Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Real aggregate wage growth: August 2016 update

by New Deal democrat

Real aggregate wage growth: August 2016 update

In my opinion the best measure of how average Americans are doing in an economic expansion isn’t jobs, and it isn’t wages per hour.  Rather, it is real aggregate wage growth.  This is calculated as follows:

  • average wages per hour for nonsupervisory workers
  • times aggregate hours worked in the economy
  • deflated by the consumer price index

This tells us how much more money average Americans are taking home compared with the worst point in the last recession.
Why do I believe that this is the best measure of labor market progress?  Let me give you a few examples.

First, compare an economy that creates 1 million 40 hour a week jobs at $10/hour, with an economy that creates 2 million jobs at 10 hours a week at $10/hour.  If we were to count by job creation, the second economy would be better.  But that’s clearly  not the case.  The second economy is paying out only half of the cold hard cash to workers as the first.

Next, let’s compare two economies that both create 1 million 40 hour a week jobs, but one pays $10/hour and the other pays $12/hour.  Clearly the second economy is better.  It is paying workers 20% more than the first.

Finally, let’s compare two economies that create 1 million 40 hour a week jobs at $10/hour.  In the first economy, there are 3% annual raises, but inflation is rising 4%.  In the second, there are 2% annual raises, but inflation is rising 1%.  Again, even though the second economy is giving less raises, it is the better one — those workers are seeing their lot improve in real, inflation-adjusted terms, whereas the workers in the first economy are actually losing ground.

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Women New School Econ PhDs Hit The Big Time

Barkley Rosser notes at Econospeak:

Women New School Econ PhDs Hit The Big Time

Dr. Stephanie Bell Kelton served as the top economic adviser of Bernie Sanders.  She has apparently recently returned to her old position in the economics department at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

It has now been announced that Dr. Heather Boushey will serve as Chief Economist for the Hillary Clinton transition team, assuming that she wins the forthcoming presidential election.  She has been the Director of the Center for Equitable Growth in Washington.

I note that both of them received their economics PhDs from the New School economics department.  Looks like women coming out of that department have been hitting the poliltical big time recently.  Congratulations to both of them as well as the New School economics department..


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While we watch political trash talk in the USA

Doug Higgins sent a note on China from  Nikkei Asian Review

Doug adds “The size of the layoffs—as well as their nature—may be quite significant.  China has been economically stuttering—closing factories, slowing its export machine.  Of course, the U.S. trade deficit continues.  The Neoliberals and elites studiously ignore trade as a sign of anything important. Playing with interest rates will do nothing.  Not much can be done as interest rates hover around zero and below (in some areas).”

Sandwichman in a reply states:

Apparently the story there is reduction of overcapacity that was built under stimulus program to get out of 2008 global slump. It’s “the old lady who swallowed a fly.” Swallowing one “remedy” after another to manage the ill effects of the previous remedy. Agreed, the interest rate panacea is worthless. The problem is something that “can’t happen” — general glut. 

Meanwhile…(Sandwichman points to a CNBC report) and adds:   Japanese exports tumbled at their steepest pace in seven years as a stronger yen weighed on international shipments.

Japan July exports drop 14 pct on-year; imports tumble 24.7 pct staff    | @CNBC
Wednesday, 17 Aug 2016 | 8:51 PM ET


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Frannie [with heartbreaking addendum added]

St. Francis (Frannie) was first reported to our group – Val’s Pals GSD and Large Paw Rescue –  via another rescue named Forgotten Dogs of 5th Ward (in Houston). They are a group who has volunteers go into the 5th Ward area and feed the enormous number of homeless dogs. We were alerted to her on the evening of Wednesday, December 16th. The person who saw her noticed her eating on the carcass of another dead animal.

Abandoned German Shepherd Who Had Given Up on Life Makes an Astonishing Recovery, Melanie, via social media and then Life With Dogs, yesterday

I’m at it again.  Sorry; can’t help it.

Hey, I don’t post here at AB just to trash pols, journalists and judges/justices!  There’s method to my madness.


ADDENDUM: And then there is this, posted this morning on the Washington Post’s website:

The dog, a brown and black Yorkshire terrier mix, only had a purple collar on its neck and could be heard faintly whining when a couple found it last weekend, abandoned and covered in urine and feces inside a crate outside an apartment complex in Alexandria.

