by ilene - December 14th, 2010 8:00 pm
Courtesy of Robert Reich
America’s two economies are getting wider apart.
The Big Money economy is booming. According to a new Commerce Department report, third-quarter profits of American businesses rose at an annual record-breaking $1.659 trillion – besting even the boom year of 2006 (in nominal dollars). Profits have soared for seven consecutive quarters now, matching or beating their fastest pace in history.
Executive pay is linked to profits, so top pay is soaring as well.
Higher profits are also translating into the nice gains in the stock market, which is a boon to everyone with lots of financial assets.
And Wall Street is back. Bonuses on the Street are expected to rise about 5 percent this year, according to a survey by compensation consultants Johnson Associates Inc.
But nothing is trickling down to the Average Worker economy. Job growth is still anemic. At October’s rate of only 50,000 new private-sector jobs, unemployment won’t get down to pre-recession levels for twenty years. And almost half of October’s new jobs were in temporary help.
Meanwhile, the median wage is barely rising, adjusted for inflation. And the value of the major asset of most Americans – their homes – continues to drop.
Why are America’s two economies going in opposite directions? Two reasons.
First, big profits are coming from overseas sales of goods and services made abroad, not here. The world’s fastest-growing markets are China and India, whose inhabitants are eager to buy “American” products, and just as eager to work for the American companies that sell them. The U.S. market is barely moving.
Increasingly, American corporations are able to extract healthy gains from their global operations without adding much in the United States except executive talent.
Second, American businesses are boosting productivity by having U.S. employees do more work for less pay. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between the third quarter of 2009 and the third quarter of 2010, productivity rose 2.5 percent, output increased 4.1 percent, the number of hours worked was up 1.6 percent, and unit labor costs dropped by 1.9 percent.
In other words, American workers are losing even more bargaining power as a sizeable chunk of corporate profit goes into software and digital equipment that can do what people used to do – but more cheaply.
So what is Washington doing about all this?
by ilene - October 30th, 2010 5:34 pm
Courtesy of Robert Reich
This, from the Washington Post’s conservative pundit George Will:
Total spending by parties, campaigns and issue-advocacy groups concerning every office from county clerks to U.S. senators may reach a record $4.2 billion in this two-year cycle. That is about what Americans spend in one year on yogurt, but less than they spend on candy in two Halloween seasons. Proctor & Gamble spent $8.6 billion on advertising in its last fiscal year.
Those who are determined to reduce the quantity of political speech to what they consider the proper amount are the sort of people who know exactly how much water should come through our shower heads — no more than 2.5 gallons per minute, as stipulated by a 1992 law. Is it, however, worrisome that Americans spend on political advocacy — determining who should make and administer the laws — much less than they spend on potato chips, $7.1 billion a year?
In a word, Mr. Will, yes.
The number of dollars spent isn’t the issue; it’s the lopsidedness of where the dollars come from. Even if the total were only $1000, democracy would be endangered if $980 came from large corporations and wealthy individuals. The trend is clear and worrisome: The great bulk of campaign money is coming from a narrower and narrower circle of moneyed interests.
Anyone who doubts the corrupting effect has not been paying attention. Our elected representatives have been acutely sensitive to the needs of Wall Street bankers, hedge-fund managers, and the executives of big pharma, big oil, and the largest health insurance companies. This is not because these individuals and interests are particularly worthy or specially deserving. It is because they are effectively bribing elected officials with their donations. Such donations are not made out of charitable impulse. They are calculated investments no less carefully considered than investments in particular shares of stock. They are shares in our democracy.
Why $4.2 billion and not ten times that amount? Because the high-rolling political investors don’t need to spend a dollar more in order to exert overwhelming influence.
This figure, by the way, leaves out the tens of billions of dollars dedicated to lobbying, lawyering, and public relations — all of which deliver specific legislative outcomes the campaign money fuels. The economy of Washington, D.C. depends on this gigantic flow of funds (supporting…
by ilene - September 6th, 2010 4:10 pm
Courtesy of Mish
It’s Labor Day. The markets are closed. Those working for government, banks, schools etc have the day off. All totaled, 17.3 million citizens do not have a job today nor a job they can return to on Tuesday. Another 8.9 million will not work as many hours as they would like, this week, next week, or the week after that.
How NOT to End the Great Recession
In a New York Times Op-Ed, Robert B. Reich, a secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley comes to all the wrong conclusions about where we are, how we got here, and what to do about it. (Robert Reich’s "The Real Lesson of Labor Day" here.)
