Monopoly Rents and Corporate Taxation (Wonkish): At one level it’s hard to take the Trump administration’s tax “reform” push seriously. A guy gets elected as a populist and his first two big proposals are (a) taking away health insurance from millions (b) cutting corporate taxes. Wow.
Furthermore, Trump is invincibly ignorant on taxes (and everything else) — he keeps declaring that America is the highest taxed nation in the world, which is nearly the opposite of the truth among advanced countries. And his allies in Congress aren’t ignorant, but they’re liars: Paul Ryan is the master of mystery meat, of promising to raise and save trillions in unspecified ways.
But there is an actual interesting question here, even if we shouldn’t give any credence to Republican answers. Who does, in fact, pay the corporate profit tax? Does it fall on corporations, and hence eventually on their shareholders? Or is the ultimate incidence mainly on wages, as the administration claims?
Skipping forward to the punchline:
...much corporate taxation probably doesn’t fall on returns to physical capital, but rather on monopoly rents. ... As long as the local source of profit is some kind of monopoly rent, corporate tax incidence is going to fall on shareholders, not workers. ...
This changes the narrative, doesn’t it? Instead of focusing on rising capital mobility as a reason profits taxes might fall on workers, maybe we should focus on rising market power as a reason why profits taxes fall on capitalists.
The point for now is that when someone tells you that changes in the world have made old-style corporate taxes obsolete, be skeptical. Some changes in the world may have made profit taxation a better idea than ever.
Rajan, a professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, spoke about the “concentrated and devastating” impact of technology and trade on blue-collar communities in areas like the Midwest, the anger toward “totally discredited” elites following the 2008 financial crisis, and the subsequent rise of populist nationalism, seen as a way to restore a sense of community via exclusion.
In his talk, Rajan focused on three questions related to current populist discontent: 1. Why is anger focused on trade? 2. Why now? 3. Why do so many voters turn to far-right nationalist movements?
“Pointing fingers at these communities and telling them they don’t understand is not the right answer,” he warned. “In many ways, the kind of angst that we see in industrial countries today is similar to the bleak times [of] the 1920s and 1930s. Most people in industrial countries used to believe that their children would have a better future than their already pleasant present. Today this is no longer true.” ...
There's quite a bit more. I don't agree with everything he (Raghuram) says, but thought it might provoke discussion.
Is Poor Health Hindering Economic Growth?: It is well known that poor health is bad for an individual's income, partially because it can lower the propensity to participate in the labor market. In fact, 5.4 percent of prime-age individuals (those 25–54 years old) reported being too sick or disabled to work in the second quarter of 2017. This is the most commonly cited reason prime-age men do not want a job, and for prime-age women, it is the second most often cited reason behind family responsibilities (see the chart). (Throughout this article, I use the measure "not wanting a job because of poor health or disability" as a proxy for serious health problems.)
In addition to being prevalent, the share of the prime-age population citing poor health or disability as the main reason for not wanting a job has increased significantly during the past two decades and tends to be higher among those with less education (see the chart).
Yet by some standards, the health of Americans is improving. For example, compared to two decades ago the average American is living two years longer, and the likelihood of dying from cancer or cardiovascular disease has fallen. These specific outcomes, however, may have more to do with improvements in the treatment of chronic disease (and the resulting reduction in mortality rates) than improvements in the incidence of health problems.
Another puzzle—which is perhaps also a clue—is the considerable variation across states in the rates of being too sick or disabled to work. For example, people living in Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, or West Virginia in 2016 were more than three times likelier to indicate being too sick or disabled to work than residents of Utah, North Dakota, Iowa, or Minnesota (see the maps below).
This cross-state variation is useful because it allows state-by-state comparisons of the prevalence of specific health problems. Among a list of more than 30 health indicators, the two factors that most correlate with the share of a state's population too sick or disabled to work were high blood pressure (a correlation of 0.86) and diabetes (a correlation of 0.83). Both of these conditions are associated with risk factors such as family history, race, inactivity, poor diet, and obesity. Both of these health issues have increased significantly on a national basis in recent years.
So how might poor health hinder economic growth? Health factors accounts for a significant part of the decline in labor force participation since at least the late 1990s. After controlling for demographic changes, the share of people too sick or disabled to work is about 1.6 percentage points higher today than it was two decades ago (see the interactive charts on our website). Other things equal, if this trend reversed itself during the next year, it could increase the workforce by up to 4 million people, and add around 2.6 percentage points to gross domestic product (calculated using our Labor Market Sliders).
Of course, such a sudden and large reversal in health is highly unlikely. Nonetheless, significant improvements to the health of the working-age population would help lessen the drag on growth of the labor supply coming from an aging population. Public policy efforts centered on both prevention and treatment of work-impeding health conditions could play an important role in bolstering the nation's workforce.
