that were abandoned:

    The violation of the second principle directly leads to a regulatory capture in which anything goes and a corresponding observed "need" to accommodate indiscretions, as with the Greenspan/Bernanke put. It perhaps should be identified as THE primary cause, since it left Wall Street with the well-founded (LTCM, Latin America debt crisis, etc. ) and since-proved belief that prudence and capital were quite unnecessary, and that reckless, sociopathic deal making is profitable. Four examples :

  6. Capture of the government and the media by financial sector makes the necessary reforms unlikely. “Failed Regulatory Oversight” is a politically correct term for corruption. The latter was probably the second reason of the current high unemployment . See Toxic Sludge is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry by John C. Stauber
  7. Effects of coming CRE crash on unemployment and economy in general might be underestimated of official forecasts.  The occupancy rate is the malls and commercial buildings is still declining. Many strip malls in the country are still are empty. Nice office buildings with signs "for rent" are feature of landscape in 2013. Many buildings, even large well designed buildings with datacenter infrastructure are vacant for years and eventually are demolished.  A full scale commercial real-estate crash can also hurt the economy in a way similar to residential home estate crash. Loans that were made in 2005-2007 were refinanced for three years in 2009-2011. And again in 2012-2013. But eventually they will be coming home to roost.  This also affects the construction  sector.  Only $400 billion of loans came due by the end of 2009, but nearly $2 trillion was refinanced by 2012.  

    The collapse in the U.S. commercial real estate market is fought by the government will maximum force but government resources to fight the crisis are diminishing too. in 2011 state financial crises led to cuts in state budget. In addition, in June 2013 municipal bonds came under fire, making financing more costly.  Commercial debt is approximately one third of the size of the total residential debt and it is concentrated in the same places creating double whammy. In Florida commercial loans, broadly defined, are bigger then residential. Unlike residential real estate, problem with commercial real estate are not solved by growth of population and creation of new families.

    Retail and white-collar positions will be directly impacted by CRE crash. As stores and offices close, mall and office building owners suffer from cuts in cash flow and severely limited prospects for new tenants. Insurance companies, hedge funds and regional banks are heavily invested in CRE and are next in line so some financial jobs will be lost too. Extend and pretend might work but the question is if there is enough liquidity to stretch loans.
     

  8. Computers eat people jobs. Automation and the recent advances in robotic and computers make more and more workers redundant.  The latest victims are cashiers in supermarkets. Manufacturing jobs continue to disappear not only due to outsourcing, but also due to new computerized technologies. The reality is that manufacturing employs a mere 11.5 million workers in the U.S.A., or 9% of the workforce and this percentage will never increase substantially.

    My feeling is that even in corporate IT after drastic cuts that were the standard game for large corporations in 2008-2009, additional cuts are possible. But the situation on the ground is somewhat paradoxical as real cuts runs deeper that you would assume from headcount: a lot of current IT personnel belongs to "untouchable" caste -- wives of somebody higher up in this or linked by the supply chain company, sons of somebody important and so on. I can't give you percentage, but probably 10%-20% of "untouchables" would be an educated guess. So removing of at least 10% of the current IT workforce means removal of 12% or more those who do actual work. 

    Another factor is that cuts in IT are one way street as they stimulate replacing of people with technology and there are still tremendous potential for computerization of many areas including first of all IT itself.

    For example all this cloud initiatives are in disguise politically correct way to move things in the direction of higher automation and outsourcing because under the surface there is not much innovation in those "new" technologies.
     

  9. Oil prices despite coming down in September 2011 are back to $85-$90 level.  That level is putting additional stress on manufacturing, transportation and agriculture. Solid US growth of the past decade and earlier was dependent on two factors:

    With the rising oil all bets for re-inflating the economy (aka kicking the can down the road) are off.
     

  10. Indirect job creation strategies via stimulus to businesses seized to produce meaningful job generation. Reaganomics has put the U.S. economy into a high-unemployment equilibrium when the high-rate of labor unemployment is reinforced by the shortage (or absence) of idle, but useful capital stock due to offshoring and  outsourcing as well as chronically low consumer demand due to high level of debt. Only service sector and financial jobs can be generated with minimum capital infrastructure (for financial jobs internet connection and computer are almost all that needed). Automation of production lead to less and less workers.
     
  11. Confidence is really low.  Businesses have no confidence that customers ever return, therefore are not hiring much and scaling down the production. This chicken-egg-chicken-egg cycle has to be broken, but I am really puzzled how that is going to happen without large government role in the economy, which is big no-no for ideological consideration (the USA preaches neoliberalism as a "civil religion" similarly like USSR and other "communist" countries preached Marxism). Without large government projects employees have no confidence in their jobs, therefore are not consuming much.
     
  12. In the face of growing unemployment the current administration proved to be as incompetent as Bush administration in case of Hurricane Katrina. And that means totally incompetent.

Effects on population

Unemployment is a very harsh condition, that traumatize the workers greatly (Sliding into the Great Depression)

At first the unemployed searched eagerly and diligently for alternative sources of work. But if four months or so passed without successful reemployment, the unemployed tended to become discouraged and distraught.

After eight months of continuous unemployment, the typical unemployed worker still searches for a job, but in a desultory fashion and without much hope.

And within a year of becoming unemployed the worker is out of the labor market for all practical purposes: a job must arrive at his or her door, grab him or her by the scruff of the neck, and through him or her back into the nine-to-five routine if he or she is to be employed again.

The USA as a whole is facing the worst labor market prospects since 1929. In terms of duration of elevated unemployment we already rival the early 80s. But in no way we can expect a steep decline in the rate of unemployment in the way that happened in 1983 when unemployment declined at a brisk 2%. And permanent high unemployment creates economic conditions that feel like the USA brought back slavery. The new reserve army of the unemployed drives wages down, while average productivity continues to rise, as a way to generate surpluses to be channeled into executive bonuses. The whole sectors like IT were decimated by outsourcing. Unfortunately given the current overcapacity and ample supply of qualified job seekers in many occupations, I certainly don't expect labor arrangements and employment conditions to become more favorable.

Looks like 7% unemployment is going to become the "new normal". In any case government statistics is very suspect (see Fake Employment Statistics) and actually unemployment is higher. For example, the declining participation in work force means that actual unemployment rate is higher then reported.

Obama-Bush administration saved banks waiting most of taxpayers money and piling up debt in hopes that they restore credit flow in the economy. But this was a fallacy: banks aren’t lending to prospective home buyers, small businesses and real estate developers because bankers recognize the obvious — many of those loans won’t get repaid. Of course, as bankers refuse to lend, the stagnation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But since society is burdened with too much debt, piling on more debt would not be the solution in any case.

There is no smooth, painless route back to the easy-money based false prosperity of Reagan-Clinton-Bush era (age of leveraging). We entered the age of deleveraging. Obama’s “you owe us” message to the banks is the height of naïveté’ and tells us a lot about him. In 2013 our problems are worse than they were in 2007 before the crisis. Peak credit is as dangerous for the economy as peak oil...

Corruption of economic profession

The inability of the economics profession to forecast unemployment in the short, medium, or long run would be downright comical, if not for the human tragedy involved. While the Occam Razor approach suggests incompetence as a culprit, I think it's a manifestation of the corruption of the profession by financial interests (with some "don't rock the boat" variations).  First of all, economists much like elected officials and Wall Street executives have a vested interest in keeping the perception of a robust economy. The employment data announced each month are critical to this perception. That's why government "prints up jobs out of thin air" the same way the Federal Reserve prints money. This is economic propaganda and as such it is not that much different from the over-stated earnings practiced by companies of all striped and colors.

The second problem is that fiscal policy cannot solve the problem of job creation in all circumstances, especially in deleveraging environment. Position of people like The Fed Can Help, But Fiscal Policy Is The Key To Job Creation ) is a step in right direction. But without something like Jobs Corps to get out of the current situation is very difficult. In 1982 SETH S. KING wrote in NYT (PROPOSAL FOR JOB CORPS RECALLS ROOSEVELT PLAN):

Few of this city's recent celebrations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 100th birthday have passed without nostalgic references to the Civilian Conservation Corps, that President's cherished vehicle for getting thousands of jobless, hungry youths off the streets and putting them to work refurbishing the nation's parks and forests.

With today's unemployment rate nearing a postwar high and new thousands of young people again unable to find work, Congress is preparing to wrestle with the Reagan Administration for money to start a new youth job training program and reconstitute the Job Corps, the pale copy of the old C.C.C. that emerged in the Carter days.

But there is little in these plans that is likely to reproduce those Depression era pictures of sturdy, bare-chested young men planting trees, building bridges and saving the nation's battered farmlands.

Nor is today's procedure-encumbered Washington, where a year usually elapses between idea and action, likely to duplicate the astonishing start on the C.C.C., which four months after being conceived had been approved by Congress and had more than 300,000 young men being clothed, housed, fed and paid $30 a month while they breathed all that fresh air.

In this crisis the main lesson was that theologically captured by free market fundamentalism government can destroy economy at a really staggering rate. This is "Back in the USSR" situation. Eight years of Clinton and eight years of Bush administration (see The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush, by Joseph E. Stiglitz) are as good proof of this as one can ever get. Clinton and Bush regimes (especially Rubin-Greenspan alliance and "vice president from an undisclosed location" activities)  proved to be a real wrecking crew. But that does not mean that government cannot put it weight on easing the unemployment burden. Incentives such a investment tax credit matters. Not tax cuts for the rich, but direct investment credit. direct job creation which is anathema to market fundamentalism would be even better and less costly. Roosevelt administration did it, so why not capitalize on positive experience and develop it further ?

In this crisis the main lesson was that theologically captured by free market fundamentalism government can destroy economy at a really staggering rate.

In any case socializing losses and privatizing gain (crony capitalism) should be downsized. Insurance for gambling by big banks should be cut.

As long as economists believe their report card is the rise in GDP (GDP Mania), we will remain in a failure mode. A country is not defined by GDP but by the quality of life of its citizens. And quality of life cannot be assessed by a simplistic, one-dimensional metric such as GDP. The key dimensions for well-being are: employment, earnings, wealth, health, infrastructure, and living conditions. In that particular order. With employment as the critical factor: the USA looks like an underdeveloped banana republic by the current measure of unemployment and in many respect has became such.

It looks like high persistent unemployment became the defining feature of this recession. Jobs creation prospect in 2014 look pretty grim -- there is no sector other then government that can absorb redundant workforce and automation in manufacturing makes sure that those who are unemployed right now will stay unemployed in the foreseeable future. Most jobs cut are permanent, not temporary, especially in such sectors as IT (structural shift). As Robert Reich noted:

...The basic assumption that jobs will eventually return when the economy recovers is probably wrong. Some jobs will come back, of course. But the reality that no one wants to talk about is a structural change in the economy that's been going on for years but which the Great Recession has dramatically accelerated.

Under the pressure of this awful recession, many companies have found ways to cut their payrolls for good. They’ve discovered that new software and computer technologies have made workers in Asia and Latin America just about as productive as Americans, and that the Internet allows far more work to be efficiently outsourced abroad.

This means many Americans won’t be rehired unless they’re willing to settle for much lower wages and benefits. Today's official unemployment numbers hide the extent to which Americans are already on this path. Among those with jobs, a large and growing number have had to accept lower pay... Or they've lost higher-paying jobs and are now in a new ones that pays less.

The current crisis also means that financial services and real estate (FIRE) economy, this gigantic casino that the US government was trying to build for the last 25 years is now in trouble and shed workers in vast numbers (although working condition in financial industry are still good or very good depending on your position in the food chain). But the profitability of large banks and can achieved only by oversees expansion and derivatives games with foreign assets. The most profitable essentially converted themselves into hedge funds, getting most profits from trading operations, not from the traditional banking activities.

The simplest and the most obvious solution in the current situation is to cut work week and hours of work (4 days six hours a day). That will put enough people to work to make unemployment bearable and it might slightly help entertainment and hospitality industries which now is suffering more that others. From the other point of view if lower standard of living is inescapable, why not to make the transition smoother and more fun by cutting work hours.

Military Keynesianism no longer works

But that's not enough. The USA needs drastically cut military budget. Military Keynesianism no longer works as expected.  As John Maudin in his e-letter proposed (see Thoughts on the Economy- Problems and Solutions):

Mauldin: Unemployment is likely to continue to rise and last longer than ever before. We have to take care of the basic needs of those who want work but can't find it. Unemployment insurance should be extended to those who are still looking for work past the time for benefits to expire, and some program of local volunteer service should be instituted as the price for getting continued benefits after the primary benefits time period runs out. Not only will this help the community, but it will get the person out into the world where he is more likely to meet someone who can give him a job. But the costs of this program should be revenue-neutral. Something else has to be cut.

Mish: Can we deal with 15 million volunteers? Somehow I doubt it.

Mauldin: We have to re-think our military costs (I can't believe I am writing this!). We now spend almost 50% of the world's total military budget. Maybe we need to understand that we can't fight two wars and support hundreds of bases around the world. If we kill the goose, our ability to fight even one medium-sized war will be diminished. The harsh reality is that everything has to be re-evaluated. As an example, do we really need to be in Korea? If so, why can't Korea pay for much of the cost? They are now a rich nation. There are budgetary fiscal limits to being the policeman for the world.

Mish: Bingo. We can easily slash our military budget by 70% and still be the most powerful nation in the world. Moreover, it is time to declare the war in Iraq and Afghanistan over, pack our bags and leave. Gradually, over the next 5-8 years we should bring home all our troops from literally every county they are stationed.

This chart shows the absurdity of our spending.

Chart courtesy of Global Issues - World Military Spending.

By the way that chart does not include the latest increase in the US military budget. Please consider US lawmakers pass 680-billion-dollar defense budget bill

The US House of Representatives passed a 680-billion-dollar defense authorization bill on Thursday that includes funds to train Afghan security forces and more mine-resistant troop carriers.

Lawmakers defied President Barack Obama's veto threat and approved 560 million dollars to continue work on an alternative engine for the F-35 fighter jet built by General Electric and British manufacturer Rolls-Royce.

The compromise legislation would also raise military pay by 3.4 percent -- half a percentage point higher than Pentagon recommendations -- and assign 6.7 billion dollars for mine-resistant armored vehicles known as MRAPs, which is 1.2 billion dollars more than the administration had proposed.

Nearly $700 billion dollars of "defense" spending. The amount needed for actual defense is 20% of that at most, and more likely 5%. Balancing the budget is easy if you start here.

Mauldin: Glass-Steagall, or some form of it, should be brought back. Banks, which are subject to taxpayer bailouts, should not be in the investment banking and derivatives-creating business. Derivatives, especially credit default swaps, should be on an exchange, and too big to fail must go. Banks have enough risk just making loans. Leverage should be dialed down, and hedge funds selling what amounts to naked call options in any form, derivative or otherwise, should be regulated.

Mish: What we need to do is get rid of the Fed, FDIC, and fractional reserve lending. Regulation has failed every step of the way. Regulation created Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Fed. Regulation by the SEC anointed Moodys, Fitch, and the S&P as debt rating companies. We do not need more regulation, we need less regulation, a sound currency, and no Fed. Regulation is clearly the problem, yet the cries for still more regulation come from nearly every corner save the Austrian economists.

Mauldin: Let me see, is there any group I have not offended yet? But something like I am suggesting is going to have to be done at some point. There is no way we can continue forever on the current path. At some point, we will hit the wall. The fight between the bug and the windshield always ends in favor of the windshield. The bond market is going to have to see a credible effort to get back to a reasonable deficit, or we risk a very difficult economic environment. The longer we wait, the worse it will be.

Mish: "Is there any group I have not offended yet?" Yes. You failed to offend those on public pension plans. Not to fear, I did that myself in Five Major Pension Problems - One Simple Solution.

Unsolvable Problems


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[Mar 23, 2017] I love the smell of money-greased credentialism in the morning.

Mar 23, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
ewmayer , March 22, 2017 at 7:29 pm

Received a "new academic programs" missive from my alma mater in today's mail, containing the following:

How to Make Innovation Happen in Your Organization

The Certified Professional Innovator (CPI) program is intended to develop the competency of high potential leaders in the theory and practice of innovation. It is rooted on the principle that innovation can only be learned by doing and through many short bursts of experimentation.

The certification is comprised of a 12-week curriculum with specific syllabus and assignments for each week, including videos, workbook assignments, and reports. During the program, participants, functioning as a cohort, communicate and collaborate with each other and faculty through a series of webinars and discussions. The program culminates in project pitches.

"It is rooted on [sic] the principle that innovation can only be learned by doing and through many short bursts of experimentation" - OK, fine there, but it is also rooted in the notion that such creativity can be taught in a formal academic setting, here monetized and condensed into a 12-week program. As for me, I'm gonna hold out for the following surely-in-development mini-courses:

o Certified Professional Serial Disruptor (CPD)
o Certified Professional Innovative Thought Leader (CPCTL)
o Certified Professional Smart Creative (CPSC)

I love the smell of money-greased credentialism in the morning.

Synoia , March 22, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Certified Real Accounting Professional.
Certified Real Estate Experienced Professional

[Mar 23, 2017] Inequality is a real threat to any remnants of democracy in the USA

Mar 23, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne : March 22, 2017 at 10:27 AM , 2017 at 10:27 AM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/books/review/crisis-of-the-middle-class-constitution-ganesh-sitaraman-.html

March 20, 2017

It's Not Just Unfair: Inequality Is a Threat to Our Governance
By ANGUS DEATON

THE CRISIS OF THE MIDDLE-CLASS CONSTITUTION
Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic
By Ganesh Sitaraman

President Obama labeled income inequality "the defining challenge of our time." But why exactly? And why "our time" especially? In part because we now know just how much goes to the very top of the income distribution, and beyond that, we know that recent economic growth, which has been anemic in any case, has accrued mostly to those who were already well-heeled, leaving stagnation or worse for many Americans. But why is this a problem?

Why am I hurt if Mark Zuckerberg develops Facebook, and gets rich on the proceeds? Some care about the unfairness of income inequality itself, some care about the loss of upward mobility and declining opportunities for our kids and some care about how people get rich - hard work and innovation are O.K., but theft, legal or otherwise, is not. Yet there is one threat of inequality that is widely feared, and that has been debated for thousands of years, which is that inequality can undermine governance. In his fine book, both history and call to arms, Ganesh Sitaraman argues that the contemporary explosion of inequality will destroy the American Constitution, which is and was premised on the existence of a large and thriving middle class. He has done us all a great service, taking an issue of overwhelming public importance, delving into its history, helping understand how our forebears handled it and building a platform to think about it today.

As recognized since ancient times, the coexistence of very rich and very poor leads to two possibilities, neither a happy one. The rich can rule alone, disenfranchising or even enslaving the poor, or the poor can rise up and confiscate the wealth of the rich. The rich tend to see themselves as better than the poor, a proclivity that is enhanced and even socially sanctioned in modern meritocracies. The poor, with little prospect of economic improvement and no access to political power, "might turn to a demagogue who would overthrow the government - only to become a tyrant. Oligarchy or tyranny, economic inequality meant the end of the republic."

Some constitutions were written to contain inequalities. In Rome, the patricians ruled, but could be overruled by plebeian tribunes whose role was to protect the poor. There are constitutions with lords and commoners in separate chambers, each with well-defined powers. Sitaraman calls these "class warfare constitutions," and argues that the founding fathers of the United States found another way, a republic of equals. The middle classes, who according to David Hume were obsessed neither with pleasure-seeking, as were the rich, nor with meeting basic necessities, as were the poor, and were thus amenable to reason, could be a firm basis for a republic run in the public interest. There is some sketchy evidence that income and wealth inequality was indeed low in the 18th century, but the crucial point is that early America was an agrarian society of cultivators with an open frontier. No one needed to be poor when land was available in the West.

The founders worried a good deal about people getting too rich. Jefferson was proud of his achievement in abolishing the entail and primogeniture in Virginia, writing the laws that "laid the ax to the root of Pseudoaristocracy." He called for progressive taxation and, like the other founders, feared that the inheritance of wealth would lead to the establishment of an aristocracy. (Contrast this with those today who simultaneously advocate both equality of opportunity and the abolition of estate taxes.) Madison tried to calculate how long the frontier would last, and understood the threat to the Constitution that industrialization would bring; many of the founders thought of wage labor as little better than slavery and hoped that America could remain an agrarian society.

Of course, the fears about industrialization were realized, and by the late 19th century, in the Gilded Age, income inequality had reached levels comparable to those we see today. In perhaps the most original part of his book, Sitaraman, an associate professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School, highlights the achievements of the Progressive movement, one of whose aims was taming inequality, and which successfully modified the Constitution. There were four constitutional amendments in seven years - the direct election of senators, the franchise for women, the prohibition of alcohol and the income tax. To which I would add another reform, the establishment of the Federal Reserve, which provided a mechanism for handling financial crises without the need for the government to be bailed out by rich bankers, as well as the reduction in the tariff, which favored ordinary people by bringing down the cost of manufactures. Politics can respond to inequality, and the Constitution is not set in stone.

What of today, when inequality is back in full force? I am not persuaded that we can be saved by the return of a rational and public-spirited middle class, even if I knew exactly how to identify middle-class people, or to measure how well they are doing. Nor is it clear, postelection, whether the threat is an incipient oligarchy or an incipient populist autocracy; our new president tweets from one to the other. And European countries, without America's middle-class Constitution, face some of the same threats, though more from autocracy than from plutocracy, which their constitutions may have helped them resist. Yet it is clear that we in the United States face the looming threat of a takeover of government by those who would use it to enrich themselves together with a continuing disenfranchisement of large segments of the population....


Angus Deaton, a professor emeritus at Princeton, was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2015.

libezkova -> anne... , March 22, 2017 at 04:58 PM
Thank you Anne.

As for ".. it is clear that we in the United States face the looming threat of a takeover of government by those who would use it to enrich themselves together with a continuing disenfranchisement of large segments of the population...."

that was accomplished in 1980 by Reagan. That's why we now can speak about "a colony nation" within the USA which encompasses the majority of population.

libezkova -> libezkova... , March 22, 2017 at 04:59 PM
Neoliberals vs the rest of population is like slave owners and the plantation workers.

[Mar 22, 2017] The Men Who Stole the World

Notable quotes:
"... History will look back at us with the same wonder that we look back on the mad excesses of certain nations founded in devotion to extreme, almost other-worldly, ideologies of the last century. ..."
"... Apparently the slashing of health benefits for the unfortunate is not severe enough in the proposed Trump/Ryan plan. Our GOP house neo-liberals are enthusiastic to unleash the wonders of the cure-all deregulated market on the American public, again. Like a dog returns to its vomit. ..."
Mar 22, 2017 | jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com
"The problem of the last three decades is not the 'vicissitudes of the marketplace,' but rather deliberate actions by the government to redistribute income from the rest of us to the one percent. This pattern of government action shows up in all areas of government policy."

Dean Baker

"When the modern corporation acquires power over markets, power in the community, power over the state and power over belief, it is a political instrument, different in degree but not in kind from the state itself. To hold otherwise - to deny the political character of the modern corporation - is not merely to avoid the reality.

It is to disguise the reality. The victims of that disguise are those we instruct in error."

John Kenneth Galbraith

And unfortunately the working class victims of that disguise are going to be receiving the consequences of their folly, and then some.

Secure in their monopolies and key positions with regard to reform and the law, the corporations are further acquiring access to the protections of the rights of individuals as well, it appears, at least according to Citizens United .

Maybe our leaders and their self-proclaimed technocrats will finally do the right thing. I personally doubt it, except that if they do it will probably be by accident.

More likely, the right thing will eventually come about the old-fashioned way- under the duress of a crisis, and the growing protests of the much neglected and long suffering.

History will look back at us with the same wonder that we look back on the mad excesses of certain nations founded in devotion to extreme, almost other-worldly, ideologies of the last century.

... ... ...

Apparently the slashing of health benefits for the unfortunate is not severe enough in the proposed Trump/Ryan plan. Our GOP house neo-liberals are enthusiastic to unleash the wonders of the cure-all deregulated market on the American public, again. Like a dog returns to its vomit.

Better if they start breaking up corporate health monopolies and embrace real reform at the sources of the soaring costs. The US pays far, far too much for drugs and healthcare, and deregulating the markets is not the solution. We do have the example of the rest of the developed world for what to do about this. It is called 'single payer.'

But players keep on playing. And politicians and their enablers in the professions will not see what their big money donors do not wish them to see. And that is one of their few bipartisan efforts.

Might one suggest that our political animals stop trying to do all the reforming and cost controls bottom up, while applying the stimulus top down? That approach they have been flogging to no avail for about thirty years is a recipe for a dying middle class.

Here is a short video from the Bernie Sanders WV town hall that shows The Face of American Desperation. By the way, the governor of West Virginia is a Democrat. He wasn't there.

...

[Mar 22, 2017] Stephen Williamson New Monetarist Economics What is full employment anyway, and how would we know if we are there

Mar 22, 2017 | newmonetarism.blogspot.com
Sunday, March 19, 2017 What is full employment anyway, and how would we know if we are there? What are people talking about when they say "full employment?" Maybe they don't know either? Whatever it is, "full employment" is thought to be important for policy, particularly monetary policy. Indeed, it typically enters the monetary policy discussion as "maximum employment," the second leg of the Fed's dual mandate - the first leg being "price stability."

Perhaps surprisingly, there are still people who think the US economy is not at "full employment." I hate to pick on Narayana, but he's a convenient example. He posted this on his Twitter account:

Are we close to full emp? In steady state, emp. growth will be about 1.2M per year. It's about *twice* that in the data. (1) Employment is growing much faster than long run and inflation is still low. Conclusion: we're well below long run steady state. end
Also in an interview on Bloomberg, Narayana gives us the policy conclusion. Basically, he thinks there is still "slack" in the economy. My understanding is that "slack" means we are below "full employment."

So what is Narayana saying? I'm assuming he is looking at payroll employment - the employment number that comes from the establishment survey. In his judgement, in a "steady state," which for him seems to mean the "full employment" state, payroll employment would be growing at 1.2M per year, or 100,000 per month. But over the last three months, the average increase in payroll employment has exceeded 200,000 per month. So, if we accept all of Narayana's assumptions, we would say the US economy is below full employment - it has some catching up to do. According to Narayana, employment can grow for some time in excess of 100,000 jobs per month, until we catch up to full employment, and monetary policy should help that process along by refraining from interest rate hikes in the meantime.

Again, even if we accept all of Narayana's assumptions, we could disagree about his policy recommendation. Maybe the increase in the fed funds rate target will do little to impede the trajectory to full employment. Maybe it takes monetary policy a period of time to work, and by the time interest rate hikes have their effect we are at full employment. Maybe the interest rate hikes will allow the Fed to make progress on other policy goals than employment. But let's explore this issue in depth - let's investigate what we know about "full employment" and how we would determine from current data if we are there or not.

Where does Narayana get his 1.2M number from? Best guess is that he is looking at demographics. The working age population in the United States (age 15-64) has been growing at about 0.5% per year. But labor force participation has grown over time since World War II, and later cohorts have higher labor force participation rates. For example, the labor force participation rate of baby-boomers in prime working age was higher than the participation rate of the previous generation in prime working age. So, this would cause employment growth to be higher than population growth. That is, Narayana's assumptions imply employment growth of about 0.8% per year, which seems as good a number as any. Thus, the long-run growth path for the economy should exhibit a growth rate of about 0.8% per year - though there is considerable uncertainty about that estimate.

But, we measure employment in more than one way. This chart shows year-over-year employment growth from the establishment survey, and from the household survey (CPS): For the last couple of years, employment growth has been falling on trend, by both measures. But currently, establishment-survey employment is growing at 1.6% per year, and household survey employment is growing at 1.0% per year. The latter number is a lot closer to 0.8%. The establishment survey is what it says - a survey of establishments. The household survey is a survey of people. The advantages of the establishment survey are that it covers a significant fraction of all establishments, and reporting errors are less likely - firms generally have a good idea how many people are on their payrolls. But, the household survey has broader coverage (includes the self-employed for example) of the population, and it's collected in a manner consistent with the unemployment and labor force participation data - that's all from the same survey. There's greater potential for measurement error in the household survey, as people can be confused by the questions they're asked. You can see that in the noise in the growth rate data in the chart.

Here's another interesting detail: This chart looks at the ratio of household-survey employment to establishment-survey employment. Over long periods of time, these two measures don't grow at the same rate, due to changes over time in the fraction of workers who are in establishments vs. those who are not. For long-run employment growth rates, you should put more weight on the household survey number (as this is a survey of the whole working-age population), provided of course that some measurement bias isn't creeping into the household survey numbers over time. Note that, since the recession, establishment-survey employment has been growing at a significantly higher rate than household-survey employment.

So, I think that the conclusion is that we should temper our view of employment growth. Maybe it's much closer to a steady state rate than Narayana thinks.

But, on to some other measures of labor market performance. This chart shows the labor force participation rate (LFPR) and the employment-population ratio (EPOP). Here, focus on the last year. LFPR is little changed, increasing from 62.9% to 63.0%, and the same is true for EPOP, which increased from 59.8% to 60.0%. That looks like a labor market that has settled down, or is close to it.

A standard measure of labor market tightness that labor economists like to look at is the ratio of job vacancies to unemployment, here measured as the ratio of the job openings rate to the unemployment rate: So, by this measure the labor market is at its tightest since 2001. Job openings are plentiful relative to would-be workers.

People who want to argue that some slack remains in the labor market will sometimes emphasize unconventional measures of the unemployment rate: In the chart, U3 is the conventional unemployment rate, and U6 includes marginally attached workers (those not in the labor force who may be receptive to working) and those employed part-time for economic reasons. The U3 measure is not so far, at 4.7%, from its previous trough of 4.4% in March 2007, while the gap between current U6, at 9.2% and its previous trough, at 7.9% in December 2006, is larger. Two caveats here: (i) How seriously we want to take U6 as a measure of unemployment is an open question. There are problems even with conventional unemployment measures, in that we do not measure the intensity of search - one person's unemployment is different from another's - and survey participants' understanding of the questions they are asked is problematic. The first issue is no worse a problem for U6 than for U3, but the second issue is assuredly worse. For example, it's not clear what "employed part time for economic reasons" means to the survey respondent, or what it should mean to the average economist. Active search, as measured in U3, has a clearer meaning from an economic point of view, than an expressed desire for something one does not have - non-satiation is ubiquitous in economic systems, and removing it is just not feasible. (ii) What's a normal level for U6? Maybe the U6 measure in December 2006 was undesirably low, due to what was going on in housing and mortgage markets.

Another labor market measure that might be interpreted as indicating labor market slack is long term unemployment (unemployed 27 weeks or more) - here measured as a rate relative to the labor force: This measure is still somewhat elevated relative to pre-recession times. However, if we look at short term unemployment (5 weeks or less), this is unusually low: As well, the insured unemployment rate (those receiving unemployment insurance as a percentage of the labor force) is very low: To collect UI requires having worked recently, so this reflects the fact that few people are being laid off - transitions from employment to unemployment are low.

An interpretation of what is going on here is that the short-term and long-term unemployed are very different kinds of workers. In particular, they have different skills. Some skills are in high demand, others are not, and those who have been unemployed a long time have skills that are in low demand. A high level of long-term unemployed is consistent with elevated readings for U6 - people may be marginally attached or wanting to move from part-time to full-time work for the same reasons that people have been unemployed for a long time. What's going on may indicate a need for a policy response, but if the problem is skill mismatch, that's not a problem that has a monetary policy solution.

So, if the case someone wants to make is that the Fed should postpone interest rate increases because we are below full employment - that there is still slack in the labor market - then I think that's a very difficult case to make. We could argue all day about what an output gap is, whether this is something we should worry about, and whether monetary policy can do much about an output gap, but by conventional measures we don't seem to have one in the US at the current time. In terms of raw economic performance (price stability aside), there's not much for the Fed to do at the current time. Productivity growth is unusually low, as is real GDP growth, but if that's a policy problem, it's in the fiscal department, not the monetary department.

But there is more to Narayana's views than the state of the labor market. He thinks it's important that inflation is still below the Fed's target of 2%. Actually, headline PCE inflation, which is the measure specified in the Fed's longer-run goals statement, is essentially at the target, at 1.9%. I think what Narayana means is that, given his Phillips-curve view of the world, if we are close to full employment, inflation should be higher. In fact, the long-run Fisher effect tells us that, after an extended period of low nominal interest rates, the inflation rate should be low. Thus, one might actually be puzzled as to why the inflation rate is so high. We know something about this, though. Worldwide, real rates of interest on government debt have been unusually low, which implies that, given the nominal interest rate, inflation will be unusually high. But, this makes Narayana's policy conclusion close to being correct. The Fed is very close to its targets - both legs of the dual mandate - so why do anything?

A neo-Fisherian view says that we should increase (decrease) the central bank's nominal interest rate target when inflation is too low (high) - the reverse of conventional wisdom. But maybe inflation is somewhat elevated by increases in the price of crude oil, which have since somewhat reversed themselves. So, maybe the Fed's nominal interest rate target should go up a bit more, to achieve its 2% inflation target consistently.

Though Narayana's reasoning doesn't lead him in a crazy policy direction, it would do him good to ditch the Phillips curve reasoning - I don't think that's ever been useful for policy. If one had (I think mistakenly) taken Friedman to heart (as appears to be the case with Narayana), we might think that unemployment above the "natural rate" should lead to falling inflation, and unemployment below the natural rate should lead to rising inflation. But, that's not what we see in the data. Here, I use the CBO's measure of the natural rate of unemployment (quarterly data, 1990-2016): According to standard Friedman Phillips-curve logic, we should see a negative correlation in the chart, but the correlation is essentially zero.

Posted by Stephen Williamson at 1 comment:

  1. Avraam J Dectis March 21, 2017 at 7:58 AM

    .
    Nice insightful column.

    One thing I wonder about is the possibility that policy implementing economists are a bit insulated from reality. It seems possible their personal experiences might reinforce a feeling that everything is all right.

    Meanwhile countervailing data may subconsciously be given short shrift. A shrinking middle class, stagnant wages, declining labor force participation of adult males all seem ignored.

    Could it be argued that full employment is characterized by a robust and growing middle class? Economics is both a hard and social science and social criteria may belong in the definition of full employment.

    Is it wise to try to throttle growth as soon as policy mandates are achieved, thus seeking to maintain a virtuous steady state equilibrium? Might it not be better to attempt more of a sine wave economic policy, deliberately overshooting targets to bring the marginal sidelined workers into the economy where they can gain experience and then, if necessary, briefly overshooting constraining measures to quickly contain possible excesses?

[Mar 21, 2017] Robots and Inequality: A Skeptics Take

Notable quotes:
"... And all costs are labor costs. It it isn't labor cost, it's rents and economic profit which mean economic inefficiency. An inefficient economy is unstable. Likely to crash or drive revolution. ..."
"... Free lunch economics seeks to make labor unnecessary or irrelevant. Labor cost is pure liability. ..."
"... Yet all the cash for consumption is labor cost, so if labor cost is a liability, then demand is a liability. ..."
"... Replace workers with robots, then robots must become consumers. ..."
"... "Replace workers with robots, then robots must become consumers." Well no - the OWNERS of robots must become consumers. ..."
"... I am old enough to remember the days of good public libraries, free university education, free bus passes for seniors and low land prices. Is the income side of the equation all that counts? ..."
Mar 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Douglas Campbell:
Robots and Inequality: A Skeptic's Take : Paul Krugman presents " Robot Geometry " based on Ryan Avent 's "Productivity Paradox". It's more-or-less the skill-biased technological change hypothesis, repackaged. Technology makes workers more productive, which reduces demand for workers, as their effective supply increases. Workers still need to work, with a bad safety net, so they end up moving to low-productivity sectors with lower wages. Meanwhile, the low wages in these sectors makes it inefficient to invest in new technology.
My question: Are Reagan-Thatcher countries the only ones with robots? My image, perhaps it is wrong, is that plenty of robots operate in Japan and Germany too, and both countries are roughly just as technologically advanced as the US. But Japan and Germany haven't seen the same increase in inequality as the US and other Anglo countries after 1980 (graphs below). What can explain the dramatic differences in inequality across countries? Fairly blunt changes in labor market institutions, that's what. This goes back to Peter Temin's " Treaty of Detroit " paper and the oddly ignored series of papers by Piketty, Saez and coauthors which argues that changes in top marginal tax rates can largely explain the evolution of the Top 1% share of income across countries. (Actually, it goes back further -- people who work in Public Economics had "always" known that pre-tax income is sensitive to tax rates...) They also show that the story of inequality is really a story of incomes at the very top -- changes in other parts of the income distribution are far less dramatic. This evidence also is not suggestive of a story in which inequality is about the returns to skills, or computer usage, or the rise of trade with China. ...

mulp : , March 21, 2017 at 01:54 AM

Yet another economist bamboozled by free lunch economics.

In free lunch economics, you never consider demand impacted by labor cost changed.

TANSTAAFL so, cut labor costs and consumption must be cut.

Funny things can be done if money is printed and helicopter dropped unequally.

Printed money can accumulate in the hands of the rentier cutting labor costs and pocketing the savings without cutting prices.

Free lunch economics invented the idea price equals cost, but that is grossly distorting.

And all costs are labor costs. It it isn't labor cost, it's rents and economic profit which mean economic inefficiency. An inefficient economy is unstable. Likely to crash or drive revolution.

Free lunch economics seeks to make labor unnecessary or irrelevant. Labor cost is pure liability.

Yet all the cash for consumption is labor cost, so if labor cost is a liability, then demand is a liability.

Replace workers with robots, then robots must become consumers.

reason -> mulp... , March 21, 2017 at 03:47 AM
"Replace workers with robots, then robots must become consumers." Well no - the OWNERS of robots must become consumers.
reason : , March 21, 2017 at 03:35 AM
I am old enough to remember the days of good public libraries, free university education, free bus passes for seniors and low land prices. Is the income side of the equation all that counts?
anne : , March 21, 2017 at 06:37 AM
https://medium.com/@ryanavent_93844/the-productivity-paradox-aaf05e5e4aad#.brb0426mt

March 16, 2017

The productivity paradox
By Ryan Avent

People are worried about robots taking jobs. Driverless cars are around the corner. Restaurants and shops increasingly carry the option to order by touchscreen. Google's clever algorithms provide instant translations that are remarkably good.

But the economy does not feel like one undergoing a technology-driven productivity boom. In the late 1990s, tech optimism was everywhere. At the same time, wages and productivity were rocketing upward. The situation now is completely different. The most recent jobs reports in America and Britain tell the tale. Employment is growing, month after month after month. But wage growth is abysmal. So is productivity growth: not surprising in economies where there are lots of people on the job working for low pay.

The obvious conclusion, the one lots of people are drawing, is that the robot threat is totally overblown: the fantasy, perhaps, of a bubble-mad Silicon Valley - or an effort to distract from workers' real problems, trade and excessive corporate power. Generally speaking, the problem is not that we've got too much amazing new technology but too little.

This is not a strawman of my own invention. Robert Gordon makes this case. You can see Matt Yglesias make it here. * Duncan Weldon, for his part, writes: **

"We are debating a problem we don't have, rather than facing a real crisis that is the polar opposite. Productivity growth has slowed to a crawl over the last 15 or so years, business investment has fallen and wage growth has been weak. If the robot revolution truly was under way, we would see surging capital expenditure and soaring productivity. Right now, that would be a nice 'problem' to have. Instead we have the reality of weak growth and stagnant pay. The real and pressing concern when it comes to the jobs market and automation is that the robots aren't taking our jobs fast enough."

And in a recent blog post Paul Krugman concluded: *

"I'd note, however, that it remains peculiar how we're simultaneously worrying that robots will take all our jobs and bemoaning the stalling out of productivity growth. What is the story, really?"

What is the story, indeed. Let me see if I can tell one. Last fall I published a book: "The Wealth of Humans". In it I set out how rapid technological progress can coincide with lousy growth in pay and productivity. Start with this:

"Low labour costs discourage investments in labour-saving technology, potentially reducing productivity growth."

...

* http://www.vox.com/2015/7/27/9038829/automation-myth

** http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/droids-wont-steal-your-job-they-could-make-you-rich

*** https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/maid-in-america/

anne -> anne... , March 21, 2017 at 06:38 AM
https://twitter.com/paulkrugman/status/843167658577182725

Paul Krugman @paulkrugman

But is Ryan Avent saying something different * from the assertion that recent technological progress is capital-biased? **

* https://medium.com/@ryanavent_93844/the-productivity-paradox-aaf05e5e4aad#.kmb49lrgd

** http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/08/rise-of-the-robots/

If so, what?

https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/capital-biased-technological-progress-an-example-wonkish/

11:30 AM - 18 Mar 2017

anne -> anne... , March 21, 2017 at 07:00 AM
This is an old concern in economics; it's "capital-biased technological change," which tends to shift the distribution of income away from workers to the owners of capital....

-- Paul Krugman

anne -> anne... , March 21, 2017 at 06:40 AM
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/08/rise-of-the-robots/

December 8, 2012

Rise of the Robots
By Paul Krugman

Catherine Rampell and Nick Wingfield write about the growing evidence * for "reshoring" of manufacturing to the United States. * They cite several reasons: rising wages in Asia; lower energy costs here; higher transportation costs. In a followup piece, ** however, Rampell cites another factor: robots.

"The most valuable part of each computer, a motherboard loaded with microprocessors and memory, is already largely made with robots, according to my colleague Quentin Hardy. People do things like fitting in batteries and snapping on screens.

"As more robots are built, largely by other robots, 'assembly can be done here as well as anywhere else,' said Rob Enderle, an analyst based in San Jose, California, who has been following the computer electronics industry for a quarter-century. 'That will replace most of the workers, though you will need a few people to manage the robots.' "

Robots mean that labor costs don't matter much, so you might as well locate in advanced countries with large markets and good infrastructure (which may soon not include us, but that's another issue). On the other hand, it's not good news for workers!