Please consider How to End the Great Recession
Reich: THIS promises to be 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.
Mish Comment: When organized labor is at 0%, both public and private, we will be on our way to prosperity. Organized labor in conjunction with piss poor management bankrupted GM and countless other manufacturing companies. Now, public unions, in cooperation with corrupt politicians have bankrupted countless cities and states.
Reich: The Labor Department reported on Friday that just 67,000 new private-sector jobs were created in August, while at least 125,000 are needed to keep up with the growth of the potential work force.
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 and 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
by ilene - September 5th, 2010 3:39 pm
I don’t really have happy things to say about Labor on this Labor Day weekend, but if you missed this video with Conan and Robert Reich, here it is again. It’s hilarious. – Ilene
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 3rd, 2010 4:41 pm
Indeed, even after the government plays with the numbers to make them look better (using inaccurate birth-death models and other tricks-of-the-trade), this is how the current jobs downturn compares with other post-WWII recessions:
The Government Has Encouraged the Offshoring of American Jobs for More Than 50 Years
President Eisenhower re-wrote the tax laws so that they would favor investment abroad. President Kennedy railed against tax provisions that "consistently favor United States private investment abroad compared with investment in our own economy", but nothing changed.
For the last 50-plus years, the tax benefits to American companies making things abroad has encouraged jobs to move out of the U.S.
The Government Has Encouraged Mergers
The government has actively encouraged mergers, which destroy jobs.
This is nothing new.
Citigroup’s former chief executive says that when Citigroup was formed in 1998 out of the merger of banking and insurance giants, Alan Greenspan told him, “I have nothing against size. It doesn’t bother me at all”.
And the government has actively encouraged the big banks to grow into mega-banks.
The Government Has Let Unemployment Rise in an Attempt to Fight Inflation
As I noted last year:
The Federal Reserve is mandated by law to maximize employment. The relevant statute states:
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Open Market Committee shall maintain long run growth of the monetary and credit aggregates commensurate with the economy’s long run potential to increase production, so as to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.
The Fed could
by ilene - August 24th, 2010 8:31 pm
Robert Reich suggests creating a "national database of corporate crimes and settlements" to help regulators keep track of corporations that have a history of disregarding safety concerns. As long as the fines for individual violations is less than the profits realized in the course of business, there is no incentive for these corporations to clean up their act. To do that, the penalties need to be exceed the rewards and inflict some real pain on the corporation, owners, managers and shareholders. This is particularly important with serial offenders because the culture of the company does not change as a result of minor fines, just as the sociopathic nature of hard core criminals does not get cured by a three month stay in prision. – Ilene
Courtesy of Robert Reich
There are rotten apples in every industry. Or perhaps I should say rotten eggs.
One especially rotten egg is Jack DeCoster, whose commercial egg agribusiness, which goes under the homey title “Wright County Egg,” headquartered in Galt, Iowa, sends eggs all over the country under many different brands. Those eggs have now laid low thousands of Americans with salmonella poisoning, and may well infect thousands more.
DeCoster is recalling 380 million eggs sold since mid-May. Another commercial egg company, also headquartered in Iowa, and in which DeCoster is a major investor, is recalling hundreds millions more.
It’s not clear how rotten eggs are recalled. They’re not like Toyotas. They’re already in our food supply.
But this is only the beginning of the story.
Thirteen years ago when I was Secretary of Labor, DeCoster agreed to pay a $2 million penalty (the most we could throw at him) for some of the most heinous workplace violations I’d seen. His workers had been forced to live in trailers infested with rats and handle manure and dead chickens with their bare hands. It was an agricultural sweatshop.
Several people in Maine told me the fine wouldn’t stop DeCoster. He’d just consider it a cost of doing business. Evidently they were right. DeCoster’s commercial egg business has a record that would make a repeat offender blush.
In 2003, DeCoster pleaded guilty to knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants (who don’t complain about unsafe working conditions, below-minimum-wage pay, and unsanitary facilities). DeCoster paid a record $2.1 million penalty for that one.
by ilene - August 15th, 2010 4:38 pm
Courtesy of Robert Reich
It’s nonsense to think of the economy heading downward again into a double dip when most Americans never emerged from the first dip. We’re still in one long Big Dipper.
More people are out of work today than they were last year, counting everyone too discouraged even to look for work. The number of workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose last week to highest level since February. Not counting temporary census workers, a total of only 12,000 net new private and public jobs were created in July — when 125,000 are needed each month just to keep up with growth in the population of people who want and need to work.
