by ilene - September 22nd, 2010 8:56 pm
Courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds
Resentment, frustration and anger are now ubiquitous features of U.S. culture. This is the consequence of several factors, none of them positive.
"Horn broken, watch for finger." This bumper sticker perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the nation: the horn is broken, and everyone is giving everyone else the finger.
Why are simmering resentment, frustration and anger now ubiquitous features of U.S. culture? I would posit the following factors:
1. A culture of entitlement: the U.S. is now a culture of takers obsessed with getting their "fair share" of the swag/borrowed money. "We were promised!" (public employees); "I earned it!" (Social Security recipient, though only the first 3-4 years of benefits are drawn from his/her contributions, and everything after that is welfare drawn from the hides of current workers); "healthcare/income security/housing is a right!" (everybody’s got rights, but nobody seems to have any duties or obligations); "it’s for the children/elderly!" (that is, my expense account, million-dollar pension, etc. are nominally protected by the banner of "education" and/or "healthcare"), and so on.
Those with access to "private welfare" such as CEOs are a privileged class; most of us have to elbow our way to the crowded public trough. The truly select feed at the Wall Street trough, which combines private welfare skimmed from shareholders and investors, and Central State welfare issued in unlimited billions via bailouts, Fed purchases of toxic debt, backstops, loan guarantees, etc.
But like the story about the attractive young lady who blushingly agrees to share her favors for $10,000, but balks when the suitor downgrades his offer to a paltry $100 (with the punchline being, "We’ve already established what you’re willing to sell, now we’re just haggling over the price"), the recipient has sacrificed autonomy in accepting the entitlement, regardless of the source or size. This is how complicity to a host of embezzlements, corruptions and exploitations is purchased.
2. A culture of victimhood: Victimhood is rewarded, shouldering ones’ own load and thrift are punished. Like rats in a maze, Americans respond to incentives and disincentives: as a result, everyone is shouting out their claim to victimhood. The cacaphony is reminiscent of a classroom of spoiled children all claiming excuses for their odious behavior and poor performance.
by ilene - September 19th, 2010 1:48 pm
Courtesy of Mish
The US used to point the finger at Japan’s "Lost Decade" saying "It won’t happen here." But it did. Median wages are nearly 5% lower in real terms than in 2000, the poverty rate is at a 15 year high, and the S&P 500 is about 20% lower than it was a decade ago.
Pleased consider the Wall Street Journal article Lost Decade for Family Income
The downturn that some have dubbed the "Great Recession" has trimmed the typical household’s income significantly, new Census data show, following years of stagnant wage growth that made the past decade the worst for American families in at least half a century.
The bureau’s annual snapshot of American living standards also found that the fraction of Americans living in poverty rose sharply to 14.3% from 13.2% in 2008—the highest since 1994. Some 43.6 million Americans were living below the official poverty threshold, but the measure doesn’t fully capture the panoply of government antipoverty measures.
The inflation-adjusted income of the median household—smack in the middle of the populace—fell 4.8% between 2000 and 2009, even worse than the 1970s, when median income rose 1.9% despite high unemployment and inflation. Between 2007 and 2009, incomes fell 4.2%.
Lost Decade Lowlights
- Americans living in poverty rose sharply to 14.3% from 13.2% in 2008
- Poverty level is the highest since 1994
- 43.6 million Americans are living below the official poverty threshold
- Inflation-adjusted income of the median household fell 4.8% between 2000 and 2009
- The number of 25-to-34-year-olds living with their parents rose 8.4% to 5.5 million in 2010 from 2008
- Child poverty rose to 23.8% for kids under six in 2009, compared to 21.3% a year earlier
Census Bureau Charts
Here are a few select charts from Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009, Issued September 2010.
click on any chart for sharper image
Real Incomes 1967 to 2009
Poverty Rates 1959 to 2009
In general, the chart shows the "War on Poverty" was a failure regardless of what political party was in office. The odd pair of Clinton and Nixon did the best, while Carter and George W. Bush the worst. Reagan and George H. Bush both had roller coasters ending about where they started, while Ford essentially experienced a flatline.
by ilene - September 14th, 2010 3:25 pm
Originally published in Huffington Post
For most Americans, the Great Recession never ended, and for many of the 14.9 million unemployed Americans, it’s a 21st century Depression. Yet in December 2009, Larry Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council, told ABC news: "Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be."