They took it to a nearby veterinarian clinic where it ultimately had to be euthanized because it was in such poor health.

The incident happened Sunday, and authorities in Alexandria are offering a $1,000 reward for information in the case that leads to a prosecution of the person or people involved.

Abandoned dog found covered in urine and feces in crate in Alexandria, Dana Hedgpeth

Added 8/19 at 12:40 p.m.

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Trump apologizes for being too truthful in his statements about Mexicans, Muslims, the Khan family and … me [with update!]

CHARLOTTE — Donald Trump on Thursday expressed regret over causing “personal pain” through ill-chosen words he has used “in the heat of debate,” an unexpected and uncharacteristic declaration of remorse for a candidate whose public persona is defined by his combative and bombastic style.

Speaking during his first campaign rally since rebooting his campaign, the Republican presidential nominee sought to frame himself as a truth-telling candidate who occasionally crosses boundaries in that pursuit. He also sought to contrast himself with his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, whom he accused of dishonesty and pandering.

“Sometimes in the heat of debate, and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that,” Trump said, with a slight smile, during a campaign rally here.

“And believe it or not, I regret it. I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues,” he said. “But one thing; I can promise you this: I will always tell you the truth.”

The speech marked a sharp departure for Trump, who has avoided apologizing or expressing regret in more than a year of campaigning, after a seemingly endless stream of feuds and controversies.

Trump, speaking after campaign shake-up, expresses regret over causing ‘personal pain’, Jose A. DelReal, Robert Costa and Jenna Johnson, Washington Post, today

Okay, so Trump said he told the truth when he said, for example, that Mexicans streaming across the border are rapists, murders and other types of criminals.  (None of them routinely commit white-collar crimes such as bank fraud, commercial fraud and tax fraud, but we’ll put that aside here.  Trump hasn’t accused them of that, although he knows firsthand how this could be accomplished, but ….)

And he said he told the truth when he said Muslims are coming into this country by the thousands as agents of ISIS or in order at least to commit terrorist attacks in sympathy with ISIS.

Among other such truths he has revealed.

But now he apologizes for being too truthful about these things.  He says he regrets having offended so many voters by being too truthful.

Much of the news media (those Post reporters excepted, obviously, but many others) is playing this as … an apology.  And as big news, since after all Trump said he was apologizing for … something. He regrets … some things he said.

Which I can understand.  If someone—Trump, say—said about me, “Beverly is really ugly, ignorant, stupid and dishonest, and I don’t know how she managed to avoid indictment for that bank robbery she committed a few years ago,” and then said he regretted offending me by being too honest, I would interpret that a heartfelt apology and as a retraction.

Proving the truth of the “ignorant” and “stupid” allegations.  And maybe even the “ugly” one, too.


UPDATE: OMG! Trump’s new campaign manager says it’s presidential of Trump to reinforce his offensive fabrications of fact:

WHICH REMARKS DOES TRUMP REGRET? On ABC News, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway tried to explain it:

“He was talking about anyone who feels offended by anything he said,” Conway elaborated today. “He took extra time yesterday going over that speech with a pen so that was a decision he made. Those are his words.”…

“Conway did not clarify whether Trump would apologize for specific comments or whether he would personally apology to the parents of Capt. Khan. ‘He may. But I certainly hope they heard him,’ she said. ‘I hope America heard him because of all the people, David, who have been saying, hey, let’s get Trump to pivot, let’s get him to be more presidential. That is presidential.’”

Never mind the specifics. If the Trump campaign says he’s pivoting and acting presidential, it must be true.

Trump’s ugly and dishonest new TV ad shows he isn’t changing a thing, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, this morning

Actually, no, this isn’t a pivot.  It’s reiterating the false claims—saying they’re true but that it was, well, impolitic of him to have told those truths.

Added 8/19 at 1:04 p.m.