The systems that most countries use to elect presidents are deeply flawed. In particular, candidates A and B may each be more popular than C (in the sense that either would beat C in a head-to-head contest), but nevertheless each may lose to C if they both run. The systems therefore fail to reflect voters’ preferences adequately. In this lecture, I will illustrate this point with examples from U.S. and French political history. I will also propose an election system that is far superior to the current ones.
Yellen's Odds of Being Reappointed Get Slimmer: The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual Jackson Hole conference offered little direct insight into the path of monetary policy for this year and next. But that doesn’t mean it was a nonevent. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that the already small odds of Chair Janet Yellen being reappointed by the Trump administration when her term ends in February just got a lot slimmer. ...Continued at Bloomberg Prophets...
Today’s memo features two economists working on models of multiple equilibria from different perspectives. George Evans is a pioneer in models of adaptive learning, a topic he has worked on for more than thirty years. George presented his joint work with Seppo Honkapohja, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Finland, and Kaushik Mitra, Professor of Economics at the University of Birmingham. Patrick Pintus, a Researcher at the Banque de France, presented a co-authored paper with Yi Wen, an Assistant Vice-President at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and Xiaochuan Xing from Yale University. ...
George Evans began his work on adaptive learning in his Ph.D. dissertation at Berkeley in the early 1980s. When the rest of the profession was swept up by the rational expectations revolution, George persevered with the important idea that perfectly correct beliefs about the future cannot be plucked from the air, they must be learned. For an introduction to George’s work, I highly recommend the book co-authored with his long-time co-author, Seppo Honkapohja.
The paper of Evans, Honkapohja and Mitra (EHM), begins with a theme we met in post two where I discussed the fact that the standard New Keynesian model, in which the central bank follows a Taylor Rule, has two steady state equilibria. ...
Evans, Honkapohja and Mitra (EHM) build on this idea by adding a theory of adaptive learning. I am often asked how my own work on the belief function is related to George’s work on adaptive learning. They are very closely linked. ...
Previous work has shown that, in the basic New-Keynesian model, the upper steady state is stable under adaptive learning but the lower steady state is not. They modify the basic model by adding the assumption that the rate at which prices and output can fall has a lower bound. They show that this assumption implies that there exists a third steady state in which recessions can be persistent and deep. ...
George and his co-authors use their analysis to argue that a large fiscal intervention, a short-sharp shock, can knock the economy out of region C and back into region A. Readers of this blog will know that I have expressed scepticism of that idea in the past, largely because I am not a big fan of the basic NK model. However, this is the most convincing rationale in favour of a large fiscal stimulus that I have yet seen. ... If you are a young researcher who is thinking of working in macroeconomic theory and policy, consider working on models of expectations formation.
PWX take up a puzzle that has long been known to plague the equilibrium real business cycle (RBC) model that has dominated macroeconomic theory for more than thirty years. That model predicts that when interest rates are high, the economy will soon enter an expansion. The reality is different. High interest rates are an omen that a recession is coming down the road. What are the features of the real world that are missed by the classical RBC paradigm? ...
Fascism, American Style, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: As sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Joe Arpaio engaged in blatant racial discrimination. His officers systematically targeted Latinos, often arresting them on spurious charges and at least sometimes beating them up... Read the report from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and prepare to be horrified.
Once Latinos were arrested, bad things happened to them. Many were sent to Tent City, which Arpaio himself proudly called a “concentration camp,” where they lived under brutal conditions, with temperatures inside the tents sometimes rising to 145 degrees.
And when he received court orders to stop these practices, he simply ignored them, which led to his eventual conviction — after decades in office — for contempt of court. But he had friends in high places, indeed in the highest of places. We now know that Donald Trump tried to get the Justice Department to drop the case against Arpaio, a clear case of attempted obstruction of justice. And when that ploy failed, Trump ... pardoned him. ...
Let’s call things by their proper names here. Arpaio is, of course, a white supremacist. But he’s more than that. There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law: What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed, was fascism, American style. ...
There have been endless reports about the low-education white voters who went overwhelmingly for Trump... But he wouldn’t have made it over the top without millions of votes from well-educated Republicans who ... had no excuse for not realizing what kind of man he was. ...
This bodes ill if, as seems all too likely, the Arpaio pardon is only the beginning: We may well be in the early stages of a constitutional crisis. Does anyone consider it unthinkable that Trump will fire Robert Mueller, and try to shut down investigations into his personal and political links to Russia? Does anyone have confidence that Republicans in Congress will do anything more than express mild disagreement ... if he does?
As I said, there’s a word for people who round up members of ethnic minorities and send them to concentration camps, or praise such actions. There’s also a word for people who, out of cowardice or self-interest, go along with such abuses: collaborators. How many such collaborators will there be? I’m afraid we’ll soon find out.
So many observers are asking whether Trump can restart his stalled agenda. But that turns out to be a bad question...
First, Trump doesn’t really have an agenda beyond “winning.” He has instincts and prejudices, but no interest in the details, or even the broad outlines, of policy...