This is an old concern in economics; it's "capital-biased technological change," which tends to shift the distribution of income away from workers to the owners of capital.

Twenty years ago, when I was writing about globalization and inequality, capital bias didn't look like a big issue; the major changes in income distribution had been among workers (when you include hedge fund managers and CEOs among the workers), rather than between labor and capital. So the academic literature focused almost exclusively on "skill bias", supposedly explaining the rising college premium.

But the college premium hasn't risen for a while. What has happened, on the other hand, is a notable shift in income away from labor:

[Graph]

If this is the wave of the future, it makes nonsense of just about all the conventional wisdom on reducing inequality. Better education won't do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets. Creating an "opportunity society," or whatever it is the likes of Paul Ryan etc. are selling this week, won't do much if the most important asset you can have in life is, well, lots of assets inherited from your parents. And so on.

I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn't seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism - which shouldn't be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.

But I think we'd better start paying attention to those implications.

* http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/07/technology/apple-to-resume-us-manufacturing.html

** http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/07/when-cheap-foreign-labor-gets-less-cheap/

anne -> anne... , March 21, 2017 at 06:43 AM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=d4ZY

January 30, 2017

Compensation of employees as a share of Gross Domestic Income, 1948-2015


https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=d507

January 30, 2017

Compensation of employees as a share of Gross Domestic Income, 1948-2015

(Indexed to 1948)

supersaurus -> anne... , March 21, 2017 at 01:23 PM
"The most valuable part of each computer, a motherboard loaded with microprocessors and memory, is already largely made with robots, according to my colleague Quentin Hardy. People do things like fitting in batteries and snapping on screens.

"...already largely made..."? already? circuit boards were almost entirely populated by machines by 1985, and after the rise of surface mount technology you could drop the "almost". in 1990 a single machine could place 40k+/hour parts small enough they were hard to pick up with fingers.

anne : , March 21, 2017 at 06:37 AM
https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/robot-geometry-very-wonkish/

March 20, 2017

Robot Geometry (Very Wonkish)
By Paul Krugman

And now for something completely different. Ryan Avent has a nice summary * of the argument in his recent book, trying to explain how dramatic technological change can go along with stagnant real wages and slowish productivity growth. As I understand it, he's arguing that the big tech changes are happening in a limited sector of the economy, and are driving workers into lower-wage and lower-productivity occupations.

But I have to admit that I was having a bit of a hard time wrapping my mind around exactly what he's saying, or how to picture this in terms of standard economic frameworks. So I found myself wanting to see how much of his story could be captured in a small general equilibrium model - basically the kind of model I learned many years ago when studying the old trade theory.

Actually, my sense is that this kind of analysis is a bit of a lost art. There was a time when most of trade theory revolved around diagrams illustrating two-country, two-good, two-factor models; these days, not so much. And it's true that little models can be misleading, and geometric reasoning can suck you in way too much. It's also true, however, that this style of modeling can help a lot in thinking through how the pieces of an economy fit together, in ways that algebra or verbal storytelling can't.

So, an exercise in either clarification or nostalgia - not sure which - using a framework that is basically the Lerner diagram, ** adapted to a different issue.

Imagine an economy that produces only one good, but can do so using two techniques, A and B, one capital-intensive, one labor-intensive. I represent these techniques in Figure 1 by showing their unit input coefficients:

[Figure 1]

Here AB is the economy's unit isoquant, the various combinations of K and L it can use to produce one unit of output. E is the economy's factor endowment; as long as the aggregate ratio of K to L is between the factor intensities of the two techniques, both will be used. In that case, the wage-rental ratio will be the slope of the line AB.

Wait, there's more. Since any point on the line passing through A and B has the same value, the place where it hits the horizontal axis is the amount of labor it takes to buy one unit of output, the inverse of the real wage rate. And total output is the ratio of the distance along the ray to E divided by the distance to AB, so that distance is 1/GDP.

You can also derive the allocation of resources between A and B; not to clutter up the diagram even further, I show this in Figure 2, which uses the K/L ratios of the two techniques and the overall endowment E:

[Figure 2]

Now, Avent's story. I think it can be represented as technical progress in A, perhaps also making A even more capital-intensive. So this would amount to a movement southwest to a point like A' in Figure 3:

[Figure 3]

We can see right away that this will lead to a fall in the real wage, because 1/w must rise. GDP and hence productivity does rise, but maybe not by much if the economy was mostly using the labor-intensive technique.

And what about allocation of labor between sectors? We can see this in Figure 4, where capital-using technical progress in A actually leads to a higher share of the work force being employed in labor-intensive B:

[Figure 4]

So yes, it is possible for a simple general equilibrium analysis to capture a lot of what Avent is saying. That does not, of course, mean that he's empirically right. And there are other things in his argument, such as hypothesized effects on the direction of innovation, that aren't in here.

But I, at least, find this way of looking at it somewhat clarifying - which, to be honest, may say more about my weirdness and intellectual age than it does about the subject.

* https://medium.com/@ryanavent_93844/the-productivity-paradox-aaf05e5e4aad#.v9et5b98y

** http://www-personal.umich.edu/~alandear/writings/Lerner.pdf

Shah of Bratpuhr : , March 21, 2017 at 07:27 AM
Median Wealth per adult (table ends at $40k)

1. Switzerland $244,002
2. Iceland $188,088
3. Australia $162,815
4. Belgium $154,815
5. New Zealand $135,755
6. Norway $135,012
7. Luxembourg $125,452
8. Japan $120,493
9. United Kingdom $107,865
10. Italy $104,105
11. Singapore $101,386
12. France $ 99,923
13. Canada $ 96,664
14. Netherlands $ 81,118
15. Ireland $ 80,668
16. Qatar $ 74,820
17. Korea $ 64,686
18. Taiwan $ 63,134
19. United Arab Emirates $ 62,332
20. Spain $ 56,500
21. Malta $ 54,562
22. Israel $ 54,384
23. Greece $ 53,266
24. Austria $ 52,519
25. Finland $ 52,427
26. Denmark $ 52,279
27. United States $ 44,977
28. Germany $ 42,833
29. Kuwait $ 40,803

http://www.middleclasspoliticaleconomist.com/2017/03/us-has-worst-wealth-inequality-of-any.html

reason -> Shah of Bratpuhr... , March 21, 2017 at 08:17 AM
I think this illustrates my point very clearly. If you had charts of wealth by age it would be even clearer. Without a knowledge of the discounted expected value of public pensions it is hard to draw any conclusions from this list.

I know very definitely that in Australia and the UK people are very reliant on superannuation and housing assets. In both Australia and the UK it is common to sell expensive housing in the capital and move to cheaper coastal locations upon retirement, investing the capital to provide retirement income. Hence a larger median wealth is NEEDED.

It is hard otherwise to explain the much higher median wealth in Australia and the UK.

Shah of Bratpuhr : , March 21, 2017 at 07:28 AM
Median Wealth Average Wealth

1. United States $ 44,977 $344,692 7.66
2. Denmark $ 52,279 $259,816 4.97
3. Germany $ 42,833 $185,175 4.32
4. Austria $ 52,519 $206,002 3.92
5. Israel $ 54,384 $176,263 3.24
6. Kuwait $ 40,803 $119,038 2.92
7. Finland $ 52,427 $146,733 2.80
8. Canada $ 96,664 $270,179 2.80
9. Taiwan $ 63,134 $172,847 2.74
10. Singapore $101,386 $276,885 2.73
11. United Kingdom $107,865 $288,808 2.68
12. Ireland $ 80,668 $214,589 2.66
13. Luxembourg $125,452 $316,466 2.52
14. Korea $ 64,686 $159,914 2.47
15. France $ 99,923 $244,365 2.45
16. United Arab Emirates $ 62,332 $151,098 2.42
17. Norway $135,012 $312,339 2.31
18. Australia $162,815 $375,573 2.31
19. Switzerland $244,002 $561,854 2.30
20. Netherlands $ 81,118 $184,378 2.27
21. New Zealand $135,755 $298,930 2.20
22. Iceland $188,088 $408,595 2.17
23. Qatar $ 74,820 $161,666 2.16
24. Malta $ 54,562 $116,185 2.13
25. Spain $ 56,500 $116,320 2.06
26. Greece $ 53,266 $103,569 1.94
27. Italy $104,105 $202,288 1.94
28. Japan $120,493 $230,946 1.92
29. Belgium $154,815 $270,613 1.75

http://www.middleclasspoliticaleconomist.com/2017/03/us-has-worst-wealth-inequality-of-any.html

spencer : , March 21, 2017 at 08:06 AM
Ryan Avent's analysis demonstrates what is wrong with the libertarian, right wing belief that cheap labor is the answer to every problem when in truth cheap labor is the source of many of our problems.
reason -> spencer... , March 21, 2017 at 08:22 AM
Spencer,
as I have said before, I don't really care to much what wages are - I care about income. It is low income that is the problem. I'm a UBI guy, if money is spread around, and workers can say no to exploitation, low wages will not be a problem.
Sanjait : , March 21, 2017 at 09:32 AM
This looks good, but also reductive.

Have we not seen a massive shift in pretax income distribution? Yes ... which tells me that changes in tax rate structures are not the only culprit. Though they are an important culprit.

reason -> Sanjait... , March 21, 2017 at 09:40 AM
Maybe - but
1. changes in taxes can affect incentives (especially think of real investment and corporate taxes and also personal income taxes and executive remuneration);
2. changes in the distribution of purchasing power can effect the way growth in the economy occurs;
3. changes in taxes also affect government spending and government spending tends to be more progressively distributed than private income.

Remember the rule: ceteris is NEVER paribus.

Longtooth : , March 21, 2017 at 12:28 PM
Word to the wise:

Think: Services and Goods

Composite Services labor hours increase with poor productivity growth - output per hour of labor input. Composite measure of service industry output is notoriously problematic (per BLS BEA).

Goods labor hours decrease with increasing productivity growth. Goods output per hour easy to measure and with the greatest experience and knowledge.

Put this together and composite national productivity growth rate can't grow as fast as services consume more of labor hours.

Simple arithmetic.

Elaboration on Services productivity measures:

Now add the composite retail clerk labor hours to engineering labor hours... which dominates in composite labor hours? Duh! So even in services the productivity is weighted heavily to the lowest productivity job market.

Substitute Hospitality services for Retail Clerk services. Substitute truck drivers services for Hospitality Services, etc., etc., etc.

I have spent years tracking productivity in goods production of various types ... mining, non-tech hardware production, high tech hardware production in various sectors of high tech. The present rates of productivity growth continue to climb (never decline) relative to the past rates in each goods production sector measured by themselves.

But the proportion of hours in goods production in U.S. is and has been in continual decline even while value of output has increased in each sector of goods production.

Here's an interesting way to start thinking about Services productivity.

There used to be reasonably large services sector in leisure and business travel agents. Now there is nearly none... this has been replaced by on-line computer based booking. So travel agent or equivalent labor hours is now near zippo. Productivity of travel agents went through the roof in the 1990's & 2000's as the number of people / labor hours dropped like a rock. Where did those labor hours end up? They went to lower paying services or left the labor market entirely. So lower paying lower productivity services increased as a proportion of all services, which in composite reduced total serviced productivity.

You can do the same analysis for hundreds of service jobs that no longer even exist at all --- switch board operators for example when the way of buggy whip makers and horse-shoe services).

Now take a little ride into the future... not to distant future. When autonomous vehicles become the norm or even a large proportion of vehicles, and commercial drivers (taxi's, trucking, delivery services) go the way of horse-shoe services the labor hours for those services (land transportation of goods & people) will drop precipitously, even as unit deliveries increase, productivity goes through the roof, but since there's almost no labor hours in that service the composite effect on productivity in services will drop because the displaced labor hours will end up in a lower productivity services sector or out of the elabor market entirely.

Longtooth -> Longtooth... , March 21, 2017 at 12:42 PM
Economists are having problems reconciling composite productivity growth rates with increasing rates of automation. So they end up saying "no evidence" of automation taking jobs or something to the effect "not to fear, robotics isn't evident as a problem we have to worry about".

But they know by observation all around them that automation is increasing productivity in the goods sector, so they can't really discount automation as an issue without shutting their eyes to everything they see with their "lying eyes". Thus they know deep down that they will have to be reconcile this with BLS and BEA measures.

Ten years aog this wasn't even on economist's radars. Today it's at least being looked into with more serious effort.

Ten years ago politicians weren't even aware of the possibility of any issues with increasing rates of automation... they thought it's always increased with increasing labor demand and growth, so why would that ever change? Ten years ago they concluded it couldn't without even thinking about it for a moment. Today it's on their radar at least as something that bears perhaps a little more thought.

Not to worry though... in ten more years they'll either have real reason to worry staring them in the face, or they'll have figured out why they were so blind before.

Reminds me of not recognizing the "shadow banking" enterprises that they didn't see either until after the fact.

Longtooth -> Longtooth... , March 21, 2017 at 12:48 PM
Or that they thought the risk rating agencies were providing independent and valid risk analysis so the economists couldn't reconcile the "low level" of market risks risk with everything else so they just assumed "everything" else was really ok too... must be "irrational exuberance" that's to blame.
Longtooth : , March 21, 2017 at 01:04 PM
Let me add that the term "robotics" is a subset of automation. The major distinction is only that a form of automation that includes some type of 'articulation' and/or some type of dynamic decision making on the fly (computational branching decision making in nano second speeds) is termed 'robotics' because articulation and dynamic decision making are associated with human capabilities rather then automatic machines.

It makes no difference whether productivity gains occur by an articulated machine or one that isn't... automation just means replacing people's labor with something that improves humans capacity to produce an output.

When mechanical leverage was invented 3000 or more years ago it was a form of automation, enabling humans to lift, move heavier objects with less human effort (less human energy).

Longtooth -> Longtooth... , March 21, 2017 at 01:18 PM
I meant 3000 years BC.... 5000 years ago or more.

[Mar 19, 2017] When inequality is driven by extremes at the tail, using median means that you dont see much change in the demographics

Mar 19, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
libezkova : March 16, 2017 at 09:51 PM , 2017 at 09:51 PM
"the U.S. middle class - with household incomes ranging from two-thirds to double the national median"

Median household income in the US in 2015 was less the $60K. Two-thirds is $40K. That's almost poverty not middle class.

Sociologically the middle class is a quasi-elite of professionals and managers, who are largely immune to economic downturns and trends such as out-sourcing.

reason -> libezkova... , March 17, 2017 at 04:24 AM
The definition game? Define something to something else as is being talked about and then claim, claims based on a completely different definition are false?
Lyle -> libezkova... , March 17, 2017 at 12:47 PM
Actually with the change in ratio professionals and managers now tend to upper middle class, (29% of us is upper middle now, 32% middle).

One of the influences is that post WWII it was possible to be middle class and work on an assembly line in a job that was described as check your brain at the door. Automation and process changes have wiped the high pay of such jobs out. Steel makers for example thru mainly process changes (electric furnaces using scrap, continuous casting and the like) mean that it takes 1/5 the hours to produce a ton of steel in did in the 1970s.

The movement of assembly line jobs to the middle class occured because there was a period where the US was much less involved with the rest of the world economically, because their industries had all been destroyed. The change started during the Johnson admin, and showed up in the high inflation of the Nixon admin.

cm -> libezkova... , March 17, 2017 at 10:48 PM
Most "professionals and managers" are nowhere near being immune to downturns and outsourcing, in aggregate.

You could likewise claim that "low skilled" or any other occupations are "immune" as somewhere around 70-80% of their members continue being employed through tough times, in aggregate.

If you take "tech", companies laying off around 5-10% or even more of their staff in busts is a frequent enough occurrence. And that's in addition to the "regular" age discrimination and cycling of workers justified with "outdated skills". Being young and (supposedly) impressionable is a skill!

D. C. Sessions -> libezkova... , March 18, 2017 at 10:16 AM
"the U.S. middle class - with household incomes ranging from two-thirds to double the national median"

That's almost tautological. By definition, there can't be a whole lot of change in the population of groups defined relative to median. Income and wealth of those groups, though, can be enlightening.

Substitute "mean" for "median" and watch what happens. When inequality is driven by extremes at the tail, using "median" means that you don't see much change in the demographics. (Hint: if "middle class" is defined as half to twice the average income, there are damned few in that bracket.)

[Mar 17, 2017] The best existing research suggests that modest increases in minimal wage have had little or no employment-reducing impact.

Mar 17, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Denis Drew : March 17, 2017 at 08:29 AM , 2017 at 08:29 AM
Re: America's employment problem - Lane Kenworthy

"It can do so by increasing the federal minimum wage to $10 per hour and indexing it to inflation. The best existing research suggests that modest increases such as this have had little or no employment-reducing impact. And the government should also increase the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit for workers, for people who don't have children (a strategy Brooks endorses)."

Here we go again. First, I thought we had left EITC behind as any kind of substantial answer to underpaid Americans: redistributing all of 1/2 of one percent of overall income when 45% of our workforce is earning less than what we think the minimum wage should be, $15 an hour.

$15 may be the most fast food can pay. Sometimes in McDonald's there are more people behind the counter than in front (most customers come through the drive through). If fast food (33% labor costs) can pay $15, then maybe Target (10%-15%) can pay $20, and maybe super efficient WalMart (7%) can pay $25.

Always keeping in mind that labor bought and sold sort of on margin. Doubling Walmart's pay could add only 7% to prices.

Bottom 45% of workforce now takes 10% share of overall income -- used to be 20%. Top 1% now 20% instead of 10%. How to get that 10% back -- how to supply the economic and political muscle to TAKE IT BACK: just put some teeth in the (federal) law that already says union busting is illegal.

States can do this without any fear of confronting federal preemption. States can make it a crime for wholesalers for instance to pressure individual retailers from combining their bargaining power -- same such law can overlap federal labor area; especially since fed left blank for 80 years. Blank or not: may overlap as with min wage.

No need for complicated policy researches; no need to spend a dime: states just make union busting a felony and let people organize if they wish to -- and get out of their way. :-)

Back to min wage. If you sell fewer labor hours for more dollars that works out better for labor than for potatoes -- because in the labor market the potatoes get the money to spend -- and they are more likely to spend it more on other potatoes than more upscale. Why min wage raises often followed by higher min wage employment. (Higher wage jobs lost -- everybody looking in wrong place.)

***************************

My minimum wage worksheet

(2013 dollars)
yr..per capita...real...nominal...dbl-index...%-of

68...15,473....10.74..(1.60)......10.74......100%
69-70-71-72-73 *
74...18,284.....9.43...(2.00)......12.61
75...18,313.....9.08...(2.10)......12.61
76...18,945.....9.40...(2.30)......13.04........72%
77 *
78...20,422.....9.45...(2.65)......14.11
79...20,696.....9.29...(2.90)......14.32
80...20,236.....8.75...(3.10)......14.00
81...20,112.....8.57...(3.35)......13.89........62%
82-83-84-85-86-87-88-89 *
90...24,000.....6.76...(3.80)......16.56
91...23,540.....7.26...(4.25)......16.24........44%
92-93-94-95 *
96...25,887.....7.04...(4.75)......17.85
97...26,884.....7.46...(5.15)......19.02........39%
98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06 *
07...29,075.....6.56...(5.85)......20.09
08...28,166.....7.07...(6.55)......19.45
09...27,819.....7.86...(7.25)......19.42........40%
10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17 *

anne -> Denis Drew ... , March 17, 2017 at 08:45 AM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=d30R

January 4, 2017

Real Federal Minimum Hourly Wage for Nonfarm Workers, 1964-2016

(Indexed to 2016)

Denis Drew -> Denis Drew ... , March 17, 2017 at 09:05 AM
Re: The Man Who Made Us See That Trade Isn't Always Free - Noah Smith

"Instead, he and his co-authors found that trade with China in the 2000s left huge swathes of the U.S. workforce permanently without good jobs -- or, in many cases, jobs at all.

"This sort of concentrated economic devastation sounds like it would hurt not just people's pocketbooks, but the social fabric. In a series of follow-up papers, Autor and his team link Chinese import competition to declining marriage rates and political polarization. Autor told me that these social ills make the need for new thinking about trade policy even more urgent."

Here we go again. US manufacturing going from 16% of employment from 2000 to 12% in 2016 (half due automation) nowhere near as sucking-all-the-oxygen-out-of-life as the the bottom 45% of earners taking 10% of overall income, down from 20% over two generations -- more and more being recognized due to the loss of collective bargaining power ...

... for which loss the usual litany of causatives NEVER seem to include one mention of the complete lack of teeth protecting union organizing from market power in US labor law.

Simple answer: no studies or research needed, not a dollar appropriated: simply make union busting a felony at state level -- and get out of people's way.

States can do this without conflict with federal preemption. States can make it a crime for wholesalers for instance to pressure individual retailers from combining their bargaining power -- same such law can overlap federal labor area; especially since fed left blank for 80 years. Blank or not: may overlap as with min wage.

Don't do this and you'll never bring back collective bargaining power -- and all the genuine populist politics that goes with it!

anne -> Denis Drew ... , March 17, 2017 at 09:10 AM
http://www.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cpslutab3.htm

January 15, 2017

United States Union Membership Rates, 1992-2016

Private wage and salary workers

1992 ( 11.5)
1993 ( 11.2) Clinton
1994 ( 10.9)

1995 ( 10.4)
1996 ( 10.2)
1997 ( 9.8)
1998 ( 9.6)
1999 ( 9.5)

2000 ( 9.0)
2001 ( 8.9) Bush
2002 ( 8.6)
2003 ( 8.2)
2004 ( 7.9)

2005 ( 7.8)
2006 ( 7.4)
2007 ( 7.5)
2008 ( 7.6)
2009 ( 7.2) Obama

2010 ( 6.9)
2011 ( 6.9)
2012 ( 6.6)
2013 ( 6.7)
2014 ( 6.6)

2015 ( 6.7)
2016 ( 6.4)

[Mar 17, 2017] "Meals on Wheels America," one such national meal delivery program, says the organization can provide meals for senior citizens for one year for roughly the same cost as just

Mar 17, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
im1dc : March 16, 2017 at 11:16 AM

, 2017 at 11:16 AM
OMG, to give himself and his $Billionaire buddies a big tax break Trump's Budget cuts Meals on Wheels programs that feed the elderly and disabled...

How cold and cruel is this man?

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-how-much-it-costs-meals-on-wheels-to-feed-one-elderly-person-for-a-year-2017-03-16

"This is how much it costs 'Meals on Wheels' to feed one elderly person for a year"

By Quentin Fottrell, Personal Finance Editor...Mar 16, 2017...1:01 p.m. ET

"Among the services that could be impacted under President Trump's budget proposals: Meals on Wheels.

The administration's cuts target the Department of Housing and Urban Development and call for the elimination of the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant, which helps fund programs including Meals on Wheels services, which deliver food (and human interaction) to elderly, disabled and poor recipients. "The federal government has spent over $150 billion on this block grant since its inception in 1974, but the program is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results," the budget proposal states. "The budget devolves community and economic development activities to the state and local level, and redirects federal resources to other activities."

"Meals on Wheels America," one such national meal delivery program, says the organization can provide meals for senior citizens for one year for roughly the same cost as just one day in a hospital. The annual meal cost is $2,765 for 250 days, while the cost of one day in the hospital is around $2,271, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, private operating foundation based in Menlo Park, Calif. For "Meals on Wheels People," a Portland, Ore.-based service and one of the largest in the country, says it costs us around $2,500 annually to provide daily meals to a homebound senior, while cost of institutional care for a year in Oregon is around $60,000."...

[Mar 17, 2017] The rise of elite dynasties, economic inequality, and the vast concentrations of global wealth in recent times means that the role of the family office in our society demands

Mar 17, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
im1dc : March 16, 2017 at 09:55 AM

, 2017 at 09:55 AM
"Ultra-rich protect wealth with spread of 'family offices'"

Not really a new idea. The Rockefeller Family and one or two others had these from early days of American Dynastic Wealth, however, what is new is the number of wealthy and the amount of wealth they control, not only within a nation but Globally which makes them a new threat to global prosperity and equality - iow, they won't share theirs willingly and must be forced to pay up, the Anti-Trump way.

http://www.bbc.com/news/education-39285037

"Ultra-rich protect wealth with spread of 'family offices'"

By Sean Coughlan, Education correspondent...BBC...16 March 2017

"The ultra-rich in London are increasingly protecting their wealth through the use of "family offices", says research from the London School of Economics.

These are teams of professionals - such as lawyers, financiers and psychologists - employed to ensure the "dynastic wealth" of the super-rich.

These offices work for families worth at least £200m, says the study.

Researcher Luna Glucksberg says their role "demands scrutiny".

The study, from the LSE's International Inequalities Institute, says more attention should be paid to the rise of such "shadowy" family offices, which are employed full-time to protect the interests of their "elite families".

The study describes how they support a "bunkered" and "fortified" way of life of the "global super-rich".

Family offices have grown alongside the concentrations of the ultra-rich in cities such as London - and researchers say they have moved on a step from buying in specialist advisers.

These are full-time professional staff, which could include investment experts, property advisers, economists, trust fund advisers and lawyers, who work for a single family, in the way that a corporation might have its own dedicated staff.

The study quotes a US report from 2010 that found that 50 of the wealthiest such family offices were looking after $500bn (£407bn).

Rather than getting external advice from bankers and financiers, these family offices will keep such information private and in-house.

Their role "goes far beyond that of private bankers", says Dr Glucksberg.

"They are about creating dynasties, ensuring generational transfers of wealth," she says.

As well as maximising financial interests and investments, such family offices can look after every aspect of the private lives of their employers.

This can be everything from buying clothes and organising holidays to arranging divorces and making financial arrangements to prevent money being lost to in-laws.

The study says that for an individual family to have a family office, they would need to be worth at least £200m and probably much more.

But there are cases of "multi-family offices" - where families worth from £80m upwards could share such services.

The growth of extreme wealth, alongside poverty and low-income families, means that there needs to be more analysis of how such wealth is perpetuated, the study suggests.

These family offices "play a crucial role" in how advantages are handed on between generations, with full-time staff able to make long-term, strategic planning, says the study.

"The rise of elite dynasties, economic inequality, and the vast concentrations of global wealth in recent times means that the role of the 'family office' in our society demands scrutiny," says Dr Glucksberg."

[Mar 17, 2017] While I think primary education especially has suffered tremendously in the US, education is a terribly necessary but far from sufficient solution to the problems.

Mar 17, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Longtooth : March 16, 2017 at 08:08 PM While I think primary education especially has suffered tremendously in the US, education is a terribly necessary but far from sufficient solution to the problems.

The far greater problem, imo, is the distribution of incomes which create the divergences in primary & secondary education.. which is a direct outgrowth of educational funding by school districts, which is differentiated by the tax base, which of course then determines the quality of the education. Add this to poorer lower and lower middle class neighborhoods where both parents work (mostly) in low wage and low benefits jobs and the environment rubs off directly on the kids.

Why do we promote divergence in neighborhood wealth? This is a direct result of and part of income inequality so it's not just the 1% that are the problem.. they're just a popular and clear-cut indicator of it. We create these ghetto-like islands by a political and belief system that promotes "individualism", that believes if you've got a good high paying job that it's because you "earned it" yourself and therefore "deserve it".

Education will not solve the upward mobility issue we now have in spades and which spirals to less mobility by feed-back loops.

[Mar 17, 2017] Tax cuts kill jobs. Plain and simple.

Notable quotes:
"... Tax cuts kill jobs. Plain and simple. You can't create jobs by cutting the amount you paid workers. Taxes are prices that workers .pay You dodge taxes by underpaying workers. If taxes are cut, both paying workers is cut AND paying workers to dodge taxes is cut. ..."
Mar 17, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
mulp -> DrDick ... March 16, 2017 at 09:54 AM , 2017 at 09:54 AM
Forecasting is done to change human behavior to invalidate the forecasts.

Thus forecasts are by design never accurate about the future.

This is different than designing systems using natural laws.

A plane is designed to fly, because every forecast for it crashing has resulted in design changes to invalidate that forecast.

Conservatives hate forecasts because they hate changing their plans. To forecast slower gdp growth and job creation, or even contraction from tax cuts and spending cuts is unacceptable. Thus they strive to change forecasts or discredit them to get their policy implemented.

My forecast in the late 90s and early 00s was for economic disaster as a result of conservative policy eventually being implemented.

Tax cuts kill jobs. Plain and simple. You can't create jobs by cutting the amount you paid workers. Taxes are prices that workers .pay You dodge taxes by underpaying workers. If taxes are cut, both paying workers is cut AND paying workers to dodge taxes is cut.

That would have been the forecast in the 60s.

Today even Krugman and Bernie support job killing tax cuts based on that creating jobs. Lots of bad forecasting is done to back tax cuts. The tax cuts fail to create jobs, so the bad forecasts are blamed so every forecast is ignored, even the good ones.

New Deal democrat -> John Williams... , March 16, 2017 at 08:02 AM
That ecosystem forecasting system is safe until the animals and plants learn how to read. ;-)
Thi$ World$ Banker$ -> New Deal democrat... , March 16, 2017 at 09:03 AM

Believe it!

When Congressional critters learned to read, 45th POTUS was suddenly and permanently unable to drain the swamp of critters who grow fat on the pork-barrel-legislation that drains the public treasure of We the Workers and Savers.

These parasitic critters will grow fat and strong, strong enough to gobble up the the once brave workers who feed the fat in DC.

Thanks,
NDD
!

[Mar 17, 2017] America's Two-Track Economy

Mar 17, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Median household income in the USA in 2015 was $ 53,889. Census money income is defined as income received on a regular basis before payments for taxes, social security, etc. and does not reflect noncash benefits....
Peter Dizikes at the MIT News Office:
America's two-track economy : For many people in America, being middle class isn't what it used to be.
Consider: In 1971, the U.S. middle class - with household incomes ranging from two-thirds to double the national median - accounted for almost 60 percent of total U.S. earnings. But in 2014, middle-class households earned just about 40 percent of the total national income. And, adjusted for inflation, the incomes of goods-producing workers have been flat since the mid-1970s.
"We have a fractured society," says MIT economist Peter Temin. "The middle class is vanishing."
Now Temin, the Elisha Gray II Professor Emeritus of Economics in MIT's Department of Economics, has written a book exploring the topic. "The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy," published this month by MIT Press, examines the plight of middle-income earners and offers some prescriptions for changing our current state of affairs.
The "dual economy" in the book's title also represents a bracing reflection of America's class schism. Temin, a leading economic historian, draws the term from the work of Nobel Prize winner W. Arthur Lewis, who in the 1950s applied the model of a dual economy to developing countries. In many of those nations, Lewis contended, there was not a single economy but a two-track economy, with one part containing upwardly-mobile, skilled workers and the other part inhabited by subsistence workers.
Applied to the U.S. today, "The Lewis model actually works," Temin says. "The economy can grow, but it detaches from the [subsistence] sector. Simple as it is, the Lewis model offers the benefit that a good economic model does, which is to clarify your thinking."
In Temin's terms, updated, America now features what he calls the "FTE sector" - people who work in finance, technology, and electronics - and "the low-wage sector." Workers in the first sector tend to thrive; workers in the second sector usually struggle. Much of the book delves into how the U.S. has developed this way over the last 40 years, and how it might transform itself back into a country with one economy for all.
Headwinds for workers
As Temin sees it, there are multiple reasons for the decline in middle-class earning power. To cite one: The decline of unionization, he contends, has reduced the bargaining power available to middle class workers.
"In the [political and economic] turmoil of the '70s and '80s, the unions declined, and the institutions that had been keeping labor going along with rising productivity were destroyed," Temin says. "It's partly [due to] new technology, globalization, and public policy - it's all of these things. What it did was disconnect wages from the growth in productivity."
Indeed, from about 1945 until 1975, as Temin documents in the book, U.S. productivity gains and the wage gains of goods-producing workers tracked each other closely. But since 1975, productivity has roughly doubled, while those wages have stayed flat.
Where "The Vanishing Middle Class" moves well beyond a discussion of basic economic relations, however, is in Temin's insistence that readers consider the interaction of racial politics and economics. As he puts it in the book, "Race plays an important part in discussions of politics related to inequality in the United States."
To take one example: Again starting in the 1970s, incarceration policies led to an increasing proportion of African-Americans being jailed. Today, Temin notes, about one in three African-American men will serve jail time, which he calls "a very striking figure. You can see how that would just destroy the fabric of a community." After all, those who become imprisoned see a significant reduction in their ability to obtain healthy incomes over their lifetimes.
For that matter, Temin observes, incarceration has expanded so dramatically it has affected the ability of society to pay for prisons, which may be a factor that limits their further growth. At the moment, he notes in the book, the U.S. states pay roughly $50 billion a year for prisons and roughly $75 billion annually to support higher education.
Solutions?
Temin contends in the book that a renewed focus on education is a principal way to distribute opportunities better throughout society.
"The link between the two parts of the modern dual economy is education, which provides a possible path that children of low-wage workers can take to move into the FTE sector," Temin writes.
That begins with early-childhood education, which Temin calls "critically important" - although, he says, "in order to continue those benefits, [students] have to build on that foundation. That goes all the way up to college."
And for students in challenging social and economic circumstances, Temin adds, what matters is not just the simple acquisition of knowledge but the classroom experiences that lead to, as he puts it, "Knowing how to think, how to get on with people, how to cooperate. All the social skills and social capital [are] going to be critically important for kids in this environment."
In the book Temin bluntly advocates for greater investment in public schools as well as public universities, saying that America's "educational system was the wonder of the 20th century." It still works very well, he notes, for kids at good public schools and for those college students who graduate without burdensome debt.
But for others, he notes, "We don't have a path for the next generation to have what we expect for a middle-class life [and] not everyone wants to finance it."
"The Vanishing Middle Class" comes amid increasing scrutiny of class relations in the U.S., but at a time when the public discussion of the topic is still very much evolving. Gerald Jaynes, a professor in the departments of Economics and African American Studies at Yale University, calls Temin's new book "a significant addition to the existing literature on inequality."
Temin, for his part, hopes that by the end of "The Vanishing Middle Class," readers will agree that a society paying for more education will have made a worthy investment.
"The people in this country are the resource we have," Temin says. "If we maintain the character of our fellow citizens, that is really our national strength."

Posted by Mark Thoma on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 12:58 PM in Economics , Income Distribution | Permalink Comments (48) Peter K. : , March 16, 2017 at 01:34 PM

The [neoliberal] Democrats like Sanjait and PGL deliver a two-track economy and wonder why voter turn-out is low and the white working class are susceptible to demagogues like Trump.

Why did Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio go for a laughable reality TV star like Trump.

They expend a lot of energy trying to explain away the obvious like globalization and attacking heretics like Bernie Sanders.

EMichael says it all about race but ignores the obvious.

"Indeed, from about 1945 until 1975, as Temin documents in the book, U.S. productivity gains and the wage gains of goods-producing workers tracked each other closely. But since 1975, productivity has roughly doubled, while those wages have stayed flat."

Interesting that neoliberalism really took off around the 1980s, with Clinton moving the Democrats to the right and endorsing corporate globalization.

Kaleberg -> Peter K.... , March 16, 2017 at 04:17 PM
The unions got their power during the New Deal. They were under serious attack in the 1970s with its inflation and its oil shocks. When the government started insisting that blacks get some of the New Deal goodies, conservative whites balked. When push came to shove, they voted for Reagan who promptly killed the unions. It was a suicide deal. If whites had to share prosperity with blacks, then not being prosperous was better. That attitude is around today.

Neoliberalism was part of it. The Democrats did move to the right. People forget that it was Carter who deregulated the airlines, not Reagan. It was Carter who bought the nonsense about balancing the budget. Hell, it was Carter who started getting tough with the USSR after Nixon's detente.

Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , March 16, 2017 at 07:17 PM
The dual economy, they say, as if it were an abstract.

My Dad was shot in the face in Germany. The Unions were established by the people who established our society.

The sentiments being expressed here by the people whose existence would not even be possible without the efforts of my Dad, and men like him, are breathtaking.

Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , March 16, 2017 at 07:34 PM
Is economics, as a political science, that corrupt ? That it presumes to transcend common decency, and sense ?
Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , March 16, 2017 at 07:39 PM
The current "thinking" and bloviation of main stream Economics, seems to be, that they're wishful thinking, contradicts the accepted, published foundations.
Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , March 16, 2017 at 07:43 PM
And thereby, they should be given a pint, and not be recognized as the charlatans that they are,l nut instead, be honored.

Didn't Shakespeare discuss this very conundrum ?

Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , March 16, 2017 at 08:41 PM
Barrack O'Bama may have been the worst President of all time. Except for George Bush, Bill Clinton, the other Bush, and our favorite life-guard, Ronald Reagan.
Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , March 16, 2017 at 09:16 PM
The United States of America.
MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance: the distinctions of rich and poor may in a great measure be accounted for, and that without having recourse to the harsh ill-sounding names of oppression and avarice. Oppression is often the CONSEQUENCE, but seldom or never the MEANS of riches; and tho' avarice will preserve a man from being necessitously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy.

But there is another and great distinction for which no truly natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is the distinction of men into KINGS and SUBJECTS. Male and female are the distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of Heaven; but how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species, is worth inquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind.

In the early ages of the world, according to the scripture chronology there were no kings; the consequence of which was, there were no wars; it is the pride of kings which throws mankind into confusion. Holland, without a king hath enjoyed more peace for this last century than any of the monarchical governments in Europe. Antiquity favours the same remark; for the quiet and rural lives of the first Patriarchs have a snappy something in them, which vanishes when we come to the history of Jewish royalty.

Government by kings was first introduced into the world by the Heathens, from whom the children of Israel copied the custom. It was the most prosperous invention the Devil ever set on foot for the promotion of idolatry. The Heathens paid divine honours to their deceased kings, and the Christian World hath improved on the plan by doing the same to their living ones. How impious is the title of sacred Majesty applied to a worm, who in the midst of his splendor is crumbling into dust!

As the exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be defended on the authority of scripture; for the will of the Almighty as declared by Gideon, and the prophet Samuel, expressly disapproves of government by Kings.

All anti-monarchical parts of scripture have been very smoothly glossed over in monarchical governments, but they undoubtedly merit the attention of countries which have their governments yet to form. "Render unto Cesar the things which are Cesar's" is the scripture doctrine of courts, yet it is no support of monarchical government, for the Jews at that time were without a king, and in a state of vassalage to the Romans.

Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , March 16, 2017 at 09:29 PM
Thomas Paine

The Pamphlet

http://www.ushistory.org/paine/commonsense/sense3.htm

Peter K. : , March 16, 2017 at 01:39 PM
It's funny how Sanjait and PGL don't want to talk about what Krugman wrote in his latest blog post:

"This ties in with an important recent piece by Zack Beauchamp on the striking degree to which left-wing economics fails, in practice, to counter right-wing populism; basically, Sandersism has failed everywhere it has been tried. Why?

The answer, presumably, is that what we call populism is really in large degree white identity politics, which can't be addressed by promising universal benefits. Among other things, these "populist" voters now live in a media bubble, getting their news from sources that play to their identity-politics desires, which means that even if you offer them a better deal, they won't hear about it or believe it if told. For sure many if not most of those who gained health coverage thanks to Obamacare have no idea that's what happened.

That said, taking the benefits away would probably get their attention, and maybe even open their eyes to the extent to which they are suffering to provide tax cuts to the rich.

In Europe, right-wing parties probably don't face the same dilemma; they're preaching herrenvolk social democracy, a welfare state but only for people who look like you. In America, however, Trumpism is faux populism that appeals to white identity but actually serves plutocrats. That fundamental contradiction is now out in the open."

https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/03/14/populism-and-the-politics-of-health/

The 1950, 1960 and 1970s saw the civil rights movement, anti-war movement and feminist movements.

Economics helps with white and male supremacy.

But the EMichaels, Sanjaits, PGLs, Democrats, Krugmans want to make either/or.

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , March 16, 2017 at 01:40 PM
And the rise of the environmental movement!

And Krugman is against all of that? WTF!

RGC : , March 16, 2017 at 01:59 PM
The division isn't between 2 groups of middle class.

The division to worry about is between the 99% and the 1%.

More BS and diversion from mainstream economists.

Deindustrialization never mentioned by economists - Youngstown was created by free trade policies : , March 16, 2017 at 03:42 PM
Economists never mention massive deindustrialization as a reason for our country's transformation into a Lewis-modeled developing country.
pgl : , March 16, 2017 at 04:35 PM
Peter Temin's CV:

http://economics.mit.edu/faculty/ptemin/cv

He is now 79 years old. He has written some brilliant analyzes over his incredible career. His latest is something I must read as this discussion is so spot on regarding the current debate.

[Mar 14, 2017] No wonder the unemployed increasingly kill themselves, or others. The whole economy tells them, indirectly but unmistakably, that their human value does not exist.

Mar 14, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Noni Mausa : March 13, 2017 at 04:13 PM

What the wealthy right wing has decided in the past 40 years is that they don't need citizens. At least, not as many citizens as are actually citizens. What they are comfortable with is a large population of free range people, like the longhorn cattle of the old west, who care for themselves as best they can, and are convenient to be used when the "ranchers" want them.

Of course, this is their approach to foreign workers, also, but for the purpose of maintaining a domestic society within which the domestic rich can comfortably live, only native born Americans really suit.

With the development of high productivity production, farming, and hands-off war technology the need for a large number of citizens is reduced. The wealthy can sit in their towers and arrange the world as suits them, and use the rest of the world as a "farm team" to supply skills and labour as needed.

Proof of this is the fact that they talk about the economy's need for certain skills, training, services and so on, but never about the inherent value of citizens independent of their utility to someone else.