The recession was over for bailed-out banks paying billions in bonuses. Taxpayers fund Wall Street with nearly zero-cost loans, and Congress changed accounting rules in April 2009 so that Wall Street firms could hide losses to create the illusion of "big profits," as they try to fill the gaping holes in their balance sheets.
[White House Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel famously declared, "Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go
by ilene - September 10th, 2010 1:22 am
Note from dshort: Now updated through September 6th. I highly recommended the Institute’s public commentaries, especially Viewing the "Great Recession" in Hi-Def. Scroll down to the entry dated September 1. I’ve reprinted the concluding two paragraphs below as an inducement to read it in its entirety.
There probably hasn’t been two separate recessions in three years, simply one that has evolved in significant ways. But if this really is a "double dip" recession, then our data indicates that the "Great Recession" of 2008 was merely the precursor, and not the main event. It is this current dip that we should be really concerned about; the current contraction in consumer demand is about structural changes in consumer behavior, whereas the "first dip" was about short term loss of consumer confidence.
"This recession has been complex and constantly evolving in ways that policy makers have not been able to understand through their low resolution lenses. As a consequence their policy responses have been misguided, ineffective and wasteful. The Federal Reserve may be able to save the banking system by being the "lender of last resort", but it is powerless to change perhaps the one thing that John Maynard Keynes got right — and what he mischaracterized as a "Paradox of Thrift" — as over 100 million U.S. households become economic "loose cannons", acting exclusively in their own best interests in 100 million different ways.
The charts below focus on the ‘Trailing Quarter’ Growth Index, which is computed as a 91-day moving average for the year-over-year growth/contraction of the Weighted Composite Index, an index that tracks near real-time consumer behavior in a wide range of consumption categories. The Growth Index is a calculated metric that smooths the volatility and gives a better sense of expansions and contractions in consumption.
by ilene - September 5th, 2010 2:45 am
Courtesy of Robert Reich
Welcome to the worst Labor Day in the memory of most Americans. Organized labor is down to about 7 percent of the private work force. Members of non-organized labor — most of the rest of us — are unemployed, underemployed or underwater. The Labor Department reported on Friday that just 67,000 new private-sector jobs were created in August, which, when added to the loss of public-sector (mostly temporary Census worker jobs) resulted in a net loss of over 50,000 jobs for the month. But at least 125,000 net new jobs are needed to keep up with the growth of the potential work force.
Face it: The national economy isn’t escaping the gravitational pull of the Great Recession. None of the standard booster rockets are working. Near-zero short-term interest rates from the Fed, almost record-low borrowing costs in the bond market, a giant stimulus package, along with tax credits for small businesses that hire the long-term unemployed have all failed to do enough.
That’s because the real problem has to do with the structure of the economy, not the business cycle. No booster rocket can work unless consumers are able, at some point, to keep the economy moving on their own. But consumers no longer have the purchasing power to buy the goods and services they produce as workers; for some time now, their means haven’t kept up with what the growing economy could and should have been able to provide them.
1. The Origin of the Crisis
This crisis began decades ago when a new wave of technology — things like satellite communications, container ships, computers and eventually the Internet — made it cheaper for American employers to use low-wage labor abroad or labor-replacing software here at home than to continue paying the typical worker a middle-class wage. Even though the American economy kept growing, hourly wages flattened. The median male worker earns less today, adjusted for inflation, than he did 30 years ago.
But for years American families kept spending as if their incomes were keeping pace with overall economic growth. And their spending fueled continued growth. How did families manage this trick? First, women streamed into the paid work force. By the late 1990s, more than 60 percent of mothers with young children worked outside the home (in 1966,…
by ilene - September 2nd, 2010 10:33 am
Rick’s updated economic charts are less than encouraging – consumer demand is not improving, nor is the recession over as measured by consumer demand for discretionary durable goods. But Rick would argue against a simple Great Recovery and possible a double dip, in favor of a continuation of the original, complex "dip" – The Great Recession. – Ilene
Courtesy of Rick Davis at Consumer Metrics Institute
The "Great Recession" that began in 2008 has had many nuances, some of which can only be seen in data with higher resolution than that provided by the BEA or NBER. Our day-by-day profile of consumer demand helps us understand triggering events while also making it clear that many recent changes in consumer behavior have begun to linger — much as the recession itself now appears to have done.
