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

American plutocracy in two simple graphs; plus, when will wage growth bottom?

American plutocracy in two simple graphs; plus, when will wage growth bottom?

The JOLTS report for February comes out later this morning; I may post on it later or tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are updates on several graphs I used to run during the last expansion in order to examine how shared out (or not) economic growth was.

First, here is a graph comparing corporate profits adjusted for inflation, and total nonsupervisory wages, also adjusted for inflation. Both are also adjusted for population growth, so that we can see how much each has grown (or not) per person:

The “Work Ethic” Hoax

The “Work Ethic” Hoax

The story has been told that Martin Luther invented the doctrine of the “calling” and that John Calvin (“my friends call me Jean”) intensified it with his doctrine of predestination. Subsequent pastoral literature softened the predestination blow with the Protestant ethic that working hard and succeeding would show that you were one of the elect. Max Weber told that story. 

It was, of course, a fable. But that is beside the point. Max Weber’s fable wallowed in relative academic obscurity and sports clichés until… [wait for it]… 1971 when Dick Nixon dusted it off as a cudgel to bludgeon those folks driving around in their Welfare Cadillacs — we all know who they are — and the nattering nabobs of negativism enabling them. Pure backlash dog whistle. 

“Keep religion out of it,” Nixon told a speechwriter who labeled it “the Protestant ethic” for a Labor Day address in 1971, “Let’s just call it the work ethic.”

I would like you to join me in exploring one of the basic elements that gives character to a people and which will make it possible for the American people to earn a generation of prosperity in peace.

Blockbuster March jobs report, but still a long way to go

Blockbuster March jobs report, but still a long way to go


  • +916,000 million jobs added. The alternate, and more volatile measure in the household report indicated a gain of 609,000 jobs, which factors into the unemployment and underemployment rates below.
  • U3 unemployment rate declined 0.2% to 6.0%, compared with the January 2020 low of 3.5%, and the April 2020 high of 14.8%.
  • U6 underemployment rate declined 0.4 to 10.7%, compared with the January 2020 low of 6.9%, and the April 2020 high of 22.9%
  • Those on temporary layoff decreased -203,000 to 2,026,000.
  • Permanent job losers decreased -65,000 to 3,432,000.
  • January was revised upward by 67,000, and February was also revised upward by 89,000, for a net gain of 156,000 jobs compared with previous reports.

Weekly Indicators for March 29 – April 2 at Seeking Alpha

 by New Deal democrat

Weekly Indicators for March 29 – April 2 at Seeking Alpha

My Weekly Indicators post is up at Seeking Alpha.

One fairly unique service I think I provide is not just forecasting the next few months, but into the next year as well. So in the second half of last year I was writing about how all of the indicators were lining up for strong growth in 2021 if the pandemic could be brought under control.

Now I am beginning to look at 2022, and what I see are increasing signs of jumps in the prices of important middle class commodities and assets, mainly houses and gasoline. Which means, we could see the old-fashioned type of end of an economic boom.

As usual, clicking over and reading will not just bring you right up to the moment in the nowcast and the forecasts, but also reward me a little for bringing that information to you.

The Death Of Yeshua bar Yosef

The Death Of Yeshua bar Yosef

Or if you prefer, “bin Miriam,” although no way he would have ever been called that in his life, but near as I know “Yeshua bar Yosef” (“Jesus son of Joseph”) was probably how he was most frequently identified in real life in the Aramaic language he mostly operated in, his mother tongue. It has been reported that he knew Hebrew, then strictly a liturgical language, given the reports of him at age 12 discoursing seriously with priests at the temple in Jerusalem. Greek was the lingua franca for business and ultimately the language the New Testament was written in where he was labeled “Iesos Christos,” translated into English as “Jesus Christ.”

When he was crucified, almost certainly the only clearly documented event of his life beyond the Bible, thanks to Josephus, all of the four Gospels have it in super capitalized letters what they put over his head approved of by the local Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, was “KING OF THE JEWS” (all four gospels in the King James version have this in full capital letters as I have written, with variations across them in specifics, but all including this). We do not know which language was put on the sign he carried to Golgotha, but the Gospel of John, who was supposedly an eyewitness, says that this declaration was made in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, curiously none of these the language he or most of the local population actually spoke in their homes.


Imagine four or more Sears and Roebuck catalog — and much, much more — type web pages; one of which belongs to the USPS, Amazon gets to keep one, if they can show copyright. Let’s call these Web Pages Amazon, Nile, Mississippi, and Danube, with Mississippi being assigned to the USPS. Each of these Four or More Rivers of commerce would have large numbers of manufacturers/producers as paid subscribers; we are, after all, now in the post retail, post warehouse era.

Anything anyone might want to purchase would be listed on one or more of these Web Pages along with the price and delivery time. The Four or More Web Pages would compete with one another on the basis of their Web Page and quality and value of delivery service. The manufacturers/producers would compete with one another on the basis of quality and price (value), and time of delivery with their ads on one or more of the Four or More Web Pages. The Web Pages/Four or More Rivers would compete with one another for producer/manufacturer listings; and, for orders based marketing skills, rates charged, and quality of service.

