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August 26, 2004 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Bush's latest accomplishment may not be one that he's willing to brag about. The Census Bureau is reporting that an additional 1.3 million Americans are now living in poverty. They also offer a number of pretty graphs (all in pdf).
posted by bshort (113 comments total)

 
Quick, build more Burger Kings so we can create more "manufacturing" jobs!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:21 AM on August 26, 2004


this Census Bureau organization sounds suspicious. I bet it's part of the liberal media. anyway, let's see:

King Kong Debt Meets Middle-Class Life:

* In 2003, the average credit-card debt of U.S. households with at least one card was $9,205, up from $2,966 in 1990, according to the research firm CardWeb.com.

* In 1970, 44 percent of families with credit cards reported having a balance after their most recent payment, the Federal Reserve Board reports. Since the 1980s, not only have more people used credit cards, but about 60 percent have carried a balance.

* The personal savings rate in the United States averaged about 8 percent from just after World War II through the 1980s. But since 2000, it has averaged just under 2 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

* Personal bankruptcy filings hit a record 1.6 million in 2003, compared with 300,000 a year in the early 1980s.



and, old but stil good:


FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS, according to the Census Bureau, income inequality in America has widened. The standard statistic to measure such inequality is called the "gini index." The greater the number, the wider the disparity between the rich and the poor. The index ranges from zero, where everyone receives an equal share, to one, where one recipient holds all the income. During the post-World War II boom, there was a broad sharing of prosperity, and the gini index declined from .376 in 1947 to .340 in 1969. Since then, the gap has widened and the index has been on a steady incline, rising to .456 in 1998. The share of aggregate household income controlled by the lowest 20% decreased from 4.1% in 1969 to 3.6% in 1997, while the share of household income controlled by the richest five percent increased from 16.6% in 1969 to 21.7% in 1997. A 1999 Census Bureau report maintains that much of this increase in income divergence is related to two major factors: changes in the nation's labor market and the composition of its households.
There has been a substantial widening of wage disparities between low-skill jobs and those that require more education and training. The high-tech information economy is growing at a rate of almost 10 times the older industrial economy, and its employees have seen some spectacular gains, particularly if they hold stock options or have 401(k)s. The share of income by the richest 20% increased from 40.5% in 1969 to 49.2% in 1998. Between 1995 and 1998, over 1,000,000 Americans entered the ranks of millionaires. Starting salaries for lawyers in Silicon Valley are between $125,000 and $150,000; in New York City, between $100,000 and $120,000.

posted by matteo at 8:28 AM on August 26, 2004


From the most recent trough in 2000, both the number and rate have risen for three consecutive years, from 31.6 million and 11.3 percent in 2000, to 35.9 million and 12.5 percent in 2003.

Since 2000, there are actually 4.3 million more people living in poverty. That's as many people live in the entire Houston metropolitan area.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:30 AM on August 26, 2004


How can you have 'compassionate conservatism' if you ain't got any poor?
posted by PigAlien at 8:33 AM on August 26, 2004


Wait a minute, Bush isn't a good president? STOP THE PRESSES!

Actually, this is news and I can already see one of my debate opponents dusting off his Bush-isn't-responsible arguments.
posted by fenriq at 8:41 AM on August 26, 2004


Oh, and we gotta have poor so the rich can sell their belongings and help them, as Jesus directed them to do.

Luke 12:20 But God said to him, `Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' 21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
posted by PigAlien at 8:41 AM on August 26, 2004


All the administration needs to do is redefine "poverty".

:rollseyes:
posted by infowar at 8:57 AM on August 26, 2004


While the data is discouraging for families in need, there's also an interesting story behind the story. (psuedo self-link; it's my husband's blog) Some highlights:

Every year, the Census Bureau releases the poverty data in late-September. In election years, that means the public learns about the number of families in poverty about five weeks before going to the polls. This year -- surprise, surprise -- the announcement has been moved up to August, when Congress is out of session, a lot of journalists are on vacation, and the Olympics are on TV.

The Census Bureau also changed the date and the location of the announcement to a harder-to-reach office. Instead of using the traditional National Press Club in downtown DC, where the numbers have been released in years past, the poverty data announcement will be made from Census Bureau offices in Suitland, Md., far from reporters' offices.