We have previously reported that consumer demand for discretionary durable goods is now at recessionary levels after starting to contract on a year-over-year basis on January 15, 2010. On the surface this would indicate a "double-dip" recession following the 2008 economic event. We may have inadvertently promoted the "double-dip" aspect of 2010′s contraction by often graphing the two events superimposed upon each other in our "Contraction Watch" chart — as though they were independent episodes:
But to even a casual observer there is something unsettling in the above chart, especially if we’ve been told that the "Great Recession" was a once-in-a-lifetime event that required once-in-a-lifetime amounts of new national debt to fix. Clearly, the 2010 contraction already appears well on the way to equaling or exceeding the "Great Recession" in severity despite those "fixes."
By the end of August, the 2010 contraction had out-lasted the "Great Recession" in duration, and was contracting at a rate that we might expect to see only once in every 15 years. But it is highly unlikely that two fully independent contractions this severe would happen only two years apart — just as the 1937 recession is not generally thought to be just another closely spaced severe recession, but is rather seen in the proper context.
by ilene - August 14th, 2010 1:15 am
Courtesy of Rick Davis at Consumer Metrics Institute
We have mentioned before that our year-over-year indexes are effected by both the current level of consumer activities and the year-ago levels of that same activity. Even if current levels remain dead flat, changing levels from the prior year can impact the year-over-year numbers. The bottom line, however, is that almost all economic measures ultimately use prior levels as reference points, and it is the annualized growth rates that we actually remember from the GDP reports.
Nothing demonstrates this phenomenon more clearly than our Automotive Index, which experienced a tremendous upward spike at this time last year from the ‘cash for clunkers’ stimulus package. Looking back at the chart for that index from a couple of months ago the spike is glaringly obvious:
Now fast forward to the current chart, where the upward ‘blip’ from the consumer oriented stimulus has inexorably shifted to the left and is half off the chart:
There are several conclusions that can be drawn from the above chart:
- Some portion of the recent drop in our Domestic Autos Sub-Index is the result of current consumer demand comparing poorly year-over-year to the level of stimulated demand during the year-ago period.
- The historical portions of the chart clearly show that a consumer oriented stimulus can have a measurable effect on select sectors of the economy.
But, at least for domestic autos during this recovery:
Without stimulus, significantly increased consumer demand has not been sustained. We see no signs of ‘organic’ or structural recovery yet in the either of two key durable goods sectors: Automotive and Housing:
The above chart is for the demand for new loans for newly acquired residential property (i.e., it excludes refinancing activities — which have remained strong). Again the impact of consumer oriented stimuli can be seen in the historical left side of the chart, but the right side tells us a great deal about whether the stimuli actually primed the Housing pump, or merely moved sales forward several quarters. If Housing is to become a real engine of economic growth again, this chart would have to move back into substantially positive territory and stay there without benefit of congressional give-aways.
by ilene - August 12th, 2010 2:43 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
1) Blogging is hard, don’t let economists tell you otherwise! I loved James Montier’s note a few weeks ago on economics bloggers. I certainly echo his opinions and take it even one step further. The most interesting thing about the financial blogosphere is that it is unlike any other part of the web. Some of the absolute brightest people in the world of economics and finance write blogs or at least write weekly or daily letters that are in essence, some form of blog (what differentiates a blog from a regular old website is a mystery to me as they all seem to be some form of the other these days).
The best part about the financial blogosphere is that it is not filled with a bunch of Perez Hilton wannabes who sit around in their underwear writing nonsense or voicing their opinions so they can hear the sound of their own voice. You can access Nobel prize winners, PhDs, prestigious professors, superb analysts, etc. You can obtain access to usually inaccessible people through the internet. The financial blogosphere has, in my opinion, become the most vital source of information and honest opinion available to the investment public. I read a mountain of sell side research every day (mostly for a fee), but I also filter 20-30 blogs on a daily basis that provide as good, if not better research than any Wall Street firm or hedge fund. And the best part about the blogs is that they are entirely free of charge. For a place that is known for its fee structures (Wall Street) this is about as good as it gets.
