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Author Topic: In your opinion is the economy doing well?  (Read 927 times)
Torie
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« Reply #25 on: September 16, 2012, 09:47:33 am »
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Some of the workforce participation drop is due to more people gaming the system. Workers comp claims for phony injuries are way up, and of course the extended unemployment payments, food stamps etc affect behavior as well. My favorite local door and window company is going out of business in the next week or two in part due to that, and now another of my good friends is out of a job, and I am going to need to use my contacts to scramble to find him odd piece work.

The current "regime" is just not sustainable. The maths don't work.
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The Mikado
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« Reply #26 on: September 16, 2012, 11:34:50 am »
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Of course it's not good.

It's still better than it was four years ago at this exact time, when it looked like the entire financial structure was going to collapse and the Dow was losing 800 points a day.  That's what you need to compare today with.  We've come a long way back since those dark days.
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« Reply #27 on: September 16, 2012, 07:22:43 pm »
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You don't want a thing to change because Washington, DC is doing well and you're in the thick of it. We understand. What we don't understand is why you refuse to admit that the rest of America is seriously struggling...

First, I've never once claimed anything that country is not seriously struggling. Of course there are pockets where things are better than average, but also pockets where things are worse.

Secondly, I do want change, just not in the direction that Romney wants.

Yes, Washington, DC, is doing well, in no small part thanks the large stabilizing role the government plays in our economy, as well as our educated workforce. However, that has nothing to do with my political opinions.

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Republicans are in the strange position of trying to denigrate an economy where the most potent chief complaints are those coming from the left of the Democratic Party.

Can you elaborate on this part?

The private sector is in a long-term deleveraging cycle, since it exhausted itself in the 20-odd years leading up to 2008. Under the current structure of the economy, this means that the sources of aggregate consumer demand that traditionally drive economic growth will be subpar, as consumers will shed more debt than they take on so long as the deleveraging phase continues.

If what is wanted is faster growth, than the government must drive it, either through cyclical or structural reform. Cyclical reform means fiscal or monetary policy that is more expansionary, like stimulus programs. Monetary policy means printing money. Currently the Democrats are unwilling to make the case for open-ended stimulus on either front. It's true that Bernanke has announced unlimited QE, however the Fed is only allowed to inject money into the financial system and not into the pockets of average people. There are both positives and negatives to this.

Structural reform means labor market reforms that increase workers' take-home pay / incomes. From the 1940s to 1970s there was fast economic growth without too fast growth in debt because incomes were rising quickly. Consumers that were making more money each year didn't need to go into debt to increase their standard of living. Private sector unions, for all their flaws, set industry-wide standards, and management felt responsible to employees because the employees and communities were considered stakeholders in the business [see Hedrick Smith's book Who Stole the American Dream? to help back me up on this, if you are skeptical]. Think Henry Ford paying workers $5 a day.

Today business is in what economists call a prisoner's dilemma. All businesses would be better off if all workers made more money, because they would be able to sell more things. But no single business can raise wages without undercutting itself against the competition. Plus, management feels obligations only towards shareholders, and not towards employees, communities, or the nation. Business is not considered a part of society, an institution of society, rather it is considered in terms of numbers only.

Basically, large bottom-up stimulus and rising nominal incomes is what is needed to grow without debt, and while the Democratic policies are better on this regard, they aren't even beginning to make the case for the vision that I just laid out.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2012, 07:24:55 pm by Beet »Logged
Beet
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« Reply #28 on: September 16, 2012, 07:48:23 pm »
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Some of the workforce participation drop is due to more people gaming the system. Workers comp claims for phony injuries are way up, and of course the extended unemployment payments, food stamps etc affect behavior as well. My favorite local door and window company is going out of business in the next week or two in part due to that, and now another of my good friends is out of a job, and I am going to need to use my contacts to scramble to find him odd piece work.

Torie, what about the Georgia Works program in Obama's jobs bill?

Additionally, I believe the US should seriously look into the Hartz IV reforms implement in Germany. Georgia Works is based on a similar concept. I'm not an expert on Hartz IV (perhaps some German commentators can jump in here). Here's what seems to be relevant key points

1) To receive unemployment benefits, a person must sign a contract specifying the state's obligations to them based on their living condition, assets, income, etc. as well as their obligations to the state, which could include being required to accept a job subject to "constitutional rights, like freedom of movement, freedom of family, marriage and human dignity."