Which brings me to my second point: While the legislative agenda does indeed appear stalled, a lot of what those interest groups want doesn’t require legislation, and is anything but stalled. This is especially true for environmental policy, where decisions about how to interpret and enforce laws ... can have a huge impact.
So Trump’s true legacy may well be defined not by the laws he does or more likely doesn’t pass, but by his decision to put Scott Pruitt in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.
As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt effectively acted as a servant, not of the public, but of polluting industries. That’s not an accusation; it’s confirmed by his own email trail. ...
Pruitt can do a lot of harm without changing the law. He can, for example, reverse the ban on a pesticide that the E.P.A.’s own scientists say may damage children’s nervous systems. Or he can move to scrap a rule that would limit heavy-metal contamination from power-plant wastewater.
And he can cripple enforcement of the rules he doesn’t undo simply by working with Trump to starve his own agency of personnel and funds. The Trump budget released in May ... was an indication of priorities — and it called for cutting funding for the E.P.A. by 31 percent, more than any other agency.
Individually, no one of these actions is likely to be treated as front-page news... Cumulatively, however, they will kill or cripple large numbers of Americans — for that is what pollution does, even if the damage is gradual and sometimes invisible.
By the way, if you’re wondering whether an anti-environmental agenda will at least be good for job creation, the answer is no... This agenda will, however, be worth billions to certain campaign donors.
So don’t say that the administration’s agenda is stalled. Some parts are, but other parts are moving right along. When it comes to environmental policy, Trump will definitely change America — and his legacy will literally be toxic.
I have a different view. If the market means U.S. equities, the behavior since the Federal Reserve began this tightening cycle has been very consistent with the behavior of past cycles. It's not sure all that complicated -- it’s about consistent economic growth -- and I am pretty sure fighting it is a losing bet. ...Continued at Bloomberg Prophets...
Last week I featured two US central bankers, Jim Bullard, President of the St Louis Fed and Kevin Lansing, a Research Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. This week’s post features two papers on the housing market, presented by two researchers at the Bank of England; Arzu Uluc and Philippe Bracke. One of these papers uses an Agent Based-Modelling approach to study the effects of macroprudential policy in the housing market. The other is a large-scale empirical study which finds significant evidence against the hypothesis that we are all perfectly rational. Homo Economicus and Femina Economica display more subtle behaviour than simple neo-classical models admit.
What Will Trump Do to American Workers?, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...Donald Trump’s promise to be a populist fighting for ordinary workers was worth about as much as any other Trump promise — that is, nothing. His agenda, such as it is, amounts to reverse Robin Hood with extra racism — the conventional Republican strategy of taking from struggling families to give to the rich, while distracting lower-income whites by attacking Those People, with the only difference being just how blatantly he plays the race card.
At first sight, however, the Trump version of this strategy doesn’t seem to be going very well. ...
So is the Trump agenda dead? Not necessarily, because trickle-down has never been the whole story of the Republican assault on workers. Or to put it another way: Don’t just watch Congress, keep your eyes on what federal agencies are doing.
When you step back and take the long view on trickle-down policies, what you realize is that Trump’s legislative failure is more the rule than the exception. The election of Ronald Reagan was supposed to have set America on a path toward lower taxes and smaller government — and it did, for a while. But those changes have largely been reversed. ...
But here’s the thing: While the rich still pay taxes and the safety net has in some ways gotten stronger, the decades since Reagan have nonetheless been marked by vastly increased inequality, with stagnating wages for most, but soaring incomes for a tiny elite. How did that happen?
Yes, globalization probably played some role, as did technology. But other wealthy countries, just as exposed to the winds of global change, haven’t seen anything like America’s headlong rush into a new Gilded Age. To understand what happened to us..., you need to look at policy — and especially the kind of policy that often flies under the media’s radar. ...
Which brings us back to Trump and the effect he’ll have on America’s working class. Right now it looks as if he may have much less impact on taxing and spending than most people expected. But other policies, often made administratively by federal agencies rather than via legislation, can matter a lot. ...
The point is that progressives shouldn’t celebrate too much over Trump’s legislative failures. As long as he’s in office, he retains a lot of power to betray the working people who supported him. And in case you haven’t noticed, betraying those who trust him is a Trump specialty.
For one thing, Caligula did not, as far as we know, foment ethnic violence within the empire. For another ... Rome’s government continued to function reasonably well despite his antics...
Finally, when his behavior became truly intolerable, Rome’s elite did what the party now controlling Congress seems unable even to contemplate: It found a way to get rid of him.
Anyone with eyes — eyes not glued to Fox News, anyway — has long realized that Trump is utterly incapable, morally and intellectually, of filling the office he holds. But in the past few days things seem to have reached a critical mass. ...
Everyone in Washington now knows that we have a president who never meant it when he swore to defend the Constitution. He violates that oath just about every day and is never going to get any better.