2) Speaking of economics – how is the de-leveraging of American households coming along? We’re certainly making progress, however, we’re coming off an extraordinary mountain of debt. According to data from the Fed the Financial Obligations Ratio remains above historically high levels. It’s no wonder that consumers seem to have never fully recovered from the Great Recession. If mean reversion plays its usual role here we’re likely in for several more quarters (if not years) of consumer deleveraging.
by ilene - August 5th, 2010 1:55 am
Courtesy of Mish
Lakshman Achuthan and Anirvan Banerji, co-founders of ECRI maintain the ECRI’s WLI Weekly Leading Index (Still) Widely Misunderstood
I am going to cut to the chase because all Achuthan and Banerji did in that piece is blow smoke without addressing the critical issue. Here is the key paragraph.
It’s true enough, based on the four decades of publicly available data, that WLI growth has never dropped this far without a recession. What most don’t know – apart from the fact that the WLI growth rate shouldn’t be used to predict recessions in the first place – is that, based on two additional decades of data not available to the general public, there are a couple of occasions (in 1951 and 1966) when WLI growth fell well below current readings, but no recessions resulted.
ECRI Still Has Explaining To Do
Lakshman Achuthan chastised Rosenberg in the above article (but not by name) for doing exactly what the ECRI did: Propose the WLI can be used to predict recessions.
I documented proof of that in ECRI Weekly Leading Indicators at Negative 9.8; Has the ECRI Blown Yet Another Recession Call?
Just The Facts Maam, Not The Spin
If the ECRI does not want people assuming the WLI can be used as a recession forecast, then perhaps they ought not present it that way.
Please consider some charts and text from the ECRI publication The Great Recession and Recovery:
ECRI Weekly Leading Index
"This is an index that’s been around for over a quarter of a century, and over that time (shown here) it has correctly predicted every recession and recovery in real-time."
I need to repeat that, over this entire time period, I was present to see each of the correct recession and recoveries calls in real-time, without false signals in between.
ECRI Clearly Touts the WLI’s Recession Prediction Capabilities
Please read the preceeding two paragraphs in italics slowly and carefully.
Lakshman Achuthan and Anirvan Banerji defense of the ECRI is that the WLI cannot be used to predict recession, yet in a blatant attempt to promote the WLI, the ECRI did just that!
Supposedly the WLI in "real-time" has correctly predicted every recession without a single false signal. Quite frankly that was a blatant attempt by the ECRI to promote the WLI’s recession prediction ability.…
by ilene - July 30th, 2010 12:48 pm
Courtesy of Rick Davis at Consumer Metrics Institute
Bureau of Economic Analysis (‘BEA’) released its "advance" estimate of the annualized growth rate of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (‘GDP’) during the 2nd quarter of 2010. Per their report, the GDP grew during the quarter at an annualized rate of 2.4%, down from 3.7% in the 1st quarter of 2010. Several points from the report merit comment:
* Readers familiar with prior GDP reports will be more surprised by the reported 1st quarter growth as by the new 2nd quarter number (which had been leaked by Mr. Bernanke last week), since only last month the Q1 of 2010 was supposedly growing at a 2.7% rate. Why did the Q1 number suddenly get altered upward by 1%? The BEA quietly revised the 1st quarter inventory adjustment up to a level that represents a 2.64% component within the revised 3.7% figure, with 1st quarter "real final sales of domestic product" now reported to be growing at a modestly improved 1.06% annualized clip, compared to the 0.9% number reported last month. In short, factories were piling on inventory at a substantially higher rate than previously thought, while the "real final sales" remained anemic.
* The 2.4% figure will garner all of the headlines, but the more important "real final sales of domestic product" continues to be weak, growing at a reported 1.3% annualized rate. The real cause for concern is that the reported inventory adjustments dropped from a 2.64% component in the revised 1st quarter to a 1.05% component during the 2nd quarter. If factories have begun to realize that end user demand remains anemic, the inventory adjustments could well go negative soon, pulling the reported total GDP down with it.
* The BEA revised much more than the first quarter of 2010. They revised down 2009, 2008 and 2007 as well. Apparently the "Great Recession" has been worse than our government has previously reported. And the recovery’s brightest moment, Q4 2009, has been revised down from 5.6% to 5.0%. Similarly Q3 2009 dropped from 2.2% to 1.6%. And so on. The bottom of the recession was shifted back one quarter, with Q4 2008 now reported to have contracted at a -6.8% rate, revised down from the…