2) When a person takes a low-wage job, they can continue to receive unemployment benefits which are based on a certain minimum implied wage, plus a certain percentage of the wage they earn. The key point here is that a person can still earn more money by taking a job that pays less or about the same as unemployment benefits, so they have more incentive to do so. The government is essentially subsidizing low wage jobs.

Hartz IV remains controversial, and low wage jobs are by no means ideal. However, the program's success in reducing unemployment in Germany is dramatic and undeniable.
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« Reply #29 on: September 16, 2012, 08:35:11 pm »
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no the economy isn't doing well, and no, Obama isn't making it better. While the economy is improving slightly, the policies of the current administration and a Romney administration are doing more harm than good.
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« Reply #30 on: September 16, 2012, 08:43:36 pm »
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This is one of the reasons the unemployment rate is so high now- companies responded to the recession by increasing mechanization and outsourcing, as well as purging inefficiency. Unpleasant though this is for the individuals involved, it is surely a good thing. The second reason is the plummeting number of government employees on the state level(1.7 million lower since the recession began), if not for that the unemployment rate would be 7.1% rather then 8.2%. Some people might consider said downsizing a necessary evil as well.

In the past, improvements in efficiency led to lower prices, which in turn led to higher sales, which in turn led back to higher employment. Why isn't it happening this time? is a question worth asking. More likely, unemployment can't be explained by efficiency improvements.

The problem with unemployment is this-- human beings, our time, or skills, or experience and knowledge, constitutes part of society's wealth. I've already agreed that workforce participation rate drops aren't necessarily bad news. People could be using their time to do other productive things, like getting education, volunteering, staying home to raise children, or simply enjoying retirement. IMO, people themselves are best positioned to determine what is best for them, and it's not up to policymakers or economists to place value judgments on these choices (unless o/c they're collecting things like unemployment comp that are not meant for them). However, for people who want to work, and are seeking work, if they cannot find it, then the non-utilization of their time, skills, experience and knowledge is a waste of part of society's wealth. The longer they are not working, the longer their skills atrophy. Not to mention it deprives them of a living middle-class income. That's why low workforce participation isn't necessarily a problem but high unemployment is a problem.

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Even the fallen consumption could be considered a good thing since pre-recession consumption was unsustainably excessive. The recession has in fact been associated with a significant decline in the trade deficit, although it remains high, so if anything aggregate demand hasn't fallen enough.

Of course, if aggregate demand increased in other countries (and some of this increase could be only nominal, i.e., exchange rate), then the US could better balance our trade deficit without explicitly reducing aggregate demand.
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« Reply #31 on: September 16, 2012, 08:55:51 pm »
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Workforce participation is a misleading statistic because secular long-term trends have been causing workforce participation to decline that have nothing to do with cyclical economic factors or job availability.

Great argument, except for the fact that people 55+ have actually seen their workforce participation increase.

All the decline is confined to the 55 and under, and almost all to the 40 and under folks. If you're an under 40 guy, your workforce participation numbers are the lowest they've ever been in the post-war era.
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« Reply #32 on: September 16, 2012, 08:58:31 pm »
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Ok, then put your money where your mouth is and buy Romney shares on Intrade.

You're talking to Politico or me? I believe Obama will win in spite of the economy because his electorate cares more about making sure that everyone is poor rather than see someone they don't like get ahead.
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« Reply #33 on: September 16, 2012, 08:59:41 pm »
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Politico.
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« Reply #34 on: September 16, 2012, 09:01:51 pm »
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Workforce participation is a misleading statistic because secular long-term trends have been causing workforce participation to decline that have nothing to do with cyclical economic factors or job availability.

Great argument, except for the fact that people 55+ have actually seen their workforce participation increase.

I'm aware of that (and it's yet another trend that has both secular and cyclical components)- but it doesn't contradict the notion that changes in workforce participation can't be used as a proxy for job availability or the economic cycle, or any of the other factors I pointed out. If anything, it reinforces the absurdity of it-- 65+ have always had much lower workforce participation rates than under 65's, but no one would have called that a crisis. Nor does the fact that more 65+ are joining the workforce mean they are better off. It depends on why they're doing it. If they're doing it based on need, then rising workforce participation is actually a bad sign.
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« Reply #35 on: September 16, 2012, 09:05:36 pm »
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If what is wanted is faster growth, than the government must drive it, either through cyclical or structural reform.

