U.S. GDP Drops -2.9%–Recession or Stagnation?

by Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

Final revisions to US GDP released June 25, 2014 show the US economy contracted this past January-March 2014 by -2.9%. Does the much larger than predicted decline reflect the beginning of new recession? A -2.9% contraction for the quarter is just about the average quarter decline during the 2007-09 last recession. Or is the -2.9% an indication of a continuing stagnation, with a moderate recovery in GDP to occur in the second quarter 2014? Or perhaps it was just an aberration, due to bad winter weather, as many mainstream economists and press pundits are now saying, with a robust recovery of 4%-5% GDP growth coming in the second half of 2014?

The larger than expected -2.9% contraction was a further significant reduction from the government’s GDP estimate of a -1.0% GDP decline for the quarter that was reported by the government in May; and an even bigger 3% ‘swing’ from the initial +0.1% GDP estimate reported in April.

The record-setting ‘swing’ of 3% represents the largest such adjustment in nearly four decades, raising a question of why the government’s initial GDP estimate of 0.1% was so far off the mark in the first place? It also raises a question of just how accurate are estimates of GDP in today’s post-2008 ‘great’ recession restructured US and global economy? Is estimation becoming more a game of ‘guestimation’?

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Harold Meyerson: Eight Ways to Raise American’s Wages

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson has an important  long form article on American Prospect.  Here is a taste of “How to Raise Americans’ Wages: Eight proposals to jump-start the incomes of workers.”

The fist step is to identify the problem.  Meyerson writes:

As economists Robert Gordon and Ian Dew-Becker have established, the gains in workers’ productivity for the past three decades have gone entirely to the wealthiest 10 percent. The portion of the nation’s economy that went to workers’ pay and benefits—which had held remarkably steady from 1947 through 1973 at 66 percent or 67 percent—last year fell to a record low of 58 percent, while profits reached a postwar high.

Today, the drive to restore workers’ share has been narrowed down to the campaign to raise the minimum wage. That raise is long overdue. The real value of the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is less than two-thirds of its level in 1968, which, in current dollars, would be $10.71. But even raising that wage wouldn’t do much for most workers; they make well more than the minimum, but their own wages have been stagnating or shrinking for decades as well.

What, then, do we do for American workers more generally? How do we raise their wages? How do we re-create a growing and vibrant middle class?

 

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A Call for an Economic Bill of Rights for the 21st Century

by Gregory N. Heires

fdrNearly 70 years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed that everyone has the right to a job with decent wage, his message continues to ring true as evidenced by a recent conference at Columbia University on full employment.

The economy of the 21st century remains mired in what seems to be an inescapable funk of unemployment and poorly paying jobs.

The Bush years flew by with a net jobs growth of virtually zero.

Our current employment outlook remains ugly:

• In September, unemployment was 7.3 percent, historically high for a period of recovery,

• Job growth was just 140,000 that month, significantly below what’s needed for a strong recovery,

• Wages have been flat for five years,

• A recent Wells Fargo survey found more than a third of Americans say they will have to work into their 80s because they won’t be able to afford to retire, and

• The labor participation rate—the percentage of people over 16 who either have a job or are seriously looking for one—fell to its lowest rate in 35 years in August. Continue reading

The Trillion Dollar Money Pump for the 1 Percent

by Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

I saw the movie Inequality for All, where Robert Reich explains the depth and meaning of inequality in America. He paints a compelling picture.

Reich sets up the movie with a teaser: “Something happened in the mid-’70s.”

Indeed “something did happen in the mid-’70s.” For one thing, since then workers’ wages as a fraction of the total economy have lagged by over a trillion dollars per year. If workers’ wages had kept up with gains in productivity since the mid-70’s, wages would be double what they are now. Most new income goes to the top 1 Percent.

2013-10-16-WagesasshareofGDP.4713.jpgFigure 1. Workers’ wages have fallen as a share of total GDP. Continue reading

The Fed, QE, and Jobs

by Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

(September 13, 2013) Over the past five years the US central bank, the Federal Reserve (Fed), has printed nearly $4 trillion in liquidity (money) which it has provided to banks and professional investors. This is called ‘Quantitative Easing’ (QE). QE means the Fed essentially prints money and buys bonds—mostly toxic subprime mortgages to date—from institutional investors (i.e. banks, shadow banks, foreign banks, other investors). In addition to printing nearly $4 trillion with which to buy bonds from banks and investors, since 2008 the Fed has also conducted various ‘special auctions’, by which it has loaned additional trillions of dollars at little or no interest to banks. Still more trillions were loaned were loaned by the Fed by means of policies that resulted in near zero interest rates (between 0.1%-0.25%) at which banks could borrow money.