Not since the government began to measure the ups and downs of the busines cycle has such a deep recession been followed by such anemic job growth. Jobs came back at a faster pace even in March 1933 after the economy started to “recover” from the depths of the Great Depression. Of course, that job growth didn’t last long. That recovery wasn’t really a recovery at all. The Great Depression continued. And that’s exactly my point. The Great Recession continues.
Even investors are beginning to see reality. Starting in February the stock market rallied because corporate profits were rising briskly. Investors didn’t mind that profits were coming from payroll cuts, foreign sales, and gimmicks like share buy-backs — none of which could be sustained over the long term. But the rally died in April when investors began to see how paper-thin these profits actually were. And now the stock market is back to where it was at the start of the year.
What to do? First, don’t listen to Wall Street and the right.
Forget the Neo-Hoover deficit hawks who day we have to cut government spending and trim upcoming deficits. We didn’t get into this mess and aren’t remaining in it because of budget deficits. In fact, the only way to reduce long-term deficits is to restore jobs and growth so government revenues rise and expenses like unemployment insurance drop.
Ignore the government haters who say we have to void or delay upcoming regulations of Wall Street and big business. We got here because Wall Street went bonkers, the housing bubble burst, and the middle class couldn’t continue to spend because their health-care bills were soaring…
by ilene - August 6th, 2010 11:32 pm
Courtesy of Robert Reich
The economy is still in a deep hole, and we’re not climbing out.
Remember, we need 125,000 new jobs per month simply to keep up with the growth of the American population seeking jobs. But according to this morning’s job’s report, private-sector employers added just 71,000 jobs in July. (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ revised report for June, private employers added only 31,000 jobs in June.)
In other words, the hole keeps getting deeper.
(Government Census workers who had been hired in the spring have been let go over the last two months, and shouldn’t really be included in the trend-line calculation. But for the record, 143,000 lost their jobs in July. That leaves about 200,000 Census workers still knocking on doors. Most of them will lose their jobs in August and September.)
The only slightly bright news is that manufacturing payrolls increased by 36,000 in July, but those gains are almost surely going to evaporate in August. Manufacturing expanded in July at the slowest pace of the year as orders and production decelerated.
All this blur of numbers means two things: An extraordinary number of Americans are still hurting. And it’s more important than ever for the US government to step in with a larger stimulus that puts more people to work (a WPA, for example), and tax cuts for people who will spend them (a two-year payroll tax holiday on the first $20K of income).
We cannot get out of this hole without major federal action.
by ilene - July 23rd, 2010 1:59 pm
Courtesy of Robert Reich
We’re not in a double-dip recession yet. We’re in a one and a half dip recession.
Consumer confidence is down. Retail sales are down. Home sales are down. Permits for single-family starts are down. The average work week is down. The only things not down are inventories – unsold stuff is piling up in warehouses and inventories of unsold homes are rising – and defaults on loans.
The 1.5 dip recession should be causing alarm bells to ring all over official Washington. It should cause deficit hawks to stop squawking about future debt, blue-dog Democrats to stop acting like Republicans, and mainstream Democrats to get some backbone.
The 1.5 dip recession should cause the President to demand a large-scale national jobs program including a new WPA that gets millions of Americans back to work even if government has to pay their wages directly. Included would be zero-interest loans to strapped states and locales, so they didn’t have to cut vital services and raise taxes. They could repay when the economy picked up and revenues came in. The national jobs program would also include a one-year payroll tax holiday on the first $20,000 of income.
The President should stop talking and acting on anything else – not the deficit, not energy, not the environment, not immigration, not implementing the health care law, not education. He should make the whole upcoming mid-term election a national referendum on putting Americans back to work, and his jobs bill. Are you for it or against it?
But none of this is happening. The hawks and blue dogs are still commanding the attention. Herbert Hoover’s ghost seems to have captured the nation’s capital. We’re back to 1932 (or 1937) and the prevailing sentiment is government can’t and mustn’t do anything but aim to reduce the deficit, even though the economy is going down.
It looks like there’ll be an extension of unemployment benefits. (If it weren’t for the human suffering involved, I wish the Republicans had been forced to filibuster that bill all summer and show the nation just how much they care about people without jobs.) But the fiscal stimulus resulting from this will be tiny. Jobless benefits are humane but they alone don’t get jobs back.