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Monday, December 17, 2012

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- December 16, 2012

Sorry Protesters: Your Jobs Are Being Sent To China And They Aren't Coming Back - The Economic Collapse Blog - Michael, - December 11th, 2012 - Did you see the huge crowds of protesters that flooded the Michigan Capitol on Tuesday?  They were there to protest two bills there were being considered by the state legislature that would limit the power of unions in the state.  Michigan lawmakers approved the bills and this absolutely infuriated the protesters.  There is a lot of passion on both sides of this debate, but I am afraid that both sides in this debate are missing the bigger picture.  If we keep shipping millions of our jobs to China, there isn't going to be work for anyone no matter how much power unions have or don't have.  During the month of October, the U.S. trade deficit increased to 42.2 billion dollars.  Our trade with China accounted for most of that deficit.  Our trade deficit with China in October increased to a new all-time one month record of 29.5 billion dollars.  Nearly 30 billion dollars that could have gone to U.S. businesses and U.S. workers went to China instead.  Since 1975, a total of about 8 trillion dollars that could have gone to U.S. businesses and U.S. workers went to the rest of the world instead.  Shiny new factories are going up all over China, and meanwhile our once great manufacturing cities are degenerating into desolate wastelands.  So what is going to happen when all of the good paying manufacturing jobs are gone?  Are we all going to fight bitterly over whether we should unionize the low paying jobs that remain at places such as Wal-Mart and McDonalds?  Such an approach is not going to bring back prosperity to America.  We desperately need to start building things and start creating real wealth inside this country once again.  We desperately need to stop sending tens of thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of our national wealth out of the country.  Unfortunately, I don't see anyone out there holding protests about our trade deficit.  Nobody really seems to care, so our economy will continue to bleed good jobs and the middle class will continue to be destroyed.
The funny thing is that the workers that are out there protesting these union bills actually voted for the politicians that are killing their jobs.  Both parties are married to the one world economic system and the "free trade" agenda, and Barack Obama has been one of the worst offenders.  He has been pushing for more "free trade agreements" throughout the past four years, and yet union workers continue to support him enthusiastically.                             How foolish can they possibly be?
Yeah, let's merge American workers into a global labor pool with workers in third world countries on the other side of the globe that work in absolutely nightmarish conditions for as little as 45 dollars a month.  That sounds like a great idea, doesn't it?                       Oh, but you don't want to work for 45 dollars a month?                        You don't even want to work for 450 dollars a month?                    Well, then the big corporations that fund politicians like Obama will just take your jobs and send them halfway around the planet.                       Do you think that your unions will save your jobs?
Michigan already has the highest rate of union membership in the Midwest.                  It also has the highest rate of unemployment in the Midwest.                      Over the past couple of decades, thousands of businesses in Michigan have either closed down or moved facilities overseas.                 Did the unions prevent any of that? No.                              If union bosses really wanted to do some good, they would be organizing protests against our incredibly foolish trade policies.                     But instead, they tell their members to vote for politicians like Obama and then they run out to the stores and fill their carts with huge piles of products that were made in China.                          Union workers need to wake up to one fundamental economic fact - in a one world economic system, the big corporations simply do not need you.  They can make their products in lots of other countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.                              But instead of getting upset about what is really killing their jobs, union workers in Michigan are screaming mad about a couple of new laws that will take some power away from the unions.                            That is kind of like being obsessed with a broken fingernail when your leg has just been sawed off and you are gushing blood all over the floor.                           Oh, but union workers did put on a good show up in Michigan.  The following is how a Bloomberg article described the protests...



