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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- September 15, 2013

I didn't put out an Economic Stories of Relevance article for September 8, 2013, so I am including articles of economic relevance for the past two weeks.

Households on Food Stamps Now Outnumber All Households in Northeast U.S. - CNS News - September 17, 2013 -  A record 23,116,928 American households were enrolled in the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—AKA food stamps—during the month of June, according to data released this month by the Department of Agriculture.             That outnumbers the 20,618,000 households that the Census Bureau estimated were in the entire Northeastern United States as of the second quarter of 2013.                 According to the Census Bureau, the Northeast region includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania. Thus, in June, the households receiving food stamps exceeded the total combined households in all of these states.

Census on Obama’s 1st Term: Real Median Income Down $2,627; People in Poverty Up 6,667,000; Record 46,496,000 Now Poor  - CNS News - September 17, 2013 - During the four years that marked President Barack Obama’s first term in office, the real median income of American households dropped by $2,627 and the number of people in poverty increased by approximately 6,667,000, according to data released today by the Census Bureau.                  The record total of approximately 46,496,000 people in the United States who are now in poverty, according to the Census Bureau, is more than twice the population of Syria, which, according to the CIA, has 22,457,336 people.                    In 2008, the year Obama was elected, real median household income in the United States was $53,644 according to the Census Bureau. In 2012, the last full year of Obama’s first term, median household income was $51,017. Thus, real median household income dropped $2,627—or 4.89 percent—from 2008 to 2012.                  In fact, real median household income dropped in every year of Obama's first term. In 2008, when he was elected, it was $53,644. In 2009, the year he was inaugurated, it dropped to 53,285. In 2010, his second year in office, it dropped to $51,892. In 2011, his third year in office, it dropped to $51,100. And, in 2012, his fourth year in office, it dropped to $51,017.

Median Household Income Has Fallen For FIVE YEARS IN A ROW - The Economic Collapse Blog - Michael Snyder - September 17th, 2013 - If the economy is getting better, then why do incomes keep falling?  According to a shocking new report that was just released by the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income (adjusted for inflation) has declined for five years in a row.  This has happened even though the federal government has been borrowing and spending money at an unprecedented rate and the Federal Reserve has been on the most reckless money printing spree in U.S. history.  Despite all of the "emergency measures" that have been taken to "stimulate the economy", things just continue to get worse for average American families.  Americans are working harder than ever, but their paychecks are not reflecting that.  Meanwhile, the cost of everything just keeps going up.  The Federal Reserve insists that inflation is "low", but anyone that goes grocery shopping or that stops at a gas station knows that is a lie.  In fact, if inflation was calculated the exact same way that it was calculated back in 1980, the inflation rate would be somewhere between 8 and 10 percent right now.  Paychecks are being stretched more than ever before, and that is probably the reason why about three-fourths of the entire country is living paycheck to paycheck at this point.
According to the Census report, the high point for median household income in the United States was back in 1999 ($56,080).  It almost got back to that level in 2007 ($55,627), but ever since then there has been a steady decline.  The following figures come directly from the report, and as you can see, median household income has fallen every single year for the past five years...
2007: $55,627    2008: $53,644    2009: $53,285    2010: $51,892    2011: $51,100     2012: $51,017

More Americans Struggle to Afford Food - Americans' overall access to basic needs is close to record-low - Gallup Wellbeing - Alyssa BrownGallup - September 12, 2013 - WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More Americans are struggling to afford food -- nearly as many as did during the recent recession. The 20.0% who reported in August that they have, at times, lacked enough money to buy the food that they or their families needed during the past year, is up from 17.7% in June, and is the highest percentage recorded since October 2011. The percentage who struggle to afford food now is close to the peak of 20.4% measured in November 2008, as the global economic crisis unfolded.

Record 90.5 Million Out Of Labor Force As Half A Million Drop Out In One Month; Labor Force Participation Rate Plunges To 1978 Levels - Tyler Durden - September 6, 2013 - While the Establishment survey data was ugly due to both the miss and the prior downward revisions in the NFP print, the real action was in the Household survey, where we find that the number of people not in the labor force rose by a whopping 516,000 in one month, which in turn increased the total number of people outside the labor force to a record 90.5 million Americans.           
And what is even worse, the Labor Force Participation Rate declined from 63.4% to 63.2%: the is the lowest print since August 1978!

Chart Of The Day: Where The World's Fattest People Are - Tyler Durden - September 17, 2013 - 