The Fed’s QE purchases represent a massive direct subsidization of banks and investors, since the Fed’s bond purchases were almost certainly bought in most cases at prices well above the collapsed value of the bonds—most of which were mortgage bonds including toxic subprime mortgages. But we’ll never know the exact price the Fed paid bankers and investors for the bonds, since the Fed doesn’t provide specific reports on individual deals and purchases; not even to Congress. Only the aggregate data is reported. Continue reading

U. S. GDP—Why U.S. Slowdown Will Continue

by Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

On Friday, July 27, 2012 the US Department of Commerce released its report on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) results for the 2nd quarter for the US economy, with GDP revisions for the economy as well from 2009 through 2011.

Last winter the broad consensus among mainstream economists, politicians and the press was the US economy was finally on the way to recovery. Economic indicator after indicator was flashing green, they argued, proving recovery was in full swing. GDP for the 4th quarter 2011 recorded a moderately healthy 4% growth rate and was predicted by widespread sectors of the media would continue. But GDP numbers just released on July 27, 2012 show that 4% growth dropped precipitously by half, to only 2%. And in the latest report issued last week, 2nd quarter 2012 GDP continued to fall further to only 1.5%.

GDP for the first half of this year therefore has averaged about 1.7%–which is about the same 1.7% GDP growth for all of 2011. The US economy, in other words, is not growing any faster this year than it did last year. It is essentially stagnant, unable to generate a sustained recovery despite $3 trillion in spending and tax cuts over the past three and a half years. This scenario will at best continue, and may alternatively even worsen in the coming months; and if not worsen this year, certainly so in 2013.

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Weather Metaphors and the June Jobs Report

by Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

The US Labor Department released its monthly jobs numbers for June 2012 this past week. Once more the numbers showed a dramatic slowdown in job creation for the third consecutive month. Job creation averaged around only 80,000 a month for April to June, about a third of that in the 1st quarter, January-March period earlier this year.

The reason most often offered for the jobs relapse in June and for the past three months—the third such mid-year jobs relapse in as many years—is that the weather last winter quarter was the cause of the last three months’ dramatic drop off in job creation. As the argument goes, the ‘good weather’ of this past winter somehow drew forward the economic activity and therefore job creation that would have been otherwise created the past three months. That explanation, however, is nothing more than an excuse designed to avoid an otherwise more fundamental analysis why job creation has been collapsing once again in recent months.

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The 12 Cookies Joke

by Stan Sorscher

A CEO, a Tea Party member and public employee sit at a table, with 12 cookies on a plate. The CEO grabs 11 cookies and tells the Tea Party member, “You better watch him. He wants your cookie.”

The CEO took 11 out of 12 cookies. This isn’t a question of what’s fair. The CEO has the economic power to take 11 cookies, and he does.

I found a conservative blog that explained this point of view. The CEO deserved 11 cookies. Without the CEO, the 12 cookies would never have been baked. No one would have anything without the CEO. Not only did the CEO deserve 11 of the 12 cookies, but if we somehow had 15 cookies, the CEO would deserve 14. If the CEO made 24 cookies in China, he should get 23. The Tea Party member and the public employee should thank the CEO for their one cookie.

The conservative blogger acknowledged that his interpretation wasn’t funny.

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Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few – A Review


By Carl Finamore

Apparently, economics is one of the most popular electives in Ivy League schools. Admittedly, it can be a difficult and confusing subject. Particularly, it appears, for undergraduates from these very elite colleges.

According to a survey in the Wall Street Journal published a couple of years ago, most of them walk away from their brief classroom introduction with blind faith in an unfettered and unregulated market economy.

Perhaps this explains Harvard graduate Barack Obama’s June 2008 comment to cable business channel CNBC that “I’m a pro-growth, free market guy. I love the market.”

Maybe they’re all reading the same books. I have another recommendation.

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A Third Jobs Relapse Underway?

by Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

For the third time in as many years, jobs growth over this past winter 2012 once again shows signs of a major ‘relapse’ this spring and summer. The Labor Department’s employment numbers released April 6, 2012 indicate a mere 120,000 new jobs were created in March, a number not even sufficient to absorb new entrants into the labor force for the month. This follows reports of more than 200,000 jobs created monthly since last December 2011.

If this latest, third major reversal in jobs creation were a one time occurrence, it could be attributed perhaps to real economic conditions simply shifting. But three years in a row every spring? That repetition means there is likely something more fundamental at work.

A year ago, during winter-spring 2010-11, this writer forewarned that the jobs recovery that was being reported during the winter 2010-11 would not be sustainable, and that job creation would collapse in the summer of 2011. And it did. (see this writer’s published articles: ‘The Truth Behind the December (2010) Jobless Numbers’, ‘Behind the February (2010) Jobs Numbers’, ‘March Jobs Numbers—A Contrarian View’, ‘Why March (2011) Jobs Gains Will Collapse This Summer’, and ‘The Predicted Job Collapse Now in Progress’, all of which are available on this writer’s blog, jackrasmus.com).

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