We Are Witnessing The Death Of Small Business In America - The Economic Collapse Blog - Michael - December 13th, 2012 - Historically, small businesses have been the primary engine of new job creation in the United States.  If the economy was getting healthy, we would expect to see the number of jobs at new businesses rise.  Instead, we are witnessing just the opposite.  We are told that the economy is supposed to be "recovering", but the number of "startup jobs" at new businesses has fallen for five years in a row.  According to an analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data performed by economist Tim Kane, there were almost 12 startup jobs per 1000 Americans back in the year 2006.  By 2011, that figure had fallen to less than 8 startup jobs per 1000 Americans.  According to Kane, the number of jobs in the United States at businesses that are less than one year old has fallen from 4.1 million in 1994 to 2.5 million in 2010.  Overall, the number of "new entrepreneurs and business owners" has fallen by more than 50 percent as a percentage of the population since 1977.  The United States was once known as "the land of opportunity", but now that is fundamentally changing.  At this point we truly do have a "crisis of entrepreneurship" in this country, and that is a huge reason why America is in decline.  We are witnessing the slow death of the small business in America, and that is incredibly bad news for all of us.                   Unfortunately, the problems that small businesses are experiencing right now have been building up for decades.  The economic environment for small businesses in America has become incredibly toxic.  Sadly, we can see this in the numbers.  According to Kane, the following is how the decline in the number of startup jobs per 1000 Americans breaks down by presidential administration...
Bush Sr.: 11.3        Clinton: 11.2         Bush Jr.: 10.8         Obama: 7.8
Obviously, we are headed very much in the wrong direction.  Kane speculates about why this may be happening in his paper...

Even as we witness the death of the small business in America, corporations are absolutely thriving.  The following chart shows how corporate profits after tax have exploded to new record highs in recent years...




So has this been good for workers?  No, it has not translated into more jobs and higher wages.  In fact, wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP are now at an all-time low...



The Great Decoupling of the US Economy - Andrew McAfee's Blog - The Business Impact of IT - December 12, 2012 - The French call the thirty years after the war les trente glorieuses, reflecting the shared economic prosperity of the period. Well, we had a bit more than trente spectaculaires of our own.                            In the early 1980s the picture started to change for the average American worker. There were still a lot of jobs available, but they started to pay less well. Median household income became decoupled from the other three stats and grew more slowly than they did. By the time of the 2001 recession, median income was lagging behind pretty badly. If we’re going to stick with Gallic labeling, the years between 1982 and 2001 were the vingt troublantes.                                   By the end of 2011, things had become much worse in two ways. First, median household income was actually lower than it was a decade earlier. In fact, it was lower than at any point since 1996. And second, the American job creation engine was sputtering badly. Between 1981 and 2001 the economy generated plenty of low-paying jobs. After 2001, though, it wasn’t even generating enough of these, and employment growth started to lag badly behind GDP and productivity growth (on all three graphs here, GDP growth is charted on a separate axis because it grows more quickly than the other three). The last ten or so years have been les dix d├ęprimantes.



What’s going on? Why have the things that workers care about – jobs and wages – become decoupled from the the other things that  economy-watchers care about? So far, explanations for this unhappy phenomenon include tax and policy changes, and the effects of globalization and offshoring. These are clearly powerful forces, but there’s one other one: technological progress.                       I’ve been talking a lot about this latter force here and elsewhere, and it’s the subject of Race Against the Machine, a short e-book Erik Brynjolfsson and I wrote that came out a bit more than a year ago (we’re working on a full-length sequel now).                                 Our argument, in brief, is that digital technologies have been able to do routine work for a while now. This allows them to substitute for less-skilled and -educated workers, and puts a lot of downward pressure on the median wage. As computers and robots get more and more powerful while simultaneously getting cheaper and more widespread this phenomenon spreads, to the point where economically rational employers prefer buying more technology over hiring more workers. In other words, they prefer capital over labor. This preference affects both wages and job volumes. And the situation will only accelerate as robots and computers learn to do more and more, and to take over jobs that we currently think of not as ‘routine,’ but as requiring a lot of skill and/or education.                          As a result, I don’t see the four lines in the graphs above re-converging any time soon.


The food stamp economic recovery – Food stamps increase by over 600,000 in last month of data. GDP at record levels yet US employment is 4 million below start of recession. - My Budget 360 - There was a startling figure that came across my desk from the United States Department of Agriculture regarding food stamp usage in the SNAP program.  Food stamp usage has grown dramatically in the last decade even during the debt inspired boom times.  Yet the devil is always in the details as we reported with the unemployment rate really dropping because of the over 500,000 Americans simply dropping out of the labor force.  The food stamp figures are stunning because they show in the last two months food stamp usage has skyrocketed by over 1,000,000.  In the last month of data observation, food stamp usage increased by more than 600,000.  Keep in mind to qualify for food stamps you have to carefully demonstrate that you are earning very little and technically are classified as being in poverty.  So what does it say that our nation now has 47.7 million Americans on food stamps?                       Our Gross Domestic Product is now at record levels yet we are doing this with over 4 million workers less than in 2007.                 