51% Favor Government Shutdown Until Congress Cuts Health Care Funding - Rasmussen Reports - September 17, 2013 - President Obama yesterday criticized congressional Republicans for insisting on spending cuts in any budget deal that continues government operations past October 1, saying they risk "economic chaos." Most voters agree a federal government shutdown would be bad for the economy, but they're willing to risk one until Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree on ways to cut the budget, including cuts in funding for the new national health care law.                Just 20% of Likely U.S. Voters believe a partial shutdown of the federal government would be good for economy, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-six percent (56%) say such a shutdown would be bad for the economy, even though payments for things like Social Security, Medicare and unemployment would continue. Sixteen percent (16%) think it would have no impact. (To see survey question wording, click here.)                     But 58% favor a federal budget that cuts spending, while only 16% prefer one that increases spending. Twenty-one percent (21%) support a budget that keeps spending levels about the same.                        This helps explain why 53% would rather have a partial government shutdown until Democrats and Republicans can agree on what spending to cut. Thirty-seven percent (37%) would prefer instead that Congress avoid a shutdown by authorizing spending at existing levels as the president has proposed.                      Some conservative Republicans in both the House and Senate are refusing to approve a budget unless it slows or stops funding for the health care law, but the president and most congressional Democrats are adamantly opposed to any such cuts. However, 51% of voters favor having a partial government shutdown until Democrats and Republicans agree on what spending for the health care law to cut. Forty percent (40%) would rather avoid a government shutdown by authorizing spending for the health care law at existing levels.               Late last month, 42% of Republicans said threatening to vote against a government funding bill unless it cuts off funds for the health care law will help the GOP. Twenty-eight percent (28%) disagreed, while 14% said it would have no impact. Fifty-two percent (52%) of Democrats and 48% of unaffiliateds thought it would hurt Republicans.
Most voters continue to dislike the health care law, and 54% expect it to increase, not reduce, health care costs. From the beginning of the debate over the law four years ago, voters have consistently said that cost is their number one health care concern.                         Under the health care law, uninsured Americas are required to have health insurance by January 1, and failure to do so could result in sizable penalties. Now that the president has delayed implementation of the employer mandate portion of his new national health care law, 56% of voters think he also should delay the requirement that every American buy or obtain health insurance.

BofA: If The American Economy Doesn't Accelerate Soon, It NEVER Will - Business Insider - Matthew Boesler - September 13, 2013 - BofA Merrill Lynch chief investment strategist Michael Hartnett – the one who coined the term "Great Rotation" – takes a gloomy view of the future in his latest note to clients:
The Next 5 Years: Curb Your Enthusiasm
Significant monetary stimulus, the end of fiscal austerity, a booming housing market, a cheap dollar, record corporate cash balances...if the US economy does not significantly accelerate in coming quarters, it never will. We assume it will, and favor assets (e.g. equities), sectors (e.g. banks) and markets (e.g. Europe) that have lagged in the “High Liquidity-Low Growth” world of recent years.
Asset price will not do as well in the next 5 years, no matter what the “nouveau bulls” say. Central banks will be less generous, corporations less selfish. And when excess liquidity is removed it will get “CRASHy”. The dollar and (temporarily) volatility will be the last assets to surge as Deleveraging ends and an era of Normalization begins.
In short, don't expect stocks to go on an awesome tear over the next few years as they have in the past few years, beware of a market crash, and watch developments in the U.S. economy closely.

In Devastating Detail, JPM Economist Explains Why The Growth Potential Of The United States Is Nothing Like It Used To Be  - Matthew Boesler - August 13, 2013 -Bad news: owing mostly to demographics trends and slowing technological innovation, America may be facing a long road of low growth ahead.                 In a new report, JPMorgan economist Michael Feroli explains why the country's future isn't what it used to be by demonstrating that potential GDP growth – a proxy for the long-run trend growth rate – in the United States has fallen below 2%.                "As recently as the late 1990s, potential growth in the U.S. was estimated to be around 3.5%; by our estimates that figure has recently fallen by half, to 1.75%," says Feroli.                   Potential growth is a function of two variables: the growth of America's workforce, and growth in that group's productivity levels.              Unfortunately, the first variable – labor force growth – has slowed dramatically in the last decade.                   "According to the February 2013 CBO estimates, for example, potential growth of the labor supply has been irregularly slowing from 2.5% annual growth from 1974-1981 to only 0.8% from 2002-12 and is projected to slow further to only 0.6% over the next five years," says Feroli. "The slowdown in potential labor force growth has been accompanied by a similar slowdown in actual labor supply."                        A lot of that decline has to do with population growth. The JPMorgan report points out that at current levels under 1% per year, working-age population growth is at multi-decade lows.                         Part of that decline in working-age population growth, in turn, has to do with a big slowdown in immigration to the United States  (The other component of the decline in working-age population growth is demographics-driven, as the "baby boomer" cohort ages and exits the workforce.)                 "A key influence here has been an estimated slowdown in net migration, both legal and illegal," says Feroli. "Reduced net migration reflects heightened security concerns since the September 11 attacks, and the effect of soft labor markets."

Poverty consumes so much mental energy it's like a drop in IQ -  August 29, 2013 -  People preoccupied with making ends meet had a drop in brain function similar to a 13-point dip in IQ or the loss of a night's sleep, researchers in Canada say.                    The study, published in the journal Science, suggested a person's thinking and reasoning ability could be diminished by the exhausting effort of tasks like scrounging to pay bills and surviving from day-to-day. As a result, less "mental bandwidth" remains for education, training, time-management and other steps that could help break out of the cycles of poverty, the study said.                    Jiaying Zhao of the University of British Columbia, who conducted the study as a graduate student at Princeton University, said poverty consumes so much mental energy that those in poor circumstances have little remaining brainpower to concentrate on other areas of life.                   As a result, those with few resources are more likely to make bad decisions that perpetuate their financial woes, Zhao said.                   "Previous accounts of poverty have blamed the poor for their personal failings, or an environment that is not conducive to success," Zhao said in a statement.                      "We're arguing that being poor can impair cognitive functioning, which hinders individuals' ability to make good decisions and can cause further poverty."                       In one set of experiments, the researchers found worrying about financial concerns had an immediate negative impact on the ability of low-income individuals to perform on common cognitive and logic tests.

Bill Black ~ Wall Street Banks Obtain Market Data Ten Minutes Before Everyone Else

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