But is faster growth what is wanted or even needed right now?  Arguably, we were in a period of unsustainable growth through much of the 90's and 00's fueled by an increase in private debt.  It's one reason I'm skeptical of Fed's chosen plan for QE3.  Even if successful in the short term, reinflating the housing bubble does not strike me as good long-term policy.

The principal forms of stimulus I favor are things such as infrastructure spending that needed to be done even before our economy went in the tank, but for me the stimulative effects are very much a secondary benefit.
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« Reply #36 on: September 16, 2012, 09:10:47 pm »
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Americans themselves are more responsible for being hurt economically in the global economy than the gov't.

1) Our education system still works, but we got lazy.  When workers abroad come to the US, get a solid education, take it seriously and take our jobs back to India and China, that's how it happened.

2) We're too expensive and the quality of our labor isn't what it used to be. It's just easier to pay people less in India (with no healthcare costs) who will work longer hours anyhow

3) Americans are just lazy and rather than go after it and work for it, we want hand downs.

4) Look at how fat Americans are.  That says something.  We are very, very lazy as a society and then we complain when it all goes bad.
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« Reply #37 on: September 16, 2012, 09:12:28 pm »
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Well yes, you would need to look at the components of growth. Housing-bubble or other private-sector debt fuelled growth wouldn't get us very far. I don't think we actually disagree much on this. It's just that there is high unemployment, a high deficit and still a debt overhang, and growth is the best way to deal with all three problems. Christina Romer pointed out that in the mid-1930s and then mid-1980s, the economy grew at rates of up to 8 or 9 percent. Now it's 1 to 2 percent. So for all the talk of structural unemployment, the explanation for unemployment could simply be cyclical.
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IDS Ex-Speaker Ben Kenobi
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« Reply #38 on: September 16, 2012, 09:16:30 pm »
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I'm aware of that (and it's yet another trend that has both secular and cyclical components)- but it doesn't contradict the notion that changes in workforce participation can't be used as a proxy for job availability or the economic cycle, or any of the other factors I pointed out. If anything, it reinforces the absurdity of it-- 65+ have always had much lower workforce participation rates than under 65's, but no one would have called that a crisis. Nor does the fact that more 65+ are joining the workforce mean they are better off. It depends on why they're doing it. If they're doing it based on need, then rising workforce participation is actually a bad sign.

These secular forces are working against - not for you. That's my point. As bad as the numbers are now - they will be even worse later on. The 55+ crowd isn't going to work forever, but right now, the numbers are looking better than they actually are because they are going back to work.

I want to hear you say to my face that it's a good thing that men under forty have the lowest workforce participation rates, since the Great Depression. Smiley
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« Reply #39 on: September 16, 2012, 09:23:30 pm »
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"Real" unemployment of 18-20% is the new norm. Of course no politician would ever have the balls to say that. Americans got caught with their pants down in the global economy. In addition, technology has made us more efficient and eliminated jobs.

You will probably never see big time job growth again.  This is the new norm, similar to $4 gas.
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« Reply #40 on: September 16, 2012, 10:53:51 pm »
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I'm aware of that (and it's yet another trend that has both secular and cyclical components)- but it doesn't contradict the notion that changes in workforce participation can't be used as a proxy for job availability or the economic cycle, or any of the other factors I pointed out. If anything, it reinforces the absurdity of it-- 65+ have always had much lower workforce participation rates than under 65's, but no one would have called that a crisis. Nor does the fact that more 65+ are joining the workforce mean they are better off. It depends on why they're doing it. If they're doing it based on need, then rising workforce participation is actually a bad sign.

These secular forces are working against - not for you. That's my point. As bad as the numbers are now - they will be even worse later on. The 55+ crowd isn't going to work forever, but right now, the numbers are looking better than they actually are because they are going back to work.

I want to hear you say to my face that it's a good thing that men under forty have the lowest workforce participation rates, since the Great Depression. Smiley

Don't' worry, Ben: Washington, DC is just fine! Support Obama and keep it that way!
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« Reply #41 on: September 16, 2012, 10:57:38 pm »
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The United States already has a very high workforce participation rate compared to the rest of the developed world. Even with our record low rate, it's still higher than Germany's right now, and Germany has a strong economy with near full employment. So it's hardly the end of the world for our economy if people are choosing to contribute to society in ways that aren't paid employment.