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The Last (Wildlife) Refuge of a Scoundrel

Tucked into the fiscal relief package for Puerto Rico this spring was a provision to give away a national treasure that belongs to all Americans — 3,100 acres of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. The proposal had nothing to do with the economic recovery of Puerto Rico. But it would have handed an important victory to extremists in Congress and state legislatures who want to grab national lands and turn them over to the states to be sold or leased. The measure to give Puerto Rico nearly one­-sixth of the island of federally protected coves, beaches and subtropical forests had the support of the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Representative Rob Bishop, Republican of Utah, who is a leading proponent of an agenda to dispose of America’s public lands.

Fortunately, Hispanic and conservation groups helped rouse opposition to the effort, and the provision was taken out of the bill.

But that was only one of several efforts in Congress and elsewhere to dismantle the nation’s system of more than 560 wildlife refuges and 38 wetlands totaling about 150 million acres of land and water. Opponents of federal land ownership also want to dispose of hundreds of millions of acres of forests and rangelands owned by the American people. If they succeed, not even the national parks will be safe.

The lawmakers behind these attacks are determined, as they put it, to “reduce the federal estate” and give these public lands to cash-­hungry states or territories, where they could be leased, drilled, logged or sold to the highest bidder.

Don’t Give Away Our Wildlife Refuges, Jamie Williams, op-ed, New York Times, today

I remember when, back during his 2012 presidential campaign Mitt Romney, speaking somewhere out west, suddenly (or so I thought) included a rant about the vast amount of land the federal government owns, and said he would propose that most of it be turned over to the states.  I believe he made clear that this included most, if not all, national parks.

I was stunned, but quickly learned in reading a couple of articles about Romney’s proposal—there were, best as I could tell, only a couple articles mentioning it—that this is a top item on the wish list of some west-of-the-Mississippi Republican mega-donors, who want to be able to buy the land on the cheap.

It’s also of course a key theme of Cliven Bundy-type ranchers, although Bundy himself and some of the other virulent ones don’t even recognize current federal ownership of the land.  And that’s not where the votes are, in the Electoral College, anyway.  And it’s not why Romney, who already had the Bundy-crowd vote, was saying this.  Publicly.  What Romney wanted was a sort of quid pro quo, and the votes of the donors themselves wasn’t what he was after.

But the few pundits who noted Romney’s statement and commented on it pointed out that although Romney apparently didn’t realize this, most Americans, unlike members of his family, can’t afford lakefront summer homes.  And some can’t afford to stay in resorts.  Nor buy their own leafy acreage in a former wildlife preserve or national park in order to have a place to put down a tent or park an RV.

Romney never mentioned it again.  But I wondered why Obama didn’t.

Well, actually, I knew why.  It’s the same reason that election year after election year, the Democratic candidates, for reelection or election to the Senate or the House don’t mention the things the Republican members of Congress have proposed, sometimes successfully, that are appalling policies dictated by their donors, and that the public does not know about: Apprising the public of these things isn’t on the list of recommendations their political consultants advise them to do.  If it’s not a culture-wars issue or something else that most of the public already knows about, it won’t be on any of their consultants’ list of things to mention.  And if it’s even slightly complex, or the Wall Street folks don’t want the Dems to talk about it, then it’s per se not on the list.

Especially—especially—if it means “nationalizing” the election by pointing out what actually will happen if the Republicans gain control or keep control of the Congress.  As opposed to what will happen if the Dems do.

What won the election for Obama in 2012 was a series of ads run in the spring of that year by a sort-of-independent super PAC that educated the public about what Romney actually did as a venture capitalist, coupled with the 47% videotape in the early fall.  But the spring super PAC ads were attacked by some establishment Dems, including Bill Clinton, and by a few centrist pundits with ties to Wall Street, as class warfare and as attacking capitalism.  And the issue was not “nationalized” for congressional elections, even though the Republican budgets and antiregulatory proposals and other proposed legislation—some of it slipped into an unrelated bill at the last minute, a constant in fact with that crowd—because as always, the Dem consultants were horrified at the prospect of a nationalized congressional election.

“As always” included the 2014 elections.  And best as I can tell, this year’s congressional elections, too.