The good news is that the founding fathers contemplated that possibility and offered a constitutional remedy: Unlike the senators of ancient Rome, who had to conspire with the Praetorian Guard to get Caligula assassinated, the U.S. Congress has the ability to remove a rogue president.
But ... all we get from the vast majority of elected Republicans are off-the-record expressions of “dismay” or denunciations of bigotry that somehow fail to name the bigot in chief. ...
The fact is that white supremacists have long been a key if unacknowledged part of the G.O.P. coalition, and Republicans need those votes to win general elections. Given the profiles in cowardice they’ve presented so far, it’s hard to imagine anything — up to and including evidence of collusion with a foreign power — that would make them risk losing those voters’ support.
So the odds are that we’re stuck with a malevolent, incompetent president... If so, we have to hope that our country somehow stumbles through the next year and a half without catastrophe, and that the midterm elections transform the political calculus and make the Constitution great again.
If that doesn’t happen, all one can say is God save America. Because all indications are that the Republicans won’t.
1.) Dudley never put a Trump bump in his forecast, so his forecast is essentially unchanged:
I think we’re still on the same trajectory we’ve been on for several years. Above trend growth, gradually tightening labor market, inflation -- somewhat below our objective -- but we do expect as the labor market continues to tighten, to see firmer wage gains and that will ultimately filter into inflation moving up towards our 2% objective.
2.) He expects inflation numbers to improve. He wants us to ignore the year-over-year numbers (of course, recent month-over-month numbers are not great):
Well, the reason why inflation won’t get up to 2% very quickly on a year-over-year basis is because we’ve had these very low inflation readings over the last 4 or 5 months. So it’s going to take time for those to sort of drop out of the year-over-year calculation.
3.) Assuming the forecast continues as he expects, he believes the Fed will hike rates again:
I think it depends on how the economic forecast evolves. If it evolves in line with my expectations, I would expect -- I would be in favor of doing another rate hike later this year.
4.) Bubble? What bubble?
My own view is that -- I’m not particularly concerned about where our asset prices are today for a couple of reasons. The main one is that I think that the asset prices are pretty consistent with what we’re seeing in terms of the actual performance of the economy.
5.) But - and I think this is important - financial conditions continue to easy despite rate hikes:
Now the reason why I think you’d want to continue to gradually remove monetary policy accommodation, even with inflation somewhat below target, is that 1) monetary policy is still accommodative, so the level of short-term rates is pretty low, and 2) and this is probably even more important, financial conditions have been easing rather than tightening. So despite the fact that we’ve raised short-term interest rates, financial conditions are easier today than they were a year ago.
The stock market’s up, credit spreads have narrowed, the dollar has weakened, and those have more than offset the effects of somewhat higher short-term rates and the very modest increases that we’ve seen in longer-term yields.
6.) Balance sheet normalization is coming:
Well, we obviously have to have the FOMC meeting to make that decision at the next FOMC meeting. But, I don’t think the expectations of market participants are unreasonable. In June, following the June FOMC meeting, we laid out a plan in terms of how we would actually do our balance sheet normalization. How we would allow Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities to gradually run off our portfolio over time.
And so the plan is out there. It’s been I think generally well-received, and fully anticipated. People expect it to take place. In the last FOMC statement, we said that we expected this to happen relatively soon. So, I expect it to happen relatively soon.
7.) At the end of the day, the balance sheet reduction might amount to very little:
My own view is, if I had to say today, we’re probably going to see a balance sheet five years from now that’s probably in the order of 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 trillion rather than the 4-1/2 trillion dollar balance sheet.
Overall, Dudley continues to adhere to what amounts to the Fed's median forecast, and that means he thinks another rate hike this year is solidly in play.
Separately, retail sales for July were up:
The monthly data is noisy, so be wary that it reflects the true state of spending. The three-month and twelve-month changes (for core sales) are similar at 3.2% and 3.6% respectively and more likely reflect the underlying trend. Basically, the consumer continues to press forward at a modest pace. Stop worrying about consumer spending. It isn't an imminent threat to the outlook.
And why should it be a threat? Like, job growth, wage growth is actually fairly solid. The headline weakness in wage growth is all about demographic shift, at least according to new research from Mary Daly of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Via Bloomberg:
Fresh research from the San Francisco Fed provides an explanation: baby boomers. As they retire in droves, their exit from the workforce is distorting the data for average earnings, according to a blog post published Monday on the bank’s website.
“Wage growth isn’t as disappointing as it looks,” Mary Daly, director of economic research at the San Francisco Fed, said in an interview. “Wage growth, when cleaned up, looks consistent with other measures seen in the labor market.”
The implication is that the labor market low wage growth does not necessarily imply the labor market is weak. It is an artifact of demographic change. That change has been fairly persistent, but at the end of the note Daly holds out some hope that it may be changing:
Overall, these factors have combined to hold down growth in the median weekly earnings measure by a little under 2 percentage points (Figure 2), a sizable effect relative to the normal expected gains.