The reason this is possible is that income inequality is simply growing more dramatically.  That is why on one side of the spectrum we see big financial institutions back to making big bets and earning big bonuses while in the last month of data, we added 600,000 more Americans to the food stamp system.  If you want to visualize how things have played out since the recession began here is an excellent chart:

        
These figures are important.  You might be asking how this occurring in a supposed recovery.  A large part of this growth is being juiced up by massive debt programs and pseudo-debt and money creation programs like QE3:


  


QE 4: Folks, This Ain't Normal - What You Need To Know About The Fed's Latest Move
Tyler Durden's picture - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - December 14, 2012 - Okay, the Fed's recent decision to boost its monetary stimulus (a.k.a. "money printing," "quantitative easing," or simply "QE") by another $45 billion a month to a combined $85 billion per month demonstrates an almost complete departure from what a normal person might consider sensible.                         To borrow a phrase from Joel Salatin: Folks, this ain't normal. To this I will add ...and it will end badly.                              If you had stopped me on the street a few years ago and asked me what I thought would have happened in the stock, bond, foreign currency, and commodity markets on the day the Fed announced an $85 billion per month thin-air money printing program directed at government bonds, I never would have predicted what has actually come to pass.                             I would have predicted soaring stock prices on the expectation that all this money would have to end up in the stock market eventually. I would have predicted the dollar to fall because who in their right mind would want to hold the currency of a country that is borrowing 46 cents (!) out of every dollar that it is spending while its central bank monetizes 100% of that craziness?                        Further, I would have expected additional strength in the government bond market, because $85 billion pretty much covers all of the expected new issuance going forward, plus many entities still need to buy U.S. bonds for a variety of fiduciary reasons. With little product for sale and lots of bids by various players, one of which – the Fed – has a magic printing press and is not just price insensitive but actually seeking to drive prices higher (and yields lower), that's a recipe for rising prices.                       Then I would have called for sharply rising commodity markets because nothing correlates quite so well with thin-air money printing as commodities.                       That's what should have happened. But it's not what we're seeing.                         Instead, stocks initially climbed but then closed red. Gold was mysteriously sold in the thinly-traded overnight markets and again right after the announcement in large, rapid HFT blocks that swamped the bids. U.S. Treasury bonds actually sold off on the news. The dollar hardly budged. Commodities were mixed across the board but more or less flat on the day, with the exception of the metals, and especially the precious metals, which were sold vigorously.                     The markets are now well and truly broken. Not because they don't conform to my predictions, but because they are no longer sending useful price signals. Instead, my hypothesis here is that the markets are now just a giant and rigged casino, where a relative handful of big firms and other tightly coupled players are gaming their orders to take advantage of this flood of money.                      When your central bank badly misprices money and then bids up everything related to bonds, nothing can be reasonably priced. Risk is mispriced; the few remaining investors (as distinct from speculators, which are now the majority) are forced to accept both poor yields and higher risk – so we know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.                         QE4 - So what exactly is this new thin-air money printing program all about? Well, unlike any prior Quantitative Easing (QE) announcement, this one was tied to a fuzzy and quirky government statistic: the unemployment rate...                             The odd thing here is that by tying their policy to the unemployment rate, we could be in for a very long wait for the stimulus to end.  The reason is that the unemployment rate has a couple of moving pieces, one being the number of people who are unemployed, and the second consisting of people who have given up looking for work, which is tracked in something called the 'participation rate.'                             As more people leave the labor force and the participation rate goes down, the unemployment rate goes down, too.  Somewhat confusingly, as more jobs are created, the unemployment rate goes down, too.  As you can see, these numbers work in opposition to each other because as more jobs become available, more people re-enter the work force.                            Before the crisis struck, the participation rate was around 66.5%. But now it sits at just 63.6%, meaning that, at roughly 1.4 million jobs for each percent, a bit more than 4 million jobs would have to be created just to absorb the folks who left the labor force but presumably would like to work again. As those 4 million folks come back to work, the unemployment rate will not budge at all.



Ron Paul's Farewell Speech to Congress 


 



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