No wonder the unemployed increasingly kill themselves, or others. The whole economy tells them, indirectly but unmistakably, that their human value does not exist. ken melvin : , March 13, 2017 at 04:48 PM

Can someone get me from $300 billion tax cut for the rich to getting the markets work for health care?
ken melvin : , March 13, 2017 at 04:54 PM
It isn't about 'markets', never is. It is about extraction of as much profit as possible using whatever means necessary. This is what the CEOs of insurance companies get payed to do. Insurance policies they don't pay out, the ones Ryan is referring to, are as good as any for scoring.
libezkova : , March 13, 2017 at 07:09 PM
"It isn't about 'markets', never is. It is about extraction of as much profit as possible using whatever means necessary. This is what the CEOs of insurance companies get payed to do."

What surprises me most in this discussion is how Obamacare suddenly changed from a dismal and expensive failure enriching private insurers to a "good deal".

Lesseevilism in action ;-)

ilsm : , March 13, 2017 at 01:41 PM
When the PPACA band-aid is pulled off the US health care mess the gusher will be blamed on "the Russians running the White House".

Cuba does better than the US despite being economically sanctioned for 55 years. Distribution of artificially scarce health care resources is utterly broken. This failed market is financed by a mix of 'for profit' insurance and medicare (which sublets a big part to 'for profit' insurance).

Coverage!!! PPACA added taxpayers' money to finance a bigger failed market. It did nothing to address the market fail!

Single payer would not address the market failure. Single payer would put the government financing most of the failed market.

Democrats have put band-aids on severe bleeds since Truman made the cold war more important than Americans.

At least we know what Trump stands for!

jeff fisher said in reply to ilsm... , March 13, 2017 at 01:58 PM
Cuba is the shining example of how doing the first 20% of healthcare well for everyone gets you 80% of the benefit cheap.

The US is the shining example of how refusing to do the first 20% of healthcare well for everyone only gets you 80% of the benefit no matter how much you spend.

jonny bakho : , March 13, 2017 at 12:09 PM
Mark's very nice argument does nothing to address The Official Trump Counter Argument:

[Shorter version: Obamacare is doomed, going to blow up. Any replacement is therefore better than Obamacare; Facts seldom win arguments against beliefs]

"During a listening session on healthcare at the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump said Republicans "are putting themselves in a very bad position by repealing Obamacare."

Trump said that his administration is "committed to repealing and replacing" Obamacare and that the House Obamacare replacement will lead to more choice at a lower cost. He further stated, "[T]he press is making Obamacare look so good all, of a sudden. I'm watching the news. It looks so good. They're showing these reports about this one gets so much, and this one gets so much. First of all, it covers very few people, and it's imploding. And '17 will be the worst year. And I said it once; I'll say it again: because Obama's gone."

He continued, "And the Republicans, frankly, are putting themselves in a very bad position - I tell this to Tom Price all the time - by repealing Obamacare. Because people aren't gonna see the truly devastating effects of Obamacare. They're not gonna see the devastation. In '17 and '18 and '19, it'll be gone by then. It'll - whether we do it or not, it'll be imploded off the map."

He added, "So, the press is making it look so wonderful, so that if we end it, everyone's going to say, 'Oh, remember how great Obamacare used to be? Remember how wonderful it used to be? It was so great.' It's a little bit like President Obama. When he left, people liked him. When he was here, people didn't like him so much. That's the way life goes. That's human nature."

Trump further stated that while letting Obamacare collapse on its own was the best thing to do politically, it wasn't the right thing to do for the country.

http://www.breitbart.com/video/2017/03/13/trump-republicans-putting-bad-position-repealing-obamacare/

[Mar 10, 2017] Michael Hudson: Retirement? What Social Obligation?

Notable quotes:
"... This was Alan Greenspan's trick that he pulled in the 1980s as head of the Greenspan Commission. He said that what was needed in America was to traumatize the workers – to squeeze them so much that they won't have the courage to strike. Not have the courage to ask for better working conditions. He recognized that the best way to really squeeze wage earners is to sharply increase their taxes. He didn't call FICA wage withholding a tax, but of course it is. His trick was to say that it's not really a tax, but a contribution to Social Security. And now it siphons off 15.4% of everybody's pay check, right off the top. ..."
"... The effect of what Greenspan did was more than just to make wage earners pay this FICA rake-off out of their paycheck every month. The charge was set so high that the Social Security fund lent its surplus to the government. Now, with all this huge surplus that we're squeezing out of the wage earners, there's a cut-off point: around $120,000. The richest people don't have to pay for Social Security funding, only the wage-earner class has to. Their forced savings are lent to the government to enable it to claim that it has so much extra money in the budget pouring in from social security that now it can afford to cut taxes on the rich. ..."
"... So the sharp increase in Social Security tax for wage earners went hand-in-hand with sharp reductions in taxes on real estate, finance for the top One Percent – the people who live on economic rent, not by working, not by producing goods and services but by making money on their real estate, stocks and bonds "in their sleep." That's how the five percent have basically been able to make their money. ..."
"... The Federal Reserve has just published statistics saying the average American family, 55 and 60 years old, only has about $14,000 worth of savings. This isn't nearly enough to retire on. There's also been a vast looting of pension funds, largely by Wall Street. That's why the investment banks have had to pay tens of billions of dollars of penalties for cheating pension funds and other investors. The current risk-free rate of return is 0.1% on government bonds, so the pension funds don't have enough money to pay pensions at the rate that their junk economics advisors forecast. The money that people thought was going to be available for their retirement, all of a sudden isn't. The pretense is that nobody could have forecast this! ..."
"... In Chile, the Chicago Boys really developed this strategy. University of Chicago economists made it possible, by privatizing and corporatizing the Social Security system. Their ploy was to set aside a pension fund managed by the company, mostly to invest in its own stock. The company would then set up an affiliate that would actually own the company under an umbrella, and then leave the company with its pension fund to go bankrupt – having already emptied out the pension fund by loaning it to the corporate shell. ..."
"... We have the highest healthcare costs in the world, so out of your paycheck – which is not increasing – you're going to have to pay more and more for FICA withholding for Social Security, more and more for healthcare, for the pharmaceutical monopoly and the health insurance monopoly. You'll also have to pay more and more to use public services for transportation to get to work, because the state is not funding that anymore. We're cutting taxes on the rich, so we don't have the money to do what social democracies are supposed to do. You're going to privatize the roads, so that now you're going to have to pay to use the road to drive to work, if you don't have public transportation. ..."
"... "Classical and neo-classical economics, as dominant today, has used the deductive methodology: Untested axioms and unrealistic assumptions are the basis for the formulation of theoretical dream worlds that are used to present particular 'results'. As discussed in Werner (2005), this methodology is particularly suited to deriving and justifying preconceived ideas and conclusions, through a process of working backwards from the desired 'conclusions', to establish the kind of model that can deliver them, and then formulating the kind of framework that could justify this model by choosing suitable assumptions and 'axioms'. In other words, the deductive methodology is uniquely suited for manipulation by being based on axioms and assumptions that can be picked at will in order to obtain pre-determined desired outcomes and justify favoured policy recommendations. It can be said that the deductive methodology is useful for producing arguments that may give a scientific appearance, but are merely presenting a pre-determined opinion." ..."
"... "Progress in economics and finance research would require researchers to build on the correct insights derived by economists at least since the 19th century (such as Macleod, 1856). The overview of the literature on how banks function, in this paper and in Werner (2014b), has revealed that economics and finance as research disciplines have on this topic failed to progress in the 20th century. The movement from the accurate credit creation theory to the misleading, inconsistent and incorrect fractional reserve theory to today's dominant, yet wholly implausible and blatantly wrong financial intermediation theory indicates that economists and finance researchers have not progressed, but instead regressed throughout the past century. That was already Schumpeter's (1954) assessment, and things have since further moved away from the credit creation theory." ..."
"... "Although commercial banks create money through lending, they cannot do so freely without limit. Banks are limited in how much they can lend if they are to remain profitable in a competitive banking system." ..."
"... it insults the intelligence of the audience, ..."
"... we would now call ..."
"... totally insupportable on its face. ..."
"... as a corporate, spiritually mandated obligation, ..."
"... You're going to privatize the roads, so that now you're going to have to pay to use the road to drive to work, if you don't have public transportation. ..."
"... Henry Ford II: Walter, how are you going to get those robots to pay your union dues? Walter Reuther: Henry, how are you going to get them to buy your cars? ..."
"... "You're turning the economy into what used to be called feudalism. Except that we don't have outright serfdom, because people can live wherever they want. But they all have to pay to this new hereditary 'financial/real estate/public enterprise' class that is transforming the economy." ..."
"... "The industrial capitalists, these new potentates, had on their part not only to displace the guild masters of handicrafts, but also the feudal lords, the possessors of the sources of wealth. In this respect, their conquest of social power appears as the fruit of a victorious struggle both against feudal lordship and its revolting prerogatives, and against the guilds and the fetters they laid on the free development of production and the free exploitation of man by man. The chevaliers d'industrie, however, only succeeded in supplanting the chevaliers of the sword by making use of events of which they themselves were wholly innocent. They have risen by means as vile as those by which the Roman freedman once on a time made himself the master of his patronus. ..."
"... The starting point of the development that gave rise to the wage labourer as well as to the capitalist, was the servitude of the labourer. The advance consisted in a change of form of this servitude, in the transformation of feudal exploitation into capitalist exploitation. " ..."
Mar 10, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on March 9, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. This Real News Network interview is from a multi-part series about Michael Hudson's new book, J is for Junk Economics. And after a lively discussion by readers of the economic necessity of many to become expats to get their living costs down to a viable level, a discussion of the disingenuous political messaging around retirement seemed likely. Among the people in my age cohort, the ones that managed to attach themselves to capital (being in finance long enough at a senior enough level, working in Corporate America and stock or stock options) are generally set to have an adequate to very comfortable retirement. The ones who didn't (and these include people I know who are very well paid professionals but for various reasons, like health problems or periods of unemployment that drained savings, haven't put much away) will either have to continue working well past a normal retirement age (even charitably assuming they can find adequately compensated work) or face a struggle or even poverty.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/cdv9EvWxkdc

SHARMINI PERIES: It's The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. I'm speaking with Michael Hudson about his new book J Is For Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in the Age of Deception.

Thanks for joining me again, Michael.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Good to be here.

SHARMINI PERIES: So, Michael, on page 260 of your book you deal with the issue of Social Security and it's a myth that Social Security should be pre-funded by its beneficiaries, or that progressive taxes should be abolished in favor of a flat tax. Just one tax rate for everyone you criticize. We talked about this earlier, but let's apply what this actually means when it comes to Social Security.

MICHAEL HUDSON: The mythology aims to convince people that if they're the beneficiaries of Social Security, they should be responsible for saving up to pre-fund it. That's like saying that you're the beneficiary of public education, so you have to pay for the schooling. You're the beneficiary of healthcare, you have to save up to pay for that. You're the beneficiary of America's military spending that keeps us from being invaded next week by Russia, you have to spend for all that – in advance, and lend the money to the government for when it's needed.

Where do you draw the line? Nobody anticipated in the 19th century that people would have to pay for their own retirement. That was viewed as an obligation of society. You had the first public pension (social security) program in Germany under Bismarck. The whole idea is that this is a public obligation. There are certain rights of citizens, and among these rights is that after your working life you deserve to live in retirement. That means that you have to be able to afford this retirement, and not have to beg in the street for money. The wool that's been pulled over people's eyes is to imagine that because they're the beneficiaries of Social Security, they have to actually pay for it.

This was Alan Greenspan's trick that he pulled in the 1980s as head of the Greenspan Commission. He said that what was needed in America was to traumatize the workers – to squeeze them so much that they won't have the courage to strike. Not have the courage to ask for better working conditions. He recognized that the best way to really squeeze wage earners is to sharply increase their taxes. He didn't call FICA wage withholding a tax, but of course it is. His trick was to say that it's not really a tax, but a contribution to Social Security. And now it siphons off 15.4% of everybody's pay check, right off the top.

The effect of what Greenspan did was more than just to make wage earners pay this FICA rake-off out of their paycheck every month. The charge was set so high that the Social Security fund lent its surplus to the government. Now, with all this huge surplus that we're squeezing out of the wage earners, there's a cut-off point: around $120,000. The richest people don't have to pay for Social Security funding, only the wage-earner class has to. Their forced savings are lent to the government to enable it to claim that it has so much extra money in the budget pouring in from social security that now it can afford to cut taxes on the rich.

So the sharp increase in Social Security tax for wage earners went hand-in-hand with sharp reductions in taxes on real estate, finance for the top One Percent – the people who live on economic rent, not by working, not by producing goods and services but by making money on their real estate, stocks and bonds "in their sleep." That's how the five percent have basically been able to make their money.

The idea that Social Security has to be funded by its beneficiaries has been a setup for the wealthy to claim that the government budget doesn't have enough money to keep paying. Social Security may begin to run a budget deficit. After having run a surplus since 1933, for 70 years, now we have to begin paying some of this savings out. That's called a deficit, as if it's a disaster and we have to begin cutting back Social Security. The implication is that wage earners will have to starve in the street after they retire.

The Federal Reserve has just published statistics saying the average American family, 55 and 60 years old, only has about $14,000 worth of savings. This isn't nearly enough to retire on. There's also been a vast looting of pension funds, largely by Wall Street. That's why the investment banks have had to pay tens of billions of dollars of penalties for cheating pension funds and other investors. The current risk-free rate of return is 0.1% on government bonds, so the pension funds don't have enough money to pay pensions at the rate that their junk economics advisors forecast. The money that people thought was going to be available for their retirement, all of a sudden isn't. The pretense is that nobody could have forecast this!

There are so many corporate pension funds that are going bankrupt that the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation doesn't have enough money to bail them out. The PBGC is in deficit. If you're going to be a corporate raider, if you're going to be a Governor Romney or whatever and you take over a company, you do what Sam Zell did with the Chicago Tribune: You loot the pension fund, you empty it out to pay the bondholders that have lent you the money to buy out the company. You then tell the workers, "I'm sorry there is nothing there. It's wiped out." Half of the employee stock ownership programs go bankrupt. That was already a critique made in the 1950s and '60s.

In Chile, the Chicago Boys really developed this strategy. University of Chicago economists made it possible, by privatizing and corporatizing the Social Security system. Their ploy was to set aside a pension fund managed by the company, mostly to invest in its own stock. The company would then set up an affiliate that would actually own the company under an umbrella, and then leave the company with its pension fund to go bankrupt – having already emptied out the pension fund by loaning it to the corporate shell.

So it's become a shell game. There's really no Social Security problem. Of course the government has enough tax revenue to pay Social Security. That's what the tax system is all about. Just look at our military spending. But if you do what Donald Trump does, and say that you're not going to tax the rich; and if you do what Alan Greenspan did and not make higher-income individuals contribute to the Social Security system, then of course it's going to show a deficit. It's supposed to show a deficit when more people retire. It was always intended to show a deficit. But now that the government actually isn't using Social Security surpluses to pretend that it can afford to cut taxes on the rich, they're baiting and switching. This is basically part of the shell game. Explaining its myth is partly what I try to do in my book.

SHARMINI PERIES: If the rich people don't have to contribute to the Social Security base, are they able to draw on it?

MICHAEL HUDSON: They will draw Social Security up to the given wage that they didn't pay Social Security on, which is up to $120,000 these days. So yes, they will get that little bit. But what people make over $120,000 is completely exempt from the Social Security system. These are the rich people who run corporations and give themselves golden parachutes.

Even for companies that have engaged in massive financial fraud, the large banks, City Bank, Wells Fargo – all these have golden parachutes. They still are getting enormous pensions for the rest of their lives. And they're talking as if, well, corporate pensions are in deficit, but for the leading officers, arrangements are quite different from the pensions to the blue collar workers and the wage earners as a whole. So there's a whole array of fictitious economic statistics.

I describe this in my dictionary as "mathiness." The idea that if you can put a number on something, it somehow is scientific. But the number really is the product of corporate accountants and lobbyists reclassifying income in a way that it doesn't appear to be taxable income.

Taking money out and giving it to the richest 5%, while making it appear as if all this deficit is the problem of the 95%, is "blame the victim" economics. You could say that's the way the economic accounts are being presented by Congress to the American people. The aim is to popularize a "blame the victim" economics. As if it's your fault that Social Security's going bankrupt. This is a mythology saying that we should not treat retirement as a public obligation. It's becoming the same as treating healthcare as not being a public obligation.

We have the highest healthcare costs in the world, so out of your paycheck – which is not increasing – you're going to have to pay more and more for FICA withholding for Social Security, more and more for healthcare, for the pharmaceutical monopoly and the health insurance monopoly. You'll also have to pay more and more to use public services for transportation to get to work, because the state is not funding that anymore. We're cutting taxes on the rich, so we don't have the money to do what social democracies are supposed to do. You're going to privatize the roads, so that now you're going to have to pay to use the road to drive to work, if you don't have public transportation.

You're turning the economy into what used to be called feudalism. Except that we don't have outright serfdom, because people can live wherever they want. But they all have to pay to this new hereditary "financial/real estate/public enterprise" class that is transforming the economy.

SHARMINI PERIES All right, Michael. Many, many, many things to learn from your great book, J Is For Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in the Age of Deception. Michael is actually on the road promoting the book. So if you have an opportunity to see him at one of the places he's going to be speaking, you should check out his website, michael-hudson.com

So I thank you so much for joining us today, Michael. And as most of you know, Michael Hudson is a regular guest on The Real News Network. We'll be unpacking his book and some of the concepts in it on an ongoing basis. So please stay tuned for those interviews.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Michael.

craazyman , March 9, 2017 at 10:10 am

It's 10 bagger time for sure. A house in the tropics with servants at your beck and call. Breakfast on the veranda. Lunch at the club. An afternoon sail. Dinner at the house of a famous author. Or some native woman who cooks spicy food and is hotter than the sun. No shuffleboard and pills! You need to stay buff if you wanna live like this. You can't be flabby and short of breath.

j84ustin , March 9, 2017 at 10:21 am

Thanks for this.

flora , March 9, 2017 at 11:47 am

+1. Yes. Great post. Very clear explanation of Greenspan's SocSec bait-and-switch.

PhilM , March 9, 2017 at 10:32 am

Yves's remark on retirement by sector is apt. I laugh bitter tears when I see that a financial CEO contract always includes a "pension," as if the tens of millions of dollars in salary and bonuses weren't enough.

A "pension" is for those who, broken by a life of hard physical labor, finally can't work any more for their crust of bread. It's not another revenue line-item that's barely enough to refuel the yacht.

There was a time when people "saved for retirement." With real rates of return being negative, and all assets priced arbitrarily at the whim of the central bank's policy du jour, I am perfectly frank when people ask "what should they invest in": nothing. Pay down your debt, and spend whatever you have beyond an emergency cushion right now, while you can enjoy it. Savings will inevitably be wasted, by inflation, the "health-care system," or financial-sector scammers. Do not ask for whom the bell tolls; if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

This is all in the context of the Federal Government already spending 20% of GDP, a number that was never designed to happen. It is the States that were supposed to be in charge of the people's welfare, not the national authority. So the argument that we should increase Federal taxes to somehow redistribute wealth is also wrong, because that wealth will simply be wasted, spent by people who are responsible to no one.

At moments like this there are no good choices. Most Europeans have long learned to live with governments that were hostile to them, and that is where we stand now.

Tocqueville's Democracy In America is tough going in spots, but my gosh, what a beautiful world he depicts, when the average Pennsylvanian's tax liability beyond his township was $4 a year.

a different chris , March 9, 2017 at 12:56 pm

I won't argue too hard about your "Federal vs State" argument, but note that if the state is in charge of most taxation then Richy Rich can live in a low tax state next door and employ the well-educated, healthy (single-payer) people in your state.

Sound of the Suburbs , March 9, 2017 at 10:38 am

Just got my copy of "J is for Junk Economics"

Other people are on the same wavelength.

Professor Werner moving from reality to fantasy:

"Classical and neo-classical economics, as dominant today, has used the deductive methodology: Untested axioms and unrealistic assumptions are the basis for the formulation of theoretical dream worlds that are used to present particular 'results'. As discussed in Werner (2005), this methodology is particularly suited to deriving and justifying preconceived ideas and conclusions, through a process of working backwards from the desired 'conclusions', to establish the kind of model that can deliver them, and then formulating the kind of framework that could justify this model by choosing suitable assumptions and 'axioms'. In other words, the deductive methodology is uniquely suited for manipulation by being based on axioms and assumptions that can be picked at will in order to obtain pre-determined desired outcomes and justify favoured policy recommendations. It can be said that the deductive methodology is useful for producing arguments that may give a scientific appearance, but are merely presenting a pre-determined opinion."

"Progress in economics and finance research would require researchers to build on the correct insights derived by economists at least since the 19th century (such as Macleod, 1856). The overview of the literature on how banks function, in this paper and in Werner (2014b), has revealed that economics and finance as research disciplines have on this topic failed to progress in the 20th century. The movement from the accurate credit creation theory to the misleading, inconsistent and incorrect fractional reserve theory to today's dominant, yet wholly implausible and blatantly wrong financial intermediation theory indicates that economists and finance researchers have not progressed, but instead regressed throughout the past century. That was already Schumpeter's (1954) assessment, and things have since further moved away from the credit creation theory."

"A lost century in economics: Three theories of banking and the conclusive evidence" Richard A. Werner

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1057521915001477

Even the BoE has quietly come clean about money.

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/quarterlybulletin/2014/qb14q1prereleasemoneycreation.pdf

Leaving Paul Krugman looking rather foolish

" banks make their profits by taking in deposits and lending the funds out at a higher rate of interest" Paul Krugman, 2015.

No, it doesn't work like that Paul.

Sound of the Suburbs , March 9, 2017 at 10:46 am

The facts tell all.

Francis Fukuyama talked of the "end of history" and "liberal democracy" in 1989.

Capitalism had conquered all and was the one remaining system left that had stood the test of time.

With such a successful track record, everything was being changed to a new neo-liberal ideology and globalization was used to test this new ideology everywhere.

The Great Moderation seemed to indicate that the new ideology was a great success.

"Seemed" is the operative word here.

A "black swan" arrives in 2008 and nothing is the same again, the Central Bankers pump in trillions to maintain the new normal of secular stagnation.

Sovereign debt crises erupt, the Euro-zone starts to disintegrate, austerity becomes the norm., no one knows how to restore growth and the populists rise.

A new ideology comes in that is rolled out globally and seems to work before 2008.

What happened in 2008?

This is the build up to 2008 that can be seen in the money supply (money = debt):

http://www.whichwayhome.com/skin/frontend/default/wwgcomcatalogarticles/images/articles/whichwayhomes/US-money-supply.jpg

Everything is reflected in the money supply.

The money supply is flat in the recession of the early 1990s.

Then it really starts to take off as the dot.com boom gets going which rapidly morphs into the US housing boom, courtesy of Alan Greenspan's loose monetary policy.

When M3 gets closer to the vertical, the black swan is coming and you have an out of control credit bubble on your hands (money = debt).

The theory.

Irving Fisher produced the theory of debt deflation in the 1930s.

Hyman Minsky carried on with his work and came up with the "Financial instability Hypothesis" in 1974.
Steve Keen carried on with their work and spotted 2008 coming in 2005.

You can see what Steve Keen saw in the graph above, it's impossible to miss when you know what you are looking for but no one in the mainstream did.

The hidden secret of money.

Money = Debt

From the BoE:
http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/quarterlybulletin/2014/qb14q1prereleasemoneycreation.pdf

If you paid off all the debt there would be no money.

Money and debt are opposite side of the same coin, matter and anti-matter.

The money supply reflects debt/credit bubbles.

Monetary theory has been regressing for over 100 years to today's abysmal theory where banks act as intermediaries and don't create and destroy money.

The success of earlier years was mainly due to money creation from new debt (mainly in housing booms) globally feeding into economies leaving a terrible debt over-hang.

Jam today, penury tomorrow.

This is how debt works.

Twelve people were officially recognised by Bezemer in 2009 as having seen 2008 coming, announcing it publicly beforehand and having good reasoning behind their predictions (Michael Hudson and Steve Keen are on the list of 12).

They all saw the problem being excessive debt with debt being used to inflate asset prices (US housing).

The Euro's periphery nations had unbelievably low interest rates with the Euro, the risks were now based on common debt service. Mass borrowing and spending occurs at the periphery with the associated money creation causing positive feedback.

Years later, it was found the common debt service didn't actually exist and interest rates correct for the new reality.

Jam today, penury tomorrow.

Why doesn't austerity work? (although it has been used nearly everywhere)

You need to understand money, debt, money creation and destruction on bank balance sheets and its effect on the money supply. Almost no one does.

Richard Koo does:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YTyJzmiHGk

Ben Bernanke read Richard Koo's book and stopped the US going over the fiscal cliff by cutting government spending.

Sound of the Suburbs , March 9, 2017 at 11:20 am

Alternative and I would say much more accurate realities:

1) Michael Hudson "Killing the Host", "J is for Junk Economics"

The knowledge of economic history and the classical economists that has been lost and the problems this is causing. Ancient Sumer had more enlightened views on debt than we have today.

2) Steve Keen "De-bunking Economics"

His work is based on that of Hyman Minsky and looks into the effects of private debt on the economy and the inflation of asset bubbles with debt.

3) Richard Werner "Where does money come from?"

The only book generally available that tells the truth about money, I don't think there are any other modern books that do and certainly not in economics textbooks

4) Richard Koo's study on the Great Depression and Japan after 1989 showing the only way out of debt deflation/balance sheet recessions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YTyJzmiHGk

Sound of the Suburbs , March 9, 2017 at 11:55 am

The BoE:

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/quarterlybulletin/2014/qb14q1prereleasemoneycreation.pdf

The BoE have made a mistake.

"Although commercial banks create money through lending, they cannot do so freely without limit. Banks are limited in how much they can lend if they are to remain profitable in a competitive banking system."

The limit for money creation holds true when banks keep the debt they issue on their own books.

The BoE's statement was true, but is not true now as banks can securitize bad loans and get them off their books.

Before 2008, banks were securitising all the garbage sub-prime mortgages, e.g. NINJA mortgages, and getting them off their books.

Money is being created freely and without limit, M3 is going exponential before 2008.

Dead Dog , March 9, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Thanks SOS, agree. We're at that 08 point now, in fact it's worse.

Pensions should just be a click of the computer, no borrowings, savings or taxes needed and they need to be sufficient to live on.

No, we aren't 'winning'

In Australia, we used to give people the 'aged' at 60 for women and 65 for men. Now its 67 for both, the woman's aged cut in was raised for 'equality' reasons, and it going up to 70 for my kids.

Politicians, judges, CEOs and the c-class, all those 'shiny bums', they can often work well into their 60s. The rest of us experience age discrimination in a tight job market and are forced into menial jobs just when society should be funding their well earned retirement.

diogenes , March 9, 2017 at 10:41 am

The whole "there aren't enough workers to support retirees" meme is risible.

Example: Jane funds an IRA for 30 years. For those 30 years, there is one person paying in, and zero taking out. When Jane retires, the IRA flips to one person taking out, and zero paying in.

Disaster, or working as advertised?

That Serious Thinkers, elected officials and the SSA themselves advance this trope to explain why SS is hopeless is proof of willful mendacity.

Now if these folks admit, well yuh, you paid in over all of these years, but the money ain't there no more, then first, that's an admission of mismanagement (unsurprising), and second, bail us the fuck out like you did Wall Street.

inhibi , March 9, 2017 at 11:48 am

Most every purported "help" by the government is the exact opposite: your paying into a black hole.

Look around you. What around you was paid for by the government? The answer is none of it was. Taxes are a way to keep the bureaucratic structure afloat. What is very clear is that once government reaches a certain size it begins to massively leach off of those that work and gives it to those that "manage".

Look at any industry today and you will find, in the private sector, declining or stagnant wages for the "drones". Then look at the public sector: expanding, better benefits, better wages, less work etc. Thinking about it makes my blood boil. I see truckers making less now then 10 years ago, yet, the industry keeps crying that they "don't have enough workers". Yeah, sorry no one wants to work 25/8 driving around in the day time, sleeping in a truck at night, getting tracked through GPS & get penalized for going above speed limits when they can work for the DMV, make the same amount, and sit at a desk for 7 hours a day with plenty of benefits and vacation time.

Its about time for this system to implode. I see globalization and government expansion as a huge force that will eventually cause a revolution in the States.

Art Eclectic , March 9, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Globalization and the government are simply red herrings meant to distract Trump voters while shareholder value driven corporate overlords continue looting.

a different chris , March 9, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Look around you . The government employs less people than pretty much for my whole life. Please get informed before you go off on a multi-paragraph rant.

http://historyinpieces.com/research/federal-personnel-numbers-1962

If you want a job join the military. Do you think that's a good option?

jrs , March 9, 2017 at 7:01 pm

maybe noone should work in trucking, freight trains are much more energy efficient as far as a means of transporting goods over long distances. Nah I'm not faulting truckers, just saying it makes no societal sense is all except maybe for the last few miles, but then neither do a lot of things. I doubt many people want to work at the DMV, but then maybe the benefits are enough to make a distasteful job seem worth it.

Arizona Slim , March 9, 2017 at 12:37 pm

ISTR reading that the creators of the 401k saying that they never intended it to be a replacement for a pension.

PhilM , March 9, 2017 at 11:05 am

As usual, the abuse of history is the outstanding credibility-buster in this piece. When an author says this,

Nobody anticipated in the 19th century that people would have to pay for their own retirement. That was viewed as an obligation of society.

why should I believe anything else that he has to say?

The sole instance given is of Bismarck's Germany, actually ground-breaking in its social welfare policies, which came only in the last part of the 19th century.

For most of the 19th century, just about everywhere, nobody who worked for a living expected to live long enough to retire.

Indeed, retirement in past centuries had a different denotation. Its common use was among the aristocracy, when one of that number determined to remove himself from active (urban) social or political life and withdraw (hence the etymology, "re-tirer"), usually to the country.

Haygood had to resuscitate "rusticate" for the other day, to achieve a modern equivalent of that.

All of this is common knowledge. In case you don't think so, spend five minutes with any book of demographics or social history; and that's just for Europe. Don't let's even ask what "nobody expected to pay for their retirement" meant in early nineteenth-century Alabama.

By the way, Hudson does this all the time. When I can fact-check offhand, from my fund of common knowledge, he is often casually abusing the truth. I can be pretty sure that the rest of what he says is just as unreliable.

Arizona Slim , March 9, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Didn't Bismarck create those social welfare programs in order to prevent unrest in a recently unified Germany?

MBC , March 9, 2017 at 12:52 pm

You may be correct about the 19th century, but it is 2017. And his points about the US tax system, the banks, the wealthiest 1% and our gov't deceiving the middle and lower class are solid. A very basic retirement and healthcare should be provided to all in any decent marginally successful society. Not to mention a supposedly "great" one.

Rick Zhang , March 9, 2017 at 7:21 pm

I think this is where some progressive get tripped up and don't understand why their policies aren't more popular to the wide swaths of America outside of their bubble.

Often times, these people (I use this term loosely to include working class whites in Appalachia as well as Silicon Valley libertarians) like to provide a fair and wide safety net. However, most policies that are advanced are strictly means tested. This causes significant resentment among those just outside of the cutoff lines. Think: Social Security has essentially blanket coverage. Yes, there's some redistribution going on behind the scenes, but if I pay in for 30 years I will get most of my money back. It's wildly popular, while welfare programs are not.

The same applies for health care – Medicare is popular and Medicaid is not. If I pay in for a government program, I want to be able to take advantage of it. Save me the crap about not wanting to subsidize the lifestyles of the 1%; they pay in far more than they would take out of the program. It's a small price to pay to have universal coverage and buy in from all segments of society. So extending Medicare down to everyone is a better political strategy than extending Medicaid upwards to encompass higher income levels.

More reading: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/07/business/economy/trump-budget-entitlements-working-class.html

Rick Zhang @ Millennial Lifehacker

Hans Suter , March 9, 2017 at 12:57 pm

why don't try to educate yourself, you may start here https://eh.net/encyclopedia/economic-history-of-retirement-in-the-united-states/

a different chris , March 9, 2017 at 1:12 pm

You read a great deal into a statement that you didn't at all prove was untrue. Not impressive.

The question is, did society believe that it had a responsibility of care for people that got too old to work? You didn't even address that. Yes we know life was "nasty, brutish and (most often) short. That doesn't invalidate what he said.

Dead Dog , March 9, 2017 at 1:13 pm

PhilM 'I can be pretty sure that the rest of what he says is just as unreliable.'

No mate, he speaks truth and may have exaggerated, but the point remains that here, the UK, most of Europe – then the state funds your pension if you need one. It is now a social obligation. Only in the US, do you have this class of people (the working class) who don't deserve retirement and must fund their own meagre pensions, and if the 'pool which funds the pensions' becomes insufficient, well you know the rest.

Taxes see, they fund things, or more often don't, because it's a widely accepted lie to keep the private bank money creation bullshit going forever.

PhilM , March 9, 2017 at 1:41 pm

That's the problem, Dog, I generally agree with his point, and with the responders to my comment, on policy grounds. My point is that leading with something that is provably false, and even probably false to common knowledge, is not a winning tactic; some would say it insults the intelligence of the audience, even.

To me this site, if it's about anything, is about filtering out the BS that is used by people with an agenda to "enhance" their arguments. Lambert does this with a Lancelot-sized skewer. And part of the beauty is the crowd-sourced fact-checking from an extraordinarily informed, and sceptical, community.

I may not have much to add to their expertise, but one thing I do know is some European history, and it drives me berzerk to see people just misuse history as if it strengthens their argument. If they don't know that what they are saying is true, they should not say it. And by "know it is true," I mean, know the source, and the source of the source, and be able to judge its reliability. That is what scholarship is all about: seeing how far down the turtles go.

So when someone just tosses out an assertion about "what the past thought was right," as if that created a moral obligation or not in 2017 (which as MBC quite rightly observed it does not, at least not without a clearer argument), they should be critiqued. When their assertion is based on sloppy cherry-picked facts and wrongly generalized, they should be called out as either uninformed or malicious, in hopes they will be less so in the future.

That's all I was saying; I did not have a point to make about pensions, because I agree with Hudson's viewpoints almost all the time, which is why it is so sad to see him turn out to be so cheesy, so often.

My personal experience of pensions is this: they are a total scam to lock people into exploitive, nearly intolerable working conditions on the flimsiest of promises in the private sector; and in the public sector, they are a way of adding to the debt burden of generations yet to come without the assent of the people: taxation without representation, in effect.

I have seen professionals crumble morally thanks to the force of the pension. It is despicable corporate oppression at the subtle level, because it looks as if they are doing a good thing, which of course they are not. It's more subtle than their obvious screaming cruelties to people and animals and the land, which, it must also be said, nobody does anything about either.

Dead Dog , March 9, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Thanks for replying Phil. Good points.

Yes pension systems aren't perfect, but some people don't have family or money to fall back on when they get old. I am seeing more and more of my own friends in their 60s struggling to earn money through work. They want to stop, but can't afford to.

And, I am dismayed and disheartened of seeing people on the sidewalks that could be my parents. Or, shit, me

Rick Zhang , March 9, 2017 at 7:25 pm

I have no sympathy for these people. Read Hillbilly Elegy and see the perspective from the white working class. More often than not, people who are "struggling" in mid life are those who made bad choices. They abused drugs, had kids out of wedlock, or didn't make a career for themselves. Often, they spend poorly – on luxury items and consuming excessively.

I live now just like how I did when I was a poor student – with a carefully limited budget and spending within my means (more on experiences than products). I save 80% of my income and plan to retire early. More people can do the same.

My mentor/hero bought a fixer upper house that she repaired by herself. She bikes to work every day in the snow, and buys her clothes from thrift stores. She makes a six figure salary.

Save for an uncertain future, folks, and you won't find yourself in dire straits later on in life.

– Rick Zhang @ Millennial Lifehacker

Moneta , March 9, 2017 at 7:52 pm

If everyone saved like you did, the economy would be smaller so there would be even more unemployment and no money for savings

Rick Zhang , March 9, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Tragedy of the commons, eh?

If everyone saved more, we'd reach a happier and more balanced equilibrium. Plus, money that's saved is recycled into the economy through lending.

Or maybe you're arguing that the poor should save more and the wealthy should consume more and keep the economy humming.

– Rick Zhang @ Millennial Lifehacker

Jagger , March 9, 2017 at 1:18 pm

For most of the 19th century, just about everywhere, nobody who worked for a living expected to live long enough to retire.

I suspect your children or your extended family, were your retirement if you lived long enough pre-20th century times. Also I cannot imagine there was any sort of defined retirement prior to 20th century for the masses. People simply did whatever they could within their families until they couldn't. Work loads probably just decreased with the fragility of old age.

Also many people did live long lives. IIRC, heavy mortality was primarily concentrated in children and childbirth and maybe the occasional mass epidemic or bloody war. Dodge those and you could probably live a fairly long life.

PhilM , March 9, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Quite right; there was a bimodal or multimodal curve, which is why mean averages of life expectancy are not all that enlightening. But the fact is that most people who worked or fought, worked or fought their whole lives, until they were incapacitated; then there was their family, or the Church, or the poorhouse, or starvation, usually leading to mortal illness, if it had not done so before then.

The other side of that story is that the old folk were there as part of the social and economic unit: helping to pick the harvest with the very youngest; sharing skills and knowledge across four or five generations, century after century-rather than being shuffled off to die in some wretched cubby, doing "retirement" things. There's a terrific little book, Peter Laslett's The World We Have Lost, that gives a well-sourced and interesting picture of pre-industrial family life that pushes people to overcome some of their self-satisfaction about this kind of thing.

watermelonpunch , March 9, 2017 at 5:39 pm

I remember reading where they found a Neanderthal remains that showed that this guy was definitely disabled to the point where he couldn't have survived alone. Which means someone else helped him live longer.
That's what humans have always done pretty much, before money. People paid in by being part of society, and then their community helped them later. Social insurance is just the money big civilization version of it isn't it?

I'm just thinking of the people with aging parents and children with parent cosigned student loans And what if they were responsible for paying the $90,000+ / year nursing home payment and all the medical bills, instead of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid On top of trying to help their kids get through college.

The whole scenario is a bad joke and getting worse.

Moneta , March 9, 2017 at 1:19 pm

There wasn't 15-20% of the population expecting to live 30 years in retirement and the next generations to pay for their still mortgaged McMansions and trips to the tropics.

I have no issues paying for retirees. I have issues with asking the younger generations to pay for lifestyles that are bigger than theirs. The Western retirement lifestyle is too energy and resource intensive.

jrs , March 9, 2017 at 2:48 pm

I don't think most people collecting a social security check actually have a big lifestyle, much less trips to the tropics, that's a Charles Schwab commercial, not a reality for most people. What Social Security has done is mostly reduce the number of old people living in poverty. Ok so young and middle age people are still living in poverty, making everyone live in poverty including people that are old and frail and sick is not an improvement. Are retired people's lifestyles actually shown to be more energy intensive, I think in many ways they would be less so, ie not making that long commute to the office everyday anymore etc..

polecat , March 9, 2017 at 2:58 pm

This ! Without adequate resources and, most importantly, energy, there are no pensions ! indeed, there is no middle class as well !!

Anonymouse , March 9, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Sorry, but your comment is delusional. It is impossible for someone retired on only Social Security to "pay for their still mortgaged McMansions and trips to the tropics". In what universe is that possible on a MAXIMUM annual income of less than $32,000? Googling "maximum social security benefits" generates the following info:
"The maximum monthly Social Security benefit payment for a person retiring in 2016 at full retirement age is $2,639. However, the maximum allowable benefit amount is only payable to those who had the maximum taxable earnings for at least 35 working years. Depending on when you retire and how much you made while working, your benefits may be considerably less. The estimated average monthly benefit for "all retired workers" in 2016 is $1,341."

jrs , March 9, 2017 at 6:51 pm

I suspect a lot of people (younger than boomers) might be still mortgaged to a small degree when they retire as housing costs have gone up so that people can't afford a mortgage when they are young, so if they buy real estate at all it's at middle age, buy the first home in their 30s or 40s or 50, for a 30 year mortgage. But McMansions have nothing to do with that.

Moneta , March 9, 2017 at 9:01 pm

First of all I did specify that a 15-20% group is doing quite well.

– Debt in retirement is increasing
http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1012/boomers-staying-in-debt-to-retire-in-comfort.aspx

-Average/median square footage house 1973 vs. 2010. https://www.census.gov/const/C25Ann/sftotalmedavgsqft.pdf

-Social Security represents half of retirement income for half of retirees. https://www.fool.com/investing/general/2016/02/28/how-much-of-my-income-will-social-security-replace.aspx

-Income distribution (see page 9)
https://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/bulletin/2014/pdf/scf14.pdf

************

The income distribution table shows that the younger retirees 65-75 are not suffering when compared to the working population they seem to have a good thing going for them

Merging all these data points, it becomes quite apparent that there is a large percentage of retirees who still carry debt while collecting social security.

Increasing social security to some group means making another group pay

PlutoniumKun , March 9, 2017 at 1:59 pm

As usual, the abuse of history is the outstanding credibility-buster in this piece. When an author says this,

Nobody anticipated in the 19th century that people would have to pay for their own retirement. That was viewed as an obligation of society.

why should I believe anything else that he has to say?

The sole instance given is of Bismarck's Germany, actually ground-breaking in its social welfare policies, which came only in the last part of the 19th century.

For most of the 19th century, just about everywhere, nobody who worked for a living expected to live long enough to retire.

Indeed, retirement in past centuries had a different denotation. Its common use was among the aristocracy, when one of that number determined to remove himself from active (urban) social or political life and withdraw (hence the etymology, "re-tirer"), usually to the country.