Most recently, the effect from flows into and out of full-time work has started to tick upward and might be a sign of stronger growth ahead.
Fed Shouldn't View Productivity as an Exogenous Factor: The Federal Reserve has an opportunity to test a hypothesis critical to the health of the U.S. economy: Can persistently loose monetary policy boost the pace of productivity growth? Sadly, for now, an adherence to a strict Phillips curve framework for the economy and fear of financial instability will prevent the Fed from venturing down this path. ...[Continued at Bloomberg Prophets]...
Real Americans understand that our nation is built around values, not the “blood and soil” of the marchers’ chants; what makes you an American is your attempt to live up to those values, not the place or race your ancestors came from. ...
But the man who began his political ascent by falsely questioning Barack Obama’s place of birth — a blood-and-soil argument if ever there was one — clearly cares nothing about the openness and inclusiveness that have always been essential parts of who we are...
Real Americans understand that our nation was born in a rebellion against tyranny. They feel an instinctive aversion to tyrants..., and an underlying sympathy for democratic regimes...
But the present occupant of the White House has made no secret of preferring the company, not of democratic leaders, but of authoritarian rulers...
Real Americans expect public officials to be humbled by the responsibility that comes with the job. They’re not supposed to be boastful blowhards ... like Trump...
Real Americans understand that being a powerful public figure means facing criticism... Foreign autocrats may rage against unflattering news reports, threaten to inflict financial harm on publications they dislike, talk about imprisoning journalists; American leaders aren’t supposed to sound like that.
Finally, real Americans who manage to achieve high office realize that they are ... meant to use their position for the public good. ... Now we have a leader who is transparently exploiting his office for personal enrichment, in ways that all too obviously amount in practice to influence-buying by domestic malefactors and foreign governments alike.
In short, these days we have a president who is really, truly, deeply un-American, someone who doesn’t share the values and ideals that made this country special...., it’s remarkable that Trump won’t even pretend to be outraged at Putin’s meddling with our election. ...
Whatever role foreign influence may have played and may still be playing, however, we don’t need to wonder whether an anti-American cabal, hostile to everything we stand for, determined to undermine everything that truly makes this country great, has seized power in Washington. It has: it’s called the Trump administration.
The Republican Retreat From Market-Based Regulation: During the debate over the repeal of Obamacare, Republicans made frequent reference to their desire for a “free market” for health care. This is consistent with the GOP’s long-standing support of deregulation and free market principles.
But all well-functioning markets are regulated to one degree or another. ...
Trump administration officials are notorious for their suspicion that a “deep state” of career military, intelligence, diplomatic, or civil service professionals is seeking to sabotage their work. But for a clearer example of sabotage — albeit without much in the way of a conspiracy — Trump would do well to cast his gaze at the Federal Reserve, which, dating back to before his inauguration, has been waging war on an inflationary menace that appears not to exist.
I have no qualms with the criticism that the Fed's is excessively focused on inflation or, more accurately, possibly working with a broken model of inflation. That's fair game.
What I find disturbing and quite frankly irresponsible is the use of "deep state" language to describe the Fed. This is the language used by the far right to discredit and undermine faith in our government institutions. For the left to adopt the same language adds to the fire already burning.
Take this language into consideration with the rage already directed against the Federal Reserve. This, for instance:
A Sayre man has been arrested in connection with what authorities says is a foiled plot to blow up a bank building in Downtown Oklahoma City with a truck filled with fake explosives.
Jerry Drake Varnell, 23, of Sayre, initially wanted to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., but settled on attempting to detonate a bomb at the BancFirst building at 101 N Broadway in downtown Oklahoma City, according to court documents.
An undercover FBI agent posed as someone who could help Varnell to blow up the building, according to a complaint filed Sunday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Varnell allegedly told an FBI informant that he wanted to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., with a device similar to the one used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing because he was upset with the government.
I am honestly just simply disappointed that Vox chose to add to the hate directed at the Fed by using the inflammatory language of the far right. I have had plenty of criticisms of the Fed over the years. I am concerned that their model of inflation isn't working, and that their estimate of the natural rate of interest is too high. But that type of criticism is a far cry from describing the institution as the "deep state." We have seen time and time again that fomenting that kind of thought only leads to bloodshed. The last thing we need is the left helping to incite another Oklahoma City bombing on Constitution Ave. - or anywhere for that matter.
In a rational world urgent action to limit climate change would be the overwhelming policy priority for governments everywhere.
But the U.S. government is, of course, now controlled by a party within which climate denial — rejecting not just scientific evidence but also obvious lived experience, and fiercely opposing any effort to slow the trend — has become a defining marker of tribal identity. ...
So where does climate denial come from? ... The answer, I’d argue, is that there are actually three groups involved — a sort of axis of climate evil.
First, and most obvious, there’s the fossil fuel industry — think the Koch brothers — which has an obvious financial stake in continuing to sell dirty energy. And the industry ... has systematically showered money on think tanks and scientists willing to express skepticism about climate change. ...
