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

Who is the true beneficiary of welfare? or Please define: Entitlement

I wrote in February of 2012 about welfare: Welfare, I’m not hurting from it and neither are you.

I noted the following: but it looks to me like what we spend on welfare is not much more than what the government is spending on just doing the government thingy, unless of course people can’t get a job. Interestingly enough, the share of GDP spent on welfare in 1992 and 2010 is the same. In fact, at the peak of unemployment of the 2001 recession which was 2003, we spent just 0.0098 on welfare.

Understand that 0.0098 is the fraction of our GDP spent on welfare.  That is 0.98% of our GDP.  I did not include the medicaid/healthcare expenditures.

Of course there was the often heard comment to this article about welfare recipients not contributing. No skin in the game, not contributing, blah, blah, blah….stuff for free.  My first response and really the only needed response is “So what?”  I mean really Sooooooooo What!  Is the welfare person really stopping you from getting your Mercedes?

Well here’s the so what. The Public cost of low-wages in the Fast -food Industry

“Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of enrollments in America’s major public benefits programs are from working families. But many of them work in jobs that pay wages so low that their paychecks do not generate enough income to provide for life’s basic necessities.”

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Chris Hayes, Why don’t you have me on as a guest?

On October 2, 2013 Chris Hayes had on Larry Kudlow to discuss the economics of the government shut down.  All I can say is, I could not believe he was the one Chris went to for insight.  Maybe he had to because, you know, Kudlow is related to him via the network they work at.  But really, Chris could you not get your bosses to understand how someone like Kudlow professing on your show does harm to your identity and thus the relationship you have with your viewers?  

Let me be clear, my impression of you and your show is that you strive to deal in facts.  I have seen you have people of the conservative ideology on, but they have seemed to be people who use facts interpreted via their ideology.  That’s a conversation.  But Kudlow promoting “supply side”?  I mean is anyone in the real world even using this phrase anymore? 

My hope with this post is that  our good readers will post corrections to Kudlow and note why your guest is completely full of crap thus giving you a little help and cover as I’m going with the idea that your boss made you do it.  But more importantly, your viewers deserve not having to have this crap pushed at them.  I have found people know the Kudlow view of the economy is baloney, but the don’t know why it is baloney and you having him on only makes their angst worse. 

Let me get to it: Do you really believe your viewers bought this nonsense?  Do you believe your viewers do not know it is nonsense?

 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

Do you really want to promote and by virtue of it being on your show endorse the idea that the problem with our economy is businesses being taxed too much AND Obamacare?

 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Considering the following, you have been used man.

 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 In the end, you confirm you are with him… regarding the need for the economy to grow.  But, I think most people will only hear that you are with him.  Not good.  Not good for you, not good for this nation.

So, please contact us here at Angry Bear.  Anyone of us are more than capable of explaining the mess this economy is in and why the Kudlow’s of the world no longer have any credibility. 

Oh, to you MSNBC  what the hell is the matter with you?  Is Kudlow loosing his audience so you figure putting him on with Chris will boost his cred? 

 

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Housing equity withdrawal drove the bubble, not so much the building

Tim Duy also points to Bill McBride and Josh Lerner adding to the discussion of the narrative of housing in our economy and how that should affect policy.  I would add of course the variety of responses by the mortgage industries (see Naked Capitalism) since that started in earnest round 1998 (MERS).  I think this idea can be further refined and tied to other aspects of our troubles globally.

What Are We Expecting From Housing?, by Tim Duy: Josh Lehner and Bill McBride note that the manufacturing slowdown does not necessarily indicate recession, something I noted as well. Another version of that story is seen by comparing the ISM headline number with the new orders data:
 …During the 2002-2005 period, arguably the height of the housing bubble, residential construction contributed an average of 0.4 percentage points to GDP growth each quarter. In the first quarter of this year, the contribution was 0.42 percentage points. So, barring the occasional pop in the data, housing is already contributing to GDP growth about what we would expect.
 …Certainly we can envision accelerated home building triggering an increase in both manufacturing (capital equipment) and consumer (job/income growth) activity as well; these tend to be interconnected activities. So maybe the overall impact is a bit higher.

Mew


So here is the question: What was more important in holding the economy close to potential output, residential construction itself, or the housing price bubble? I tend to believe the price-driven balance sheet effects were driving dynamics over this past business cycle. Absent a healing of household balance sheets (or, relatedly, monetary policy that supported such healing via somewhat higher inflation expectations to reduce debt in real terms), I would expect overall growth to remain subdued, despite a rebound in residential construction. The latter is helpful and important, but not by itself a magic bullet.