Each Web Page site would perforce be huge with millions of listings, employ thousands, and undoubtedly consume gigs and gigs of has to be green power.

In the olden days of retail, manufacturers took orders then produced lots that sat around on the factory floor or in warehouses. In the post-retail/warehouse era, goods are shipped as produced, or shortly thereafter. Instead of buyers and sales, producers will produce a product on the basis of market analysis; a prediction of what the market will be tomorrow that will prove to be more accurate and timely than the old method based on orders received. When a producer gets an order for a size 4 Simier Fariry blue dress — the demand is now — that dress will either be being made or be just finished.

When an order is received by the producer, the item is either ready to ship or will be within hours. The producers will package the order/item and hand it off to one of the Four or More Rivers who will then and there do the sorting and loading by destination. Some mini, van to van type, transfer points, may be required, but this is only all the more reason yet to have production proximate the point of consumption. The order for the blue dress is placed and within hours the dress is delivered to the purchaser’s home by one of the Four or More Rivers.

Construction Spending Fell 0.8% in February

Commenter RJS at MarketWatch 666

Construction Spending Fell 0.8% in February after January & December Figures Were Revised Higher

The Census Bureau’s report on February construction spending (pdf) reported that “Construction spending during February 2021 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,516.9 billion, 0.8 percent (±0.7 percent) below the revised January estimate of $1,529.0 billion. The February figure is 5.3 percent (±1.0 percent) above the February 2020 estimate of $1,441.1 billion. During the first two months of this year, construction spending amounted to $213.2 billion, 4.9 percent (±1.0 percent) above the $203.2 billion for the same period in 2020. “…the January annualized spending estimate was revised 0.5% higher, from the $1,521.5 billion reported a month ago to $1,529.0 billion, while December’s construction spending was revised from $1,496.5 billion to $1,510.4 billion annually, which together meant that the January construction spending increase was revised down from +1.7% to +1.2% . . . the $13.9 billion upward revision to December’s annualized spending would mean we’ll see a upward revision of about 12 basis points to 4th quarter GDP when the annual revisions are released later this summer . . .

A further breakdown of the different subsets of construction spending are provided in a Census summary, which precedes the detailed spreadsheets below:

Trade Incentives and Whoppers: A Finger Exercise

Nick Rowe was looking for the role of money in the Heuristic Macro Model, which is often used to introduce students to Trade economics. The problem he discovered is that there is only a role for money if there is friction in the model, and therefore a two-household (or household-firm or firm-firm) model makes money if not superfluous, then at least a poor substitute to direct barter.

Following is a “finger exercise” for introductory economics the way (I think) it should be taught, using that heuristic model and the Whopper story that often is used at the start of Introduction to Economics.1

Telling a Whopper

The Whopper story basically has the eager student challenging talk about scarcity and optimal reource allocation by saying, “But I can go into Burger King and get a Whopper for $1 and I can keep ordering $1 Whoppers all night.” The general Professorial Counter runs “well, that wouldn’t really happen because you run out of money and/or they run out of supplies,” which is a missed opportunity.

First, relax all of the normal constraints. You have an unlimited cash availability, and the Burger King has unlimited supplies and is open 24/7. Both the workers and any other customers are nether going to be irritated by you buying a new Whopper every five or ten minutes nor start calling their friends/hitting social media to get others to see the “spectacle” (no external incentives to start or stop). Oh, and the $1 price includes any taxes.

All Hail Declining Marginal Utility

For the first few rounds, both parties will act in keeping with the premise. You get your second, third, fourth, and even fifth Whopper and have spent $5.

You also are now less hungry than when you bought the first Whopper. That first Whopper cost you $1–and you valued it at least that much, if not more (consumer surplus >=0). The second was almost as good as the first; still well worth its dollar. The third, fourth, and fifth aren’t being eaten to satisfy hunger pangs, but you enjoy them at the $1 price.

You always have the same choice: give a dollar, get a Whopper. But sooner or later,2 you will decide that keeping that next $1 in your pocket is worth more than eating another Whopper (consumer surplus<0).

On to the Model

VA Study: How Long Does COVID-19 Vaccine Immunity Last?

This popped up in my email box today. I am not a member of any particular group representing veterans; but, I do use the VA for healthcare as a discharged Marine Sergeant. At times, I have written in support of various actions by different military groups supporting veterans.

With regard to healthcare, Medicare has started to use the VA Pharmaceutical formulary due to their pricing. In some cases such as Metoprolol, Medicare has changed from one version to another as a result of cost saves.

Groundbreaking VA Study Shows How Long COVID-19 Vaccine Immunity May Last

26 Mar 2021 | By Patricia Kime

Among the great unknowns of the COVID-19 vaccines now in use against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is how long immunity lasts and whether booster shots will be needed over time.

Scientists at the VA’s Office of Research and Development in White River Junction, Vermont, have found that the vaccines can provide immunity for at least seven to nine months, a time frame similar to the immune response generated in people who have had COVID-19.