Still, the mercenary interests of fossil fuel companies aren’t the whole story here. There’s also ideology.
An influential part of the U.S. political spectrum — think the Wall Street Journal editorial page — is opposed to any and all forms of government economic regulation; it’s committed to Reagan’s doctrine that government is always the problem, never the solution. ...
Some conservatives ... support market-friendly intervention to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But all too many prefer simply to deny the existence of the issue — if facts conflict with their ideology, they deny the facts.
Finally, there are a few public intellectuals — less important than the plutocrats and ideologues, but if you ask me even more shameful — who adopt a pose of climate skepticism out of sheer ego. In effect, they say: “Look at me! I’m smart! I’m contrarian! I’ll show you how clever I am by denying the scientific consensus!” And for the sake of this posturing, they’re willing to nudge us further down the road to catastrophe.
Which brings me back to the current political situation. Right now progressives are feeling better than they expected to a few months ago: Donald Trump and his frenemies in Congress are accomplishing a lot less than they hoped, and their opponents feared. But that doesn’t change the reality that the axis of climate evil is now firmly in control of U.S. policy, and the world may never recover.
The plight of low-income workers is underlined by yet another statistic. According to BLS numbers, 7.6 million workers held multiple jobs last month, up 2% from 7.4 million in July 2016. The principal reason workers hold more than one position is that no single job provides a sufficient income. In a robust economic recovery, the number of full-time workers should be rising, and the number of workers employed part-time or holding multiple jobs, should decline. The rise in the number of multiple job holders is troubling, and is yet another signal that there is still slack in the labor market. Are we there yet? No, we are still far from full employment.
Let's look at a picture of this one:
Sri-Kumar claims that in a robust economic expansion, the number of multiple job holders should be declining. In other words, multiple job holders should be a countercyclical indicator. But even the most cursory look at the data tells you that the number of multiple job holders is a procyclical indicator. It should rise as the economy gains steam and there is more opportunity for those who need or want second jobs to find such employment.
The trend of multiple job holders is very clearly not a sign of weakness in the economy, but a sign of strength.
It is also worth noting that as a percentage of the employed, the number of multiple job holders has been in a two decade decline:
Note that the job market of the late 1990's is considered one of the best, yet at the same time the percentage of multiple job holders was rising and high. A decline in the number of multiple job holders, both in absolute and percentage terms, was actually a leading indicator of recession. In other words, if you are concerned about opportunities for those who need or want multiple jobs, you should be hoping these metrics move higher, not lower.
Bottom Line: The rise in the number of multiple job holders is a sign of economic strength, not weakness. Regardless of what the bears might say, the July employment report was solid. Get over it. Worry about the inability of this Administration to deal with a crisis like North Korea instead.
“Why has it taken economists so long to learn that demography influences growth?” Jeff Williamson (1998)
1. Introduction. In this note we propose a model which combines the classical Solow (1956) and Swan (1956) model with ideas about population growth that are borrowed from Malthus (1798). We will refer to our model as a Malthus- Swan-Solow (MSS) model. Our model has no technical progress, no institutional change, no human capital and no land.
We assume that the rate of growth of population depends on the real wage in a continuous way. This function is a generalization of one used by Hansen and Prescott (2002).
We find that, as in the classical Solow-Swan model, there exist a steady state value of capital-labor ratio, see Proposition 1. However this steady state is not necessarily unique: Proposition 2 and Example 3 show that there might be an odd number of steady state capital-labor ratios. And only the smaller and the larger values of these capital-labor ratio are locally stable, see Proposition 4. This implies that there might be two, very different values of per capita income in the steady state: one with a small and another with a large value of per capita income. Finally we find that an increase in total factor productivity may increase or decrease the capital-labor ratio in a stable steady state (Proposition 5) but it always increases per capita income (Proposition 6).
Summing up, the consideration of endogenous population in the Solow-Swan model brings new insights with respect to the standard model regarding the number, stability and comparative static properties of steady states. ...
I had been planning, for some time, to run a conference on the topic of multiple equilibria sponsored by Warwick University. Andy Haldane and Sujit Kapadia had been talking with Alan Taylor of U.C. Davis about organizing a conference on the topic of behavioural economics. After talking with Andy, Sujit and Alan, we decided it would be ideal to combine our plans into a single conference that would highlight the promise of studying the marriage of psychology with multiple equilibria in economics. The video ... explains why this is a fruitful idea.
Roger goes on to discuss how "psychology enters the picture," and why the Robert Lucas idea that "the expectations of market participants are determined by economic fundamentals ... makes little or no sense in models ... where there are multiple equilibria." Also:
In addition to the introductory video, linked above, we also recorded videos from many of the conference presenters and discussants. I will be releasing these videos in a series of posts in the coming weeks and I will discuss the research associated with the accompanying topic. You can find links to the original papers on the conference website linked here. Stay tuned.