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The Euro Area Precedent for Policy Failure

by Rebecca Wilder

The Euro Area Precedent for Policy Failure

Last weekend, a leaked Troika report (Troika = ECB + EC + IMF) revealed that European policy makers now comprehend that the Greek policy prescription is not working (bold by yours truly):

The growth and fiscal policy adjustments assumed under the program individually have precedent in other countries’ experience, but experience to date under the program suggests that Greece will not be able to set a new precedent by realizing at the same time and from very weak initial conditions a large internal devaluation, fiscal adjustment, and privatization program.

Rob Parenteau and Marshall Auerback sum up the implications of this point (1 A.):

On the first page of the document is not only a pretty open and blatant admission that expansionary fiscal consolidation (EFC) has proven to be a contradiction in terms, at least in Greece, but there is also a serious policy incompatibility problem, at least over the intermediate term horizon, with efforts at internal devaluation (ID) – that is, attempting nominal domestic private income deflation in order to improve trade prospects when one has a fixed exchange rate constraint.

I agree with Rob and Marshall – the grand plan does not work. Greece will (of course) not be able to set a new precedent of public sector and private sector deleveraging amid weakening external demand and a fixed exchange rate. However, I’d like to focus here on the ‘precedent in other countries’ experience’. What precedent?

One might point to Canada’s mid-1990s budget initiative that dropped program spending from 16.8% of GDP in 1993-1994 to 12.1% in 1999-2000 as a candidate for precedent. Marshall Auerback and Stephen Gordon refuted this claim as applicable to current conditions. However, we now have economic data available with which to compare the Canadian austerity experience to that of the Euro area.

What’s happened in Europe over the last year: Divergence. Since the middle of 2010, fiscal austerity and a drive for internal devaluation to ‘increase competitiveness (whatever that is) slashed GDP growth on a quarterly basis for all countries under the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) program – Greece, Ireland, and Portugal – while nonprogram countries enjoyed the economic benefits associated with a robust global recovery (through 2010). Note: fiscal austerity and ‘reform’ are pre-conditions to accessing funding at the EFSF. Not coincidentally, since Q1 2010, no Euro area countries have contracted except program countries (rounding to the nearest tenth) through Q2 2011.

The chart above illustrates the major Euro area (EA) economic (EA 12 less Luxembourg) recoveries since the peak in EA real GDP, Q1 2008. The legend lists the latest Q2 2011 reading as an index to the Q1 2008 EA peak – the difference over 100 represents the accumulated growth in real GDP. Only Belgium, Austria, and Germany retraced, or fully recovered, the lost EA real GDP. EA economic activity is 2% below pre-recession levels. Notably, Ireland, Greece, and Portugal are struggling amid tight financial conditions and the crimping of domestic demand (internal devaluation).

Since austerity and raising the primary balance is a  condition for EFSF funding access, a contracting economy is to be expected, right?

Wrong – in fact, the Canadian economy experienced no real GDP contraction spanning the years 1994-2000 when the structural fiscal balance turned from a 6.9% deficit to a 1.5% surplus. All the while, GDP maintained a 4% average annual growth rate and did not contract on a quarterly basis (after revisions). Admittedly, the Canadian economy did not grow in Q2 1995 and Q3 1995, but improved smartly thereafter.

I point you again to Marshall Auerback and Stephen Gordon for the whys. But basically, easy monetary policy, depreciation of the currency, and robust US demand fostered the fiscal shift in Canada. None of these conditions exist in the Euro area, so those program (austerity) countries – Ireland, Greece, and Portugal – suffer contraction.

As an aside, some may point to Ireland as a success story, since it posted two consecutive quarters of reasonably strong growth in the first half of 2011. Sure, Ireland eventually grew – it is a very open economy, so has an innate ability to generate net export income. But importantly, look how far the economy fell (see first chart). The economy saw 10.7% in accumulated contraction spanning Q1 2008 to Q4 2010 – the 3.5% rebound spanning the first half of 2011 pales in magnitude. I point you to Edward Hugh’s commentary for a sobering read on Ireland.

Finally, I leave you with a potent illustration of what not to do when it comes to fiscal austerity: Portugal vs. France.

Portugal was doing all right – better than France, even – until they ran into 2010 financial stability problems that forced the government to start ‘cutting’. Portugal started to contract in Q4 2010, applied for funding in April 2011, and contracted thereafter. Economic Intelligence Unit sees Portugal contracting throughout 2012 (no link). The Euro area prescription for austerity is tantamount to economic collapse amid a fixed exchange rate and meager global growth prospects.

The EA policy plan for fiscal austerity is setting a precedent, all right, a precedent for policy failure.

Originally published atThe Wilder View…Economonitors

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