Historically, he is right and you are entirely wrong, which is not surprising as Michael Hudson is originally a philologist and historian and has specialised in economic history.

The modern conception of retirement is mostly a 20th Century invention, but throughout history, there are many versions of 'retirement', and they were almost always paid out of current expenditures. Roman soldiers were paid lump sums and frequently given land on reaching retirement age through the Aerarium Militare. Militaries throughout ancient and medieval history had similar schemes, and not just for officers, but again, these were rarely if ever paid out of a contribution scheme – it was considered an obligation of the State.

In many, if not most societies, it was accepted that aristocratic employers and governments had obligations to elderly staff – for example, fuedal workers would keep their homes when they were no longer capable of working, and this extended well into the 19th Century. Organised religions would almost always have systems for looking after retired religious members, again, always paid out of current revenues, not some sort of investment fund. The concept of a fixed retirement age (outside of the military) is a relatively modern one, but the concept of 'retirement' is not modern at all.

PhilM , March 9, 2017 at 5:40 pm

This is the worst strawmanning bull**** I have seen in a while; it is simply infuriating. I don't have the time to put all of what follows into perfect order, but here's what I can tap out in a minute or two.

If, PK, you are trying to prove that some people in the past have stopped work and still gotten paid, as part of their lifetime compensation for the work they have done, and that this is, de facto, compensation during what we would now call "retirement," you win. Straw man knocked over.

So let me again quote what Hudson says, just so your argument can be demonstrated as the pointless distraction that it is:

"Nobody anticipated in the 19th century that people would have to pay for their own retirement. That was viewed as an obligation of society."

That couldn't be clearer. "Nobody anticipated," as in "nobody." Meaning it was a generally accepted social value that . what follows. What follows is "people," as in "people"; not just soldiers, or priests, or servants; "people," ie, Gesellschaft; and then, "their own retirement," (which can only imply a period when they were old enough still to do something productive that earned money, but chose not to, instead; because otherwise it would be called "disability," right?). "That was viewed as an obligation of society," meaning, it was a right, not a privilege or gift or compensation, and it was universal, because it applied to "people," and "nobody" thought otherwise.

There is just nothing there that is justifiable in any way based on the history of the nineteenth century. The only exception is Bismarck's Germany, which is adduced as proof of the statement, which is totally insupportable on its face.

If you stand by that, and are trying to suggest that "retirees," meaning as a group everyone in society beyond a pre-defined age, as opposed to the disabled, were ever perceived as having a societally based right to welfare support before the very late nineteenth or early twentieth century, and that only in a very few, very advanced places, you fail three times over.

You do this in classically ahistorical ways: you conflate Gesellschaft with Gemeinschaft; you adduce the military of the ancient world, which is just hilariously anachronistic, but even those prove you wrong when examined closely; you completely misconstrue the rules of the corporately organized ancien regime, which by the way was ancient history as far as the post-Dickensian industrializing Europe that Hudson speaks of; you adduce the military and the priesthood as if they were representatives of "society" as a whole, which they were not–they were adherents of the body that made the rules, and liked to keeps its friends close, and could reward them. The same, while you are at it, was true of some different varieties of public servants–but not many, and again, not before the late nineteenth century, and certainly not in the US:

"Like military pensions, pensions for loyal civil servants date back centuries. Prior to the nineteenth century, however, these pensions were typically handed out on a case-by-case basis; except for the military, there were few if any retirement plans or systems with well-defined rules for qualification, contributions, funding, and so forth. Most European countries maintained some type of formal pension system for their public sector workers by the late nineteenth century. Although a few U.S. municipalities offered plans prior to 1900, most public sector workers were not offered pensions until the first decades of the twentieth century. Teachers, firefighters, and police officers were typically the first non-military workers to receive a retirement plan as part of their compensation."

https://eh.net/encyclopedia/public-sector-pensions-in-the-united-states/

Your ad hominem appeal to Hudson's authority as a historian is amusing: it is actually not surprising that Hudson is wrong, and I am right; because he is an economic historian, with a special faculty, apparently, for conducting contemporary policy polemics; and I would be happy to give you my professional authority, except that this is the internet, so appeals to professional authority don't mean anything at all, but I'll just put it to you that it is more than sufficient; but leaving that aside, I am without a polemical agenda, except just this one: that the past needs to be respected in its totality, and that even when being used to score points in contemporary policy arguments. I know which of us has more credibility here just by reading Hudson's sentences, which are devoid of historical meaning or sensitivity; and I know that I, as a historian, would never knowingly misuse the past to make a point about the present, because that is being a bad, bad doctor.

You bring up three cases: military, clergy, and servants. Those are exactly not what Hudson is talking about when he mentions Bismarck, or the nineteenth century, or retirement and its old age provisions as a whole, so you basically proved my point just by failing to address the actual argument. What Hudson is referring to-because he says so with his one example-is the Bismarckian "Gesellschaft" obligation to what had in previous centuries been called the the third estate in generic terms. Not, mind you, the first and second estates and their servants and adherents. If Hudson were talking about pensions for the military, he would have said so, and his argument would have ended there, in a paragraph, because they are fully protected in that regard and have been, at least more than the average citizen, since the GI Bill. Pensions for the military is not part of some kind of "social obligation" for retirees; it is a reward for long service, and therefore not some kind of "right of social welfare," but a kind of compensation, and it was not much, at that, in the 19th century.

The regular clergy, which made up most of the clergy until the dissolutions, did not retire: their jobs were for life, because they lived a life of prayer, and that was not something that ever ended. The Church supported all clergy as a corporate, spiritually mandated obligation, not as a generalized "social obligation" like social security, or what Bismarck instituted. If your point is that certain corporate groups took care of their privileged members when they no longer worked, that is one thing; if your point is that "retirement" as a condition that merited social welfare, in general, the clergy don't make that for you. They were exceptions to the general rule that people had to fend for themselves, a rule that applied to the entire third estate by definition from time immemorial.

Lastly, servants: those who "retired" in the nineteenth century very often did not have the same treatments as servants in the ancien regime, many of whom died in harness in any case. But, if their employing families did continue to provide for them, they did so not out of a sense they were meeting the "obligation of society to the retired," but as a matter of family or community duty, noblesse oblige. It was completely at the mercy and discretion of the family involved. It was a matter of personal honor, and still is, when servants have been your friends and companions and have prepared and eaten the same food you have, and cleaned your mess and watched your back and brushed your horses and trained you to ride, and seen your youthful foolishness, sometimes for generations. Those are not "obligations of society"; they are personal and family and moral obligations. So Cato the Elder took some heat for his recommendations on discarding old and broken down slaves, but nobody suggested it was up to the Republic to pay for them instead. Since you're going to the ancient world, you might better have used that example than that of the soldiers.

And so all that is what Hudson is not talking about. He's talking about Bismarck's social security as a moral precedent, reflecting a widely held belief in the popular right to a social safety net after a certain age.

So of course some people were "pensioned." They were called "pensioners," and many of them were not at all "retired," but had gone on to work at other things, like soldiers who opened up fish-and-chips shops (q.v.). That does not mean that there was ever a Gesellschaft-like concept of "retirement" as a condition that brought the right to support by the commonwealth; not before Bismarck. That's what Hudson's reference tries to imply, that such a concept was common in the 19th century, at a widespread societal level in Western Civilization, and it is provably, demonstrably, obviously wrong. If it weren't, why would the Old-Age Pensions Act 1908 have ever been passed?

"Nobody anticipated in the 19th century that people would have to pay for their own retirement. That was viewed as an obligation of society."

You simply cannot construe that to have any truth, given the facts of the century. You can straw-man me about the concept of "retirement" all you like, although you are still wrong there, because the groups you name aren't people who "work for a living," which is the third estate; they are the first and second estates, and their adherents: those who fight for a living, and pray for a living, and those who obey them.

So the fact remains that Hudson's statement was just polemical fluff, and no historian worth the name should have uttered it. I guess I'll sit here and wait for his response, because yours, well .

fresno dan , March 9, 2017 at 11:05 am

"He didn't call FICA wage withholding a tax, but of course it is."

This just drives me to apoplexy. 1, that it is not called a tax, and 2, that wage taxes are never ever reduced.
Incessant yammering about "incentives" – but doesn't a wage tax disincentivise both employers and employees with regard to wage work? – – Endless talk about how CEO's can't do ANYTHING unless their taxes are REDUCED!!!!!!! But somehow .that just goes out the window when it comes to wages – TAXES MUST GO UP.
Cheney – deficits don't matter .except apparently with regard to social security ..

The other scam about FICA and its "separate" funding is that social security being in balance is OH SO IMPORTANT – deficits will be the death of it. Yet the general fund is in deficit (see Mish today for a bunch of stuff on the hypocrisy of repubs on the deficit) and ever more deficit and nobody seriously cares about it or worries about it. MONEY can always be found for invading for Iraq, and paying for invading anybody is NEVER a problem. Feeding old folks, on the other hand, sure strains the resources
Its like it is as important to keep a reserve army of the impoverished as it is to keep the empire.

Dead Dog , March 9, 2017 at 1:22 pm

FD -'This just drives me to apoplexy' Breathe, buddy.

Yes, mate, feeding old folks – looking after the oldies so they have health care, decent food and a home.

How well each country does it reflects their views on whether it's a social obligation. For many countries, there is no safety net and families provide the care, if they can.

It's becoming that way in the west too. I don't see many governments increasing welfare for our poorest people, benefits are being gutted and those that did save for retirement are seeing their funds looted and zero interest paid

Hemang , March 9, 2017 at 11:17 am

Life in Indian joint family is great- no retirement work- food for life for a member- great lack of boredoms and lonely depressions- life, life ,- exquisite vegetarian food fit for Gods- low tech human scale towns- GREAT TO BE ALIVE ON 3 dollars a day! This talk of retirement and working and senior junior savings is so pathetic that my sex drive just evaporated into thin air reading it! Get a life.

Disturbed Voter , March 9, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Destruction of the family by public and private corporations, with the assistance of disruption by multiple industrial revolutions is key.

Sluggeaux , March 9, 2017 at 11:25 am

It's good to read Michael Hudson's call-out of FICA as a mechanism to crush workers and transfer wealth to the already rich.

FICA is indeed the worse sort of deductive reasoning. It is based on the premise that the rich are entitled to be rich, and that the masses want to take their money from them. In America in particular, wealth has historically been based on grants from the sovereign to loot the commons (timber, agriculture, mineral extraction, railroads, military procurement, data mining, etc.). These grants to loot the commons have nearly always been based on corrupt practices of cronyism and bribery. Alchemists like Greenspan simply provide theo-classical mumbo-jumbo after-the-fact justification for their piracy.

Ironically, I was just reading about impending failure of the Oroville Dam, a prime example of America as the seat of greed. It was well-known that the spillways were inadequate and crumbling due to 50 years of use. However, the Reagan-ites of Southern California refused to tax themselves in order to save Oroville and Yuba City, 450 miles away.

It's sad that everyone, especially the rich, think that they can blow-up the United States and then fly to their bolt-hole in New Zealand or Australia - or if you're not so rich to a shack in Panama or Thailand. I suspect that we will soon find ourselves to be unwelcome pariahs in those places.

Arizona Slim , March 9, 2017 at 12:41 pm

And, if you're a freelancer like I am, you get to pay both sides of the FICA tax, employee and employer. Fun, fun!

Dead Dog , March 9, 2017 at 1:24 pm

They may be unwelcome by the masses, but money still talks and, if you haven't got any, well you just stay right where you are.

mk , March 9, 2017 at 1:25 pm

200,000 people (even if they all voted) is not a political threat to the state and feds.

Rick Zhang , March 9, 2017 at 8:30 pm

How is FICA a redistribution to the wealthy? If anything, what you pay in buys you a share of the distributions when you retire. That means the output is roughly proportional to the input you contribute. The wealthy stop contributing after roughly the $120,000 limit, but that doesn't mean they take an outsized distribution. They take home exactly the same (pre-tax) as someone who only made $120,000 per year.

If anything there's a bit of redistribution behind the scenes that favours the poor. See my earlier post. If you make too many changes to Social Security such that it becomes another welfare program, it will lose its popular backing and eventually get axed.

– Rick Zhang @ Millennial Lifehacker

MMT is the Key , March 9, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Neoliberalism is OUT-DATED. Rather, for the past four decades, it's been fiat currency for the .01% and gold standard straitjacket ideology for everyone else.

"The mainstream view is no longer valid for countries issuing their own non-convertible currencies and only has meaning for those operating under fixed exchange rate regimes,

'The two monetary systems are very different. You cannot apply the economics of the gold standard (or USD convertibility) to the modern monetary system. Unfortunately, most commentators and professors and politicians continue to use the old logic when discussing the current policy options. It is a basic fallacy and prevents us from having a sensible discussion about what the government should be doing. All the fear-mongering about the size of the deficit and the size of the borrowings (and the logic of borrowing in the first place) are all based on the old paradigm. They are totally inapplicable to the fiat monetary system' (Mitchell, 2009).

We might now consider the opportunity afforded by the new monetary reality, effectively modelled by MMT. A new socio-political reality is possible which throws off the shackles of the old. The government can now act as a currency issuer and pursue public purpose. Functional finance is now the order of the day. For most nations, issuing their own fiat currency under floating exchange rates the situation is different to the days of fixed exchange rates. Since the gold window closed a different core reality exists – one which, potentially at least, provides governments with significantly more scope to enact policies which benefit society.

However, the political layer, in the way it interacts with monetary reality, has a detrimental effect on the power of democratic governments to pursue public purpose. In the new monetary reality political arrangements that sprang up under the old regimes are no longer necessary or beneficial. They can largely be considered as self-imposed constraints on the system; in short the political layer contains elements which are out-of-date, ideologically biased and unnecessary. However, mainstream economists have not grasped this situation – or perhaps they cannot allow themselves to- because of the vice-like grip that their ethics and 'traditional' training has on them.

MMT provides the best monetary models out there and highlights the existence of additional policy space acquired by sovereign states since Nixon closed the gold window and most nations adopted floating exchange rates. We just need to encourage the use of the space to enhance the living standards of ordinary people."

Heterodox Views of Money and Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) by Phil Armstrong (York College) 2015

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d57M6ATPZIE

PhilM , March 9, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Hear, hear!

A new socio-political reality is possible which throws off the shackles of the old. The government can now act as a currency issuer and pursue public purpose. Functional finance is now the order of the day. For most nations, issuing their own fiat currency under floating exchange rates the situation is different to the days of fixed exchange rates. Since the gold window closed a different core reality exists – one which, potentially at least, provides governments with significantly more scope to enact policies which benefit society.

What I especially like about your post is that it finally takes the mask off and openly admits what everyone who tries to learn about MMT has realized at once: that for all of its utility in understanding money systems, it is designed and propounded with an agenda: to undermine the mores underlying centuries of private-property-based liberal capitalism. Those mores, which remain more than illusions despite the encroachments of central banks, are the last barrier to prevent state capitalism from becoming completely authoritarian, because as long as "taxation" is, at least theoretically, the limit on state spending and therefore power, then "representation" actually means something, and so representative democracy and property rights, which are the keys to a functioning productive civil society and underlie all human progress for eight hundred years, can survive a bit longer.

The very real and useful core of MMT, which describes what we see happening since the gold standard fell, and is therefore unimpeachable from a certain objective turn of mind, is Janus-faced. On the one hand, it acknowledges what the Framers knew intuitively when they gave the Federal government the power of issuing money: the sovereign makes the money. On the other, as often used here, and especially in your comment, it is a rationale for a government unrestrained by property rights and representative constraints on its power of expenditure. That will not end well, simply because it will not last long, and it will end in a military despotism or landed aristocracy (if you're lucky). Because it always has, and you are not going to change that, are you?

Jim , March 9, 2017 at 4:25 pm

In one of the recently discovered lectures (1940) by Karl Polanyi, in referring to post-war Europe (post 1918) he argued:

"The alternative was between an integration of society through political power on a democratic basis, or if democracy proved too weak, integration on an authoritarian basis in a totalitarian society, at the price of the sacrifice of democracy."

It is still the same issue today which PhilM nicely illuminates when he states: "..What I especially like about your post is that it finally takes the mask off and openly admits what everyone who tries to learn about MMT has realized at once: that for all of its utility in understanding money systems, it is designed and propounded with an agenda to undermine the mores underlying centuries of private-property-based liberal capitalism. These mores, which remain more than illusions despite the encroachments of central banks, are the last barrier to prevent state capitalism from becoming completely authoritarian, because as long as "taxation" is, at least theoretically, the limit on state spending and therefore power, then "representation" actually means something "

The national security state already has a potentially totalitarian hold on us and in the future the MMT scenario "as a rationale for a government unrestrained by property rights and representative constraints on its powers of expenditure" might nicely finish us off.

It would no longer be the neo-liberal present where the whole of society must be subordinated to the needs of the market system, but the other extreme, where the whole of society must be subordinated to the needs of the state supposedly working in the "public interest."

PhilM , March 9, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Thank you for your reply. You said it better than I did, especially with the citation of Polanyi, one of my personal heroes.

Grebo , March 9, 2017 at 7:27 pm

it is designed and propounded with an agenda: to undermine the mores underlying centuries of private-property-based liberal capitalism.

You say that like it's a bad thing :-)

the last barrier to prevent state capitalism from becoming completely authoritarian

State capitalism? If this is supposed to be a topical reference I don't get it.

as long as "taxation" is, at least theoretically, the limit on state spending and therefore power, then "representation" actually means something

How so? Did "taxation" restrain Bush from spending trillions on invasions? Can't you have representation without taxation?

representative democracy and property rights, which are the keys to a functioning productive civil society and underlie all human progress for eight hundred years

I thought that was the Catholic Church
"Property rights"-the private monopolisation of the gifts of nature-at least in their traditional form, seem to me to be the third fundamental flaw in our political economy, along with Capitalism (narrowly defined) and our bogus monetary ludibrium. We need a new Church.

Allegorio , March 9, 2017 at 2:20 pm

MMT: great stuff. With you 100%. The issue is corruption and this culture of privilege and corruption we live in. You better believe the government will be issuing currency for other than the public interest. The fact is we live in an MMT economy now, it's just that the currency created by the government is being passed out to the ethnically privileged .001%. The talk of deficits and national debt is all a smoke screen to cover up this fact. It is way past time to educate the masses on this theme, kudos to Michael Hudson & Steve Keen.

Katy , March 9, 2017 at 12:31 pm

J is for Junk Economics: Amazon's "#1 New Release in Business & Professional Humor." Facepalm.

Sluggeaux , March 9, 2017 at 1:02 pm

OMFG, you're not making this up!

Bezos really is a contraction of Beelzebub

Disturbed Voter , March 9, 2017 at 12:54 pm

One part of society parasitical on the productive part .. starts small. $1 per $1000, then $10 per $1000 until it gets to $1000 per $1000. Neither bought politicians, nor bought citizens, stays bought.

Of course we shouldn't expect women and children to work that is destructive of reproduction and child raising. Some women should work some children should work but only a few. Otherwise obvious system dynamics will reduce the net population in quality and quantity.

djrichard , March 9, 2017 at 1:13 pm

You're going to privatize the roads, so that now you're going to have to pay to use the road to drive to work, if you don't have public transportation.

This is a zero-sum game for the elite. They're already soaking us. If they soak us on tolls, they'll have to take less money soaking us another way.

In contrast, Fed Gov reducing spending is not a zero-sum game for the elite. That means less money to be soaked up from the public. Unless of course, the public compensates by taking out more private debt. In which case, ka ching for the elite again.

That said, I don't think the mind-set really is to reduce Fed Gov spending. Rather, the mind-set is to reduce entitlements so that other Fed Gov spending can be increased, namely on defense, intelligence communities, etc. And I really don't think the elite have much of a dog in that fight. After all, the elite suck up all the money regardless of how it's spent by the Fed Gov. So my guess is that this campaign to reduce entitlement spending is being waged by the other agencies in the Fed Gov and the eco-system that feeds off them.

susan the other , March 9, 2017 at 1:28 pm

In the 1980s Greenspan pushed for massive increases in FICA. And Reagan spent it on Star Wars. Recently I've read that that wasn't really a missile shield project but a cyber technology project. Today we read that the CIA has disseminated all this accumulated and obsolete technology; leased it out to private contractors; or variously bribed the Europeans with it. Etc. Fast-back to the 1930s and FDR took the same SS money for WW2. In the 60s, JFK agonized about the budget and the value of the dollar and could see no reason to go into Vietnam, but oops. LBJ bulldozed through Congress our Medicare plan, which upped SS contributions, and he went promptly into Vietnam, spending it all and stuffing the retirement funds with treasuries. Shouldn't we all be looking at how transitory these achievements (or disasters) have been. Maybe nothing more than boosting the economy for a few years every other decade or so. Money could achieve much more than this if we accepted as fact the fleeting benefits of misspending it and instead concentrated on a steady economy benefiting all. Hubris rules, but it doesn't ever make things better.

Jim Haygood , March 9, 2017 at 1:34 pm

'it's a myth that Social Security should be pre-funded by its beneficiaries' - Sharmini Peries

If it's a myth, it's one that's incorporated in the Social Security Act of 1935, as well as (for private pensions) the ERISA Act of 1974.

After about a century of experimentation, we know how to fund pensions securely: estimate the present value of the future liability using an appropriate discount rate, and then keep it funded on a current basis.

Social Security grossly violates this model in three respects. First, it is only about 20 percent funded, headed for zero in 2034 according to its own trustees.

Second, because Social Security does not avail itself of the Capital Asset Pricing Model developed in the 1960s, it invests in low-return Treasuries, which causes required contributions to be cruelly high. Had Soc Sec been invested in a 60/40 mix of stocks and bonds, FICA taxes could have been half their current level and funded higher benefits.

Third and finally, Social Security is treated as an off balance sheet obligation in the Financial Report of the United States. Unlike the legally enforceable obligation of private pension sponsors to make good on their promises, the government refuses to take responsibility and put itself on the hook. The Supreme Court has ruled that Social Security essentially is a welfare program, which Congress can cut back or cancel at will. So much for "security" - there isn't any.

Social Security is part of a general pattern of government taking a sleazy, second-rate approach to its social promises, by exempting itself from well-established prudential rules mandating best practices. Frank Roosevelt wanted his constituents to be forever dependent on the kindness of perfidious politicians. He got his wish.

a different chris , March 9, 2017 at 4:18 pm

>we know how to fund pensions securely: estimate the

C'mon Jim you can do better than that. Here is dictionary.com, do you see the problem with your statement?

know:
verb (used with object), knew, known, knowing.
1. to perceive or understand as fact or truth; to apprehend clearly and with certainty:

estimate
verb (used with object), estimated, estimating.
1.to form an approximate judgment or opinion regarding the worth, amount, size, weight, etc., of; calculate approximately:

ajea , March 9, 2017 at 8:15 pm

If it's a myth, it's one that's incorporated in the Social Security Act of 1935, as well as (for private pensions) the ERISA Act of 1974.

You're incorrect.

Read Luther Gulick's memo to FDR. Read to the end:
https://www.ssa.gov/history/Gulick.html

Jim A , March 9, 2017 at 2:10 pm

When you lend money to the profligate, they are happy. When you ask to be repaid, they are furious. It turns out that is just as true when workers who payroll taxes on their whole income "lend money" to the wealthy by paying excess amounts to the SS trust fund which in turn, enabled tax cuts for the wealthy. The wealthy are incensed that the SS trust fund, which has "lent" trillions to the treasury is now demanding to be "repaid" with interest.

Tim , March 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm

That's the trick about S.S. that gets me. You cannot pay in 15% of your income with some amount of reasonable compounding interest for your entire career and not have a massive nest egg at the end. But the math is done straight up such that there never was interest on the payments, so we are entitled to very little, despite every other form of investing on the planet returning some kind of interest.

It's one of the reasons I argue for a Sovereign Wealth Fund to retain and manage all SS recepts, so at least the contributions and return on investment are accounted for in plain sight, so nobody can bait and switch.

And heaven forbid the Sovereign wealth fund could also be used as government bank that loans (our) money direct to citizens, without private banks getting a cut.

It ain't utopia, but it is a way of playing their game and still winning results and the pr war even in the face of the most anti-sociailst conservative.

Tim , March 9, 2017 at 2:33 pm

We need to keep up with the Feudalism 2.0 Moniker.

We continue to refine society towards only 4 classes of people:
Warlords/Politicians
Productivity Owners
Rent Extractors
The Oppressed

Over the last 35 years the productivity owners have been making a run, vacuuming up all the productivity improvements leaving everybody else stagnant, before considering inflation, but with the robotic age coming, they are just getting warmed up.

a different chris , March 9, 2017 at 4:23 pm

>but with the robotic age coming, they are just getting warmed up.

Hmmm.

Henry Ford II: Walter, how are you going to get those robots to pay your union dues?
Walter Reuther: Henry, how are you going to get them to buy your cars?

Apparently not an actual quote, but one Reuther certainly endorsed.

You know "they" are just planning to kill 2/3 of us off, don't you? The elite are evil and sure many of them are stupid, but far from all of them.

ChrisAtRU , March 9, 2017 at 4:07 pm

"You're turning the economy into what used to be called feudalism. Except that we don't have outright serfdom, because people can live wherever they want. But they all have to pay to this new hereditary 'financial/real estate/public enterprise' class that is transforming the economy."

Spot.On.

From Marx's "Capital", Chapter 26 (The Secret of Primitive Accumulation):

"The industrial capitalists, these new potentates, had on their part not only to displace the guild masters of handicrafts, but also the feudal lords, the possessors of the sources of wealth. In this respect, their conquest of social power appears as the fruit of a victorious struggle both against feudal lordship and its revolting prerogatives, and against the guilds and the fetters they laid on the free development of production and the free exploitation of man by man. The chevaliers d'industrie, however, only succeeded in supplanting the chevaliers of the sword by making use of events of which they themselves were wholly innocent. They have risen by means as vile as those by which the Roman freedman once on a time made himself the master of his patronus.

The starting point of the development that gave rise to the wage labourer as well as to the capitalist, was the servitude of the labourer. The advance consisted in a change of form of this servitude, in the transformation of feudal exploitation into capitalist exploitation. "

[Mar 03, 2017] The crazy works iof IT hiring

Mar 03, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
"Back in the mid/late 90's, there was a running joke that tech companies were looking for people with more years of experience with certain programing languages than the programming languages even existed (in a form to be usable for commercial work)."

That's a very good and historically accurate point(in 90th Java was a crush ;-). And this type of parasitism continues to flourish even now. Just with the new buzzwords...

When employee's complain that that can't fill open positions that often means that they painstakingly define the position is such a way that the person deemed suitable can hit ground running on the first day or week on the job. No retraining period is needed. Like a new brake pads in a car. Totally replaceable.

To say nothing that in reality Google and other giants (Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, etc) are to a large extent "cemeteries" for IT talent. What's so exciting is creating Gmail and many other Google products ? Absolutely nothing. This is a pretty disgusting reimplementation work.

cm -> New Deal democrat... March 01, 2017 at 07:55 AM , 2017 at 07:55 AM

One issue that you both don't mention is lags. Translating a demand for skill into available skill takes years to decades in the best of circumstances. Even for many so called "low skilled" jobs, people have to be trained commonly for several years. For "knowledge work" or "new technology paradigms", you basically have to bring up a new generation of school/college graduates.

Expecting training to happen "just like that", or to be funded by the workers themselves, is a non-starter.

And when the business has to pay for the training (with the risk that some of the cost cannot be recouped because trained up people may leave), then we are back at "lack of profitability".

Back in the mid/late 90's, there was a running joke that tech companies were looking for people with more years of experience with certain programing languages than the programming languages even existed (in a form to be usable for commercial work).

reason -> cm... , March 01, 2017 at 07:57 AM
"Back in the mid/late 90's, there was a running joke that tech companies were looking for people with more years of experience with certain programing languages than the programming languages even existed (in a form to be usable for commercial work)."

The trouble is, I think that was no joke, it was literally true. Which means that were deliberately recruiting liars. Maybe that explains a lot.

cm -> reason ... , March 01, 2017 at 08:24 AM
Yes, the joke was based on true anecdotes. Not sure about "deliberately", my most plausible assumption is that they just plugged the "skill" description into the standard job ad templates.

Looking for about 5 years experience - enough to (presumably) be able to do stuff, but not yet too old/tainted.

cm -> reason ... , March 01, 2017 at 08:27 AM
Also it is not necessary to have exactly all the asked experiences, at least when your resume will be selected/reviewed by a human. Of course if the recruiting process has been made "efficient" that will filter resumes by strict criteria, then the honest/modest applicants will be disproportionately screened out.
cm -> reason ... , March 01, 2017 at 08:30 AM
In a lot of big corps, the early stages of recruiting (processing/screening incoming resumes) are often outsourced to HR who obviously have little idea about the subject matter of the work, and can only go by buzzwords, possibly using computer software (OCR processing of resumes).

I have heard the story often that hiring managers are presented with unsuitable resumes/candidates, and often find better matches going through the raw data themselves. But that costs time ("inefficient").

Anachronism -> cm... , March 01, 2017 at 09:44 AM
I can tell you that, from a consulting standpoint, I have been on several contracts where we've interviewed someone who had great skills, and the person who showed up had zero. So now companies will Skype with people to make sure they're talking to the actual consultant.
DrDick -> cm... , March 01, 2017 at 11:28 AM
Sadly, that is true of far too many companies of all sorts today, who refuse to train their workers and expect them to come preprogrammed with the company's proprietary software.

[Mar 03, 2017] In praise of credentialism

crookedtimber.org

Crooked Timber

That's the title of my latest piece in Inside Story. The crucial para
The term "credentialism" is used in many different ways, some of them contradictory, but the implication is consistent: too many young people are getting too much formal education, at too high a level. This implication was spelt out recently by Dean Ashenden, who contends that "education has not just grown to meet the expanding needs of the post-industrial economy, but has exploded like an airbag." The claim that young people are getting too much education, and the supporting critique of credentialism, is pernicious and false.

John Barker 03.01.17 at 10:44 am

Great piece, John!

The suffix "-ism" hits my hot button- unless it's optimism. It denotes the ossification of of an idea that may once have been dynamic.

I tend to look at ideas through the prism (oops!) of life-cycles. There's a time, perhaps, at the "mature" stage, where codification becomes the norm. After that- particularly when organisations become corporatised in an attempt to revitalise them (eg Trumpism)- codification becomes essential for the masses, but discretionary for the bosses. Luckily, it tends to be contemporaneous with the development of new systems, as you indicate, where the activity hasn't matured sufficiently to be credential-ivied.

I'm trying to tackle this in a book on "Concepts in Innovation and Change"- first 8 chapters for free download and feview at my website http://www.thepicketline.net/innovation.

Keep up the good work!

2

JK 03.01.17 at 11:26 am

"The stress on formal credentialism – the specific requirement for an educational qualification to be a member of a defined profession – is a phenomenon whose time has passed."

Not sure about this. cf which I think made a bit of a ripple.

3

Ebenezer Scrooge 03.01.17 at 1:13 pm

I'm in the "yes, but" camp.
First, credentialism may be well-established in primary and secondary teaching, but that doesn't mean it isn't a problem. There is a significant shortage of secondary STEM teachers, and a fair surplus of 40-year old engineers and military types, many of whom are skilled at dealing with the young. But they lack formal ed training, which can be a significant barrier in many districts.
Second, much advanced education in universities does not go on in classrooms. I got my Ph.D. in chemistry. The first year was classrooms and picking a research advisor. The next 3-5 years were all in the lab: pure apprentice work. When we got out, nobody was interested in our classroom grades.
Third, although I'd be the first to admit that general higher education skills are very useful in the workplace, I'm very skeptical about any classroom teaching of specific job-oriented skills. Apart from accounting, what skills does an MBA acquire in a classroom? Every law firm thinks their rookie lawyers are completely untrained, and the second and third years of law school are a waste. (Indeed, Yale Law School turns this into a point of honor: barely trying to teach law.) Medical training is two years of classroom and interminable time in the hospital wards. Engineering may be the exception.
4

engels 03.01.17 at 1:20 pm

I agree very strongly with the second part on education not being a panacea for inequality.

I don't think credentialism has to imply 'too many young people are getting too much formal education, at too high a level'. I see it as pathology of managerialism in hiring practices which sets irrational requirements for candidates for jobs. It doesn't have to mean formal credentials and is perhaps more typically years of experience in a specific role. (To be a barman you two years experience of bartebding etc). Unpaid internships and gap year/CV-boosting stuff maybe also qualify.

Imo credentialism is a real problem and it's also a problem that the expansion of higher education (which I agree is a good thing) has gone hand in hand with the tightening grip of a brutally instrumental view of the purposes of education, as a process that socialises nascent wage-labourers for a life of wage labour. So I don't think it's too jaded to see the vaunted expansion of 'educational opportunities' in the last couple of decades as little more than an arms race for access to an ever-dwindling number of marginally privileged positions within an increasingly exploitative system of production funded by a burgeoning debt burden on workers.

It doesn't have to be this way! But I fear that equating credentials (i.e. formal or informal qualifications explicitly demanded by employers for a specific economic role) with education (study, reading, learning, the life of the mind, ) may not be conducive to progress here.

5

Frowner 03.01.17 at 1:22 pm

If a lurker may comment: I hate to say this, but I completely disagree. I am a person with quite a lot of education who none the less works in a low-level accounting position, and I am completing an accounting certification.

Things I've observed:
1. Accounting for most lower level roles is best learned on the job. None of the formal accounting that I've studied has very much to do with the actual work I do. Most of what I do is highly specific to the place I work, and had to be learned bit by bit on the job.

2. I started getting my accounting certificate because although I had "apprenticed" with someone up the ladder and had learned enough to move on, I was informed that without a certification I could never be hired, no matter what experience I had.

3. My accounting certification program requires a long, long list of "information science 101"-style classes which are the most godawful, banal, fraudulent, pro-corporate things I've ever seen. "Read this short article about self-driving cars"-level terrible. We often receive actively misleading information. This is in a nationally known program which boasts of its connections to fancy accounting firms.

4. I only got into my current job by a fluke – it's not classed as a regular accounting gig, so they were willing to hire me based on .my experience of accounting. Experience I'd acquired in my previous not-formally-accounting job by volunteering to learn new stuff.

5. My employer has terrible trouble hiring skilled people, because they require a great deal of certification for entry-level jobs and don't pay that much. People with accounting certifications, for instance, nearly always start out earning about $25,000 more than my employer pays entry level workers. But instead of hiring people who are trainable and have relevant but unspecific experience, my employer holds out for the credential. As a result, we have a lot of churn.

6. On another note: I've spent much of my work life in pink collar jumped-up file clerk occupations. On no occasion did I need college level training for "database management", using MS Office, etc. That's not how working with databases goes at the file clerk level. What happens is that you're hired and then socialized into your employer's specific use of databases. (Also, the kind of "database management" that you need to do as a file clerk is maybe creating some kind of Filemaker or Access database – I was allowed to do this rather than kicking it over to IT because I was an enterprising young person, but this was not typical of file clerk jobs.)

Most pink collar work is deskilled. You work with databases, but in a very restricted way that they try to make as idiot-proof as possible. You work with MS Office, but doing mostly a short list of predetermined things – even if some of them are obscure, the list itself is short.

I sometimes think that professional class people, because they lack experience of the day to day of pink collar work and "business" education, are a little bit vulnerable to talk of new technologies, etc.

6

ترول 03.01.17 at 1:41 pm

I was brought up short by the discussion around "It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk".

"Someone seeking a job as a file clerk, for instance, would be well advised to acquire a knowledge of computer programs such as Microsoft Office, and an understanding of database management. This is likely to be done more efficiently in a classroom setting than by osmosis in a busy office."

It is no doubt true that a recent university graduate is guaranteed to have acquired "a knowledge of computer programs such as Microsoft Office" (not, in general, of database management). Some of them – hopefully not many! – may even have waited until university to acquire this knowledge, through some regrettable failure of their high schools. But spending years at university, and thousands of dollars in tuition fees, to learn this is massive overkill. You could learn to use MS Office in a dedicated course in a week or two – or on your own even faster, depending on your personality. The other 95% or so of the time and money you've spent on your university training is going to be irrelevant to your job as file clerk. Even if we grant that it's OK for the employer to pass the financial burden of training entirely on to job-seekers – which is kind of the crux of the problem here! – how is it reasonable for an employer to discriminate against someone for taking the obvious shortcut and learning all the skills that are going to be relevant to the job without passing through university?

More broadly, there's no automatic contradiction between jobs now requiring greater skill and employers demanding unnecessary or excessive qualifications. Suppose a job that used to need high school levels of achievement now needs extra skills equivalent to a year's worth of university-level study. There's no such thing as a 1-year university degree (rightly), so the easiest solution for employers is to demand a university degree for the post – 2 years of which would be superfluous to their requirements. That requires would-be employees to spend thousands of dollars extra of their own money.

7

Zamfir 03.01.17 at 1:44 pm

When people complain about credentialism, the typical assumption is that many jobs could be learned on the job, just as well or better as in a class. And that's often true, even for many fairly difficult and prestigious jobs. But the second, implicit, assumption is then that on the job training is free. So people compare the high costs of formal education, and start complaining about credentialism, or the high wages of teachers etc.

The point is of course that good on the job training is expensive. It consumes a lot of time of senior people, and organisations are hesitant to provide too much of it. Higher education grows not because it is the best way to learn jobs, but because there is not enough serious on the job training available.

Doctors are the prime example – they are in short demand and highly paid in most countries, with very different medical systems. Even though many seemingly qualified people want to be doctors. The bottleneck is never the classroom education – it's the required apprenticeships and assistent-doctor positions.

People who complain about credentialism are really asking that more job markets resemble that for doctors, even though they often use the doctors as the prime example of credentialism gone wrong.

8

DrDick 03.01.17 at 3:21 pm

I am quite sure conservatives hate the idea of a more educated population, since it is harder for them to sell their snake oil. On the other hand, there really are a lot of jobs now that expect, if not actually require, applicants to have some college, but where that is not actually needed for the job.
9

Quite Likely 03.01.17 at 4:37 pm

To me the core of what people are talking about with "credentialism" is the vicious cycle of increased educational requirements for jobs and increasing average levels of education. Having more educational credentials helps people get jobs, so people get more credentials, so the level of credentials a given job asks for rises. Assuming that productivity doesn't actually rise proportionally with education (which I think is pretty inarguable) it just ends up meaning an ever-increasing amount of time and resources goes to the credential-seeking game without accomplishing much.

There's a great illustration of the dynamic in Scott Alexander's parable of the tulips: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidies/

10

Anarcissie 03.01.17 at 5:04 pm

It seems to me that the usual complaint about credentialism is not that education is a bad or superfluous thing, but that the credentials presently in use don't have a lot to do with the work they are supposed to reflect, and are mostly an artefact of the education industry and the class structure of the surrounding society. One or more horror-lite anecdotes upon request.
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CaptFamous 03.01.17 at 7:06 pm

@Anarcissie – Seconded.

The relative prestige associated with certain degrees from certain schools implies they are a better indicator of capability, but grade inflation and cheating scandals in the Ivy League suggest that rather than being held to a higher standard, students there are often given more leeway to skate by. The degree is treated with reverence, but in effect can often be little more than a gold-embossed acceptance letter.

This is exacerbated by the idea (and often reality) that jobs demand qualifications for applicants that they don't utilize. It doesn't matter if you didn't learn the things your resume says you learned in college if your employer doesn't actually need you to do the things they say they need you to do once you're hired.

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Matt 03.01.17 at 7:53 pm

Compared to people accumulating mountains of student loan debt and struggling to find decent jobs, this is a really petty complaint, but: credentialism also makes higher education worse for students who are interested in more than getting that degree to unlock the game progression to "a good job."

I attended a SLAC around the turn of the millennium. I picked that school instead of a cheaper state school because I bought into the "life of the mind" campus tour messaging. My professors and fellow students would be personally engaged with interesting questions across many disciplines! It was true of the professors, actually. It was also true in smaller elective courses that nobody attended simply to fill requirements. But in mandatory courses or "easy-looking" electives there were a lot of seatwarmers who'd complain outside of class that history or philosophy or whatever was never going to be useful for a job, so we shouldn't have to take these boring useless courses. I thought: yes, I too would be happier if you all weren't attending these classes that just bore and annoy you.

It wasn't until graduate school that I felt like my fellow students were there primarily due to a thirst for knowledge. It reminds me of the aphorism that a master's degree is the new bachelor's degree.

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David 03.01.17 at 7:57 pm

Much has already been said, but I assume we're all comfortable with the idea that spending time at an institution and leaving with a piece of paper is not the same as education: it's increasingly just a measure of social control, since you have to pay a fortune to get the piece of paper which probably over-qualifies you for the job you get. I've heard, incidentally, that recruiting consultancies (another parasitic life-form) now have software which automatically scans job applications and rejects all those that don't have very precise qualifications in the right boxes.
I can't help thinking of my father who had no qualifications of any kind (he left school at 14 as was normal then) and whose first job after the War was as a wages clerk in a factory. OK, there was no Microsoft Office then, but he was expected to work out wages by hand in pounds, shillings and pence, with the aid of a ready-reckoner. I wonder how many people could do the contemporary equivalent, even with higher educational credentials. And credentials are pointless anyway unless they actually reflect genuine abilities that your education has given you.
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Omega Centauri 03.01.17 at 7:59 pm

Maybe the purpose of a ceredential is not that it's owner knows what is needed for the job you are offering, but is evidence of a certain level of displine and intellectual capability. So the odds of hiring someone for whom on-the-job training doesn't stick, -or who lacks basin self-discipline are greatly reduced by requiring the credential.
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Collin Street 03.01.17 at 8:09 pm

Specifically on databases: there's a number of subtleties on proper database design [normal forms] that are pretty much impossible to learn on-the-job because very few people without formal training knows about them.
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Cian 03.01.17 at 8:39 pm

One more example for the vicious cycle of educational requirements. The organization my wife spent a fair bit of her career working for had a mixture of graduates and non-graduates doing the same roles. The graduates were simply younger – hired when HR mandated (because they could due to the rise in university education) a degree. While the job was pretty skilled, she never noticed any difference in ability.