« Last Edit: September 16, 2012, 10:59:45 pm by Lief »Logged



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IDS Ex-Speaker Ben Kenobi
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« Reply #42 on: September 16, 2012, 11:19:12 pm »
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The United States already has a very high workforce participation rate compared to the rest of the developed world. Even with our record low rate, it's still higher than Germany's right now, and Germany has a strong economy with near full employment. So it's hardly the end of the world for our economy if people are choosing to contribute to society in ways that aren't paid employment.

Just so long as they bake you a pie first eh? Wink

It's one of the reasons why the American standard of living is higher. Do you really want things in America to be like Italy?
« Last Edit: September 16, 2012, 11:22:42 pm by Ben Kenobi »Logged

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« Reply #43 on: September 17, 2012, 08:24:22 am »
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I'm aware of that (and it's yet another trend that has both secular and cyclical components)- but it doesn't contradict the notion that changes in workforce participation can't be used as a proxy for job availability or the economic cycle, or any of the other factors I pointed out. If anything, it reinforces the absurdity of it-- 65+ have always had much lower workforce participation rates than under 65's, but no one would have called that a crisis. Nor does the fact that more 65+ are joining the workforce mean they are better off. It depends on why they're doing it. If they're doing it based on need, then rising workforce participation is actually a bad sign.

These secular forces are working against - not for you. That's my point. As bad as the numbers are now - they will be even worse later on. The 55+ crowd isn't going to work forever, but right now, the numbers are looking better than they actually are because they are going back to work.

But you have no evidence that the rise in workforce participation among older workers is temporary, and even if it was, it would have nothing to do with my point. Again, low workforce participation isn't necessarily a bad thing for many reasons.
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Torie
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« Reply #44 on: September 17, 2012, 12:03:55 pm »
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Some of the workforce participation drop is due to more people gaming the system. Workers comp claims for phony injuries are way up, and of course the extended unemployment payments, food stamps etc affect behavior as well. My favorite local door and window company is going out of business in the next week or two in part due to that, and now another of my good friends is out of a job, and I am going to need to use my contacts to scramble to find him odd piece work.

Torie, what about the Georgia Works program in Obama's jobs bill?

Additionally, I believe the US should seriously look into the Hartz IV reforms implement in Germany. Georgia Works is based on a similar concept. I'm not an expert on Hartz IV (perhaps some German commentators can jump in here). Here's what seems to be relevant key points

1) To receive unemployment benefits, a person must sign a contract specifying the state's obligations to them based on their living condition, assets, income, etc. as well as their obligations to the state, which could include being required to accept a job subject to "constitutional rights, like freedom of movement, freedom of family, marriage and human dignity."

2) When a person takes a low-wage job, they can continue to receive unemployment benefits which are based on a certain minimum implied wage, plus a certain percentage of the wage they earn. The key point here is that a person can still earn more money by taking a job that pays less or about the same as unemployment benefits, so they have more incentive to do so. The government is essentially subsidizing low wage jobs.

Hartz IV remains controversial, and low wage jobs are by no means ideal. However, the program's success in reducing unemployment in Germany is dramatic and undeniable.

I think the general approach of the policy outlined above is correct, and I would note that I have always, unlike the majority of my fellow Pubs, been in favor of the earned income tax credit.
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« Reply #45 on: September 17, 2012, 12:30:25 pm »
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Of course not, it's not a matter of opinion. If you think 8% unemployment is 'good,' you clearly don't understand economics.

And no, it's not improving either. That's not really a matter of opinion either, but it's more open for interpretation than the question 'is it doing well'

Yeah, this.
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« Reply #46 on: September 20, 2012, 10:44:49 am »
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Some of the workforce participation drop is due to more people gaming the system. Workers comp claims for phony injuries are way up, and of course the extended unemployment payments, food stamps etc affect behavior as well. My favorite local door and window company is going out of business in the next week or two in part due to that, and now another of my good friends is out of a job, and I am going to need to use my contacts to scramble to find him odd piece work.

What now?  Why is your garage door and window company going out of business?  Because all the door-hangers and window-inserter workers are sitting on their duffs on some imaginary dole?  You mean to say they can't find a worker?

Or you mean because they lost money due to having to pay for someone's fingers getting sliced off when he was inserting the window-pane?
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« Reply #47 on: September 21, 2012, 04:15:08 pm »
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As long as there are both vacant houses and homeless people (including children) sleeping under bridges (as is the case in my city as well as many other places), I will never consider the economy to be "doing well".
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