I had envisioned Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren—the two highest-profile progressives—neither of whom is on the ballot this year, and therefore both who are free to do so, barnstorming the country in an effort to apprise voters of the really ugly things that the Republican Congress keeps trying to force via one or another trick, on behalf of the party’s establishment donors.  Including the divestment of federal lands of all sorts to Republican donors via pass-through to, and then from, the states—not only in and of itself but as lucid illustration of the extremes to which the Republican Party is a party of oligarchs.

A party.  Invitation only.  Admission is steep but well worth the price for invitees.  And that whatever else you can say about the Democrats, their donors aren’t trying to turn vast public lands into private preserves of the Republican donors’ industries.

Oh, the horror of nationalizing the congressional elections.  (If you’re a Republican oligarch, not if you’re, well, not.)

Sanders has been aggressively soliciting campaign contributions, via Act Blue, for certain progressive congressional candidates.  And a few days ago he began soliciting contributions for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in an email with the subject, “Time to elect a Democratic Senate”, or some such.

But I think he and Warren have been held back somewhat by Clinton’s open, aggressive courting of high-profile Republicans.  And now, as of yesterday, her weird and awful selection of—good graceKen Salazar as her transition team head seems to like a deliberate slight to progressives.  Young voters, at least outside of Colorado, don’t know about him, so she thought this would be freebee, but given social networking, it may well not be.  But Sanders and Warren know about him.  How do you campaign for a progressive Congress to team up with, well, someone who thinks Ken Salazar should head her presidential transition team?

I don’t know who it is that has her ear and is so enamored of uber-triangulating Colorado pols, but it’s someone who thinks it’s still the 1990s. Okay, I do know.  Probably. It’s Bill Clinton—the same person, I’d wager, who told her to jump right on it in going after those Republican endorsements and those Republican donors.  No time to waste.  And no time was wasted.

Maureen Dowd, in a stunning column last Sunday perfectly titled “The Perfect G.O.P. Nominee,”, got pretty close to the heart of why Clinton is so widely viewed as untrustworthy.  And as long as she remains under her husband’s spell there will be no easing of that view.

I’ve repeatedly analogized Donald Trump and Paul Ryan to Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen, but both parties have nominated puppets as their presidential nominees.  I’ll certainly vote for Bill Clinton over Paul Ryan.

Although if Edgar Bergen’s name appears on my ballot, all bets are off.  I like transparency in presidential candidates.  And, who knows?  Maybe he likes the national parks system enough to mention its political endangerment while campaigning.



In November, 2012, asked a question he did not like by a reporter for The Gazette of Colorado Springs regarding Salazar’s association with [a] hauler who shipped wild horses to slaughter plants, Salazar told the reporter, “If you do that to me again, I’ll punch you out”. Salazar later apologized.


Great.  Also great:

US presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton has raised eyebrows with the hiring of Washington DC powerbroker and vocal Trans-Pacific Partnership supporter Ken Salazar.

Mr Salazar will head Ms Clinton’s White House transition team.

The appointment adds weight to speculation Ms Clinton, who became a TPP opponent when running for president, was a closet supporter of the proposed landmark pact between the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and seven other Pacific Rim nations.

“The TPP is a strong trade deal that will level the playing field for workers to help middle-class families get ahead,” Mr Salazar, a former Colorado senator and interior secretary under President Barack Obama, co-wrote in a USA Today op-ed in November.

“It is also the greenest trade deal ever.” Ms Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump have both vowed to nix the TPP, a move that contrasts with Mr Obama’s pro-TPP stance. Ms Clinton’s vice president running mate Tim Kaine was also pro-TPP.

If Ms Clinton wins the November 8 presidential election, Mr Salazar will guide her in the months leading up to Mr Obama’s January exit from the White House. It is during that “lame duck” period Mr Obama has the best hope of pushing the TPP proposal through Congress.

Mr Salazar, who has worked at the influential Washington DC firm WilmerHale that has lobbied on trade policy, has also shown support for fracking and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

“He is pro-Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), pro-fracking and pro-Keystone XL pipeline,” Molly Dorozenski, campaign director for Greenpeace Democracy, wrote.

“If Clinton plans to effectively tackle climate change, the last thing her team needs is a fossil fuel industry friend like Salazar.”

On a trip to Australia in 2012 as US secretary of state Ms Clinton declared in Adelaide the “TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade”.