Another example would be that of clerks, where computerization has reduced the skill level required. File keeping, tracking orders and book keeping without computers is bloody hard.

17

Cian 03.01.17 at 8:42 pm

@Zamfir:
Doctors are the prime example – they are in short demand and highly paid in most countries, with very different medical systems. Even though many seemingly qualified people want to be doctors. The bottleneck is never the classroom education – it's the required apprenticeships and assistent-doctor positions.

Actually the bottleneck in the US and UK is that the doctors' guilds keep training numbers down. Other countries (i.e. Germany) don't allow them to do this, and have plenty of doctors as a result. And doctors pay in the US is anomalous – it's nothing like that in the rest of the world

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Cian 03.01.17 at 8:45 pm

Third, although I'd be the first to admit that general higher education skills are very useful in the workplace, I'm very skeptical about any classroom teaching of specific job-oriented skills.

The Engineering profession will not allow you to become a full engineer until you have completed a certain number of years in the workplace.

19

Murc 03.01.17 at 8:52 pm

Count me in with DrDick, Frowner, engels, and the others with their pushback.

In fact, I'll go one step further: I would say that this: "The term "credentialism" is used in many different ways, some of them contradictory, but the implication is consistent: too many young people are getting too much formal education, at too high a level." is, if not a strawman, definitely straw-adjacent.

Education is a good thing! People getting more education is a good thing. The term in no way implies what John says it is implying, and I don't often encounter the argument that we, as a populace, are over educated. This argument is absurd on its face and easily knocked down. John does a great job of knocking it down, which would be excellent work if it were, you know relevant.

What I encounter far more often with regards to the term "credentialism" is basically thus: people have been sold the idea that educational credentials are the ticket to a good life, a life of economic security where you can have a good job and raise a family and not constantly worry about the wolf at the door. However, while there is real absolute value in the education those credential signal their possessors having, a lot of that value is also relative and has to do with scarcity. The more people who possess those credentials, the less they're worth in the job market, which is the reason you got them in the first place.

And as a result of that you get employers establishing arbitrary and ever-increasing credential requirements for jobs that absolutely don't require those credentials, as a way of weeding out the riff-raff. Sure, that position doesn't require a masters, but if you can advertise it with a masters and still get forty well-qualified applicants, why wouldn't you do that?

And this masks the underlying problem, which is that, basically, there aren't enough good jobs to go around to everyone, and we've constructed a lot of bullshit hurdles ("Education! Education is the silver bullet!") to avoid having to deal with that. Education is great. I think post-secondary education should be available publicly free of charge, like primary and secondary education is. But even if the college graduation rate were 100% well, someone has to flip our burgers and work our cash registers, and right now those jobs aren't considered respectable and they're sure as hell not compensated respectably.

I will say this: the argument that young people are getting too much education does hold water if you add a "because" with a good reason after it. What immediately springs to mind is Paul Campos' ongoing war against law schools; he advises young people not to go to law school because they'll get "too much education," but because they'll assume life-destroying mountains of debt and that the return on that investment won't be worth it.

20

Cian 03.01.17 at 8:53 pm

I sometimes think that professional class people, because they lack experience of the day to day of pink collar work and "business" education, are a little bit vulnerable to talk of new technologies, etc.

The example of this that drives me crazy is computer programmers. The reality is that most computer programming jobs are not difficult – many of them could be carried out (and sometimes are) by a smart high schooler. Generally when graduates do these jobs – they use nothing that they learnt at college to do them. They're carried out by business, or English, or (sometimes) science/maths graduates.

Now there are definitely exceptions to this. There are computer programming jobs that are very hard, and for which you do need a Computer Science, or Maths degree, and a lot of technical skill. But these are the exception. The 'App economy', and the corporate IT world, largely consist of mediocre programmers – who are astonishingly ignorant of basic Computer Science concepts, but muddle through creating mediocre software.

21

ترول 03.01.17 at 10:30 pm

Just want to add that I very much endorse engels' comment above:

"I fear that equating credentials (i.e. formal or informal qualifications explicitly demanded by employers for a specific economic role) with education (study, reading, learning, the life of the mind, ) may not be conducive to progress here."

22

Moz of Yarramulla 03.01.17 at 10:33 pm

From the employer side, though, the choice is often between five candidates who have the BA, and twenty who don't. Since it's more likely that the BA candidates will be capable employees, it makes some sense to eliminate the less credentialled immediately (because interviewing people isn't free any more than on the job training is). I have been part of a hiring process where we got hundreds of applications every time we advertised, and had to grind through them looking for that one unicorn-like candidate who was worth hiring. Immediately binning anyone who didn't follow the instructions or possess the requisite qualifications was simply essential to save time. As it was we spent probably $20,000 of staff time filtering ~600 applications down to 15 interviewees, then interviewing the 10 who turned up.
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Moz of Yarramulla 03.01.17 at 10:34 pm

With the "modern careers" like programming, there's usually a huge gap between people who have the credentials and those who don't. It's not so much in the one job they have, it's their ability to keep working as a programmer through their life. University demonstrates possession of the "how to learn" skill in a way that learning on the job doesn't. There are more than a few non-graduate programmers who are locked into that one job they got somehow, and they can't leave. Or they can leave, but they'll be working as a greeter at a box store if they do.

There is, though, a lot of cross-over with ageism in general and in tech jobs particularly. It doesn't matter how skilled you are if the employer is willing to hire a recent graduate for less than you can afford to accept. I'm reminded of the many article on open plan offices – too many employers accept lower productivity from cheap staff/overcrowded offices etc because it never occurs to them that paying more might get a better result. Or they can't get that thought through the internal bureaucrazy. Or worse, it doesn't survive the next arbitrary "cut staffing costs by 23%" edict.

24

peterv 03.01.17 at 10:35 pm

Related is the Paper Qualifications Syndrome, which was of such great concern to some in the 1980s that the ILO spent money studying it. The PQS was the trend by employers to favour recruits with formal qualifications over those without, even when those without may have had relevant work experience.

One reason employers may favour graduates for low level office jobs is that employers know that technology is no longer static. It is not merely that file clerks need today to know how to run databases, but also that such employees will need an entirely different set of technical office skills in 20 years time. Graduates, having learnt how to learn, are generally better able to cope in this environment than people whose formal education ended at 18.

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peterv 03.01.17 at 10:42 pm

There is a related phenomenon which the UK academic mathematics community has noted. Increasingly, employers no longer need people with only a first degree in mathematics, because much routine math work can be assigned to machines. But some sectors, eg finance, national security, still need original math to be done, which means they need recruits with PhDs in mathematics. The demand for math PhDs used to be a small percentage of the demand for math graduates. If teachers are excluded from the demand figures, this is likely to be reversed: More PhDs are needed than plain graduates. This phenomenon has important implications for education policy.
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EB 03.01.17 at 10:48 pm

I'm all for more education, of all sorts. The problem we have now with some types of education is that it's thin, delivered in the same way all the way from maybe Grade 3 to post-secondary, and is starting to NOT signal anything to potential employers. This is especially true for several post-secondary majors like Communications, Marketing, Family Science, etc. And there are other majors that graduate far more young people than the economy can absorb - Graphic Arts, Education, Hospitality, etc. Yes, it signals that the student had enough self-discipline (and money) to persist, but is this really enough?
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John Quiggin 03.01.17 at 10:53 pm

Assuming that productivity doesn't actually rise proportionally with education (which I think is pretty inarguable)

[Feb 27, 2017] Leoliberal privitization of eduction went way too far

Feb 27, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne : February 24, 2017 at 05:00 PM , 2017 at 05:00 PM

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/upshot/dismal-results-from-vouchers-surprise-researchers-as-devos-era-begins.html

February 23, 2017

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins
By Kevin Carey

The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation's highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform.

But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling - the worst in the history of the field, researchers say.

While many policy ideas have murky origins, vouchers emerged fully formed from a single, brilliant essay * published in 1955 by Milton Friedman, the free-market godfather later to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Economics. Because "a stable and democratic society is impossible without widespread acceptance of some common set of values and without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens," Mr. Friedman wrote, the government should pay for all children to go to school.

But, he argued, that doesn't mean the government should run all the schools. Instead, it could give parents vouchers to pay for "approved educational services" provided by private schools, with the government's role limited to "ensuring that the schools met certain minimum standards."

The voucher idea sat dormant for years before taking root in a few places, most notably Milwaukee. Yet even as many of Mr. Friedman's other ideas became Republican Party orthodoxy, most national G.O.P. leaders committed themselves to a different theory of educational improvement: standards, testing and accountability. That movement reached an apex when the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 brought a new focus on tests and standards to nearly every public school nationwide. The law left voucher supporters with crumbs: a small demonstration project in Washington, D.C.

But broad political support for No Child Left Behind proved short-lived. Teachers unions opposed the reforms from the left, while libertarians and states-rights conservatives denounced it from the right. When Republicans took control of more governor's mansions and state legislatures in the 2000s, they expanded vouchers to an unprecedented degree. Three of the largest programs sprang up in Indiana, Louisiana and Ohio, which collectively enroll more than a third of the 178,000 voucher students nationwide.

Most of the new programs heeded Mr. Friedman's original call for the government to enforce "minimum standards" by requiring private schools that accept vouchers to administer standardized state tests. Researchers have used this data to compare voucher students with similar children who took the same tests in public school. Many of the results were released over the last 18 months, while Donald J. Trump was advocating school choice on the campaign trail.

The first results came in late 2015....

* http://la.utexas.edu/users/hcleaver/330T/350kPEEFriedmanRoleOfGovttable.pdf

anne -> anne... , February 24, 2017 at 05:00 PM
http://la.utexas.edu/users/hcleaver/330T/350kPEEFriedmanRoleOfGovttable.pdf

1955

The Role of Government in Education
By Milton Friedman

The general trend in our times toward increasing intervention by the state in economic affairs has led to a concentration of attention and dispute on the areas where new intervention is proposed and to an acceptance of whatever intervention has so far occurred as natural and unchangeable. The current pause, perhaps reversal, in the trend toward collectivism offers an opportunity to reexamine the existing activities of government and to make a fresh assessment of the activities that are and those that are not justified. This paper attempts such a re-examination for education.

Education is today largely paid for and almost entirely administered by governmental bodies or non-profit institutions. This situation has developed gradually and is now taken so much for granted that little explicit attention is any longer directed to the reasons for the special treatment of education even in countries that are predominantly free enterprise in organization and philosophy. The result has been an indiscriminate extension of governmental responsibility.

The role assigned to government in any particular field depends, of course, on the principles accepted for the organization of society in general. In what follows, I shall assume a society that takes freedom of the individual, or more realistically the family, as its ultimate objective, and seeks to further this objective by relying primarily on voluntary exchange among individuals for the organization of economic activity. In such a free private enterprise exchange economy, government's primary role is to preserve the rules of the game by enforcing contracts, preventing coercion, and keeping markets free. Beyond this, there are only three major grounds on which government intervention is to be justified. One is "natural monopoly" or similar market imperfection which makes effective competition (and therefore thoroughly voluntary ex change) impossible. A second is the existence of substantial "neighborhood effects," i.e., the action of one individual imposes significant costs on other individuals for which it is not feasible to make him compensate them or yields significant gains to them for which it is not feasible to make them compensate him-- circumstances that again make voluntary exchange impossible. The third derives from an ambiguity in the ultimate objective rather than from the difficulty of achieving it by voluntary exchange, namely, paternalistic concern for children and other irresponsible individuals. The belief in freedom is for "responsible" units, among whom we include neither children nor insane people. In general, this problem is avoided by regarding the family as the basic unit and therefore parents as responsible for their children; in considerable measure, however, such a procedure rests on expediency rather than principle. The problem of drawing a reasonable line between action justified on these paternalistic grounds and action that conflicts with the freedom of responsible individuals is clearly one to which no satisfactory answer can be given.

In applying these general principles to education, we shall find it helpful to deal separately with (1) general education for citizen ship, and (2) specialized vocational education, although it may be difficult to draw a sharp line between them in practice. The grounds for government intervention are widely different in these two areas and justify very different types of action....

[Feb 26, 2017] The Revenge Of Comet Pizza Zero Hedge

Feb 26, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com

Remember that one? It was about as weird as it gets. A meme generated out of the voluminous hacked John Podesta emails that some conspiracy connoisseurs cooked up into a tale of satanic child abuse revolving around a certain chi-chi Washington DC pizza joint. I never signed on with the story, but it was an interesting indication of how far the boundaries of mass psychology could be pushed in the mind wars of politics.

Sex, of course, is fraught. Sex and the feelings it conjures beat a path straight to the limbic system where the most primitive thoughts become the father of the most primitive deeds. In our American world, this realm of thought and deed has turned into a political football with the Left and the Right scrimmaging ferociously for field position - while the real political agenda of everything important other than sex lies outside the stadium.

The Comet Pizza story was understandably upsetting to Democrats who didn't like being painted as child molesters. Unfortunately for them, it coincided with the bust of one Anthony Weiner - and his infamous laptop - disgraced former "sexting" congressman, husband of Hillary's top aide and BFF, Huma Abedin. The laptop allegedly contained a lot of child porn.

That garbage barge of sexual allegation and innuendo couldn't have helped the Hillary campaign, along with all the Clinton Foundation stuff, in the march to electoral loserdom. I suspect the chthonic darkness of it all generated the "Russia-did-it" hysteria that cluttered up the news-cloud during the first month of Trumptopia. The collective superego of America is reeling with shame and rage.

On the Right side of the spectrum stood the curious figure of Milo Yiannopoulos, the self-styled "Dangerous Faggot," who has made a sensational career lately as an ideological provocateur, especially on the campus scene where he got so into the indignant faces of the Maoist snowflakes with his special brand of boundary-pushing that they resorted to disrupting his events, dis-inviting him at the last moment, or finally rioting, as in the case at UC Berkeley a few weeks ago.

Milo's battles on campus were particularly ripe because his opponents on the far Left were themselves so adamant about their own brand of boundary-pushing along the frontier of the LGBTQ agenda. The last couple of years, you would've thought that half the student population fell into one of those "non-binary" sex categories, and it became the most urgent mission of the Left to secure bathroom rights and enforce new personal pronouns of address for the sexually ambiguous.

But then Milo made a tactical error. Despite all the mutual boundary-pushing on each side, he pushed a boundary too far and entered the final dark circle of taboo: child molesting. That was the point were the closet Puritan hysterics went in for the kill. This is what he said on a Web talk radio show:

What normally happens in schools, very often, is you have an older woman with a younger boy, and the boy is the predator in that situation. The boy is like, let's see if I can fuck the gym teacher, or let's see if I can fuck the hot math teacher, and he does. The women fall in love with these nubile young boys, these athletic young boys in their prime. We get hung up on the child abuse stuff to the point where we're heavily policing consenting adults, grad students and their professors, this arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent, which totally destroys the understanding many of us have about the complexities, subtleties, and complicated nature of many relationships. In the homosexual world particularly, some of the relationships between younger boys and older men, the sort of coming-of-age relationships in which these older men help those young boys discover who they are, and give them security and provide them with love . [Milo is shouted down by his podcast hosts]

So that was the final straw. Milo got bounced by his platform, Breitbart News , and went through the now-routine, mandatory, abject ceremonial of the televised apology required by over-stepping celebrities - though he claimed, with some justification I think, that his remarks were misconstrued. Anyway, I'm sure he'll rebound on his own signature website platform and he'll be back in action before long.

His remarks about the "coming-of-age" phase of life prompted me to wonder about the boundary-pushers on the Left, on the college campuses in particular, who are encouraging young people to go through drastic sex-change surgeries, at an age before the development of that portion of their frontal lobes controlling judgment is complete. Who are these diversity deans and LGBTQ counselors who lead confused adolescents to self-mutilation in search of some hypothesized "identity?" Whoever they are, this dynamic seems pretty reckless and probably tragic to me. There ought to be reasonable doubt that an irreversible "sexual reassignment" surgery may not lead to personal happiness some years down the line - when, for instance, that person's frontal lobes have developed, and they begin to experience profound and complicated emotions such as remorse.

Our sexual hysteria has many more curious angles to it. We live in a culture where pornography, up to the last limits of freakishness and depravity, is available to young unformed personalities at a click. We stopped protecting adolescents against this years ago, so why should we be surprised when they venture into ever-darker frontiers of sexuality? It was the Left that sought to abolish boundaries in sex and many other areas of American life. And yet they still affect to be shocked by someone like Milo.

I maintain that there is a dynamic relationship between our inability to act on the truly pressing issues of the day - energy, economy, and geo-politics - and our neurotic preoccupation with sexual identity. The epic amount of collective psychic energy being diverted from what's important into sexual fantasy, titillation, confusion, and litigation leaves us pathetically unprepared to face the much more serious crisis of civilization gathering before us.

*

Postscript : This item from The Stanford [University] Daily newspaper puts a nice gloss on the stupefying idiocy in the campus sex-and-identity debate. Single-occupancy Restrooms Convert to All-gender Facilities : "Single-occupancy restrooms on campus will soon all be converted to gender-neutral facilities due to new California legislature and ongoing administrative efforts. The Diversity and Access Office (D&A Office) has been spearheading the campaign to convert all single-occupancy restrooms ."

Here's what I don't get: if a single-occupancy restroom is going to be used by one person at a time, what need is there to officially designate the sex of any person using it? And why are officials at an elite university wasting their time on this?

  1. routersurfer February 24, 2017 at 9:44 am # I agree totally this perverted national pastime of pin the genitalia on the mass of confused youth is a waste of time and energy. Anyone who reaches for the scalpel and plastic surgery before 25 has not been served well by the so called adults in their lives. Nature makes mistakes. Look at the Royals of Europe. But wait until the body is formed before the Medical Industrial Complex steps in. Now back to real problems. I heard on Bloomberg radio The Fed may offer 50 and 100 year T notes. Can someone explain how that fits into our system of accounting scams??

[Feb 25, 2017] Most of the skill and experience has to be acquired on the job - into which graduates will not be hired

Feb 25, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne : February 25, 2017 at 05:23 AM

http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/if-inadequate-skills-is-preventing-people-from-being-hired-in-manufacturing-it-s-among-the-ceos

February 24, 2017

If "Inadequate Skills" Is Preventing People from Being Hired in Manufacturing, It's Among the CEOs

The Associated Press ran a story * that told readers:

"Factory jobs exist, CEOs tell Trump. Skills don't."

The piece presents complaints from a number of CEOs of manufacturing companies that they can't find the workers with the necessary skills. The piece does note the argument that the way to get more skilled workers is to offer higher pay, but then reports:

"some data supports the CEOs' concerns about the shortage of qualified applicants. Government figures show there are 324,000 open factory jobs nationwide - triple the number in 2009, during the depths of the recession."

The comparison to 2009 is not really indicative of anything, since this was a time when the economy was facing the worst downturn since the Great Depression and companies were rapidly shedding workers. A more serious comparison would be to 2007, before the recession. The job opening rate in manufacturing for the last three months has averaged 2.5 percent, roughly the same as in the first six months of 2007, which was still a period in which the sector was losing jobs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average hourly earnings of production and non-supervisory workers in manufacturing has risen by 2.4 percent over the last year. This means that manufacturing firms are not acting in a way consistent with employers having trouble finding workers. This suggests that if there is a skills shortage it is among CEOs who don't understand that the price of an item in short supply, in this case qualified manufacturing workers, is supposed to increase.

* http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/factory-jobs-exist-ceos-tell-trump-skills-dont/

Peter K. -> anne... , February 25, 2017 at 08:23 AM
See Tyler Cowen for the CEOs's sycophant.
mrrunangun said in reply to anne... , February 25, 2017 at 01:51 PM
Young people who have watched the stampede of manufacturing jobs out of the US may reasonably believe that they would be unwise to commit to developing any scarce skills currently needed in domestic manufacturing. Working in Illinois and Wisconsin, I know many skilled manufacturing technicians and engineers whose situations went from comfort to poverty in the space of a few years. Why would a young person today believe that manufacturing skills developed now will not be offshored the next time political winds shift? One of the reasons Trump got elected was by promising to protect the manufacturing jobs that are left, something that neither the Clintons, Bushes, nor Obama were willing to attempt.

I believe Trump is wrong to try to wreck NAFTA, but PNTR for China has been a disaster for the US working class. This was initiated by Clinton and neither Bush nor Obama did anything to mitigate its effect on working people in the Midwest.

cm -> mrrunangun... , February 25, 2017 at 03:57 PM
Even without that aspect, most of the "skill" and experience has to be acquired on the job - into which they will not be hired.

What most business managers are looking for is trained up people for whose training and hands-on skill somebody else has paid for. They don't want to be that "sucker" themselves.

I suspect it is not purely selfishness (though poaching has always existed), but this mindset has evolved in the past decades where business could draw on a large overhang of sufficiently-skilled labor at home and globally. It was possible to dial down training and still find enough qualified workers. This is one of those things where the downward path is easier than upward. In parallel corporate pensions and unions were eliminated or reduced, both things that promote worker retention; and corporate/public rhetoric shifted to make it clear that you will only have your job as long as you are useful to the company, and maintaining that is up to you. Well, that's a two-way street.

cm -> mrrunangun... , February 25, 2017 at 04:03 PM
One possible solution to the training problem has been practiced in Germany - the government passes out training quotas or subsidies to companies; it is basically "either you train them or you pay a no-training 'fee' and we train them for you". Most large companies have training programs, but they often exceed their demand for new workers (or they can find qualified workers or temps elsewhere), and not everybody will be hired after graduating. That part such programs cannot address.
anne -> cm... , February 25, 2017 at 04:14 PM
One possible solution to the training problem has been practiced in Germany - the government passes out training quotas or subsidies to companies; it is basically "either you train them or you pay a no-training 'fee' and we train them for you"....

[Feb 25, 2017] Unemployment versus Underemployment: Assessing Labor Market Slack

Feb 25, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Unemployment versus Underemployment: Assessing Labor Market Slack : The U-3 unemployment rate has returned to prerecession levels and is close to estimates of its longer-run sustainable level. Yet other indicators of slack, such as the U-6 statistic, which includes people working part-time but wanting to work full-time (often referred to as part-time for economic reasons, or PTER), has not declined as quickly or by as much as the U-3 unemployment rate.

If unemployment and PTER reflect the same business-cycle effects, then they should move pretty much in lockstep. But as the following chart shows, such uniformity hasn't generally been the case. In the most recent recovery, unemployment started declining in 2010, but PTER started to move substantially lower beginning only in 2013. The upshot is that for each unemployed worker, there are now many more involuntary part-time workers than in the past.

anne : , February 21, 2017 at 01:01 PM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=cNuM

January 4, 2017

Unemployment and Unemployment-Underemployment * rates, 1994-2017

* Total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers; age 16 and over.


https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=cNuZ

January 4, 2017

Unemployment and Unemployment-Underemployment * rates, 1994-2017

* Total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers; age 16 and over.

(Indexed to 1994)

New Deal democrat : , February 21, 2017 at 01:19 PM
"during the last recession, firms reduced the hours of workers in low-skill jobs more than they cut the number of low-skill jobs"

I believe this is the correct explanation. I used to tack growth in hours vs. growth in payrolls, and what I found was that, had the 2008 recession followed the pattern of previous recessions, the peak unemployment rate would have been considerably higher. Let me do a little digging ....

New Deal democrat -> New Deal democrat... , February 21, 2017 at 01:29 PM
Here we go: aggregate hours vs. aggregate payrolls (indexed to 100 in 1964):

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=cNwf

The value reached its lowest level ever in 2009. In other words, relative more hours than jobs were cut in the Great Recession, even compared to other recessions.

anne -> New Deal democrat... , February 21, 2017 at 05:13 PM
Nicely done.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=cNIF

February 21, 2017

Aggregate Weekly Hours for Production and Nonsupervisory Employees as a percent of Total Nonfarm Employees, 1980-2017

(Indexed to 1980)

anne -> anne... , February 21, 2017 at 03:37 PM
http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/trump-and-trade-he-s-largely-right

February 21, 2017

Trump and Trade: He's Largely Right

-- Dean Baker

pgl -> anne... , February 21, 2017 at 03:57 PM
Dean covers a ton of material here. One is his points is right in one sense. We are below full employment so we need some sort of aggregate demand expansion. Would trade protection do this for the US? Perhaps if we had fixed exchange rates and we did not suffer a trade war. But as Dean has noted elsewhere, we need more expansionary monetary policy. Dean repeats something that Jared Bernstein wrote:

'If we wanted better data on bilateral trade flows, then it would be desirable to pull out the re-exports from both our exports to Canada and our imports from Germany. This adjustment would make our trade deficit with Canada appear larger and trade deficit with Germany smaller, but would leave our total trade balance unchanged.'

So Dean and Jared thinks that a US multinational that buys a product from Mexico at $80 which ultimately sells in Canada for $100 charges the Canadian distribution affiliate only $80? Dean knows better as he in the past has written about transfer pricing. No - transfer pricing games do affect the current reporting of the trade balance. Dean needs to read Brad Setser.

[Feb 25, 2017] Trump and Trade He's Largely Right Beat the Press Blogs Publications The Center for Economic and Policy Research

Feb 25, 2017 | cepr.net
According to CBO , potential GDP for the 4 th quarter of 2016 was $19,049 billion. This is 1.0 percent higher than the estimate of GDP for the quarter of $18,860.8 billion. This means that if CBO is right, if there had been more demand in the economy, for example due to imports being replaced by domestically produced goods, GDP could have been 1.0 percent higher last quarter.

Of course CBO's estimates of potential GDP are not especially accurate. Its most recent estimates for potential GDP in 2016 are more than 10 percent below what it had projected for potential GDP in 2016 back in 2008, before the severity of the crash was recognized. It is possible it overstated potential by a huge amount in 2008, but it is also possible it is understating potential today. It also hugely understated potential GDP in the mid-1990s, with 2000 GDP coming in more than 5 percent above the estimate of potential that CBO made in 1996. In other words, it would not be absurd to think that the economy could sustain a level of output that is 2.0 percent above the current level. (The fact that the employment rate of prime age workers [ages 25-54] is still 4.0 percentage points below the 2000 peak is certainly consistent with this view.)

Suppose that GDP were consistently 2.0 percent higher than current projections over the next decade due to a lower trade deficit. This would imply an additional $4.6 trillion in output over this period. If the government captures 30 percent of this in higher taxes and lower spending on transfer programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps, this would imply a reduction in the projected deficit of $1.38 trillion over the decade. That's not quite the $1.74 trillion projected by Navarro, but close enough to make the derision unwarranted.

In terms of how you get a lower trade deficit, Navarro's strategy of beating up on China is probably not the best way to go. But there is in fact precedent for the United States negotiating a lower value for the dollar under President Reagan, which had the desired effect of reducing the trade deficit.

There is no obvious reason it could not pursue a similar path today, especially since it is widely claimed in business circles that China actually wants to raise the value of its currency. The U.S. could help it.

The second area of seemingly gratuitous Trump trade bashing comes from a Wall Street Journal news article on the Trump administration's efforts to correct for re-exports in trade measures. Before getting to the article, it is important to understand what is at issue.

Most of what the United States exports to countries like Mexico, Japan, or elsewhere are goods and services produced in the United States. However, some portion of the goods that we export to these countries consists of items imported from other countries which are just transshipped through the United States.

The classic example would be if we offloaded 100 BMWs on a ship in New York and then 20 were immediately sent up to Canada to be sold there. The way we currently count exports and imports, we would count the 20 BMWs as exports to Canada and also as imports from Germany. These re-exports have zero impact on our aggregate trade balance, but they do exaggerate out exports to Canada and our imports from Germany.

If we wanted better data on bilateral trade flows, then it would be desirable to pull out the re-exports from both our exports to Canada and our imports from Germany. This adjustment would make our trade deficit with Canada appear larger and trade deficit with Germany smaller, but would leave our total trade balance unchanged.

This better measure of trade flows would be useful information to have if we wanted to know what happened to trade with a specific country following a policy change, for example the signing of a trade deal like NAFTA. The inclusion of re-exports in our export data would distort what had happened to actual flows of domestically produced exports and imports for domestic consumption.

The United States International Trade Commission already produces a measure of trade balances that excludes imports that are re-exported. However this measure is still not an accurate measure of bilateral trade balances since it still includes the re-exports on the import side. In the case mentioned above, it would include the BMWs imported from Germany that were immediately sent to Canada, as imports. In principle, we should be able to construct a measure that excludes these items on the import side as well. If this is what the Trump administration is trying to do, then it is asking for a perfectly reasonable adjustment to the data.

This is where we get to the WSJ article. According to the piece, the Trump administration was asking the Commerce Department to produce measures of bilateral trade balances that took out the re-exports on the export side, but left them in on the import side. This would have the effect of artificially inflating our trade deficit with a bogus number. If this is in fact what the Trump administration is trying to do, then we should be shooting at them with all guns. (This is metaphorical folks, I'm not advocating violence.)

However some skepticism might be warranted at this point. No one with a name actually said the Trump administration asked for this bogus measure of trade balances. The sole source listed is "one person familiar with the discussions."

There was an official statement from the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), which collects and compiles the data:

"Any internal discussions about data collection methods are no more than the continuation of a longstanding debate and are part of the bureau's normal process as we strive to provide the most precise statistics possible."

I take very seriously efforts to mess with the data. We are fortunate to have independent statistical agencies with dedicated civil servants who take their work very seriously. However we should wait until we have a bit more solid evidence before assuming that the Trump administration is trying to interfere in their independence, as opposed to trying to make a totally legitimate adjustment to the data that the BEA staff would almost certainly agree is an improvement.

  • Abe Lincoln was protectionist • 2 hours ago Yes - Pres. Trump is MUCH MUCH better at economics than many so-called American economists.

    Also ignores transfer pricing. US corporations are good at gaming their own tax system but face tough regulations elsewhere. Their solution to pulling profits out of their foreign operations and putting them in a non-taxed US is to export phantom products to foreign countries from their American subsidiaries. The US is Ireland on a large scale - the real trade deficit with China is probably closer to $10 in imports for every $1 of export rather than the official $4 in imports to $1 in exports.

  • urban legend 5 hours ago Economists often seem to pooh-pooh the employment-to-population ratio as some kind of unrealistic never-again-to-be achieved holy grail -- as if the phenomenon of women going back into the labor force had been completely expended and there would thereafter be no change in the education level of working age adults. In fact, women entering the labor force continued to grow, and faster than men dropping out, and the education level (and employability) of working age adults has been improving, especially in Southern states that had relatively low high school or college graduation rates and, therefore, low employment-to-population ratios that pulled down the national rate.

    While looking at the employment rate of all non-institutional adults 16 and older may be complicated by baby boomers hitting senior status, the prime working age (25-54) employment rate should be even higher than it was in 2000, not just the same or lower. We saw an inkling then of what full employment might look like, and an inflation problem did not raise its ugly head.

    It's also to be noted that while in January 1994 when the "marginally attached to the labor force" and "discouraged worker" measures were first reported, only two million members of the 16+ adult population were counted as marginally attached and only 600,000 were considered to be discouraged. Yet as demand grew, almost 20 million people crawled out from outside the labor force or from being counted as potential workers by any measurement and took jobs when they became available. That's 18 million more than BLS statistics suggested would be the outermost limit to the size of the labor force.

    In other words, it seems absurd, indeed absurd enough to consider it almost to be offered in bad faith, to suggest that we are anywhere remotely close to full employment. One must ask what the agenda is for it to continue to be suggested, since slowing growth has certain consequences that may help the wealthier members of our society while hurting everyone else.

    • pieceofcake urban legend 5 hours ago 'In other words, it seems absurd, indeed absurd enough to consider it almost to be offered in bad faith, to suggest that we are anywhere remotely close to full employment.'

      If We would be anywhere remotely close to full employment - there would be NO 'gig-economy' - no companies on the Internet which help you to (still) write all these resumes - and probably NO Uber - as - do you know anybody who is willing to work as a Uber driver if he or she can have a real Job?

      And about the wealthier members of our society - Yeah they did that!

      • pieceofcake pieceofcake 5 hours ago - and since I'm back again in the homeland - I have been the guest of 63 Uber-Drivers in 16 different cities -(right now I'm in Redwood City CA) - and the overwhelming majority of the drivers agreed with me - that there might be no better measure for the real unemployment situation in the homeland and the terrible Job market - that so many Americans - who actually have learned some real Jobs - end up driving idiots like me around.

        For heavens sake - the other day I even had a History Prof. - and if I will get Mr. Baker one day as my driver - I tell'ya - I will get really worried.

[Feb 25, 2017] The main challenges in this new era is to reduce the level of inequality from neoliberal level to New Deal levels

Notable quotes:
"... The Democrats' central weakness comes from being a party of business but having to pretend otherwise. ..."
"... Since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the president of the United States, things have been moving so quickly it's hard to pause and take stock of our surroundings - let alone evaluate how we arrived at this nightmarish place. ..."
"... 'Ironically, both Stiglitz and Sanders have declared themselves to be democrats" ..."
"... I was a Democrat before and would be again. But, that would require that the neocons and neoliberals would be replaced by progressives. ..."
"... Shumer was elected Senate minority leader and that is a bad sign to me. He is sponsored by both neocons and neoliberals. ..."
"... Joe wants to be allowed to speak his piece. If he irritates the plutocrats too much they will cut off his access to media. ..."
Feb 25, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RGC : February 21, 2017 at 07:31 AM

Re: Joe Stiglitz:

Joe says: "One of the main challenges in this new era will be to remain vigilant and, whenever and wherever necessary, to resist."

I disagree. I think we need a clearly articulated alternative to Trump and I think Joe provided one in his recent comment:

Joseph Stiglitz Says Standard Economics Is Wrong. Inequality and Unearned Income Kills the Economy

The rules of the game can be changed to reverse inequality

http://evonomics.com/joseph-stiglitz-inequality-unearned-income/

In that comment Joe says:

Reversing inequality

A wide range of policies can help reduce inequality.

Policies should be aimed at reducing inequalities both in market income and in the post-tax and-transfer incomes. The rules of the game play a large role in determining market distribution- in preventing discrimination, in creating bargaining rights for workers, in curbing monopolies and the powers of CEOs to exploit firms' other stakeholders and the financial sector to exploit the rest of society. These rules were largely rewritten during the past thirty years in ways which led to more inequality and poorer overall economic performance. Now they must be rewritten once again, to reduce inequality and strengthen the economy, for instance, by discouraging the short-termism that has become rampant in the financial and corporate sector.

Reforms include more support for education, including pre-school; increasing the minimum wage; strengthening earned-income tax credits; strengthening the voice of workers in the workplace, including through unions; and more effective enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. But there are four areas in particular that could make inroads in the high level of inequality which now exists.

First, executive compensation (especially in the US) has become excessive, and it is hard to justify the design of executive compensation schemes based on stock options.

Executives should not be rewarded for improvements in a firm's stock market performance in which they play no part. If the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates, and that leads to an increase in stock market prices, CEOs should not get a bonus as a result. If oil prices fall, and so profits of airlines and the value of airline stocks increase, airline CEOs should not get a bonus. There is an easy way of taking account of these gains (or losses) which are not attributable to the efforts of executives: basing performance pay on the relative performance of firms in comparable circumstances. The design of good compensation schemes that do this has been well understood for more than a third of a century, and yet executives in major corporations have almost studiously resisted these insights. They have focused more on taking advantages of deficiencies in corporate governance and the lack of understanding of these issues by many shareholders to try to enhance their earnings- getting high pay when share prices increase, and also when share prices fall. In the long run, as we have seen, economic performance itself is hurt.

Second, macroeconomic policies are needed that maintain economic stability and full employment. High unemployment most severely penalises those at the bottom and the middle of the income distribution. Today, workers are suffering thrice over: from high unemployment, weak wages and cutbacks in public services, as government revenues are less than they would be if economies were functioning well.

As we have argued, high inequality has weakened aggregate demand. Fuelling asset price bubbles through hyper-expansive monetary policy and deregulation is not the only possible response. Higher public investment- in infrastructures, technology and education- would both revive demand and alleviate inequality, and this would boost growth in the long-run and in the short-run. According to a recent empirical study by the IMF, well-designed public infrastructure investment raises output both in the short and long term, especially when the economy is operating below potential. And it doesn't need to increase public debt in terms of GDP: well-implemented infrastructure projects would pay for themselves, as the increase in income (and thus in tax revenues) would more than offset the increase in spending.

Third, public investment in education is fundamental to address inequality. A key determinant of workers' income is the level and quality of education. If governments ensure equal access to education, then the distribution of wages will reflect the distribution of abilities (including the ability to benefit from education) and the extent to which the education system attempts to compensate for differences in abilities and backgrounds. If, as in the United States, those with rich parents usually have access to better education, then one generation's inequality will be passed on to the next, and in each generation, wage inequality will reflect the income and related inequalities of the last.

Fourth, these much-needed public investments could be financed through fair and full taxation of capital income. This would further contribute to counteracting the surge in inequality: it can help bring down the net return to capital, so that those capitalists who save much of their income won't see their wealth accumulate at a faster pace than the growth of the overall economy, resulting in growing inequality of wealth. Special provisions providing for favourable taxation of capital gains and dividends not only distort the economy, but, with the vast majority of the benefits going to the very top, increase inequality. At the same time they impose enormous budgetary costs: 2 trillion dollars from 2013 to 2023 in the US, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The elimination of the special provisions for capital gains and dividends, coupled with the taxation of capital gains on the basis of accrual, not just realisations, is the most obvious reform in the tax code that would improve inequality and raise substantial amounts of revenues. There are many others, such as a good system of inheritance and effectively enforced estate taxation.

Redefining economic performance

We used to think of there being a trade-off: we could achieve more equality, but only at the expense of overall economic performance. It is now clear that, given the extremes of inequality being reached in many rich countries and the manner in which they have been generated, greater equality and improved economic performance are complements.

This is especially true if we focus on appropriate measures of growth. If we use the wrong metrics, we will strive for the wrong things. As the international Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress argued, there is a growing global consensus that GDP does not provide a good measure of overall economic performance. What matters is whether growth is sustainable, and whether most citizens see their living standards rising year after year.

Since the beginning of the new millennium, the US economy, and that of most other advanced countries, has clearly not been performing. In fact, for three decades, real median incomes have essentially stagnated. Indeed, in the case of the US, the problems are even worse and were manifest well before the recession: in the past four decades average wages have stagnated, even though productivity has drastically increased.

As this essay has emphasised, a key factor underlying the current economic difficulties of rich countries is growing inequality. We need to focus not on what is happening on average- as GDP leads us to do- but on how the economy is performing for the typical citizen, reflected for instance in median disposable income. People care about health, fairness and security, and yet GDP statistics do not reflect their decline. Once these and other aspects of societal well-being are taken into account, recent performance in rich countries looks much worse.

The economic policies required to change this are not difficult to identify. We need more investment in public goods; better corporate governance, antitrust and anti-discrimination laws; a better regulated financial system; stronger workers' rights; and more progressive tax and transfer policies. By 'rewriting the rules' governing the market economy in these ways, it is possible to achieve greater equality in both the pre- and post-tax and transfer distribution of income, and thereby stronger economic performance.


[Joe had it right with this essay and progressives should elaborate and emphasize this message - not just rant about Trump.]

[The whole essay is worth reading, imo.]

RGC -> RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 07:42 AM
I don't trust the Democratic party.

I fear that if they did defeat trump, they would go back to the same old policies that have given us this mess.

I want to see new leadership that commits to new policies like those articulated by Joe Stiglitz and Bernie Sanders.

I don't want to work for them until I see new policies emerge.

pgl -> RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 07:45 AM
Max Sawicky has a new blog. You might enjoy this description of what his new blog will be about:

http://thepopulist.buzz/2017/02/16/who-we-are-what-we-do/

RGC -> pgl... , February 21, 2017 at 08:04 AM
Thanks for the link.
Peter K. -> pgl... , February 21, 2017 at 08:15 AM
CNN is running a debate tomorrow night 10 eastern between Perez and Ellison. Who are you supporting, if anyone?
libezkova -> RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 07:56 AM
"I don't trust the Democratic party."

That's the key point of the whole discussion. Dems are just a party of neoliberals. Who are in the pocket of Wall Street.

So they are in the pocket of the same guys who bought Republicans (and both parties are also puppets of MIC -- with Dems becoming the major War party; not that different from neocons ).

Stiglitz actually is very shy to criticize neoliberal "cult of GDP":
== quote ==
As this essay has emphasised, a key factor underlying the current economic difficulties of rich countries is growing inequality. We need to focus not on what is happening on average - as GDP leads us to do- but on how the economy is performing for the typical citizen, reflected for instance in median disposable income.

People care about health, fairness and security, and yet GDP statistics do not reflect their decline.

Once these and other aspects of societal well-being are taken into account, recent performance in rich countries looks much worse.

== end of quote ==

This is why "pro growth liberals" are just crooks in disguise... With a smoke screen of mathematical nonsense and obscure terminology to cover their tracks.

RGC -> libezkova... , February 21, 2017 at 08:12 AM
"This is why "pro growth liberals" are just crooks in disguise... With a smoke screen of mathematical nonsense and obscure terminology to cover their tracks."

