Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"The Austerians Have a Lot To Answer For"

 Professor Krugman @ NYTs:
Right now the official unemployment rate is 7.3 percent. That’s bad, and many people — myself included — think it understates the true badness of the situation. On the other hand, there are some reasonable people (like Bob Gordon) arguing that at this point, possibly thanks to long-run damage from the Great Recession, “full employment” is now a number north of 6 percent. So there’s considerable uncertainty about just how depressed we are relative to potential.

But we’re clearly still well below potential. And we’ve also had exactly the wrong fiscal policy given that reality plus the zero lower bound on interest rates, with unprecedented austerity. So, how much of our depressed economy can be explained by the bad fiscal policy?

To a first approximation, all of it. By that I mean that to have something that would arguably look like full employment, at this point we wouldn’t need a continuation of actual stimulus; all we’d need is for government spending to have grown normally, instead of shrinking.

Here’s a comparison of two series. One is actual government purchases of goods and services since the Great Recession began (this is at all levels; most of the fall has been state and local, but the Federal government could have prevented that with revenue sharing). The other is what would have happened if those purchases had grown as fast as they did starting in the first quarter of 2001, i.e., in the Bush years.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Stiglitz on inequality...again

Nobel Prize-winning Joe Stiglitz addressed the recent AFL-CIO convention:

I'm an economist-- I study how economies work and don't work. It’s been clear to me that our economy has been sick for a long time.  One of the reasons it's been so sick is inequality, and I decided to write an article and a book about it.

Two years ago, I wrote an article for Vanity Fair called, "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%,” which really got to the gist of it.  For too long, the hardworking and rule-abiding had seen their paychecks shrink or stay the same, while the rule-breakers raked in huge profits and wealth.  It made our economy sick, and our politics sick, too.  

You all know the facts:  while the productivity of America's workers has soared, wages have stagnated. You've worked hard – since 1979, your output per hour has increased 40%, but pay has barely increased. Meanwhile, the top 1% take home more than 20% of the national income.

The Great Recession made things worse.  Some say that the recession ended in 2009.  But for most Americans, that's simply wrong:  95% of the gains from 2009 to 2012 went to the upper 1%.  The rest — the 99% — never really recovered.

Monday, September 9, 2013

"Why Janet Yellen, Not Larry Summers should lead the Fed"

An appointment of Larry Summers to the Fed Chair fits perfectly the definition of insanity attributed to Albert Einstein: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

In that vein, Joseph Stiglitz argues contra Mr. Summers @ NYTs, with a great in-depth analysis of the background and the stakes in this appointment:
The controversy over the choice of the next head of the Federal Reserve has become unusually heated. The country is fortunate to have an enormously qualified candidate: the Fed’s current vice chairwoman, Janet L. Yellen. There is concern that the president might turn to another candidate, Lawrence H. Summers. Since I have worked closely with both of these individuals for more than three decades, both inside and outside of government, I have perhaps a distinct perspective.

But why, one might ask, is this a matter for a column usually devoted to understanding the growing divide between rich and poor in the United States and around the world? The reason is simple: What the Fed does has as much to do with the growth of inequality as virtually anything else. The good news is that both of the leading candidates talk as if they care about inequality. The bad news is that the policies that have been pushed by one of the candidates, Mr. Summers, have much to do with the woes faced by the middle and the bottom.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Corey Booker's bona fides...

Corey Booker, soon-to-be Senator from New Jersey has enormous star-power.  There are things to admire about Booker - he seems to have done a good job as Mayor of Newark against steep odds. He strikes me as slightly ridiculous in the degree of his obsession with ephemeral social media, but that's probably generational.  (Politicians in their mid-40s like Booker tend to be desperate to comport to an older person's notion of what younger potential voters are all about.)

But IMHO Booker is absolutely not the kind of Democrat we need more of on the national
scene - he's way too cozy with the 1%, clearly open to cutting bad deals for the young folks he's eager to impress around their long-term Social Security benefits, babbling right-wing nonsense on the Sunday morning idiot gabfests about deficits as a major problem when we need to be focused on when unemployment has been the burning issue for five years, shamelessly pointing fingers regarding the origins of the financial crisis of 2008 without mentioning the word "banks."

 Noam Sheiber @ TNR has a good break-down of Bookers' deep flaws as an incoming high-profile Democrat addressing issues at the national level:
Exactly what kind of senator will Cory Booker make once he coasts to (a near-certain) victory this fall? On the one hand, Booker—the Newark mayor and reigning viceroy of Twitter—has a habit of lionizing the tech and finance executives who are his biggest campaign donors. Last year on “Meet the Press,” he famously criticized President Obama’s “nauseating” assault on the private-equity industry. Booker’s ease around business moguls is such that he betrayed no sheepishness when The New York Times disclosed that several had funded his personal Internet venture, potentially worth millions to him, while he was ensconced in City Hall.

Monday, September 2, 2013

"Are the rich getting too much of the economic pie?"

Derek Thompson @ The Atlantic:

"Not Really Labor’s Day"

Economist Nancy Folbre @ NYT's Economix:
The annual holiday supposedly celebrating labor has long lacked much celebratory feel. Over the last 30 years, employment has become more precarious and real wages for most workers have stagnated. Since 2008, in particular, the corrosive impact of persistent unemployment and declining wages on American workers has been felt at holiday picnics and parades.

The seasonally adjusted July unemployment rate of 7.4 percent showed a slight decline from last year’s 8.2 percent, but the gains came largely as a result of declining labor force participation rather than job creation.

The larger measure of underemployment (known as U-6) that includes people working part time because they cannot find full-time work, and those who want a job and have looked for one in the last 12 months but have given up currently looking, was a seasonally adjusted 14 percent in July, compared with 14.9 percent a year earlier.

Public policies could help. As Jared Bernstein explained in an earlier Economix post, the federal government could become an employer of last resort. A new report from the Urban Institute outlines several specific strategies to lower long-term unemployment in particular.