Well, some progressives — by and large people who supported Bernie Sanders... — are already trying to revive one of his signature proposals: expanding Medicare to cover everyone. Some even want to make support for single-payer a litmus test for Democratic candidates.
So it’s time for a little pushback. ...
Look at the latest report by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, comparing health care performance among advanced nations. America is at the bottom; the top three performers are Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands. And the thing is, these three leaders have very different systems.
Britain has true socialized medicine: The government provides health care directly through the National Health Service. Australia has a single-payer system, basically Medicare for All... But the Dutch have what we might call Obamacare done right: individuals are required to buy coverage from regulated private insurers, with subsidies to help them afford the premiums.
And the Dutch system works, which suggests that a lot could be accomplished via incremental improvements in the A.C.A...
Meanwhile, the political logic that led to Obamacare rather than Medicare for all still applies. ... The ... 156 million people who currently get insurance through their employer ... are largely satisfied with their coverage. Moving to single-payer would mean taking away this coverage and imposing new taxes;... you’d have to convince most of these people both that they would save more in premiums than they pay in additional taxes, and that their new coverage would be just as good...
This might in fact be true, but it would be one heck of a hard sell. Is this really where progressives want to spend their political capital?
What would I do instead? I’d enhance the A.C.A., not replace it, although I would strongly support reintroducing some form of public option ... that could eventually lead to single-payer.
Meanwhile, progressives should move beyond health care and focus on other holes in the U.S. safety net.
When you compare the U.S. social welfare system with those of other wealthy countries, what really stands out now is our neglect of children. ...
I have nothing against single-payer; it’s what I’d support if we were starting fresh. But we aren’t: Getting there from here would be very hard... Even idealists need to set priorities, and Medicare-for-all shouldn’t be at the top of the list.
July Employment Recap, by Tim Duy: The July employment report came in on the high side of expectations and sufficiently strong to keep the Fed's policy plans for this year and next intact despite low inflation. On average central bankers will have a hard time backing down from rate hike plans with job growth still in excess of that necessary to hold unemployment stable. They may believe the economy is not yet at full employment, but they don't want to be too far below their estimate of the neutral interest rate before they hit full employment. And they don't think that point can be very far off.
Nonfarm payrolls gained 209k, solidly above expectations of 180k:
The pace of job growth is easing, but only gradually. The 12-month average was 180k, compared to 205k in July of last year. The unemployment rate edged down to 4.3%, back to the level of June. The labor force participation rate rose, but remains in the range it has enjoyed since 2016:
The Fed will take note that job growth remains in excess of labor force growth. That difference generally drives unemployment lower:
The big labor force gains occurred at the beginning of 2016, which helped stabilize the unemployment rate. The current dynamic will almost certainly push unemployment lower and past the Fed's comfort levels, probably sooner than later.
The Fed will see hopeful signs in the wage numbers. Average wages grew at a 4.19% annualized rate in July, giving credence to the theory that the slowdown in wage growth earlier this year was temporary:
To be sure though, one month does not a trend make. But the Fed will not be making a decision on one month of data. Balance sheet normalization will almost certainly begin in September (barring a disruptive debt ceiling battle), leaving December for a potential rate hike. If wage data continues to come in closer to July's number than June's, the Fed will feel more confident that they a.) have the correct estimate of the natural rate of unemployment and b.) that inflation will return to their 2% target over the medium run. Hence, the December rate hike remains in play.
Solid job growth seems likely to continue. That at least is the story told by temporary help payrolls:
We are well past the flattening out of early last year. For those looking for an imminent recession, this isn't showing one. And for those looking for a market crash, look at the similar behavior of this indicator in 1995. As is now well known, that market crash was still a long ways off.
Bottom Line: A solid report that suggests further declines in the unemployment rate in the months ahead. The Fed will want to stay preemptive in this environment. I don't foresee them backing off their rate forecast for this year and next very easily.
A new paper by Mordecai Kurz of Stanford University:
On the Formation of Capital and Wealth Draft: Abstract We show modern information technology (in short IT) is the cause of rising income and wealth inequality since the 1970's and has contributed to slow growth of wages and decline in the natural rate. We first study all US firms whose securities trade on public exchanges. Surplus wealth of a firm is the difference between wealth created (equity and debt) and its capital. We show (i) aggregate surplus wealth rose from -$0.59 Trillion in 1974 to $24 Trillion which is 79% of total market value in 2015 and reflects rising monopoly power. The added wealth was created mostly in sectors transformed by IT. Declining or slow growing firms with broadly distributed ownership have been replaced by IT based firms with highly concentrated ownership. Rising fraction of capital has been financed by debt, reaching 78% in 2015. We explain why IT innovations enable and accelerate the erection of barriers to entry and once erected, IT facilitates maintenance of restraints on competition. These innovations also explain rising size of firms. We next develop a model where firms have monopoly power. Monopoly surplus is unobservable and we deduce it with three methods, based on surplus wealth, share of labor or share of profits. Share of monopoly surplus rose from zero in early 1980's to 23% in 2015. This last result is, remarkably, deduced by all three methods. Share of monopoly surplus was also positive during the first, hardware, phase of the IT revolution. It was zero in 1950-1962, reaching 7.3% in 1965 before falling back to zero in 1970. Standard TFP computation is shown to be biased when firms have monopoly power.