Agreed. They originated with John Bates Clark and the neoclassical concept of marginal utility:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bates_Clark

kurt -> RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 11:56 AM
So you don't think Marginal Utility is a thing? And that it would be good to ignore this thing that you believe doesn't exist? Wow.
RGC -> kurt... , February 21, 2017 at 12:11 PM
I think it is a concept that was used by Clark and other neoclassicals to counter Henry George's arguments for a tax on rentiers and then later to obfuscate the role played by finance:

Henry George and john Bates Clark

Henry George was the most popular economist of his day. Why did "elite" economists choose to follow the lead of John Bates Clark instead of George?
IOW, elite economists had various theories to choose from. Why did they choose a theory that neglcted unearned income?
.........................................................
"RA: So let me suggest that there is an alternative, and get your thoughts on this, because this idea has run its course. People are now starting to wake up and say" enough." You've written a lot about unearned versus earned wealth – unearned wealth or unearned increment, if you like – and it goes back to a man called John Bates Clark. He was one of the first neoclassical economists. I think I'm right in saying that. Just talk a bit about him, he said there was no differentiation, is that right?
MH: Yes.
RA: And that seemingly innocuous proclamation has had huge effects.

MH: By the 1870s and '80s there was a lot of pressure in all countries, especially in the United States, by socialists on the one hand and followers of the journalist Henry George on the other. George wanted to tax away the land's economic rent and use that as the tax base, instead of taxing labor and industry. So John Bates Clark wrote about the philosophy of wealth, and said "There's no such thing as unearned income. Everything that the economists before me have written is wrong. Everybody earns exactly what they contribute to national product and that means that whatever their earnings are will be added to national product.""

http://michael-hudson.com/2016/12/innocuous-proclaimations/
..........................................................
Henry George (September 2, 1839 – October 29, 1897) was an American political economist, journalist, and philosopher. His immensely popular writing is credited with sparking several reform movements of the Progressive Era, and inspiring the broad economic philosophy known as Georgism, based on the belief that people should own the value they produce themselves, but that the economic value derived from land (including natural resources) should belong equally to all members of society.
His most famous work, Progress and Poverty (1879), sold millions of copies worldwide, probably more than any other American book before that time. The treatise investigates the paradox of increasing inequality and poverty amid economic and technological progress, the cyclic nature of industrialized economies, and the use of rent capture such as land value tax and other anti-monopoly reforms as a remedy for these and other social problems.
............................................
Furthermore, on a visit to New York City, he was struck by the apparent paradox that the poor in that long-established city were much worse off than the poor in less developed California. These observations supplied the theme and title for his 1879 book Progress and Poverty, which was a great success, selling over 3 million copies. In it George made the argument that a sizeable portion of the wealth created by social and technological advances in a free market economy is possessed by land owners and monopolists via economic rents, and that this concentration of unearned wealth is the main cause of poverty. George considered it a great injustice that private profit was being earned from restricting access to natural resources while productive activity was burdened with heavy taxes, and indicated that such a system was equivalent to slavery – a concept somewhat similar to wage slavery. This is also the work in which he made the case for a land value tax in which governments would tax the value of the land itself, thus preventing private interests from profiting upon its mere possession, but allowing the value of all improvements made to that land to remain with investors.[27][28]
................................
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_George
..................................................
John Bates Clark (January 26, 1847 – March 21, 1938) was an American neoclassical economist. He was one of the pioneers of the marginalist revolution and opponent to the Institutionalist school of economics, and spent most of his career as professor at Columbia University.
............................................................
The foundation of Clark's further work was competition: "If nothing suppresses competition, progress will continue forever".[8] Clark: "The science adapted is economic Darwinism. Though the process was savage, the outlook which it afforded was not wholly evil. The survival of crude strength was, in the long run, desirable".[9] This was the fundament to develop the theory which made him famous: Given competition and homogeneous factors of production labor and capital, the repartition of the social product will be according to the productivity of the last physical input of units of labor and capital.

This theorem is a cornerstone of neoclassical micro-economics.
Clark stated it in 1891[10] and more elaborated 1899 in The Distribution of Wealth.[11] The same theorem was formulated later independently by John Atkinson Hobson (1891) and Philip Wicksteed (1894).

The political message of this theorem is: "[W]hat a social class gets is, under natural law, what it contributes to the general output of industry."[12]

......................................
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bates_Clark
............................
The John Bates Clark Medal is awarded by the American Economic Association to "that American economist under the age of forty who is adjudged to have made a significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge".[1] According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, it "is widely regarded as one of the field's most prestigious awards, perhaps second only to the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences."[2] The award was made biennially until 2007, but is being awarded every year from 2009 because many deserving went unawarded.[3] The committee cited economists such as Edward Glaeser and John A. List in campaigning that the award should be annual. Named after the American economist John Bates Clark (1847–1938), it is considered one of the two most prestigious awards in the field of economics, along with the Nobel Prize.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bates_Clark_Medal
.....................................................

RGC -> RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 12:23 PM
Furthermore;

Cambridge capital controversy:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_capital_controversy

"It is important, for the record, to recognize that key participants in the debate openly admitted their mistakes. Samuelson's seventh edition of Economics was purged of errors. Levhari and Samuelson published a paper which began, 'We wish to make it clear for the record that the nonreswitching theorem associated with us is definitely false. We are grateful to Dr. Pasinetti...' (Levhari and Samuelson 1966). Leland Yeager and I jointly published a note acknowledging his earlier error and attempting to resolve the conflict between our theoretical perspectives. (Burmeister and Yeager, 1978).

However, the damage had been done, and Cambridge, UK, 'declared victory': Levhari was wrong, Samuelson was wrong, Solow was wrong, MIT was wrong and therefore neoclassical economics was wrong. As a result there are some groups of economists who have abandoned neoclassical economics for their own refinements of classical economics. In the United States, on the other hand, mainstream economics goes on as if the controversy had never occurred. Macroeconomics textbooks discuss 'capital' as if it were a well-defined concept - which it is not, except in a very special one-capital-good world (or under other unrealistically restrictive conditions). The problems of heterogeneous capital goods have also been ignored in the 'rational expectations revolution' and in virtually all econometric work." (Burmeister 2000)

RGC -> RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 12:29 PM
Wow.
yuan -> libezkova... , February 21, 2017 at 12:17 PM

Too uninformed and angry to realize that Stiglitz has focused on inequality and criticized the use of GDP to measure societal economic activity.


https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/sep/13/economics-economic-growth-and-recession-global-economy

I also strongly recommend Stiglitz's book:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16685439-the-price-of-inequality

Jesse -> RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 07:58 AM

Well stated, and that is what it would take to achieve 'party unity.'

In other words, put the people and principles first, and then the health and growth of the party will fall into place.

Party first is power first. And that allure for money and power is what wrecked the Democratic party as it had been-- although that failure was a long time coming.

Peter K. -> Jesse... , February 21, 2017 at 09:51 AM
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/02/trump-election-hillary-clinton-racism-democratic-party/

Good interview with Doug Henwood:

The Confusion Candidate

The Democrats' central weakness comes from being a party of business but having to pretend otherwise.

by Katie Halper & Doug Henwood

Since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the president of the United States, things have been moving so quickly it's hard to pause and take stock of our surroundings - let alone evaluate how we arrived at this nightmarish place.

And the liberal commentariat hasn't helped, arguing that the autopsies on Hillary Clinton's failed campaign do nothing but sabotage the "unity" needed to fight Trump. But if we don't want round two against the Right to resemble round one, we need to know what went wrong and how to fix it.

..."

yuan -> RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 12:23 PM
"I don't trust the Democratic party."

Ironically, both Stiglitz and Sanders have declared themselves to be democrats:

I don't trust Sanders or Stiglitz but am somewhat encouraged that both have shown modest support for anti-capitalist reforms.

RGC -> yuan... , February 21, 2017 at 12:51 PM
'Ironically, both Stiglitz and Sanders have declared themselves to be democrats"

I was a Democrat before and would be again. But, that would require that the neocons and neoliberals would be replaced by progressives.

RGC -> RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 01:08 PM
Shumer was elected Senate minority leader and that is a bad sign to me. He is sponsored by both neocons and neoliberals.

I want to see if Ellison is elected chair of the DNC.

Peter K. -> yuan... , February 21, 2017 at 01:36 PM
"I don't trust Sanders or Stiglitz but am somewhat encouraged that both have shown modest support for anti-capitalist reforms."

You're a lunatic troll. No wonder PGL likes you.

Peter K. -> RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 08:16 AM
why didn't "Joe" back Bernie Sanders?

Inquiring minds want to know.

RGC -> Peter K.... , February 21, 2017 at 09:14 AM
Joe wants to be allowed to speak his piece. If he irritates the plutocrats too much they will cut off his access to media.

He is a bit too timid for my taste.

[Feb 21, 2017] People like Summers, DeLong, PGL and Krugman have been saying this for 30 years ever since NAFTA was passed. The voters no longer believe them. Theyre like the boy who cried wolf

Feb 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. -> Peter K.... February 20, 2017 at 08:13 AM

, 2017 at 08:13 AM
https://www.ft.com/content/cd4e8576-e934-11e6-967b-c88452263daf

Revoking trade deals will not help American middle classes

The advent of global supply chains has changed production patterns in the US

by Larry Summers
FEBRUARY 5, 2017

Trade agreements have been central to American politics for some years. The idea that renegotiating trade agreements will "make America great again" by substantially increasing job creation and economic growth swept Donald Trump into office.

More broadly, the idea that past trade agreements have damaged the American middle class and that the prospective Trans-Pacific Partnership would do further damage is now widely accepted in both major US political parties.

As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed, participants in political debate are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. The reality is that the impact of trade and globalisation on wages is debatable and could be substantial. But the idea that the US trade agreements of the past generation have impoverished to any significant extent is absurd.

There is a debate to be had about the impact of globalisation on middle class wages and inequality. Increased imports have displaced jobs. Companies have been able to drive harder bargains with workers, particularly in unionised sectors, because of the threat they can outsource. The advent of global supply chains has changed production patterns in the US.

My judgment is that these effects are considerably smaller than the impacts of technological progress. This is based on a variety of economic studies, experience in hypercompetitive Germany and the observation that the proportion of American workers in manufacturing has been steadily declining for 75 years. That said I acknowledge that global trends and new studies show that the impact of trade on wages is much more pronounced than a decade ago.

But an assessment of the impact of trade on wages is very different than an assessment of trade agreements. It is inconceivable that multilateral trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, have had a meaningful impact on US wages and jobs for the simple reason that the US market was almost completely open 40 years ago before entering into any of the controversial agreements.

American tariffs on Mexican goods, for example, averaged about 4 per cent before Nafta came into force. China had what was then called "most favoured nation" trading status with the US before its accession to the World Trade Organization and received the same access as other countries. Before the Korea Free Trade Agreement, US tariffs on Korea averaged a paltry 2.8 per cent.

The irrelevance of trade agreements to import competition becomes obvious when one listens to the main arguments against trade agreements. They rarely, if ever, take the form of saying we are inappropriately taking down US trade barriers.

Rather the naysayers argue that different demands should be made on other countries during negotiations - on issues including intellectual property, labour standards, dispute resolution or exchange rate manipulation. I am sympathetic to the criticisms of TPP, but even if they were all correct they do not justify the conclusion that signing the deal would increase the challenges facing the American middle class.

The reason for the rise in US imports is not reduced trade barriers. Rather it is that emerging markets are indeed emerging. They are growing in their economic potential because of successful economic reforms and greater global integration.

These developments would have occurred with or without US trade pacts, though the agreements have usually been an impetus to reform. Indeed, since the US does very little to reduce trade barriers in our agreements, the impetus to reform is most of what foreign policymakers value in them along with political connection to the US.

The truth too often denied by both sides in this debate is that incremental agreements like TPP have been largely irrelevant to the fate of middle class workers. The real strategic choice Americans face is whether the objective of their policies is to see the economies of the rest of the world grow and prosper. Or, does the US want to keep the rest of the world from threatening it by slowing global growth and walling off products and people?

Framed this way the solution appears obvious. A strategy of returning to the protectionism of the past and seeking to thwart the growth of other nations is untenable and would likely lead to a downward spiral in the global economy. The right approach is to maintain openness while finding ways to help workers at home who are displaced by technical progress, trade or other challenges.

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , February 20, 2017 at 08:16 AM
" The right approach is to maintain openness while finding ways to help workers at home who are displaced by technical progress, trade or other challenges."

People like Summers, DeLong, PGL and Krugman have been saying this for 30 years ever since NAFTA was passed.

The voters no longer believe them. They're like the boy who cried wolf.

cm -> Peter K.... , February 20, 2017 at 01:05 PM
I would actually agree with the stance in general, if there would be an actuall intention to help the affected people/populations, but there is none. Retraining for yet another job that doesn't exist (in sufficient volume so you can realistically get it) is not help. It is just cover for victim blaming - see we forgive you for choosing an incorrect career, here is your next chance, don't blow that one too (which we know "you will" as there are not enough jobs there either).
Peter K. -> Peter K.... , February 20, 2017 at 08:14 AM
http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/02/must-read-four-things-are-going-on-technology-globalization-macro-policy-trade-agreements-lawrence-summ.html

DeLong Feb. 20, 2017

Must-Read: Five things are going on with respect to America's blue-, pink-, and--increasingly--white lower-middle and middle-middle working classes. Three of them are real, and two of them are fake:

Technology: It has--worldwide--greatly amplified manufacturing labor productivity, accompanied by limited demand for manufactured goods: few of us want more than one full-sized refrigerator, and very very few of us want more than two. That means that if you are hoping to be relatively high up in the wage distribution by virtue of your position as a hard-to-replace cog on a manufacturing assembly line, you are increasingly out of luck. If you are hoping for high blue-collar wages to lift your own via competition, you are increasingly out of luck.

Legal and institutional bargaining power: The fact that bargaining power has flowed to finance and the executive suite and away from the shop- and assembly-floor is the second biggest deal here. It could have been otherwise--this is, primarily, a thing that has happened in English-speaking countries. It has happened much less elsewhere. It could have happened much less here.

Macro policy: Yes, the consequences of the Reagan deficits were to cream midwestern manufacturing and destroy worker bargaining power in export and import-competing industries. Yes, the low-pressure economies of Volcker, late Greenspan, and Bernanke wreaked immense damage. Any more questions?

Globalization: Globalization deepens the division of labor, and does so in a way that is not harmful to high-paying manufacturing jobs in the global north. The high-paying manufacturing jobs that require skills and expertise (as opposed to the lower-paying ones that just require being in the right place at the right time with some market power) are easier to create and hold on to if you can be part of a globalized value chain than otherwise. This is largely fake.

Trade agreements: This is a nothingburger: completely fake.

As somebody who strongly believes that supply curves slope up--are neither horizontal nor vertical--and that demand curves slope down--are neither horizontal nor vertical--I think that Larry Summers is misguided here when he talks about how "companies have been able to drive harder bargains with workers, particularly in unionised sectors, because of the threat they can outsource." This was certainly true since the 1950s with the move of American manufacturing to the south, and the rise of deceptively-named "right-to-work" laws. But the threat to outsource is zero-sum on a national level: the balance of payments balances. Individual sectors lose--and manufacturing workers have been big losers. But that is, I think, only because of our macro policies. If we were a normal global North manufacturing power--a Germany or a Japan--exporting capital and running a currency policy that did not privilege finance, he would not be talking a out how "companies have been able to drive harder bargains with workers, particularly in unionised sectors, because of the threat they can outsource." He would be talking about how the opportunity to participate in global value chains increases the productivity of semi-skilled and skilled manufacturing workers in the U.S.

Thus I think Larry conceded too much here. Blame macro policy. Blame technology. Blame the conflict between the market society's requirements that only property rights matter and that everything pass a profitability test against people's strong beliefs that even if they have no property rights they have rights to stable communities, stable industries, and stable occupations. But, to channel Pascal Lamy, look not at the finger but at the moon here.

However, Larry is right on his main point: NAFTA really ain't the problem:

Lawrence Summers: Revoking Trade Deals Will Not Help American Middle Classes: "There is a debate to be had about the impact of globalisation on middle class wages and inequality...

Tom aka Rusty -> Peter K.... , February 20, 2017 at 09:27 AM
For Delong to be right on trade, thousands of rust belt politicians, journalists, and business leaders and a few hundred thousand workers would have to be delusional.

He is right in the sense that it is too late to revoke NAFTA, the damage is done.

[Feb 21, 2017] The rise in income inequality was promoted by the Reagan revolution. That in many ways was its purpose. It is also the agenda of Paul Ryan and his A Better Way .

Notable quotes:
"... Democrats sold out 35 years ago. ..."
"... Yes it's more profitable to have a non-unionized workforce. ..."
"... Doesn't mean we should. Doesn't mean we should get rid of environmental or safety regulations. ..."
Feb 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
pgl :  , -1

"it is never good to pass up an opportunity to remind readers that the rise in inequality since 1980 has been something that those who made the Reagan Revolution hoped to accomplish and are proud of.

Bargaining power has flowed to finance and the executive suite and away from the shop- and assembly-floor. Top tax rates have come way down. It could have been otherwise--this is, primarily, a thing that has happened in English-speaking countries. It has happened much less elsewhere. It could have happened much less here."

The rise in income inequality was promoted by the Reagan revolution. That in many ways was its purpose. It is also the agenda of Paul Ryan and his "A Better Way".

We used to know how to lower trade barriers and welcome new technology and have the benefits accrue to all. We lost our political will some 35 years ago. And electing Trump has not exactly regained our old mojo.

Peter K. -> pgl... February 20, 2017 at 12:24 PM , 2017 at 12:24 PM
"We lost our political will some 35 years ago. "

Who is this we kemosabe?

Democrats sold out 35 years ago. And you keep defending them.

libezkova -> Peter K.... , February 20, 2017 at 05:41 PM
"Democrats sold out 35 years ago."

True. Bill Clinton was elected in 1982. He essentially sold the Party to Wall Street, although first signs appeared under Carter...

Peter K. -> Sanjait... , February 20, 2017 at 03:39 PM
Yes it's more profitable to have a non-unionized workforce.

Doesn't mean we should. Doesn't mean we should get rid of environmental or safety regulations.

libezkova -> Peter K.... , February 20, 2017 at 05:44 PM
"it's more profitable to have a non-unionized workforce"

And that was partially accomplished by moving manufacturing South.

[Feb 21, 2017] Does the Chicago Bears quarterback really need 126 million for seven years -- up from to top NFL paid Joe Namath's 600K a couple of generations back?

Feb 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Denis Drew : February 20, 2017 at 02:10 PM , 2017 at 02:10 PM
Manufacturing, manufacturing, manufacturing. Everybody misses the BRONTOSAURUS in the room. 4% of jobs gone from automation and trade - half and half -- true. But, 50% of employees have lost 10% of overall income -- out of the 20% of a couple of generations back.

(This reminds me of comparing EITC's 1/2 1% redistribution with 45% of workers earning less than $15 an hour.)

Could 50% of the workforce squeeze 10% of income back out of the 49% who take 70% (14% of their earnings!)? They sure could if they could collectively agree not to show up for work otherwise. Could if the 49% in turn could squeeze 10% out of the 1% (the infamous one percent) who lately take 20% of overall income -- up from 10% a couple of generations back.

(Does the Chicago Bears quarterback really need $126 million for seven years -- up from to top NFL paid Joe Namath's $600,000 [adjusted truly] a couple of generations back?)

Mechanism? Ask Germany (ask Jimmy Hoffa).

* * * * * *

In case nobody thought about it -- I never thought about until Trump -- it goes like this. The NLRA(a) was written in 1935 leaving blank the use criminal sanctions for muscling the labor market. Even if it did specify jail time for union busting it is extremely arguable that state penalties for muscling ANY persons seeking to collectively bargain (not just union organizers and joiners following fed procedure) would overlap, not violate federal preemption.

It seems inarguable -- under long established First Amendment right to organize collective bargaining -- that federal preemption cannot force employees down an organizing road that is unarguably impassable, because unenforceable.

Upshot: states may make union busting a felony -- hopefully backed by RICO for persistent violators.

6% union density is like 20/10 blood pressure. It starves every other healthy process.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Denis Drew ... , February 20, 2017 at 02:14 PM
Understood. Lost manufacturing jobs was a big hit to union employment aside from the longshoremen.
ken melvin -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , February 20, 2017 at 02:37 PM
In 1967-68 was working the waterfront in SF. Saw the crews of Stevedores and Longshoremen load the ships; on the docks, down in the holds, using boom winches, forklifts, and muscle (dangerous work). By 1970, containerization had replaced 90% of them. And, it continues with computerization of storage and loading of containers (something I worked on in 1975). Remember the nephew in the 'Wire'? One day a week if he was lucky. David Simon knew of what he wrote.
cm -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , February 20, 2017 at 05:02 PM
One of the Michael Moore movies (probably but not sure whether about Flint) made the point rather explicitly - former manufacturing workers retrained as law enforcement or prison officers perhaps for employment in other states or "dealing with" their former colleagues driven to crime or at least into the arms of the law enforcement system.

[Feb 21, 2017] Debt slavery and high unemployment are two the most direct method of keeping wages low

Feb 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
J ohnH -> New Deal democrat... February 20, 2017 at 07:31 AM , 2017 at 07:31 AM
I expect that if you look at the pre-bellum South, there will be plenty of examples of stagnant wages, low interest rates...

In Mexico, wages never rose regardless of monetary policy.

The point that I've been making for a while: despite a few progressive economists delusions for rapid economic growth to tighten wages, it won't happen for the following reasons.

1) most employers will just say 'no,' probably encouraged centrally by the US Chamber of Commerce and other industry associations. Collusion? You bet.

2) employers will just move jobs abroad, where there's plenty of slack. Flexible labor markets has been one of the big goals of globalization, promoted by the usual suspects including 'librul' economists like Krugman.

3) immigration, which will be temporarily constrained as Trump deports people, but will ultimately be resumed as employers demand cheap, malleable labor.

New Deal democrat -> JohnH... , February 20, 2017 at 07:35 AM
If what we get is easy money, no inflation, and stagnant wages, then that is the Coolidge bubble. We know how that ends.
Peter K. -> JohnH... , February 20, 2017 at 07:36 AM
I disagree. It happened in late 90s. The ideas you mention are factors, including the decline of unions.

What has happened in recent decades is that asset bubbles - like the dot.com and housing bubbles - have popped sending a high pressure economy into a low pressure one with higher unemployment.

Neoliberal economists often talk about "flexible labor markets" as desirable but I don't think Krugman ever has. Maybe he has in a roundabout, indirect way.

JohnH -> Peter K.... , February 20, 2017 at 07:58 AM
Peter K still insists on propagating the myth that the 1990s was a period of easy money that led to increasing wages. Not so:
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FEDFUNDS

Fed funds rates were consistently about double the rate of inflation.

The fact that the economy boomed and wages increased was due to the tech boom--an unrepeatable anomaly. The Fed and Clinton administration unsuccessfully attempted to stifle it with high rates and budget balancing.

To make sure that wages never rose again, Clinton signed China PNTR, granting China access to WTO, ushering in the great sucking sound of jobs going to China. Krugman cheered.

Peter K. -> JohnH... , February 20, 2017 at 08:28 AM
Again I just disagree with you.

"Fed funds rates were consistently about double the rate of inflation."

That doesn't matter. What matters is if they were tightening or loosening. Where they reducing access to credit or expanding it.

The real history is that Democrats on the FOMC wanted to raise rates - as Dean Baker has discussed.

Greenspan decided not to raise rates for various reasons and unemployment stayed low at around 4 percent with wages sharing in productivity gains until the Dot.com stock bubble popped.

I see no reason why you should believe labor markets will never get tight again and that even if they do it won't lead to increased worker bargaining power and higher wages.

Your reasoning and logic isn't sound.

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , February 20, 2017 at 08:30 AM
Some people were afraid of inflation but it never came. But wages did share in productivity gains.
JohnH -> Peter K.... , February 20, 2017 at 03:17 PM
There are numerous reasons why wages won't increase even if labor markets tighten...you just don't want to acknowledge the nefarious consequences of neoliberal policies: business collusion, offshoring, immigration, and the tax system's preference for returns of returns to capital over wages, which preferences technology.
pgl -> JohnH... , February 20, 2017 at 10:36 AM
The real interest rate was around 2.5% per your own argument which was a lot lower than real rates in the 1980's. So by any reasonable standard - we did have easy money.
JohnH -> pgl... , February 20, 2017 at 01:35 PM
lol!!! 2.5% real Fed funds rates as cheap money? Who are you kidding???

If pgl is good at anything, it's producing nonsense!

Julio -> JohnH... , February 20, 2017 at 08:35 AM
Another round of tax and regulatory giveaways can create a short-term boom and keeping jobs at home.

Of course, with the giveaways they're hitting the zero lower bound...

JohnH -> Julio ... , February 20, 2017 at 03:21 PM
"Another round of tax and regulatory giveaways can create a short-term boom," as part of the race to the bottom for wages...IOW Republicans and their Democratic allies will have succeeded when American wages are about the same as wages in China or Mexico. But, per their logic, then jobs will be plentiful because there will be no need to off-shore.
pgl -> JohnH... , February 20, 2017 at 09:11 AM
"the pre-bellum South"? You mean slavery. Yeah - wages were incredibly low.
JohnH -> pgl... , February 20, 2017 at 01:37 PM
Yep...slavery is the most direct method of keeping wages low. The policies I outlined--monopsony, offshoring, and immigration--are all a fall back, to be used when industry can't use their best policy.
libezkova -> JohnH... , February 20, 2017 at 12:02 PM
If the neoliberal elite can't part with at least a small part of their privileges, the political destabilization will continue and they might lose everything.

"People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage." -- John Kenneth Galbraith

ilsm -> libezkova... , February 20, 2017 at 12:53 PM
You may know that JK Galbraith served on the US' evaluation of strategic bombings effect in WW II.

He is one of the minority whose opinion was suppressed by the military industry complex which concluded outside the A bomb no relation to bombing and victory was proven, including both industry output and energy production in Germany.

Allied bombing did kill a lot of civilians, which if Germans or Japan had won bomber commanders would have been hanged.

Julio -> libezkova... , February 20, 2017 at 05:44 PM
"...the political destabilization will continue and they might lose everything."

Or they might find a way to end the political destabilization. You know, we're not arresting you, we just want to know, in the war on Muslim terrorists and Mexican criminals, are you with us or against us? You'd be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't!) how the question is enough to quiet everybody down.

Julio -> Julio ... , February 20, 2017 at 05:46 PM
Just heard an interview clip with candidate Trump defending his Muslim ban as being the same as the Japanese interment, and saying we're in a war.

[Feb 20, 2017] Tech Jobs Took a Big Hit Last Year

Feb 20, 2017 | tech.slashdot.org

Barb Darrow, writing for Fortune: Tech jobs took it on the chin last year. Layoffs at computer, electronics, and telecommunications companies were up 21 percent to 96,017 jobs cut in 2016 , compared to 79,315 the prior year. Tech layoffs accounted for 18 percent of the total 526,915 U.S. job cuts announced in 2016, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm based in Chicago. Of the 2016 total, some 66,821 of the layoffs came from computer companies, up 7% year over year. Challenger attributed much of that increase to cuts made by Dell Technologies, the entity formed by the $63 billion convergence of Dell and EMC. In preparation for that combination, layoffs were instituted across EMC and its constituent companies, including VMware.

[Feb 20, 2017] People like Summers, DeLong, PGL and Krugman have been saying this for 30 years ever since NAFTA was passed. The voters no longer believe them. They're like the boy who

Feb 20, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. -> Peter K.... February 20, 2017 at 08:13 AM , 2017 at 08:13 AM
https://www.ft.com/content/cd4e8576-e934-11e6-967b-c88452263daf

Revoking trade deals will not help American middle classes

The advent of global supply chains has changed production patterns in the US

by Larry Summers
FEBRUARY 5, 2017

Trade agreements have been central to American politics for some years. The idea that renegotiating trade agreements will "make America great again" by substantially increasing job creation and economic growth swept Donald Trump into office.

More broadly, the idea that past trade agreements have damaged the American middle class and that the prospective Trans-Pacific Partnership would do further damage is now widely accepted in both major US political parties.

As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed, participants in political debate are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. The reality is that the impact of trade and globalisation on wages is debatable and could be substantial. But the idea that the US trade agreements of the past generation have impoverished to any significant extent is absurd.

There is a debate to be had about the impact of globalisation on middle class wages and inequality. Increased imports have displaced jobs. Companies have been able to drive harder bargains with workers, particularly in unionised sectors, because of the threat they can outsource. The advent of global supply chains has changed production patterns in the US.

My judgment is that these effects are considerably smaller than the impacts of technological progress. This is based on a variety of economic studies, experience in hypercompetitive Germany and the observation that the proportion of American workers in manufacturing has been steadily declining for 75 years. That said I acknowledge that global trends and new studies show that the impact of trade on wages is much more pronounced than a decade ago.

But an assessment of the impact of trade on wages is very different than an assessment of trade agreements. It is inconceivable that multilateral trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, have had a meaningful impact on US wages and jobs for the simple reason that the US market was almost completely open 40 years ago before entering into any of the controversial agreements.

American tariffs on Mexican goods, for example, averaged about 4 per cent before Nafta came into force. China had what was then called "most favoured nation" trading status with the US before its accession to the World Trade Organization and received the same access as other countries. Before the Korea Free Trade Agreement, US tariffs on Korea averaged a paltry 2.8 per cent.

The irrelevance of trade agreements to import competition becomes obvious when one listens to the main arguments against trade agreements. They rarely, if ever, take the form of saying we are inappropriately taking down US trade barriers.

Rather the naysayers argue that different demands should be made on other countries during negotiations - on issues including intellectual property, labour standards, dispute resolution or exchange rate manipulation. I am sympathetic to the criticisms of TPP, but even if they were all correct they do not justify the conclusion that signing the deal would increase the challenges facing the American middle class.

The reason for the rise in US imports is not reduced trade barriers. Rather it is that emerging markets are indeed emerging. They are growing in their economic potential because of successful economic reforms and greater global integration.

These developments would have occurred with or without US trade pacts, though the agreements have usually been an impetus to reform. Indeed, since the US does very little to reduce trade barriers in our agreements, the impetus to reform is most of what foreign policymakers value in them along with political connection to the US.

The truth too often denied by both sides in this debate is that incremental agreements like TPP have been largely irrelevant to the fate of middle class workers. The real strategic choice Americans face is whether the objective of their policies is to see the economies of the rest of the world grow and prosper. Or, does the US want to keep the rest of the world from threatening it by slowing global growth and walling off products and people?

Framed this way the solution appears obvious. A strategy of returning to the protectionism of the past and seeking to thwart the growth of other nations is untenable and would likely lead to a downward spiral in the global economy. The right approach is to maintain openness while finding ways to help workers at home who are displaced by technical progress, trade or other challenges.

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , February 20, 2017 at 08:16 AM
" The right approach is to maintain openness while finding ways to help workers at home who are displaced by technical progress, trade or other challenges."

People like Summers, DeLong, PGL and Krugman have been saying this for 30 years ever since NAFTA was passed.

The voters no longer believe them. They're like the boy who cried wolf.

[Feb 20, 2017] With high unemployment rate employers can more broadly discriminate

Feb 20, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. : Reply Monday, February 20, 2017 at 10:35 AM , February 20, 2017 at 10:35 AM
PGL says "reverse hysteresis" is fair dust.

More trolling from out neoliberal friend?

https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/03/undoing-the-structural-damage-to-potential-growth/?_r=0

Economix - Explaining the Science of Everyday Life

Undoing the Structural Damage to Potential Growth
By JARED BERNSTEIN MARCH 3, 2014 11:00 AM

What follows is macroeconomics, but I'll start with the micro - a microcosm, in fact, of the larger idea I'm hoping to get at here.

I think it was around 1998, and I was on a tram between terminals at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Two young men, who clearly worked for the airport (they had a bunch of badges dangling around their necks) were trying to figure out how they knew each other, while I eavesdropped. Turned out they had met each other in prison.

At the time, I was beginning a research project on the benefits of full employment, and my first thought was, "Aha - another example of how tight labor markets pull in the hard-to-employ." This was also the era of work-based welfare reform, and while analysts worried that employers would avoid those with welfare histories, strong demand turned out to an antidote to such preferences.

Basically, profiling based on gender, race and experience is a luxury that employers can't afford when the job market is really tight. That is not to imply, of course, that employers broadly discriminate, but there is strong evidence that many do, most recently against the long-term unemployed. In tight markets, however, they face a choice of indulging their preferences or leaving profits on the table, and profits usually win.

Now, put this story aside for a second and let's turn to the macro. A few months ago, I reported on a study by a few Federal Reserve economists with pretty striking results of the damage done to the economy's future growth rate by the deep and protracted downturn known as the Great Recession. The Congressional Budget Office just published a similar analysis, resulting in the chart below showing growth in gross domestic product as projected in 2007, before the recession, and a revised projection from this year. By 2017, the budget office predicts that the new and decidedly not-improved level of G.D.P. will be 7.3 percent below the old projection.

What does 7.3 percent of lost gross domestic product actually mean? Well, last year G.D.P. amounted to about $16.8 trillion, and 7.3 percent of that comes to around $1.2 trillion. Conventional estimates translate that into more than 10 million jobs.

It would be very good to avoid that fate. The thing is, both the Fed economists and the Congressional Budget Office basically argue that while their estimates are admittedly uncertain, that fate cannot be avoided - it's baked into the economic cake by the assumption that once your trend growth rate slows as ours has, it does not come back barring some positive, unforeseen shock. Here is how the Fed guys put it:

Policy makers cannot undo labor market damage once it has occurred, but must instead wait for it to fade away on its own accord; in other words, there is no special advantage, given this specification, to running a high-pressure economy.

I disagree! I think the damage can be at least partly reversed precisely by running "a high-pressure economy." I saw it myself that day in the airport.

Technically, I'm talking about "reverse hysteresis." When a cyclical problem morphs into a structural one, economists invoke the concept of hysteresis. When this phenomenon takes hold, the rate at which key economic inputs like labor supply and capital investment enter the economy undergoes a downshift that lasts through the downturn and well into the expansion, reducing the economy's speed limit. But what I'm suggesting here is that by running the economy well below conventional estimates of the lowest unemployment rate consistent with stable inflation, and doing so for a while, we can pull workers back in, raise their career trajectories, improve their pay and their living standards, and turn that downshift to an upshift that raises the level and growth rate of G.D.P.

Won't that be inflationary? Three points. First, if anything, the current economy is suffering from inflation that is too low (same with Europe), so near-term growth-oriented policy seems clearly safe in this regard. Second, the precise relationship between full employment and inflation is poorly understood. When that latter-1990s story above was taking place, economists frequently and incorrectly warned that full employment would dangerously juice inflation. Third, the correlation between these two variables - inflation and labor market tightness - has become far weaker in recent years (i.e., the Phillips Curve has flattened, for those who like the jargon).

How do we reverse the hysteresis process (which is to ask: How do we get back to very tight labor markets)? In earlier posts, I've suggested a number of policies that would help, including investment in public goods, direct job creation, reducing the trade deficit and work-sharing. Still, you may well be wondering, "Wait a minute - this dude wants us to go with him down this path because of a conversation he overheard 16 years ago?"

O.K., I'll admit that the economic journals are not busting with evidence in support of reverse hysteresis. But those of us who closely monitored full-employment economies have observed and documented significantly positive labor supply and investment outcomes. (True, a lot of that investment has flowed into bubbles; I'm not saying this idea solves every problem.)

The employment rates for young African-American adults, like the guys I saw in the airport, averaged around 70 percent in the 1970s and '80s, but hit 80 percent in the late 1990s; they are in the mid-60s now. The employment rates for single mothers also hit new highs in those years. The labor force participation rate, itself an important victim of hysteresis right now, hit its all-time high at the end of the 1990s expansion. In other words, full employment pulled a lot of new people into the job market.

As part of the full-employment project I'm running at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (and have written about before on this blog), a number of top economists are looking into the relationships between fiscal policy, and hysteresis and reverse hysteresis. They are coming up with some compelling findings, which I'll share once they are ready. For now, allow me to assert the following: We have shown we can do a lot of economic damage. With the political will, sorely lacking these days, it can also be undone.

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , February 20, 2017 at 10:38 AM
"What does 7.3 percent of lost gross domestic product actually mean? Well, last year G.D.P. amounted to about $16.8 trillion, and 7.3 percent of that comes to around $1.2 trillion. Conventional estimates translate that into more than 10 million jobs."

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-04-28/president-obama-s-economic-disappointment

Obama's Economic Disappointment by Narayana Kocherlakota

In January 2009, at the beginning of Obama's first term, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a 10-year forecast for the U.S. economy, including such indicators as unemployment, gross domestic product, the budget deficit, government debt and interest rates. Here's a table comparing the CBO's expectations for the year 2015 to what has actually happened:

NGDP forecast to grow 33 percent, actually grew 22 percent.

Real GDP, forecast 20 percent, actual 10.

----------------

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , February 20, 2017 at 10:42 AM
https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/yellen20150327a.htm

Yellen

"A final argument for gradually adjusting policy relates to the desirability of achieving a prompt return of inflation to the FOMC's 2 percent goal, an objective that would be advanced by allowing the unemployment rate to decline for a time somewhat below estimates of its longer-run sustainable level. To a limited degree, such an outcome is envisioned in many participants' most recent SEP projections. A tight labor market may also work to reverse some of the adverse supply-side developments resulting from the financial crisis. The deep recession and slow recovery likely have held back investment in physical and human capital, restrained the rate of new business formation, prompted discouraged workers to leave the labor force, and eroded the skills of the long-term unemployed.15 Some of these effects might be reversed in a tight labor market, yielding long-term benefits associated with a more productive economy. That said, the quantitative importance of these supply-side mechanisms are difficult to establish, and the relevant research on this point is quite limited."

[Feb 20, 2017] Why Extreme Inequality Causes Economic Collapse naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... Fig. 3a Income Share of U.S. Top 1% (Reich, 2013) & 3b Reich notes that the two peaks look like a suspension bridge, with highs followed by precipitous drops. (Original Source: Piketty & Saez, 2003) ..."
"... Paying for policy favors ..."
"... Removing constraints on dangerous behavior ..."
"... Increasing the public's vulnerability ..."
"... Increasing their own intake ..."
"... financial intermediaries. ..."
"... Or Ben Bernanke in his book "The Courage to Act": "Money is fungible. One dollar is like any other". ..."
"... "I adapted this general idea to show how, by affecting banks' loanable funds, monetary policy could influence the supply of intermediated ..."
"... no longer depend exclusively on insured deposits for funding, nondeposit sources of funding are likely to be relatively more expensive than deposits" ..."
"... The first channel worked through the banking system By developing expertise in gathering relevant information, as well as by maintaining ongoing relationships with customers, banks and similar intermediaries ..."
"... and thus hurt borrowers" (Bernanke [1983b]). ..."
"... A herding started by William McChesney Martin Jr, that thought "banks actually pick up savings and pass them out the window, that they are intermediaries ..."
"... obviously not so in any human activity. ..."
"... We believe Regenerative Economics can provide a unifying framework capable of galvanizing a wide array of reform groups by clarifying the picture of what makes societies healthy. But, this framework will only serve if it is backed by accurate theory and effective measures and practice. This soundness is part of what Capital Institute and RARE are trying to develop. ..."
"... haha, unfortunately it's the apex predator species that is in danger of sudden extinction as its prey declines. Of course the Darwinian analogy doesn't hold up well because Darwinian selection works on all individuals of a species without distinction. A much better analogy is a rigged game. ..."
Feb 20, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
According to a recent study by Oxfam International, in 2010 the top 388 richest people owned as much wealth as the poorest half of the world's population– a whopping 3.6 billion people. By 2014, this number was down to 85 people. Oxfam claims that, if this trend continues, by the end of 2016 the top 1% will own more wealth than everyone else in the world combined. At the same time, according to Oxfam, the extremely wealthy are also extremely efficient in dodging taxes, now hiding an estimated $7.6 trillion in offshore tax-havens.[3]

Why should we care about such gross economic inequality?[4] After all, isn't it natural? The science of flow says: yes, some degree of inequality is natural, but extreme inequality violates two core principles of systemic health: circulation and balance.

Circulation represents the lifeblood of all flow-systems, be they economies, ecosystems, or living organisms. In living organisms, poor circulation of blood causes necrosis that can kill. In the biosphere, poor circulation of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. strangles life and would cause every living system, from bacteria to the biosphere, to collapse. Similarly, poor circulation of money, goods, resources, and services leads to economic necrosis – the dying off of large swaths of economic tissue that ultimately undermines the health of the economy as a whole.

In flow systems, balance is not simply a nice way to be, but a set of complementary factors – such as big and little; efficiency and resilience; flexibility and constraint – whose optimal balance is critical to maintaining circulation across scales. For example, the familiar branching structure seen in lungs, trees, circulatory systems, river deltas, and banking systems (Fig. 1) connects a geometrically constant ratio of a few large, a few more medium-sized, and a great many small entities. This arrangement, which mathematicians call a fractal, is extremely common because it's particular balance of small, medium, and large helps optimize circulation across different levels of the whole. Just as too many large animals and too few small ones creates an unstable ecosystem, so financial systems with too many big banks and too few small ones tend towards poor circulation, poor health, and high instability.

In his documentary film, Inequality for All, Robert Reich uses virtuous cycles to clarify how robust circulation of money serves systemic health. In virtuous cycles, each step of money movement makes things better. For example, when wages go up, workers have more money to buy things, which should increase demand, expand the economy, stimulate hiring, and boost tax revenues. In theory, government will then spend more money on education which will increase worker skills, productivity and hopefully wages. This stimulates even more circulation, which starts the virtuous cycle over again. In flow terms, all of this represents robust constructive flow, the kind that develops human and network capital and enhances well-being for all.