Clinton supporters query pro-TPP hiring, Peter Mitchell, NZN US Correspondent – NZ Newswire, today

Dowd has it right.

Added 8/17 at 8:06 p.m.

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When to Stop Reading a “Non-Fiction” Article

(cross-posted from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo)

Mark Thoma sends us to Benjamin M. Friedman. Given that imprimatur, one expects precise analysis. (Mark, after all, is an econometrician by trade.)

So it was surprising to stop reading so early. Specifically, I gave up on this cretinous piece of garbage at:

especially during the president’s first year in office, when the Democrats held a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate

Just so you know I’m not pulling from context:

The most pressing among [other economic problems than that “roughly one in six Americans — 50 million in a population of 307 million — had no health insurance”] was, and remains, financial reform. Rather than advance its own set of proposals — especially during the president’s first year in office, when the Democrats held a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate — the administration largely left the matter to Congress.

So this is the usual argument. The stimulus had been passed, so “the Obama domestic agenda shifted to health care.” I consider this horseshit*, but your mileage may vary.

What is clearly horseshit though, except in the most technical of senses, is the claim that “the Democrats held a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate” as if that were for the entire first year of Obama’s presidency, not just from 07 July 2009 (when Al Franken was finally sworn in as the 60th Democrat) to 25 August 2009 (when Ted Kennedy died).

Less than two months isn’t even close to a year, and “a lie is a very poor way to say hello.”** It’s an even poorer way to premise the rest of your “but Obama didn’t try to deal with MY problems” article—especially when he did.

Billmon was correct ten years ago; the Washington Post should have been destroyed with fire and sword. (Indeed, Billmon just neglected to mention the need to salt the earth at 1150 15th street NW.) Jeff Bezos appears determined to continue the tradition.***

*The Administration did, after all, continue to support and argue for “financial reform”–the Consumer Financial Protection Board was founded on 21 July 2011.

**in the words of Edith Keeler and/or Harlan Ellison

***This is datapoint number 1,000,000 or so in favor of that.

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Agency, or "o Brasil do meu amor" (op-ed)

by Mike Kimel

Agency, or “o Brasil do meu amor”

There was a rumor that an Olympic kayaker hit a couch while practicing in the lagoon in Rio. Perhaps it happened.  Perhaps it didn’t.  Either way, one thing is certain.  The water – in the lagoon, in Guanabara Bay, and off the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema – is filthy.  It’s been that way for a long time, and will remain that way during my lifetime and yours.

I say this with certainty (and sadness) because I know Brazil well.  Though I was born in the US, and though neither of my parents is Brazilian, I did spend my formative years in the country and have been back a few times since.  And whenever I have had the chance to go back to Brazil, it has been to Rio.  I know and love Rio as well as any city in which I’ve ever set foot, but that doesn’t mean I have any delusions.  (When I say I love the city, I am not beginning to do justice to how I feel about it.  There is no other piece of ground that I can legitimately claim to love.)  My only surprise, with the Olympics, is that nothing really serious has gone wrong as of this writing.

My mother likes to tell a story that she feels illustrates Brazil.  It happened when I was around 12 or so and I remember some of the events from my own first-hand point of view.  My mother, my sister and I took a tour bus with several other families we knew.  At some point, the bus stopped by a little stand at the side of the road which sold ears of corn and soft drinks.  We all bought food and drinks then piled back into the bus.

As people finished their meal, they tossed the remains out the window of the moving bus.  Corn husks, corn cobs, napkins, cups, bottles, it all went out the window.  Meanwhile, my mom collected the remains from my sister and me and put them in a plastic bag to be disposed of later when we eventually came across a garbage can.  One of the other ladies on the bus noticed, and came up to my mom somewhat belligerently, saying, “You Americans, always so clean.  You look at us, dirty Brazilians, with disapproval.”

The fact of the matter is that the Olympics are filthy because much of Brazil, at least the parts of the land that are have contact with people, are also filthy.  And they are filthy largely because Brazilians have, for generations, dumped their garbage everywhere. Just about every public place in Brazil is dirtier than just about every public place in the USA.  This is true in the same way, and for the same reason, that just about every public place in the USA is dirtier than just about every public place in Japan.

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