Modeling Economic Systems as Locally-Constructive Sequential Games: Abstract: Real-world economies are open-ended dynamic systems consisting of heterogeneous interacting participants. Human participants are decision-makers who strategically take into account the past actions and potential future actions of other participants. All participants are forced to be locally constructive, meaning their actions at any given time must be based on their local states; and participant actions at any given time affect future local states. Taken together, these properties imply real-world economies are locally constructive sequential games. This paper discusses a modeling approach, agent-based computational economics (ACE), that permits researchers to study economic systems from this point of view. ACE modeling principles and objectives are first concisely presented. The remainder of the paper then highlights challenging issues and edgier explorations that ACE researchers are currently pursuing.
A bit more:
This working paper discusses how agent-based computational economics (ACE) permits the modeling and implementation of economic systems as locally constructive sequential games. Section 2 of the paper characterizes seven specific ACE modeling principles in order to distinguish ACE more carefully from other modeling approaches, such as general equilibrium modeling and game theory within economics, and standard usages of state-space modeling by economists, engineers, and physicists.
Sections 3-6 cover ACE research objectives, the ACE enabling of comprehensive empirical validation, and the growing use of ACE computational platforms to cross the "valley of death" between policy conceptualization and real-world policy implementation.
Edgier ACE explorations are cited and summarized in Sections 7-8. These include:
(i) the study of labor markets as evolutionary sequential games with endogenous hiring, firing, and quits (Section 7.1);
(ii) the study of macroeconomies with anticipatory learning by locally-constructive consumers and firms attempting to achieve intertemporal objectives (Section 7.2);
(iii) the study of risk management by strategically interacting rural and urban decision-makers residing within a watershed affected by climate and hydrological processes (Section 7.3);
(iv) the study of new market design features for U.S. electric power systems (Section 7.4;
(v) the use of ACE modeling principles as design principles guiding the development of decentralized "transactive energy" architectures for U.S. transmission and distribution systems (Section 7.5);
(vi) a spectrum of experiment-based models ranging from 100% human subject to 100% computer agent (Section 8).
This paper is an invited paper for the Journal of Economic Methodology
Adam Bee and Joshua W. Mitchell of the Census Bureau
Do Older Americans Have More Income Than We Think?, July 25, 2017 Working Paper Number: SEHSD-WP2017-39: Introduction The Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC) is the source of the nation’s official household income and poverty statistics. In 2012, the CPS ASEC showed that median household income was $33,800 for householders aged 65 and over and the poverty rate was 9.1 percent for persons aged 65 and over. When we instead use an extensive array of administrative income records linked to the same CPS ASEC sample, we find that median household income was $44,400 (30 percent higher) and the poverty rate was just 6.9 percent. We demonstrate that large differences between survey and administrative record estimates are present within most demographic subgroups and are not easily explained by survey design features or processes such as imputation. Further, we show that the discrepancy is mainly attributable to underreporting of retirement income from defined benefit pensions and retirement account withdrawals. Using archived survey and administrative record data, we extend our analysis back to 1990 and provide evidence of underreporting from an earlier period. We also document a growing divergence over time between the two measures of median income which is in turn driven by the growth in retirement income underreporting. Turning to synthetic cohort analysis, we show that in recent years, most households do not experience substantial declines in total incomes upon retirement or any increases in poverty rates. Our results have important implications for assessing the relative value of different sources of income available to older Americans, including income from the nation’s largest retirement program, Social Security. We caution, however, that our findings apply to the population aged 65 and over in 2012 and cannot easily be extrapolated to future retirees.
They are ringing words, but what do they mean? Language is important, but it can be slippery. Consider that the phrase, the American Dream, has changed radically through the years.
Mr. Trump and Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, have suggested it involves owning a beautiful home and a roaring business, but it wasn’t always so. Instead, in the 1930s, it meant freedom, mutual respect and equality of opportunity. It had more to do with morality than material success.
It enabled the sweeping postwar development of the South... In automobiles, it made the commutes between air-conditioned homes and air-conditioned offices possible. In the Southwest, its arrival facilitated new methods of rapid construction, replacing traditional building designs that once naturally withstood the region’s desert climate.
By doing all of this, air-conditioning has contributed to the intensive energy demand that worsens climate change that, well, forces us to rely on air-conditioning, a feedback loop environmentalists fear.
And so here we are, in 2017, with temperatures racing past 100 degrees in the Pacific Northwest, the region of the country that has historically relied the least on air-conditioning. And now more people, even there, are installing the technology. ...