Of course, economies also sometimes exhibit vicious cycles, in which weaker circulation makes everything go downhill – i.e., falling wages, consumption, demand, hiring, tax revenues, government spending, etc. These are destructive flows, ones that erode system health.

Both vicious and virtuous cycles have occurred in various economies at various times and under various economic theories and policy pressures. But, for the last 30 years, the global economy in general and the American economy in particular has witnessed a strange combination pattern in which prosperity is booming for CEOs and Wall Street speculators, while the rest of the economy – particularly workers, the middle class, and small businesses – have undergone a particularly vicious cycle. Productivity has grown massively, but wages have stagnated. Consumption has remained reasonably high because, in an effort to maintain their standard of living, working people have: 1) added hours, becoming two-income families, often with two and even three jobs per person; and 2) increased household debt. Inequality has skyrocketed because effective tax rates on the 1% have dropped (notwithstanding a partial reversal under Obama), while their income and profits have risen steeply.

We should care about this kind of inequality because history shows that too much concentration of wealth at the top, and too much stagnation everywhere else indicate an economy nearing collapse. For example, as Reich shows (Figure 1a & b), both the crashes of 1928 and 2007 followed on the heels of peaks in which the top 1% owned 25% of the country's total wealth.

Fig. 3a Income Share of U.S. Top 1% (Reich, 2013) & 3b Reich notes that the two peaks look like a suspension bridge, with highs followed by precipitous drops. (Original Source: Piketty & Saez, 2003)

What accounts for this strange mix of increasing concentration at the top and increasing malaise everywhere else? Putting aside the parallels to 1929 for a moment, most common explanations for today's situation include: the rise of technology which makes many jobs obsolete; and globalization which puts incredible pressures on companies to lower wages and outsource jobs to compete against low-wage workers around the world.

But, while technology and globalization are clearly creating transformative pressures, neither of these factors completely explains our current situation. Yes, technology makes many jobs obsolete, but it also creates many new jobs. Yet, where the German, South Korean and Norwegian governments invest in educating their workforce to fill those new jobs, the American government has been cutting back on education for decades. A similar thought holds for globalization. Yes, high-volume industrialism – that is, head-to-head competition over price of mass-produced, uniform goods – leads to a race to the bottom; that's been known for a long time. But in The Work of Nations (2010), Robert Reich also points out that the companies that are flourishing through globalization and technology are ones pursuing what he calls high-value capitalism, the high-quality customization of goods and services that can't be duplicated by mass-produced uniformity at cheap places around the world.

So, while the impacts of globalization and technology are profound, the real explanation for inequality lies primarily with an economic belief that, intentionally or not, serves to concentrate wealth at the top by extracting it from everywhere else. This belief system is called variously neoliberalism, Reaganomics, the Chicago School, and trickle-down economics. It is easily recognized by its signature ideas: deregulation; privatization; cut taxes on the rich; roll back environmental protections; eliminate unions; and impose austerity on the public. The idea was that liberating market forces would cause a rising tide that lifted all boats, but the only boat that actually rose was that of the .01%. Meanwhile, instability has grown.

The impact this belief system has had on the American economy and its capacities can be seen in American education. Trickle-down theories are all about cutting taxes on the wealthy, which means less money for public education, more young people burdened with huge college debt, and fewer American workers who can fill the new high-tech jobs.

To be fair, this process is not just about greed. Most of the people who participate in this economic debacle do not realize its danger because they believed what they were told by the saints and sages of economics, and many are rewarded for following its principles. So, what really causes the kind of inequality that drives economies toward collapse? The basic answer from the science of flow is: economic necrosis. But, let me flesh out the story.

Institutional economists talk about two main types of economic strategies: extractive and solution-seeking. (Hopefully, these names are self-explanatory.) Most economies contain both. But, if the extractive forces become too powerful, they begin to use their power to rig the rules of the economic game to favor themselves. This creates what scientists call a positive feedback loop, one in which "the more you have, the more you get." Seen in many kinds of systems, this loop creates a powerful pull that sucks resources to the top, and drains it away from the rest of the system causing necrosis. For example, chemical runoff into the Gulf of Mexico accelerates algae growth. This creates an escalating, "the more you have, the more you get" process, in which massive algae growth sucks up all the oxygen in the surrounding area, killing all of the nearby sea life (fish, shrimp, etc.) and creating a large "dead zone."

Neoliberal economics set up a parallel situation by allowing the wealthy to use their money to extract ever more money from the overall economy. The uber-wealthy grow wealthier by:

    Paying for policy favors – big corporate bailouts and subsidies; lobbying; etc. Removing constraints on dangerous behavior – removing environmental protections; not prosecuting financial fraud offenders; ending Glass-Steagall, etc. Increasing the public's vulnerability – increasing monopolistic power by diminishing antitrust regulations; limiting the public's ability to sue big corporations; limiting Medicare's ability to negotiate for lower pharmaceutical rates; limiting bankruptcy for student loans, etc. Increasing their own intake – rising CEO salaries and escalating Wall Street gambling; and limiting their own outflows – externalizing costs, cutting worker wages and lowering their own taxes.

All of these processes help the already rich concentrate more, and circulate less. In flow terms, therefore, gross inequality indicates a system that has: 1) too much concentration and too little circulation; and 2) an imbalance of wealth and power that is likely to create ever more extraction, concentration, unaccountability, and abuse. This process accelerates until the underlying human network becomes exhausted and/or the ongoing necrosis reaches a point of collapse. When this point is reached, the society will have three choices: learn, regress, or collapse.

What then shall we do? Obviously, we need to improve our "solution seeking" behavior in realms from business and finance to politics and media. Much of this is already taking place. From socially-responsible business and alternative forms of ownership, to democratic reform groups, alternative media, and the new economy movement – reforms are arising on all sides.

But, the solutions we need are also often blocked by the forces we are trying to overcome, and impeded by the massive merry-go-round momentum of "business as usual." Today's reforms also lack power because they are taking place piecemeal, in a million separate spots with very little cross-group unity.

How do we overcome these obstacles? The science of flow offers not so much a specific strategy, as an empowering change of perspective. In essence, it provides a more effective way to think about the processes we see every day.

The dynamics explained above are very well known; they are basic physics, just like the law of gravity. Applying them to today's economic debates can be extremely helpful because the latter have devolved into ideological debates devoid of any scientific foundation.

We believe Regenerative Economics can provide a unifying framework capable of galvanizing a wide array of reform groups by clarifying the picture of what makes societies healthy. But, this framework will only serve if it is backed by accurate theory and effective measures and practice. This soundness is part of what Capital Institute and RARE are trying to develop.

55 0 0 3 11 This entry was posted in Banana republic , CEO compensation , Doomsday scenarios , Economic fundamentals , Guest Post , Income disparity , The destruction of the middle class on February 18, 2017 by Yves Smith . Subscribe to Post Comments 69 comments Disturbed Voter , February 18, 2017 at 6:18 am

System Dynamics of Steve Keene is clearly more useful than equilibrium dogma. He predicted the 2008 crash, though I think he was only lucky .. modeling is always only good for interpolation, never for extrapolation, unless you are lucky enough to only be dealing with linear changes over time.

Spencer , February 18, 2017 at 7:02 am

POSTED: Dec 13 2007 06:55 PM |
The Commerce Department said retail sales in Oct 2007 increased by 1.2% over Oct 2006, & up a huge 6.3% from Nov 2006.
10/1/2007,,,,,,,-0.47,,,,,,, -0.22 * temporary bottom
11/1/2007,,,,,,, 0.14,,,,,,, -0.18
12/1/2007,,,,,,, 0.44,,,,,,,-0.23
1/1/2008,,,,,,, 0.59,,,,,,, 0.06
2/1/2008,,,,,,, 0.45,,,,,,, 0.10
3/1/2008,,,,,,, 0.06,,,,,,, 0.04
4/1/2008,,,,,,, 0.04,,,,,,, 0.02
5/1/2008,,,,,,, 0.09,,,,,,, 0.04
6/1/2008,,,,,,, 0.20,,,,,,, 0.05
7/1/2008,,,,,,, 0.32,,,,,,, 0.10
8/1/2008,,,,,,, 0.15,,,,,,, 0.05
9/1/2008,,,,,,, 0.00,,,,,,, 0.13
10/1/2008,,,,,,, -0.20,,,,,,, 0.10 * possible recession
11/1/2008,,,,,,, -0.10,,,,,,, 0.00 * possible recession
12/1/2008,,,,,,, 0.10,,,,,,, -0.06 * possible recession
Trajectory as predicted:
BERNANKE SHOULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING. IN DEC. 2007 I COULD.

Disturbed Voter , February 18, 2017 at 10:39 am

With a simple spreadsheet projection of flows one can see a lot, without fancy mathematics, using just simple difference equation models, even models that display cyclical behavior. For example, with any internal software development, the quantity of legacy applications increase as they are created, unless retirement of legacy applications is more rapid.

More often replacement occurs, rather than actual retirement. But retirement of legacy applications is harder than you might think, because of real dependency one can't retire them by fiat. The cost of maintaining legacy applications, isn't zero. So with a fixed software development/maintenance budget, the percentage of expenditures to legacy applications approaches saturation, even without figuring in the cost of replacement (similar to the rolling over of loans vs retiring of loans). Short term maintenance using patches, can only continue for so long, eventually wholesale replacement is necessary.

Usually the only way to retire a legacy application is to produce a newer and more expensive application, that itself has higher maintenance costs. We dig the problem well deeper. Thus the exponential decay of funds available for new development, or replacement development, not only strangles new initiatives, but even strangles the ability to maintain operations long term. That is why there are still millions of lines of Cobol still working every day.

There is no free lunch, entropy reigns unless countered by new forms of initiative. Usually the end result is an extension and dilution of the problem, which then resumes decay on a larger scale. This is what happens with the attempt to allay insurance costs by ever larger pools, but there is a limit to the size of the pool, once that limit is reached, the gambit no longer works. Long term problems overwhelm short term solutions.

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg , February 18, 2017 at 1:28 pm

That's Joseph Tainters rap if I remember it right.

Disturbed Voter , February 18, 2017 at 1:33 pm

An exponentially increasing real economy covers all sins. In absence of that, an exponentially increasing debt economy covers all sins, temporarily because interest has a way of catching up with you. See Greece.

Mattski , February 18, 2017 at 6:38 pm

"An exponentially increasing real economy covers all sins." Not if you're Mother Nature–or maybe only for another 10-40 years.

kimsarah , February 18, 2017 at 9:17 pm

Banks turned off the money spigot to developers by the start of '07, if I recall. Developers and policy makers knew then there was a recession, but the public was kept in the dark. After the market crash, the consumers were punished instead of the Wall Street looters.

John , February 19, 2017 at 7:23 am

The only people who predicted the crisis were a handful of post-Keynesians and Marxists. I'm more familiar with the work of the latter, but for them it wasn't luck. They identified structural problems with the economy that could not be fixed by simply utilizing stabilizers (fiscal/monetary policy) and knew a massive crisis would occur once the bubbles popped and exposed the real economy's underlying weakness. Some believed that this crisis was the result of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and simultaneous downturns in the business cycle and the profit cycle. I think the more convincing view is that low profit rates in the manufacturing sector caused by a global crisis of overproduction/under-utilization of capacity has meant that the real economy has been weak since the 70's and that growth since then has come from asset bubbles (Japanese real estate in the 80's, US stock market in the 90's, US real estate in the 00's). These are problems that no amount of fiscal stimulus can fix in the long run.

Spencer , February 18, 2017 at 6:58 am

The author briefly touched on it. It's ALL about the circular flow of savings. And the flow's stopped beginning in 1981, though really in 1966 (also Larry Summer's start of secular strangulation). That's why N-gDp decelerated and there was a 35 year bull market in bonds.

You have to retain the capacity, like Albert Einstein, to hold two thoughts in your mind simultaneously – "to be puzzled when they conflicted, and to marvel when he could smell an underlying unity". "People like you and me never grow old", he wrote a friend later in life. "We never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born".

The smartest man to walk on earth was Leland Pritchard, Ph.D. Chicago, 1933, Economics, MS, Syracuse, statistics.

All bank-held savings originate, and are impounded and ensconced, within the commercial banking system. Say what? Yes, the CBs do not loan out existing deposits, saved or otherwise. The CBs always create new money whenever they lend/invest (loans + investments = deposits). Thus bank-held savings are un-used and un-spent. They are lost to both consumption and investment. From the standpoint of an individual bank, the institution is an intermediary (micro-economics), however, from the standpoint of the collective system of member banks (macro-economics), the institution is a deposit taking, money creating, financial institution, DFI.

The upshot is profound. The welfare of the CBs is dependent upon the welfare of the non-banks (the CB's customers). I.e., money (savings) flowing through the NBs never leaves the CB system. Consequently the expansion of "saved" deposits, in whatever deposit classification, adds nothing to a total commercial bank's liabilities, assets, or earning assets (nor the forms of these earning assets). And the cost of maintaining interest-bearing deposit accounts is greater, dollar for dollar, than the cost of maintaining non-interest-bearing demand deposits. Interest collectively for the commercial banking system, is its' largest expense item (and thus its' size isn't necessarily synonymous with its profitability).

This is the source of the pervasive error (and our social unrest, e.g., higher murder rates), that characterizes the sui generis Keynesian economics (the Gurley-Shaw thesis), that there is no difference between money and liquid assets.

Spencer , February 18, 2017 at 7:34 am

The CBs & NBs have a symbiotic relationship. And so do the have's and have not's. Unless the upper quintile's savings are expeditiously activated, a corrosive degenerative economic impact is subsequently fostered.

The Golden Era in U.S. economics (Les trente glorieuses) was where democratized pooled savings were expeditiously activated (put back to work) and matched with real-investment, non-inflationary, outlets by the thrifts, MSBs, CUs, and S&Ls (principally investments in long-term residential mortgages). And in the good ol days, we had gov't incentivized, FSLIC safety nets for non-bank conduits. Now we only have FDIC safety nets for the commercial bank clientele (which further retards savings velocity).

I.e., "risk on" is not higher FDIC insurance coverage (the FDIC formally modified the assessment base in 2011 to include all bank liabilities – which along with the LCR, contracted the E-$ market), not increased Basel bank capital adequacy provisioning (which literally destroys the money stock), not an increased FDIC assessment fee on 1/1/2007, or 4/1/2009, or 4/1/2011, or an increased churn in speculative stock purchases (the transfer of ownership in existing assets).

digi_owl , February 18, 2017 at 7:39 am

"uses recent scientific advances – specifically, the physics of flow[2″

Ye deities

craazyman , February 18, 2017 at 7:53 am

This post laudably critiques wealth inequality, but it suffers from the "Newtonia Delusion" that confuses economic thought in general through metaphorical malapropism.

Physcial systems possess a determinism and time-invariant structure that enables mathematical modelling. Economic systems are cultural artificacts that are not time-invariant. Money is a cultural construct, a form of social imagination and lacks any sort of deterministic attributes. Newtonian metaphors of flow and accumulation restrict analytical illlumination even though they enable quick and simple calculation.

Money is only one form of a "coordinate system" that enables the measurement of forms of social interaction and cooperation. And it's one-dimensional. This makes it useful given its parsimonious simplicity but it badly restricts complete explanatory power. Physicists know the choice of a coordinate systems influences measurements of phenomenon, and they developed math techniques to neutralize that influence - I think use of tensors in relativity is one example. Economics relies on "money" and resultant ideas of "growth" or 'recessionn" because that's all it knows how to do.

First, what does "collapse" mean in the context of the post. The word is vague, undefined and subject to a multitude of interpretations - that's not "scientific" at all. "Wealth" is also vague. Presumably it means possession of assets that can be converted into money, so in effect is uses "money" as a sole coordinate basis, and that's reasonable as a form of dimensional reduction, but it fails to measure the implied asset value of any sort of social safety net available to those without assets. That's no rationale for inequality - and anybody wants a job more than a safety net - but it's a logical flaw. Third, the nature of economic structures and cultural relations isn't easily quantifiable or translateable into money; living in a just, fair and inclusive society has an intrinsic value that defies easy measurement through the "money basis". Measuring relies instead on application of a sense of justice and honest sensibility.

It would be bettter to start analysis with a non-monetary vision of the social rights any citizen of a community should have access to. This form of thinking in fact was the normal and dominant form over most of human history, when people lived in non-monetary tribal structures. And what their implied responsibilities are to gain that accesss. Use that as a time-invariant basis and then introduce money but only as one method of measurement of economic change, there could be other social indicators that might be used as coordinate systems too; use of these could result in very different measurements of ecoonomic phenomeenon than result with the money basiis. That would force the sort of thinking that's required for analytical clarity and ompleteness, but that doesn't exist in economics

(See I can bang out a comment that doesn't mention jungle boogie butts or hot women! Calling women hot isn't bad, as long as it's respectful and flattering and inclusive. Women in general are hot! What do you want? to live in a world full of gay guys or what? Hahaha. Sorry I can't help it.)

Steve H. , February 18, 2017 at 11:46 am

Turchin has been working on proxies, to get some measures of well-being and political instability. One measure of social rights could be the right to live, so life expectancy could be used. Dead is dead and is a hard number. Chicago police historically have a different criteria of what my rights are than I do, so the ecological measures can avoid such definitional fuzziness.

Another Turchin point relevant to the post is that in-group variance is only meaningful used as a multiplier of in-group selection, and in context of other groups. Extreme inequality does not necessarily cause economic collapse, and coherent elites consistently crush popular revolts. The "the more you have, the more you get" feedback loop can also be seen as a consolidation and success of a certain trait ("rich"), and a re-sort of within-group dynamics (national citizenry) to between-group dynamics (haves & nots).

(Also, economics does not concern itself with ompleteness, as rational actors cannot be omplete, and an agent who is omplete often withdraws from economic systems.)

Vedant Desai , February 18, 2017 at 1:03 pm

I believe that biggest problem in economics is not the dogma created by money(though its a problem of Course) , but rather biggest problem is lack of a clearly defined goal. "Economic development" ,which is generally termed as goal of economics , is very ambiguous and this ambiguity is creating problems.

susan the other , February 18, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Thanks Craazy – that was very coherent. more please.

UserFriendly , February 18, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Physcial systems possess a determinism and time-invariant structure that enables mathematical modelling. Economic systems are cultural artificacts that are not time-invariant.

Very, very few physical systems involve time invariant modeling. Almost every physical system represented by a mathematical model describes how that system changes with time. Otherwise it wouldn't be a very useful model. Few things can be said to be at steady state and even when they are it is usually a simplification, not an outgrowth of time invariance. For example a chemical reaction A + B-> C at rate k1 and C -> A + B at rate k2 is said to be at equilibrium (steady state) when k1=-k2. Even at steady state the reaction is proceeding in both directions and can be thrown out of equilibrium by a change in concentration, temperature, volume, or any host of other factors. After the shock the system will again tend towards an equilibrium but there is no requirement that the new equilibrium be the same as the last one. And all the equations that describe how we went from equilibrium 1 to 2 all involve time. Neoclassical morons obsessed with equilibrium seam to be confused by this and assume time is irrelevant and that full employment will always return.

Economists are pretty much the only people I see that try to use time invariant models. I think it is a great step forward that economists like Keen have been trying to use the full spectrum of time variant models. The fact that the models are relatable to models of other physical systems is more an outgrowth of calculous than anything else.

craazyman , February 18, 2017 at 3:06 pm

I actually was out today doing stuff & plan to go star gazing tonite!

What I meant is the equations that map the movement of the moon and planets or heat diffusion or chemical reactions or sound propagation worked in November 1887 the same way they'll work in July 2020.

Of course experimental measurements change through time, depending on the phenomenon being measured. But the natural phenomenon modeled by the equations themselves are time invariant as are the equations, or science wouldn't work. That's why they're called natural laws.

UserFriendly , February 18, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Ah. You mean Frame Invariant , not time invariant.

craazyman , February 18, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Timeframe invariant! :-)

H. Alexander Ivey , February 19, 2017 at 3:25 am

Now wait a minute here. While I appreciate getting my terms correct and such – frame invariant, yeah, that's what I need to know – craazyman is a gift not to be distracted or encouraged wrongly. Yes, his posting clarified the great lie of most economic theory and its teaching and modeling, but his calling is greater than that. "jungle boogie butts or hot women" are rare on this site and should not be lightly diverted. Not that I'm implying that our hostess or commentators of the female persuasion aren't "hot women" or that jungle boogie butts aren't finance, economics, politics, or power, but based on past personal history, if I tried a craazyman, or even a craazyboy, posting, I would be forever marked as hopeless.

Ruben , February 19, 2017 at 12:36 am

Physical systems can be time-variant in that way too, it's called a regime shift. We have observed that in several real natural systems. In some cases apparent randomness actually is very complicated but fully deterministic dynamics. Look up "bifurcation diagram". Mathematical analysis can deal with that too.

Instead of the monetary system and flow, the analysis of human populations, including the production and exchange of the fruits of their labour, should start with the amount of cooperation as the driving variable (or coordinate as you prefer to say)?

Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

Sam F , February 18, 2017 at 8:01 am

Odd that education investment is shown in the article as part of the loop between employment and consumer spending. That is a very slow regenerative path compared with the direct effect of employment, spending, and labor demand.

The article wastes time extolling circulation merely because it resembles that in natural systems such as tigers, but these do not necessarily serve human interests. It benefits most people simply because they need the inputs and outputs.

oho , February 18, 2017 at 9:10 am

>>> But this sounds an awful lot like a new improved version of system dynamics,

One of the board members from Capital Institute (sounds like the "Human Fund") is from Soros-backed the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

And Soros loves reflexivity, which is basically repackaged system dynamics.

not being aluminum foil-y. just interesting how Soros has his fingers in so many pots.

http://capitalinstitute.org/board/

oho , February 18, 2017 at 9:12 am

just institute a progressive tax on bank assets above-say-$700 billion. would literally only affect a handful of banks and do much to rein in the seize of the megabanks.

oh wait, all these banks are blue state banks (JPM, C, WFC, BAC) and friends w/Schumer, Pelosi and Uncle Warren owns big chunks in WFC and AXP.

Sound of the Suburbs , February 18, 2017 at 9:41 am

Capitalism is a balance between supply and demand but we only put in half a system.

1) Money at the top is mainly investment capital as those at the top can already meet every need, want or whim. It is supply side capital.

2) Money at bottom is mainly consumption capital and it will be spent on goods and services. It is
demand side capital.

Marx noted the class struggle between the two sides that neither can win, to do so destroys the system, either supply or demand will cease to exist.

The balance has yet to be recognised and we flick between the two sides until everything crashes into the end stops.

Before the 1930s – Supply Side, Neoclassical Economics

By the 1920s, productivity has reached a stage where supply exceeds demand and extensive advertising is required to manufacture the demand for the excess supply.

Taxes are lowered on the wealthy and there is an excess of investment capital which pours into the US stock market. The banks get in on the act and use margin lending to fuel this boom in US stocks.

There is a shortage of consumption capital and the necessary consumption can only be maintained with debt.

1929 – Wall Street Crash

The investment capital was used to blow an asset bubble and not for productive investment, it all ends in tears. The Great Depression is the debt deflation that follows from an economy saturated with debt.

After the 1930s – Demand Side, Keynesian Economics

The New Deal starts the turnaround of the US economy and after the Second World War there is the Golden Age of the 1950s and 1960s. Redistributive capitalism looks after the demand side of the equation.

With the target of full employment, the unions start to abuse their power and by the 1970s we enter into stagflation. There is a shortage of investment capital and demand exceeds supply leading to inflation, there is not enough investment capital to redress the balance.

After the 1980s – Supply Side, Neoclassical Economics

Taxes are lowered on the wealthy and there is an excess of investment capital which pours into various different asset classes and the first round of crashes occur in the late 1980s. Leading to an early 1990s recession.

There is a shortage of consumption capital and the necessary consumption can only be maintained with debt.

After the early 1990s recession the speculative, investment capital look for another bubble to blow and finds the new dot.com companies.

Housing booms take off around the world, a speculative bubble for everyone to get involved with and the UK and Japan have already been through their first boom/bust by 1989.

Wall Street get's into 1920s mode and leverages up the speculative bubble that is occurring there.

2008 – Wall Street Crash

The West is laid low and growth is concentrated in the East but they start to use debt to keep things running.

Even with the Central Banker's best efforts the global economy falls into the new normal of secular stagnation, the debt repayments are a constant drag on the global economy.

2017 – World's eight richest people have same wealth as poorest 50%

All that investment capital with almost nowhere to invest due to the lack of demand.

We just swing from the supply side, to the demand side and back again until we crash into the end stops.

We could recognise the system requires a balance between supply and demand.

Jabawocky , February 18, 2017 at 1:58 pm

An interesting idea, which adds economics itself to the dynamics of the economic system.

susan the other , February 18, 2017 at 2:14 pm

a balance in real time, not over decades with crashes and booms harder to do globally than nationally which is prolly why nationalism is rising it was China imploding c. 2008 that brought the growth of the global economy to a stop, I read somewhere .anyway the growth-forever premise of globalism was nuts. Not even the push for austerity by the neoliberals could make the required adjustments – and not for lack of trying. Yes a new balance (good shoes ;-) is what we need. One that understands the old saying 'form follows function' and create a functioning economy, the scaffold of a new sustainable human society. One in which banking actually follows the economy.

Sound of the Suburbs , February 18, 2017 at 5:39 pm

Bankers should be servants of the real economy and nothing more.

flow5 , February 19, 2017 at 11:28 am

It's not a math error, it's an accounting error. It wasn't precipitated as Alan Greenspan pontificated in his book "The Map and the Territory", viz., FDR's Social Security Act. It wasn't Nixon who introduced "indexing". It wasn't because from 1959 to 1966 the federal gov'ts net savings was in a rare surplus. It wasn't because between 1965 & 2012 total gross domestic savings (as a percent of gDp) declined from 22% to 13% (9 percentage points).

No, the New York Times sobriquet, the "Three-Card Maestro's" error, like all other Keynesian economists, is the macro-economic persuasion that maintains a commercial bank is a financial intermediary (conduit between savers and borrowers matching savings with investment):

Greenspan: "Much later came the evolution of finance, an increasingly sophisticated system that enabled savers to hold liquid claims (deposits) with banks and other financial intermediaries. Those claims could be invested by banks in in financial instruments that, in turn, represented the net claims against the productivity enhancing tools of a complex economy. Financial intermediation was born"

Or Ben Bernanke in his book "The Courage to Act": "Money is fungible. One dollar is like any other".

"I adapted this general idea to show how, by affecting banks' loanable funds, monetary policy could influence the supply of intermediated credit" (Bernanke and Blinder, 1988)."

For example, although banks and other intermediaries no longer depend exclusively on insured deposits for funding, nondeposit sources of funding are likely to be relatively more expensive than deposits"

The first channel worked through the banking system By developing expertise in gathering relevant information, as well as by maintaining ongoing relationships with customers, banks and similar intermediaries develop "informational capital."

"that the failure of financial institutions in the Great Depression increased the cost of financial intermediation and thus hurt borrowers" (Bernanke [1983b]).

A herding started by William McChesney Martin Jr, that thought "banks actually pick up savings and pass them out the window, that they are intermediaries in the true sense of the word."

From the standpoint of an individual bank (micro-economics), a bank is an intermediary, however, from the standpoint of the entire economy, the system process (macro-economics), a bank is a deposit taking, money creating, financial institution.

The promulgation of commercial bank interest rate deregulation (banks introducing liability management, buying their liquidity, instead of following the old fashioned practice of storing their liquidity), i.e., the removal of Reg. Q ceilings (the non-banks were already deregulated until 1966), by the oligarch – the ABA, (public enemy #1), or an increasing proportion of time to transaction deposits liabilities within the DFIs, metastasized stagflation and secular strangulation. Remunerating IBDDs exacerbates this phenomenon (as subpar R-gDp illustrates).

I.e., every time a commercial bank buys securities from, or makes loans to, the non-bank public it creates new money – deposit liabilities, somewhere in the system. I.e., deposits are the result of lending, and not the other way around. Bank-held savings are un-used and un-spent. They are lost to both consumption and investment. Unless savings are expeditiously activated outside of the system (and all savings originate within the payment's system), thru non-bank conduits, said savings exert a dampening economic impact (destroying saving's velocity & thus AD). I.e., savings flowing thru the non-banks, never leaves the CB system.

LT , February 19, 2017 at 12:28 am

I've never believed a country joining the casino economy was a sign of strength.

Sound of the Suburbs , February 19, 2017 at 5:36 am

Debt based consumption is always unsustainable, people max. out on debt.

Greece was happy with debt based consumption until it maxed. out on debt.

Anything that relies on debt based consumption in the long term can only fail.

Neoliberalism relies on debt based consumption, it works until it doesn't.

witters , February 18, 2017 at 5:36 pm

"With the target of full employment, the unions start to abuse their power."

Yeah, sure.

Actually full employment is experienced by capital as an abuse of its power.

Here is Kalecki in 1943 explaining beforehand how this generates neoliberalism.

http://delong.typepad.com/kalecki43.pdf

tongorad , February 18, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Yes, I'd like to see what this abuse of union power looked like. Any evidence of this?
Landlords and bosses were reduced to beggars?

PhilM , February 18, 2017 at 10:13 am

Craazyman says it all, but I have to say it too, just for my own mental health.

How often do social "scientists" have to make this same mistake? Biology is not physics, and human society is biology, and economics is not even close to accurately describing human society, not even the economics part of it.

Equilibria are achieved, and thermodynamic laws obeyed, on much greater and on much smaller scales than an economy, which is not even a system, per se. Life is anti-entropic, but the universe, the solar system, is not. Communities are not "social networks." Terry Pratchett as usual brings common sense to bear on metaphors like this. Metaphor, you know, using words to convey something like the truth, but not exactly: "Oh, so it's a lie, then."

Vedant Desai , February 18, 2017 at 12:50 pm

How economy is not a system?

Jabawocky , February 18, 2017 at 2:07 pm

You have just lost me. Of course economics is a complex system but it is a system nonetheless. Wynne Godley's sectoral balance model is an excellent example of a systems approach to economics, and it's precisely the systems peoperties that attract me to it. MMT is a systems approach by design and easily approached mathematically in that way if desired. I have often considered how I would do it but no doubt there is someone more able to do it than me.

The bonus of a systems approach would be the possibility of a multitude of possible equilibrium states, some could be fixed, some oscillatory if they include feedback with delay.

The author could also consider adding futile cycles to her list of cycles, long recognised by biochemists.

PhilM , February 19, 2017 at 4:10 am

Craazyman says it above. A "system of pulleys" is a system. A "solar system" is a system. A galaxy, a liter of sodium bicarbonate solution under defined temperature and pressure conditions, these are systems. How is "economics" a system? What is it even a system of? Can you define the parameters of even one of the aspects of economics in some way that does not "leak energy" through every other aspect of human activity, which is not accounted for in some way by the "system" of economics? You can try, but you can't do it. That is why economics is scientific just like astrology: it describes and explains everything, but its only prediction is more jobs for its practitioners.

Foppe , February 19, 2017 at 6:28 am

There are "closed" and "open" systems. The behavior of the former can be modeled and understood; the latter, less so (possible only to some extent, and heavily dependent on the intellectual framework that you bring to the table).

Jabawocky , February 19, 2017 at 7:24 am

My experience is opposite. Usually in systems approaches most of the detail can be ignored until it becomes important. They do not require knowing the details of the system, instead they try to simplify as far as is practical. Systems approaches attempt to infer micro from gross macro behaviour. This is fundentally opposite to orthodox economics. Godley's model illustrates this well. You don't need to know details about every transaction because parameters for aggregated transactions can be inferred from macro data. You don't need to assume anything about motivations of individuals or firms, but if necessary you could try to infer them.

PhilM , February 19, 2017 at 12:28 pm

I clearly need to go and do reading on open systems, because understanding them makes for a richer intellectual life, like poetry, or skimming rocks. For me, the chafing starts when people try to apply a rigorous, mathematically based scientifically accepted reproducible set of theories like those of fluid dynamics (itself by no means fully elaborated) to a field where the described system cannot be even be defined by consensus.

What, for instance, exactly constitutes an "economic system," or a "system of economics," or an "economy"? Where is the universally accepted definition of something even as basic as money, a definition with scientific reliability, like the definition of an atom in 1930? They just aren't there. You can tell me yours, but it will not be the same as his, or hers. If real scientists behaved that way, there could be no breakthroughs: without a definition, there is nothing even solid enough to break through.

And by scientific, I just have to fall back on Popper, however old-fashioned that may seem. The propositions of economics, like those of astrology and sociology, and also of human nutrition, and so many other fields flogged by their practitioners, remain unaccompanied by experimental methodologies that result in reliable predictions of reproducible results. They are therefore prolific with unfalsifiable claims. They are, therefore, fraudulent at worst and noisy at best, at a time where the direction of the public discourse is increasingly controlled by central authorities with agendas. A signal among the noise is harder and harder to distinguish without the further impediment of additional publish-or-perish verbiage which will be, more often than not, weaponized by an interest group, if that was not actually the reason for its creation to begin with.

Systematizers of non-scientific systems are either virtuous "pre-scientists" or frauds. What they claim as the wider social value of their work is the discriminating test. Alchemy and astrology of yore ultimately evolved into chemistry and astronomy, without actually contributing much information as such: but without the need to make magic or gold from powders, alembics, crucibles, and retorts, those tools moved into hands directed by serious, patient minds, where they produced useful and reliable information. (Not that circus entertainment, handwaving, and noise were not great disseminators and motivators of science, and remain so today!)

Until the dynamics of human society and psychology have been fully described by anthropology, there will not be a "fundamental atomic theory" for Economics to use to underpin its scientific pretensions. It still rests completely on demonstrably untrue assumptions, rules that can be proven not to apply to human behavior. Most recently, the use of the "normal curve" as generally applicable to economic "systems," because of its near-universal employment in statistics, had catastrophic results. This was easily predicted by anyone who has worked with the normal curve; the Central Limit Theorem that underpins the normal curve assumes that the assembled variables are independent, not related functions of each other; and this is obviously not so in any human activity. So much of the use of the normal curve is nothing more than hand-waving hocus-pocus.

No serious reputable historian would claim any longer to be a scientist, and if he did, he would be no true Scotsman, either. But then, despite what I seem to be doing on these forums, neither would a professionally trained historian think to dictate public policy by appealing to the systematic rigor of his craft.

Economists today should modestly retreat from their claims to exercise any influence on public policy and direct their efforts elaborating a true science. I believe that may never happen; and I personally fear the unintended consequences that will result from the political use of the kind of knowledge about human motivations and collective activity that will be required to bring it about; maybe less, however, than I fear nuclear war or planetary desolation through aggressive environmental destruction, which may be the alternative outcomes to that kind of advance.

Bam_Man , February 18, 2017 at 10:16 am

"Flow Dynamics" of Money Supply are a BIG tell.
Velocity of MZM Money Supply (Money of Zero Maturity) is falling like a rock and at an ALL-TIME low.

flow5 , February 19, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Money velocity falls because more and more savings are impounded and ensconced within the payment's system. This started in 1981 with the plateau in deposit financial innovation, the widespread introduction of ATS, NOW, and MMDA accounts. Thus money velocity, formally a monetary offset, started decelerating dropping N-gDp with it (and producing the 35 year bull market in bonds).

This should be evident with the remuneration of IBDDs beginning in Oct. 2008. I.e., the 1966 S&L credit crunch is the economic paradigm and precursor (lack of funds, not their cost). The "complete evaporation of liquidity" on 8/9/2007 for BNP Paribas, "runs on ABCP money funds", "shortage of safe, liquid, assets", "the funding crunch forced fire sales", "efforts to replace funding that had evaporated in the panic", i.e., non-bank dis-intermediation (an outflow of funds or negative cash flow).

"Our goal was to increase the supply of short-term funding to the shadow banking system"
Ben Bernanke, August 10, 2007:

"Our goal is to provide liquidity not to support asset prices per se in any way. My understanding of the market's problem is that price discovery has been inhibited by the illiquidity of the subprime-related assets that are not trading, and nobody knows what they're worth, and so there's a general freeze-up. The market is not operating in a normal way. The idea of providing liquidity is essentially to give the market some ability to do the appropriate repricing it needs to do and to begin to operate more normally. So it's a question of market functioning, not a question of bailing anybody out."

I.e., Bankrupt u Bernanke doesn't know a credit from a debit. Bad Ben was solely responsible for the world-wide GR. My "market zinger" forecast of Dec. 2012 foretold of the expiration of unlimited transaction deposit insurance (putting savings back to work), not a "taper tantrum, not budget "sequestration".

Jesper , February 18, 2017 at 10:17 am

Seems like a sales-pitch to the 1% trying to convince the 1% that sharing would be good .. I have my doubts about that strategy, the 1% respects power and care very little (if anything at all) for the common good. Use the power of the many in an democracy and force through the needed changes.

Disturbed Voter , February 18, 2017 at 10:45 am

Continuing the model of a firm that requires software to function. If the executives of the firm keep taking expensive vacations at the expense of the firm, starving the software development/maintenance department of resources .. then even if there were no other systemic problems, the firm will fail (unless bailed out by a greater entity, as happened in 2008/2009). But in the end, who will be big enough, after we have extended the risk pool to the entire planet, to bail out the planet, from foolish management? I would suggest that the Roman Empire failed because it was unable to overcome either long term systemic trends, nor irresponsible management.

Robert NYC , February 18, 2017 at 11:11 am

Inequality is directly correlated to corruption and the U.S. has an exceeding corrupt political economy, hence the extreme inequality. Germany and Japan, to take two prime examples, are part of the same global system and are subject to the same forces, technology, corporate tax arbitrage strategies, etc but neither of them have any where near the inequality of the U.S. It's also worth noting they don't have financial grifters like Mitt Romney and Steven Schwarzman amongst their most esteemed citizens.

So yes, it is all pretty complicated but at the end of the day the U.S. is one of the most corrupt countries on Earth, certainly the most corrupt of the Western democracies so our problems are no surprise. All this talk about globalization, tax policy, education and technology are all distractions. And that doesn't even begin to touch on the subject of our monetary system which is at the root of the corruption.

Dick Burkhart , February 18, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Right on! – And the corruption is permitted, even encouraged, by the "greed is good" philosophical basis of mainstream economics, and the concentration of both media ownership and campaign finance and lobbying in the hands of the wealthy.

David , February 18, 2017 at 11:15 am

Yes, this does deserve some kind of award for expressing a simple idea in a pointlessly complicated way. When I was studying economics in the paleolithic era, we were taught about the "propensity to consume" – in other words the idea that the poorer you were the more of any extra income you would spend as opposed to save. So if you give everyone on the minimum wage 20% more, then they will probably put it straight back into the economy. If you give billionaires 20% more they probably won't. The more widely wealth is spread, the more of it will be spent. This isn't a scientific law, but it's an observation borne out by common sense.

Gman , February 19, 2017 at 4:06 am

Hallelujah!

Even Henry Ford, not exactly known for his altruism or philanthropy, knew it made sense to give his workers a significant rise so that they could afford the cars they were building for him.

Denis Drew , February 18, 2017 at 11:22 am

I can't read this whole post this morning - but - my one note tune: 6% labor union density in non-gov work is like 20/10 blood pressure : it starves every other healthy process - even while starving the employee herself.

Easy way back: if the 1935 Congress had intended (they didn't) to leave any criminal enforcement of NLRA prohibited union busting to individual states - Congress would not have had to change one word of the NLRA. States in fact were left to make any form of collective bargaining (NLRA connected or not) muscling an economic felony. There is no problem of federal preemption when the area has been left blank.

Nor may the fed force local labor down an impassable road to union organizing - because rules of road unenforceable and unenforced - when a First Amendment protected right is at stake. To state that clearly: the First Amendment is violated when government insists on a mode of action that dismembers freedom of economic association before it starts.

JEHR , February 18, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Sometimes metaphors bring clarity to a vision and sometimes metaphors befuddle: I am befuddled.

heresy101 , February 18, 2017 at 1:27 pm

I'll second that. He is either a scab and Pinkerton employee or provides a confused argument in support of unions?

Grebo , February 18, 2017 at 5:00 pm

I think he's saying more unions are needed, but the Federal Government left it up to the states to stop the union busting, which they have declined to do. The Feds can't enforce union membership or collective bargaining as that would violate the first amendment right to free association.

Denis Drew , February 18, 2017 at 8:50 pm

Let's try again - maybe it was too compressed

[cut-and-paste]
America should feel perfectly free to rebuild labor union density one state at a time - making union busting a felony. Republicans will have no place to hide.

Suppose the 1935 Congress passed the NLRA(a) intending to leave any criminal sanctions for obstructing union organizing to the states. Might have been because NLRB(b) conducted union elections take place local by local (not nationwide) and Congress could have opined states would deal more efficiently with home conditions - or whatever. What extra words might Congress have needed to add to today's actual bill? Actually, today's identical NLRA wording would have sufficed perfectly.

Suppose, again, that under the RLA (Railroad Labor Act - covers railroads and airlines, FedEx) - wherein elections are conducted nationally - that Congress desired to forbid states criminalizing the firing of organizers - how could Congress have worded such a preemption (assuming it was constitutionally valid)? Shouldn't matter to us. Congress did not!

Dick Burkhart , February 18, 2017 at 1:19 pm

"Renewable energy" is obviously the foundation of Regenerative Economics, simply because energy itself is the foundation of all economics (as well as of all life and of the "active" part of the universe). Yet all the focus on renewable energy in recent years has done little or nothing to stop escalating economic inequality.

I think a big thing missing from RARE is a theory and program for power. What we need are institutional values and structures that will keep greed under control without much effort. This means not just getting the incentives right, but also the "political revolution" that will be needed to implement them.

So I think not just about limits-to-growth but about the need for partial universal ownership of all the major sources of wealth, combined with limited stakeholder ownership (fossil fuels, large corporations, etc).

susan the other , February 18, 2017 at 2:39 pm

flow is entropy

HotFlash , February 18, 2017 at 3:26 pm

We believe Regenerative Economics can provide a unifying framework capable of galvanizing a wide array of reform groups by clarifying the picture of what makes societies healthy. But, this framework will only serve if it is backed by accurate theory and effective measures and practice. This soundness is part of what Capital Institute and RARE are trying to develop.

Accuracy of analytical method aside, who will implement it? Who can? Not those 8 dudes with 1/2 the world's wealth.

Hilario , February 18, 2017 at 5:01 pm

And what does extreme economic equality lead to?

witters , February 18, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Give me all your income and wealth and let us find out

Steve Roth , February 19, 2017 at 4:42 am

Not really a salient issue for us at the moment, is it?

Carla , February 19, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Equality–economic or any other kind–cannot be extreme. Equality exists, or it does not.

Temporarily Sane , February 19, 2017 at 8:02 pm

That depends on what kind of inequality you're talking about. Men being paid $10/hr and women $8/hr to perform the same task is an example of "binary" inequality. Either everyone is paid the same wage (before the first performance review anyway) or they are not.

Income inequality is a bit different. If a CEO takes home 20 x more per year than the lowest paid worker in the company income equality is low (way lower than in any modern capitalist economy) if the CEO makes 300 x as much as the lowest paid worker, it is high. Income equality – everyone being paid the same wage regardless of what they're doing to earn it – is not the goal. Rather, it is reducing the gap between the lowest and highest paid members of society.

Scott , February 18, 2017 at 6:31 pm

Only jet settesr get the advantages of civilization at its heights. My own partial solution has been an airport nation that advances flying literacy and availability.
There is an amorphous factor arising out of the defined structure and standard rights afforded travelers & businesses based on a separate airport nation. (I admit this amorphous factor which causes me some presentation problems.)
No human system will function without a common committed belief in it.
Airport movement of people & parcels is simpler to make comprehensive.
For example I have difficulty in attempting to expand passenger service in NC because the corporation Norfolk Southern was given power to inhibit it while getting the advantages of state responsibilities created with a buyout of a rail company state company where it was controlled by shareholders.
A trick was done on us with the collusion of legislators.
We can simply say the RR as analogous is a matured industry to the point of immaturity compared to an international airport accommodating both freighters & passenger airliners.
These things will not directly make an economic theory, but are about economic activity as enabled from basic port theory & the sociology of ports.
For instance I advise women in nations prone to put them at a disadvantage to put business offices on international airports which tend to be more culturally neutral.

Chauncey Gardiner , February 19, 2017 at 12:12 am

Appreciated the author's thought-provoking observations about the effects of extreme concentration of wealth, with its enormous feedback loops and low circulation of money that materially reduce the overall debt servicing capacity of the private sector. But I also felt that she understated the roles that private sector debt growth, central bank monetary policy, asset price speculation and manipulation, and financial fraud have historically played in causing economic collapse.

Gman , February 19, 2017 at 8:38 am

Playing Devil's Advocate I suppose you could argue that there is something Darwinian about the way things are nowadays.

Apex predators are indeed flourishing and in a curious way they are searching further afield and adapting to new 'food sources' as those closer to home become less appealing, less nourishing and less worth the effort of expending the energy trying to exploit, particularly when other tastier morsels are so plentiful and readily available elsewhere.

Maybe we should just all get with the programme, know our places in the grand scheme of things and resign ourselves to our evolutionary fate?

;-)

LT , February 19, 2017 at 12:10 pm

If it's Darwinian, it's an example of artificial selection – nothing natural about it.

Gman , February 19, 2017 at 3:47 pm

'Life is like a box of chocolates. More and more people know what they're gonna git'

Darwin's artificial selection.

St Jacques , February 19, 2017 at 5:20 pm

haha, unfortunately it's the apex predator species that is in danger of sudden extinction as its prey declines. Of course the Darwinian analogy doesn't hold up well because Darwinian selection works on all individuals of a species without distinction. A much better analogy is a rigged game.

Altandmain , February 19, 2017 at 10:09 am

We basically have an economic system where the very rich steal the productive capacity of the rest of us and add it to their own wealth.

That is the dirty not so secret truth. As the Spirit Level demonstrates, inequality is as bad for the rich at times as it can be for the rest of us.

There is also this:
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/04/secret-fears-of-the-super-rich/308419/

Our problem is that the rich really suck. They are greedy and I would not be surprised if many were psychologically diagnosed with anti social personality disorder. They are without integrity and would fight tooth and nail for their pilfered money.

But the status quo is like the Congo under Mobut Sese Seko. It is a society build on kleotocracy. Like any such society, it is inherently unstable with money going to a few.

The late 1960s had problems. The costs of the Vietnamese War, the excess deficit spending, and the dependence on Middle Eastern oil all lead to problems in the 1970s.

Ruben , February 19, 2017 at 12:24 pm

"As Paul Samuelson stressed, that assumption [propensity to equilibrium] is necessary for economics to be science, as in mathed up, and the dominance that economists have achieved is due to their scientific appearances and the fact that their mathematical exposition enables them to dismiss lay critics."

Why? Non-equilibrium is accessible to maths.

In branching systems such the one imagined for monetary flow in this article, growth in the number of nodes at the terminals (and thus necrosis of excess of nodes) is controlled/limited by the number of terminals of the branching, let's call these capillaries, that can be accommodated inside the volume of the whole versus the number of nodes than can be accommodated inside the whole. Since the total number of capillaries grow at a lower rate than the number of nodes as the volume of the whole increases, growth is limited and excess growth in times of higher volume of the whole suffers necrosis when the volume of the whole shrinks.

IHTH

[Feb 19, 2017] International science collaboration growing at astonishing rate: Cross-border studies more than doubled in 15 years

Feb 19, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. : Reply Saturday, February 18, 2017 at 07:11 AM , February 18, 2017 at 07:11 AM
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-02/osu-isc021417.php

PUBLIC RELEASE: 17-FEB-2017

International science collaboration growing at astonishing rate: Cross-border studies more than doubled in 15 years

OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY

BOSTON - Even those who follow science may be surprised by how quickly international collaboration in scientific studies is growing, according to new research.

The number of multiple-author scientific papers with collaborators from more than one country more than doubled from 1990 to 2015, from 10 to 25 percent, one study found. And 58 more countries participated in international research in 2015 than did so in 1990.

"Those are astonishing numbers," said Caroline Wagner, associate professor in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University, who helped conduct these studies.

"In the 20th century, we had national systems for conducting research. In this century, we increasingly have a global system."

Wagner presented her research Feb. 17 in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Even though Wagner has studied international collaboration in science for years, the way it has grown so quickly and widely has surprised even her.

One unexpected finding was that international collaboration has grown in all fields she has studied. One would expect more cooperation in fields like physics, where expensive equipment (think supercolliders) encourages support from many countries. But in mathematics?

"You would think that researchers in math wouldn't have a need to collaborate internationally - but I found they do work together, and at an increasing rate," Wagner said.

"The methods of doing research don't determine patterns of collaboration. No matter how scientists do their work, they are collaborating more across borders."

In a study published online last month in the journal Scientometrics, Wagner and two co-authors (who are both from The Netherlands) examined the growth in international collaboration in six fields: astrophysics, mathematical logic, polymer science, seismology, soil science and virology.

Their findings showed that all six specialties added between 18 and 60 new nations to the list of collaborating partners between 1990 and 2013. In two of those fields, the number of participating nations doubled or more.

The researchers expected astrophysics would grow the most in collaboration, given the need to use expensive equipment. But it was soil science that grew the most, with a 550 percent increase in the links between research groups in different countries in that time period.

"We certainly didn't expect to see soil science have the fastest growth," she said.

"But we saw strong increases in all areas. It appears that all the fields of science that we studied are converging toward similar levels of international activity."

The study found that virology had the highest rate of collaboration, with the most countries involved. "They aren't working together because they need to share expensive equipment. They're collaborating because issues like HIV/AIDS, Ebola and Zika are all international problems and they need to share information across borders to make progress."

Wagner has started a new line of research that attempts to determine how much nations benefit from their scientific work with other countries. For this work, she is looking at all the scientific articles that a nation's scientists published with international collaborators in 2013. She is looking at each article's "impact factor" - a score that measures how much other scientists mentioned that study in their own work.

"How much recognition a study gets from other scientists is a way to measure its importance," Wagner said.

She compared each nation's combined impact factor for its international collaborations to how much money the same country spent on scientific research. This is a way to determine how much benefit in terms of impact each nation gets for the money it spends.

The United States has the highest overall spending and shows proportional returns. However, smaller, scientifically advanced nations are far outperforming the United States in the relationship between spending and impact. Switzerland, the Netherlands and Finland outperform other countries in high-quality science compared to their investment. China is significantly underperforming its investment.

Wagner said this isn't the only way to measure how a country is benefiting from international science collaboration. But it can be one way to determine how efficiently a country is using its science dollars.

In any case, Wagner said her findings show that international science collaboration is becoming the way research gets done in nearly all scientific fields.

"Science is a global enterprise now," Wagner said.

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , February 18, 2017 at 07:24 AM
This is the kind of globalization I endorse.

Certain center-left Hillary fanboys like yuan, EMichael etc will point out that exit polls show how the poor voted for Hillary (as if that somehow proves that she's great for the poor. PGL would always point to how the poor blacks of the south were voting for Hillary in the primary.) Probably has something to do with the large populations of poor and working poor in metro areas. And Republicans aren't great for the poor.

But exit polls said Hillary did much better with the educated. The more educated voted for her, the less educated voted for Trump.

Also Hillary won the "high-output" counties, not the poor counties:

"Last week, as my colleague Sifan Liu and I were gnawing on some questions asked by Jim Tankersley of The Washington Post, we happened upon a revealing aspect of the election outcome. While looking at number of influences on the presidential vote outcome, we found that in a year of massive divides, one particular economic split stands out.

Our observation: The less-than-500 counties that Hillary Clinton carried nationwide encompassed a massive 64 percent of America's economic activity as measured by total output in 2015. By contrast, the more-than-2,600 counties that Donald Trump won generated just 36 percent of the country's output-just a little more than one-third of the nation's economic activity."

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2016/11/29/another-clinton-trump-divide-high-output-america-vs-low-output-america/

The high-output and educated will continue with globalization thanks in part to the Internet and globalization while the religious and less-educated turn inwards and try to turn back the clock.

We need fair trade and for globalization to mean shared prosperity and progress not corporate rule for the one percent.

There needs to be an International of the Sanders supporters, and the supporters of Corbyn and Benoit Hamon.

Those wallowing in the center-left need to decide whether they support barbarism or socialism. Which is the lesser evil?

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , February 18, 2017 at 07:41 AM
Hillary says we are not Denmark!

[Feb 12, 2017] What The Jobs Report DIDNT Tell You Last Week

Notable quotes:
"... First of all, the unemployment rate in the USA actually increased from 4.7% to 4.8%, despite the job growth. ..."
"... Simply put, due to the way the Bureau of Labour Statistics is gathering its data, almost 700,000 people have been 'removed' from the civilian population. The total size of the civilian population is rebalanced on a yearly basis, in January. ..."
"... The smaller size of the civilian population caused the labor force participation rate to increase by 0.2%, and this by itself caused the unemployment rate to increase as well, despite the job creation number. ..."
"... But perhaps even more important is the extremely disappointing update on the average hourly earnings ('AHE') . The AHE increase fell to just 0.1% in January on a month/month comparison, but the real catch is in the details. ..."
Feb 12, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com

Ever since the gold report was published, the gold price moved up. This caught several investors by surprise, as some of them even continued to dump gold, scared by what appeared to be a good jobs report.

'Appeared to be', because?

Yes, 227,000 new jobs were created , and we can't deny that's a positive evolution. However, the increased job number is also the only positive thing in the jobs report, and there are two other issues that haven't really been highlighted.

Two issues that could, and probably will, have an impact on the interest rate decisions later this year.

First of all, the unemployment rate in the USA actually increased from 4.7% to 4.8%, despite the job growth.

How is that possible?

Simply put, due to the way the Bureau of Labour Statistics is gathering its data, almost 700,000 people have been 'removed' from the civilian population. The total size of the civilian population is rebalanced on a yearly basis, in January.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The smaller size of the civilian population caused the labor force participation rate to increase by 0.2%, and this by itself caused the unemployment rate to increase as well, despite the job creation number.

And as the unemployment rate is one of the key factors the Federal Reserve is looking at to determine whether or not a rate hike is appropriate, this small increase could have an impact on the decision making process. And keep in mind this is the second consecutive increase in the unemployment rate as the December unemployment rate also came in higher than the unemployment rate in November (and this did not include any population rebalancing exercise).

But perhaps even more important is the extremely disappointing update on the average hourly earnings ('AHE') . The AHE increase fell to just 0.1% in January on a month/month comparison, but the real catch is in the details.

Exactly because the 0.1% increase is focusing on a monthly update, the revision of the wage increase in December is actually telling you something more serious is going on. The December wages have been revised down by 0.2%, so if that would NOT have happened, the average hourly wage would have DECREASED in January.

... ... ...

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[Feb 11, 2017] Welfare is assumed to be based upon real income and not relative income with ones group

Feb 01, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Robert C Shelburne : January 23, 2017 at 09:10 AM

Another good article by Rodrik but a weakness of his analysis is that welfare is assumed to be based upon real income and not relative income with ones "group".

Most analyses of welfare find that relative income is quite important. Obviously if one assumes that one's reference group is the world, then the problem goes away; but empirically this is not the case.

Assuming that welfare is strongly affected by relative income with a group which is smaller than the world, then global equality is no longer welfare maximizing.

Those interested in these issues might be interested in Robert Shelburne, A Utilitarian Welfare Analysis of Trade Liberalization , available as a UN working paper.

[Feb 08, 2017] How Universities Are Increasingly Choosing Capitalism Over Education naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... By Henry Heller, a professor of history at the University of Manitoba, Canada and the author of The Capitalist University. Cross posted from Alternet ..."
"... The following is an excerpt from the new book ..."
"... by Henry Heller (Pluto Press, December 2016): ..."
"... Inside Higher Education ..."
"... The University, State and Market: The Political Economy of Globalization in the Americas ..."
"... New Left Review ..."
"... The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature ..."
"... Letters from the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher ..."
"... Anti-Communism in Twentieth-Century America ..."
"... Marxism is still regarded with suspicion in the United States. ..."
"... As if on cue, sociology, psychology, literature, political science, and anthropology all took sides by explicitly rejecting Marxism and putting forward viewpoints opposed to it. History itself stressed American exceptionalism, justified U.S. expansionism, minimized class conflict, and warned against revolution. ..."
Feb 08, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
How Universities Are Increasingly Choosing Capitalism Over Education Posted on February 7, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. Some further observations. First, the author neglects to mention the role of MBAs in the reorientation of higher education institutions. When I went to school, the administrative layer of universities was lean and not all that well paid. Those roles were typically inhabited by alumni who enjoyed the prestige and being able to hang around the campus. But t he growth of MBAs has meant they've all had to find jobs, and colonizing not-for-profits like universities has helped keep them off the street.

Second, this post focuses on non-elite universities, but the same general pattern is in play, although the specific outcomes are different. Universities with large endowments are increasingly hedge funds with an educational unit attached.

By Henry Heller, a professor of history at the University of Manitoba, Canada and the author of The Capitalist University. Cross posted from Alternet

The following is an excerpt from the new book The Capitalist University: The Transformations of Higher Education in the United States since 1945 by Henry Heller (Pluto Press, December 2016):

The fact that today there are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States represents an unparalleled educational, scientific, and cultural endowment. These institutions occupy a central place in American economic and cultural life. Certification from one of them is critical to the career hopes of most young people in the United States. The research produced in these establishments is likewise crucial to the economic and political future of the American state. Institutions of higher learning are of course of varying quality, with only 600 offering master's degrees and only 260 classified as research institutions. Of these only 87 account for the majority of the 56,000 doctoral degrees granted annually. Moreover, the number of really top-notch institutions based on the quality of their faculty and the size of their endowments is no more than 20 or 30. But still, the existence of thousands of universities and colleges offering humanistic, scientific, and vocational education, to say nothing of religious training, represents a considerable achievement. Moreover, the breakthroughs in research that have taken place during the last two generations in the humanities and social sciences, not to speak of the natural sciences, have been spectacular.

But the future of these institutions is today imperiled. Except for a relatively few well-endowed universities, most are in serious financial difficulty. A notable reason for this has been the decline in public financial support for higher education since the 1980s, a decline due to a crisis in federal and state finances but also to the triumph of right-wing politics based on continuing austerity toward public institutions. The response of most colleges and universities has been to dramatically increase tuition fees, forcing students to take on heavy debt and putting into question access to higher education for young people from low- and middle-income families. This situation casts a shadow on the implicit post-war contract between families and the state which promised upward mobility for their children based on higher education. This impasse is but part of the general predicament of the majority of the American population, which has seen its income fall and its employment opportunities shrink since the Reagan era. These problems have intensified since the financial collapse of 2008 and the onset of depression or the start of a generalized capitalist crisis.

Mounting student debt and fading job prospects are reflected in stagnating enrollments in higher education, intensifying the financial difficulties of universities and indeed exacerbating the overall economic malaise.[1] The growing cost of universities has led recently to the emergence of Massive Online Open Courses whose upfront costs to students are nil, which further puts into doubt the future of traditional colleges and universities. These so-called MOOCs, delivered via the internet, hold out the possibility, or embody the threat, of doing away with much of the expensive labor and fixed capital costs embodied in existing university campuses. Clearly the future of higher education hangs in the balance with important implications for both American politics and economic life.

The deteriorating situation of the universities has its own internal logic as well. In response to the decline in funding, but also to the prevalence of neoliberal ideology, universities-or rather the presidents, administrators, and boards of trustees who control them-are increasingly moving away from their ostensible mission of serving the public good to that of becoming as far as possible like private enterprises. In doing so, most of the teachers in these universities are being reduced to the status of wage labor, and indeed precarious wage labor. The wages of the non-tenured faculty who now constitute the majority of teachers in higher education are low, they have no job security and receive few benefits. Although salaried and historically enjoying a certain autonomy, tenured faculty are losing the vestiges of their independence as well. Similarly, the influence of students in university affairs-a result of concessions made by administrators during the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s-has effectively been neutered. These changes reflect a decisive shift of power toward university managers whose numbers and remuneration have expanded prodigiously. The objective of these bureaucrats is to transform universities as much as possible to approximate private and profit-making corporations, regarded as models of efficient organization based on the discipline of the market. Indeed, scores of universities, Phoenix University for example, have been created explicitly as for-profit businesses and currently enroll millions of students.

Modern universities have always had a close relationship with private business, but whereas in the past faculty labor served capital by producing educated managers, highly skilled workers, and new knowledge as a largely free good, strenuous efforts are now underway to transform academic employment into directly productive, i.e., profitable, labor. The knowledge engendered by academic work is accordingly being privatized as a commodity through patenting, licensing, and copyrighting to the immediate benefit of universities and the private businesses to which universities are increasingly linked. Meanwhile, through the imposition of administrative standards laid down in accord with neoliberal principles, faculty are being subjected to unprecedented scrutiny through continuous quantified evaluation of teaching and research in which the ability to generate outside funding has become the ultimate measure of scholarly worth. At the same time, universities have become part of global ranking systems like the Shanghai Index or the Times Higher Education World University Rankings in which their standing in the hierarchy has become all important to their prestige and funding.

Several intertwined questions emerge from this state of affairs. In the first place, given the rising expense and debt that attendance at university imposes and declining employment prospects especially for young people, will there continue to be a mass market for higher education? Is the model of the university or college traditionally centered on the humanities and the sciences with a commitment to the pursuit of truth compatible with the movement toward converting the universities into quasi- or fully private business corporations? Finally, what are the implications of changes in the neoliberal direction for the future production of objective knowledge, not to speak of critical understanding?

Universities during the Cold War produced an impressive amount of new positive knowledge, not only in the sciences, engineering, and agriculture but also in the social sciences and humanities. In the case of the humanities and social sciences such knowledge, however real, was largely instrumental or tainted by ideological rationalizations. It was not sufficiently critical in the sense of getting to the root of the matter, especially on questions of social class or on the motives of American foreign policy. Too much of it was used to control and manipulate ordinary people within and without the United States in behalf of the American state and the maintenance of the capitalist order. There were scholars who continued to search for critical understanding even at the height of the Cold War, but they largely labored in obscurity. This state of affairs was disrupted in the 1960s with the sudden burgeoning of Marxist scholarship made possible by the upsurge of campus radicalism attendant on the anti-war, civil rights, and black liberation struggles. But the decline of radicalism in the 1970s saw the onset of postmodernism, neoliberalism, and the cultural turn. Postmodernism represented an unwarranted and untenable skepticism, while neoliberal economics was a crude and overstated scientism. The cultural turn deserves more respect, but whatever intellectual interest there may be in it there is little doubt that the net effect of all three was to delink the humanities and social sciences from the revolutionary politics that marked the 1960s. The ongoing presence in many universities of radicals who took refuge in academe under Nixon and Reagan ensured the survival of Marxist ideas if only in an academic guise. Be that as it may, the crisis in American society and the concomitant crisis of the universities has become extremely grave over the last decade. It is a central contention of this work that, as a result of the crisis, universities will likely prove to be a key location for ideological and class struggle, signaled already by the growing interest in unionization of faculty both tenured and non-tenured, the revival of Marxist scholarship, the Occupy Movement, the growing importance of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, and heightening conflicts over academic freedom and the corporatization of university governance.

The approach of this work is to examine the recent history of American universities from the perspective of Marxism, a method which can be used to study these institutions critically as part of the capitalist economic and political system. Despite ongoing apologetics that view universities as sites for the pursuit of disinterested truth, we contend that a critical perspective involving an understanding of universities as institutions based on the contradictions of class inequality, the ultimate unity of the disciplines rooted in the master narrative of historical materialism, and a consciousness of history makes more sense as a method of analysis. All the more so, this mode of investigation is justified by the increasing and explicit promotion of academic capitalism by university managers trying to turn universities into for-profit corporations. In response to these policies scholars have in fact begun to move toward the reintegration of political economy with the study of higher education. This represents a turn away from the previous dominance in this field of postmodernism and cultural studies and, indeed, represents a break from the hegemonic outlook of neoliberalism.[2] On the other hand, most of this new scholarship is orientated toward studying the effects of neoliberalism on the contemporary university, whereas the present work takes a longer view. Marxist political economy demands a historical perspective in which the present condition of universities emerged from the crystallization of certain previous trends. It therefore looks at the evolution of the university from the beginning of the twentieth century, sketching its evolution from a preserve of the upper-middle class in which research played almost no role into a site of mass education and burgeoning research, and, by the 1960s, a vital element in the political economy of the United States.

In contrast to their original commitment to independence with respect to the state up to World War II, most if by no means all universities and colleges defined their post-war goals in terms of the pursuit of the public good and were partially absorbed into the state apparatus by becoming financially dependent on government. But from start to finish twentieth-century higher education also had an intimate and ongoing relationship with private business. In the neoliberal period universities are taking this a step further, aspiring to turn themselves into quasi- or actual business corporations. But this represents the conclusion of a long-evolving process. The encroachment of private business into the university is in fact but part of the penetration of the state by private enterprise and the partial privatization of the state. On the surface this invasion of the public sphere by the market may appear beneficial to private business. We regard it, on the contrary, as a symptom of economic weakness and a weakening of civil society.

The American system of higher education, with its prestigious private institutions, great public universities, private colleges and junior colleges, was a major achievement of a triumphant American republic. It provided the U.S. state with the intellectual, scientific, and technical means to strengthen significantly its post-1945 power. The current neoliberal phase reflects an America struggling economically and politically to adapt to the growing challenges to its global dominance and to the crisis of capitalism itself. The shift of universities toward the private corporate model is part of this struggle. Capitalism in its strongest periods not only separated the state from the private sector, it kept the private sector at arm's length from the state. The role of the state in ensuring a level playing field and providing support for the market was clearly understood. The current attempt by universities to mimic the private sector is a form of economic and ideological desperation on the part of short-sighted and opportunistic university administrators as well as politicians and businessmen. In our view, this aping of the private sector is misguided, full of contradictions, and ultimately vain if not disastrous. Indeed, it is a symptom of crisis and decline.

The current overwhelming influence of private business on universities grew out of pre-existing tendencies. There is already an existing corporate nature of university governance both private and public, as well as an influence of business on universities in the first part of the twentieth century. In reaction there developed the concept of academic freedom as well as the establishment of the system of tenure and the development of a rather timid faculty trade unionism. This underscores the importance of private foundations in controlling the development of the curriculum and research in both the sciences and humanities. In their teaching, universities were mainly purveyors of the dominant capitalist ideology. Humanities and social science professors imparted mainly liberal ideology and taught laissez-faire economics which justified the political and economic status quo. The development of specialized departments reinforced the fragmentation of knowledge and discouraged the emergence of a systemic overview and critique of American culture and society. There were, as noted earlier, a few Marxist scholars, some of considerable distinction, who became prominent particularly in the wake of the Depression, the development of the influence of the Communist Party, and the brief period of Soviet-American cooperation during World War II. But the teaching of Marxism was frowned upon and attacked even prior to the Cold War.

The post-1945 university was a creation of the Cold War. Its expansion, which sprang directly out of war, was based on the idea of education as a vehicle of social mobility, which was seen as an alternative to the equality and democracy promoted by the populism of the New Deal. Its elitist and technocratic style of governance was patterned after that of the large private corporation and the American federal state during the 1950s. Its enormously successful research programs were mainly underwritten by appropriations from the military and the CIA. The CIA itself was largely created by recruiting patriotic faculty from the universities. Much of the research in the social sciences was directed at fighting Soviet and revolutionary influence and advancing American imperialism abroad. Marxist professors and teaching programs were purged from the campuses.

Dating from medieval times, the curriculum of the universities was based on a common set of subjects including language, philosophy, and natural science premised on the idea of a unitary truth. Although the subject matter changed over the centuries higher education continued to impart the hegemonic ideology of the times. Of course the notion of unitary truth was fraying at the seams by the beginning of the twentieth century with the development of departmental specialization and the increasingly contested nature of truth, especially in the social sciences in the face of growing class struggle in America. However, the notion of the idea of the unity of knowledge as purveyed by the university was still ideologically important as a rationale for the existence of universities. Moreover, as we shall demonstrate, it was remarkable how similarly, despite differences in subject matter and method, the main disciplines in the humanities and social sciences responded to the challenge of Marxism during the Cold War. They all developed paradigms which opposed or offered alternatives to Marxism while rationalizing continued loyalty to liberalism and capitalism. As if on cue, sociology, psychology, literature, political science, and anthropology all took sides by explicitly rejecting Marxism and putting forward viewpoints opposed to it. History itself stressed American exceptionalism, justified U.S. expansionism, minimized class conflict, and warned against revolution. Indeed, this work will focus on these disciplines because they defended the capitalist status quo at a deeper cultural and intellectual level than the ubiquitous mass media. As Louis Althusser pointed out, the teaching received by students from professors at universities was the strategic focal point for the ideological defense of the dominant class system. That was as true of the United States as it was of France, where institutions of higher learning trained those who would later train or manage labor. Criticizing the recent history of these disciplines is thus an indispensable step to developing an alternative knowledge and indeed culture that will help to undermine liberal capitalist hegemony.[3]

The approach of this work is to critically analyze these core academic subjects from a perspective informed by Pierre Bourdieu and Karl Marx. Bourdieu points out that the deep involvement of the social sciences (and the humanities) with powerful social interests makes it difficult to free their study from ideological presuppositions and thereby achieve a truly socially and psychologically reflexive understanding.[4] But such reflexive knowledge was precisely what Marx had in mind more than a century earlier. Leaving a Germany still under the thrall of feudalism and absolutism for Paris in 1843, the young Marx wrote to his friend Arnold Ruge that

reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form but, if constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more clear what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.[5]

His task as he saw it was to criticize the existing body of knowledge so as to make it as reasonable as possible, i.e., to undermine its illusory and ideological character and substitute knowledge which was both true and helped advance communism. Such a project entailed deconstructing the existing body of knowledge through rational criticism, exposing its ideological foundations and advancing an alternative based on a sense of contradiction, social totality, and a historical and materialist understanding. It is our ambition in surveying and studying the humanities and social sciences in the period after 1945 to pursue our investigation in the same spirit. Indeed, it is our view that a self-reflexive approach to contemporary knowledge, while woefully lacking, is an indispensable complement to the development of a serious ideological critique of the crisis-ridden capitalist society of today.

Marxism is still regarded with suspicion in the United States. As a matter of fact, anti-Marxism in American universities was not merely a defensive response to McCarthyism as some allege. Anti-communism was bred in the bone of many Americans and was one of the strongest forces that affected U.S. society in the twentieth century, including the faculty members of its universities. An idée fixe rather than an articulated ideology, it was compounded out of deeply embedded albeit parochial notions of Americanism, American exceptionalism and anti-radicalism.[6] The latter was rooted in the bitter resistance of the still large American middle or capitalist class to the industrial unrest which marked the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and which had a strong bed of support among the immigrant working class. Nativism then was an important tool in the hands of this class in fighting a militant if ethnically divided working class. Moreover, the anti-intellectual prejudices of American society in general and the provincialism of its universities were ideal terrain for fending off subversive ideas from abroad like Marxism. Later, this anti-communism and hostility to Marxism became the rationale for the extension of American imperialism overseas particularly after 1945. The social origins of the professoriate among the lower middle class, furthermore, and its role as indentured if indirect servants of capital, strengthened its position as inimical to Marxism. Just as careers could be lost for favoring Marxism, smart and adroit academics could make careers by advancing some new intellectual angle in the fight against Marxism. And this was not merely a passing feature of the height of the Cold War: from the 1980s onward, postmodernism, identity politics, and the cultural turn were invoked to disarm the revolutionary Marxist politics that had developed in the 1960s. Whatever possible role identity politics and culture might have in deepening an understanding of class their immediate effect was to undermine a sense of class and strengthen a sense of liberal social inclusiveness while stressing the cultural obstacles to the development of revolutionary class consciousness.

This overall picture of conformity and repression was, however, offset by the remarkable upsurge of student radicalism that marked the 1960s, challenging the intellectual and social orthodoxies of the Cold War. In reaction to racism and political and social repression at home and the Vietnam War abroad, students rebelled against the oppressive character of university governance and by extension the power structure of American society. Overwhelmingly the ideology through which this revolt was refracted was the foreign and until then largely un-American doctrine of Marxism. Imported into the universities largely by students, Marxism then inspired a new generation of radical and groundbreaking scholarship. Meanwhile it is important to note that the student revolt itself was largely initiated by the southern civil rights movement, an important bastion of which were the historically black colleges of the South. It was from the struggle of racially oppressed black students in the American South as well as the growing understanding of the anti-colonial revolutionaries of Vietnam that the protest movement in American colleges and universities was born. Equally important was the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley. Indeed, it is the contention of this work that the issues raised at Berkeley over democracy in the universities and the free expression of ideas not only shaped the student movement of that time but are still with us, and indeed are central to the future of universities and intellectual life today.

At the heart of the Berkeley protest lay a rejection of the idea of a university as a hierarchical corporation producing exchange values including the production of trained workers and ideas convertible into commodities. Instead the students asserted the vision of a democratic university which produced knowledge as a use value serving the common good. It is our view that this issue raised at Berkeley in the 1960s anticipated the class conflict that is increasingly coming to the fore over so-called knowledge capitalism. Both within the increasingly corporate neoliberal university and in business at large, the role of knowledge and knowledge workers is becoming a key point of class struggle. This is especially true on university campuses where the proletarianization of both teaching and research staff is in process and where the imposition of neoliberal work rules is increasingly experienced as tyrannical. The skilled work of these knowledge producers, the necessarily interconnected nature of their work, and the fundamentally contradictory notion of trying to privatize and commodify knowledge, have the potential to develop into a fundamental challenge to capitalism.

Notes:

1. Paul Fain, "'Nearing the Bottom': Inside Higher Education," Inside Higher Education , May 15, 2014.

2. Raymond A. Morrow, "Critical Theory and Higher Education: Political Economy and the Cul-de-Sac of the Postmodernist Turn," in The University, State and Market: The Political Economy of Globalization in the Americas , ed. Robert A. Rhoads and Carlos Alberto Torres, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006, pp. xvii‒xxxiii.

3. Perry Anderson, "Components of the National Culture," New Left Review , No. 50, July‒August, 1968, pp. 3–4.

4. Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature , New York: Columbia University Press, 1993, pp. 86–7.

5. Karl Marx, Letter to Arnold Ruge, Kreuznach, September 1843, Letters from the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher , at https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/letters/43_09.htm

6. Larry Ceplair, Anti-Communism in Twentieth-Century America , Santa Barbara: Clio, 2011, pp. 1–2, 12.

0 0 30 1 1 This entry was posted in Banana republic , Free markets and their discontents , Guest Post , Politics , Social policy , Social values on February 7, 2017 by Yves Smith . Subscribe to Post Comments 31 comments Jim , February 7, 2017 at 1:57 am

Capitalism requires that total strangers be on the hook for student loans? And if this is Capitalism then why didn't this trend emerge 100+ years ago? Why now?

Trout Creek , February 7, 2017 at 3:18 pm

It is a function of the adaption of NeoLiberalism as a governing principle which you can basically start around the time of Reagan.

Steve Sewall , February 7, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Because a) the market for a college degree is vastly bigger today than it was 100+ years ago b) tuitions were affordable so there was no way for high-interest lenders ("total strangers") to game the system as they do today.

Plus I wonder if the legal system or tax code would have let them get away with anything like what they get away with today.

schultzzz , February 7, 2017 at 1:58 am

I agree with everything dude says, but the way he says it is so deathly dull and needlessly technical . . .

it's a shame that someone so openly critical of the university system and culture nonetheless unquestioningly obeys the tradition of: "serious writing has to turn off 99% of the people that might be otherwise interested in the subject."

Arizona Slim , February 7, 2017 at 8:57 am

And here I thought I was the only one

John Wright , February 7, 2017 at 9:59 am

Yes, his writing caused this reader to do a MEDGO ("my eyes doth gloss over")

It was technical in its assertions, but has few metrics to quantify the trends such as inflation adjusted administrative cost or inflation adjusted government college funding now vs then.

There is a mention that the USA government has touted the "upward mobility" or excess value, AKA "consumer surplus", of a college degree to students and their families for years.

The US government further encouraged the student loan industry with guarantees and bankruptcy relief de-facto prohibited.

The current system may illustrate that colleges raised their prices to capture more of this alleged consumer surplus, a surplus that may no longer be there..

If one looks at the USA's current political/economic/infrastructure condition, and asserts that the leaders and government officials of the USA were trained, overwhelmingly, over the last 40 years, in the USA's system of higher education, perhaps this is an indication USA higher education has not served the general public well for a long time.

The author mentions this important point "These so-called MOOCs, delivered via the internet, hold out the possibility, or embody the threat, of doing away with much of the expensive labor and fixed capital costs embodied in existing university campuses. Clearly the future of higher education hangs in the balance with important implications for both American politics and economic life."

Maybe the MOOCs are the low cost future as the 4 year degree loses economic value and the USA moves to a life-long continuous education model?

Arizona Slim , February 7, 2017 at 11:06 am

ISTR reading that the completion rate for MOOCs is pretty low. As in, 10% of the students who start the course end up finishing it.

Pete , February 7, 2017 at 1:58 pm

And that rate doesn't even mention what scores they achieved. MOOCs are hopeless especially since college is now less about getting an education and more about a statement about a young person's lifestyle or identity.

http://akinokure.blogspot.com/2015/10/college-as-part-of-lifestyle.html

JustAnObserver , February 7, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Now sure about the `now' bit. I maybe a bit cynical but I've always thought, even when I was at one, that colleges/universities major function was as a middle-class finishing school for those unable to afford the real deal in Switzerland.

julia , February 7, 2017 at 10:31 am

I do not agree and it is deathly dull and needlessly technical. In fact it remains me off the marxistic education I enjoyed growing up in East Germany.
Maybe it is time to rethink after school education. Physical Labor should loose its stain of being for loosers and stupid people. A whole lot of professions could be better taught through apprentiships and technical college mix.( many younge people would maybe enjoy being able to start qualified work after only 3 additional years of education).
And do we really need 12 years of standard school education? There are so many kids that do not function well in school.
Universities should be for the really eager and talented who want to spend a big part of
their youth learning.
I guess we need a lot of new ideas to get away from the old paradigma ( anti- marxist or marxist)

John Wright , February 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm

I took a couple of classes at the local junior college in automotive smog testing and machining.

One of the instructors told me the JC administration viewed this Junior College as having two parts, College Prep + vocational education.

He suggested the administration looked down on the vocational education portion, saying "But we get the jobs".

Steve , February 7, 2017 at 4:17 pm

I don't know how you read other works from academics if you think that this was dull.

Do you or anyone thinking this was "dull" have any examples of academic essays or books that contain useful knowledge but also consider them "shiny?"

Personally, I thought this was a very good essay as it explains some things I've been thinking about American higher education and quite a few things about my personal university education at a tier-1 research school.

Altandmain , February 7, 2017 at 2:10 am

Basically universities have become a cog in the machine of neoliberalism.

Rather than anything resembling an institution for the public good, it has taken on the worst aspects of corporate America (and Canada). You can see this in the way they push now for endowment money, the highly paid senior management contrasted with poorly paid adjuncts, and how research is controlled these days. Blue skies research is cut, while most research is geared towards short-term corporate profit, from which they will no doubt milk society with.

I tremble when I think about what all of this means:
1. Students won't be getting a good education when they are taught by adjuncts being paid poverty wages.
2. Corporations will profit in the short run.
3. The wealthy and corporations due to endowment money have a huge sway.
4. Blue skies research will fall and over time, US leadership in hard sciences.
5. The productivity of future workers will be suppressed and with it, their earning potential.
6. Related to that, inequality will increase dramatically as universities worsen the situation.
7. There will be many "left behind" students and graduates with high debt, along with bleak job prospects.
8. State governments, starving for tax money will make further cuts, worsening these trends.
9. Anything hostile to the corporate state (as the article notes) will be suppressed.
10. With it, academic freedom and ultimately democracy will be much reduced.

What it means is decline in US technological power, productivity gains, and with it, declining living standards.

All of these trends already are happening. They will worsen.

I'd agree that a more readable version of this should be made for the general public.

James McFadden , February 7, 2017 at 1:23 pm

Well said.

But your description suggests an inevitable bleak dystopic future – a self-fulfilling prophesy. The future is not written – we can help determine its course. It starts with grass roots movement building in your neighborhood and community. And I can't think of a more rewarding task then creating a better future for our children.

But perhaps my farmer's work ethic, my inclination to side with the underdog and stand up to the bully capitalists, are notions that most Americans no longer possess. Perhaps Cornel West is correct when he states: "The oppressive effect of the prevailing market moralities leads to a form of sleepwalking from womb to tomb, with the majority of citizens content to focus on private careers and be distracted with stimulating amusements. They have given up any real hope of shaping the collective destiny of the nation. Sour cynicism, political apathy, and cultural escapism become the pervasive options."

However, it is my observation that Trump's election has woken this sleepwalking giant, and that his bizarre behavior continues to energize people to resist. So why not rebel and help bring down the neoliberal fascists. Is there any cause more worthy? And for those who won't try because they don't think they can win, consider the words of Chris Hedges: "I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists."

Jason , February 7, 2017 at 2:14 am

I'm going to complain about your headline. A lot of stuff on this blog is obviously relevant only to the USA, and when it's obvious it doesn't need to be mentioned in the headline. But it's not at all obvious that this topic is only about the USA (or North America, since the author is in Canada?), so maybe you could edit the headline to reflect that it is in fact only about the USA?

My observation of Australian universities is that they have similar problems, although maybe to a lesser extent. But I doubt the same things happen in all countries. I'd be interested to know more about mainland European universities, and ex-Soviet-bloc universities, and Chinese universities, and Third World universities.

As for "Universities with large endowments are increasingly hedge funds with an educational unit attached", I think the rich universities in the UK (i.e. the richer residential Oxbridge colleges, if you count them as universities – Oxford and Cambridge Universities themselves are not particularly rich – plus maybe Imperial College?) have very little invested in hedge funds and a lot in property. Can anyone confirm or deny that?

Colonel Smithers , February 7, 2017 at 4:30 am

Thank you, Jason.

In the past two decades, the UK's top universities, often called the Russell Group after the Russell Hotel in Russell Square where they met to form a sort of lobby group, have made money and started hiring rock star academics. I don't know how much these academics teach, but they often pontificate in the media.

Big business, oligarchs and former alumni (often oligarchs) donate money, allowing them to build up their coffers. Imperial is developing an area of west London.

Oxbridge colleges own a lot of property. Much of the land between Cambridge and London is owned by Cambridge colleges. This goes back to when they were religious institutions and despite Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries.

London Business School has expanded from its Regent's Park base to Marylebone as the number of students, especially from Asia, grow. I have spoken to students from there and Oxford's Said Business School and know people who have guest lectured there. They were not impressed. Plutonium Kun has written about that below.

Colonel Smithers , February 7, 2017 at 4:38 am

Correction: number of students grows :-)

bmeisen , February 7, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Oxford and Cambridge are British state universities as I understand it. The Russell Group consists primarily of state institutions that have assumed / been given / been restored to an elite role in the British system of higher education, which is overwhelmingly public. Oxford and Cambridge are at the peak of a relatively flat hierarchy of