Adding insult to injury, every year, the numbers have been released by a career Census official -- until this year, when the data will be announced by the bureau's director, a political appointee of the Bush White House.
posted by evening at 9:09 AM on August 26, 2004


The government should make you rich? I must have missed that memo.
posted by a3matrix at 9:10 AM on August 26, 2004


The government should try to keep more people from falling under the poverty line? I must have missed that memo.
posted by keef at 9:15 AM on August 26, 2004


a3matrix: At least it shouldn't make you poor.
posted by bshort at 9:16 AM on August 26, 2004


Geeeeeezus, a3matrix. is that the best you can do?
posted by ook at 9:17 AM on August 26, 2004


Question: If you make more than I do, and we both get our wages doubled, then the income disparity between us has increased. Am I now worse off?

If your income triples, but mine only doubles, am I worse off?
posted by Ayn Marx at 9:18 AM on August 26, 2004


apparently, it was all that was needed. HEHEHEHE

Don't get your panties in a bunch. It was sarcastic (semi)
posted by a3matrix at 9:19 AM on August 26, 2004


“This president was handed a recession in January of 2001''
- Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill

“When he took office this economy was already in a recession''
- Commerce Secretary Don Evans

“It's now official…He inherited that recession from the previous
administration. Case is closed.''
- White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels
posted by the fire you left me at 9:21 AM on August 26, 2004


We're talking about people in poverty; not how much aid is given to people in poverrty. What's your point here, other than more stupid bashing of the President.

Only a dope would attribute the number of poor people to the President of the United States.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:24 AM on August 26, 2004


Ya'll don't get it, do you? Poor people don't vote. And he controls all arms of the federal government and has corporate media in his pocket. Add electronic voting systems with no oversight, and, well, ya'll are being tooled.
posted by fleener at 9:24 AM on August 26, 2004


Ayn,
If your income triples, but mine only doubles, am I worse off?

You are worse off if the average cost of goods and services also increases by 2.5, which tends to happen when overall wages rise.

Check. Your move.
posted by bl1nk at 9:26 AM on August 26, 2004


Even if the economy wasn't in recession, it was inflated buy a whole bunch of groundless .com shit. Just because yoour delusion of economic value is wrapped up in that doesn't mean the rest of us aren't better off with the present economy.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:26 AM on August 26, 2004


"You are worse off if the average cost of goods and services also increases by 2.5, which tends to happen when overall wages rise."

Show us some proof of this in recent history, please.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:32 AM on August 26, 2004


Assuming the assumptions and statistics are valid and meaningful, blaming only "Bush" is plain silly. You must also blame each of the 50 governors, blame previous Presidents and administrations, blame state legislatures, blame various comptrollers and ombudspeople, blame the Democrats from not acting and turning the tide against this alarming news, blame economic conditions, blame China, blame Alan Greenspan, blame our oil economy and so on and so on. There's plenty of responsibility to go around. After all, there were 32,000,000 people "living in poverty" before Bush even took office.

Don't throw up a historically and economically complex post and guarantee that the real point of such an important issue won't be discussed because you just had to take another clever shot at Bush. This is not Bush's "accomplishment" any more than the entire economy and society of the United States is his accomplishment.
posted by loquax at 9:33 AM on August 26, 2004


Only a dope would attribute the number of poor people to the President of the United States.

It may not be totally his fault, but he's sure doing his damndest to help.
posted by callmejay at 9:41 AM on August 26, 2004


Show us some proof of this in recent history, please.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:32 AM CST on August 26


Yes, by all means we should have to prove to you in this thread that inflation actually exists and is not something bl1nk made up on the spot.

This is not a college classroom. Educate yourself on your own time.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:41 AM on August 26, 2004


You are worse off if the average cost of goods and services also increases by 2.5, which tends to happen when overall wages rise.

This statement is confusing. Does 2.5 refer to a 2.5% inflation of the cost of goods and services? What tends to happen when overall wages rise? Inflation or specifically an inflation rate of 2.5%? What does any of that have to do with the (debatable) point that Ayn was making, which had to do with incomes doubling and tripling and the disparity between them?
posted by loquax at 9:50 AM on August 26, 2004


by all means we should have to prove to you in this thread that inflation actually exists

Don't think that was what he was asking. Sounded more like a request to show a 1:1 correlation between incomes of the wealthy and prices. This isn't a pie-in-the-sky factory. Make up facts on your own time.
posted by yerfatma at 9:50 AM on August 26, 2004


so, to all the "not the president's fault/accomplishment," I assume that he/you wouldn't have been talking up a net lift of people out of poverty on his term?

Utterly hypothetical with Presidents named Bush, natch.
posted by hackly_fracture at 9:51 AM on August 26, 2004


Only a dope would attribute the number of poor people to the President of the United States.

Silly me. I forgot, the President has never, ever stood behind a giant backdrop with "jobs and growth" or "improving America's economy" written on it several hundred times and made a glowing speech about he's to thank for the economy.

Even if the economy wasn't in recession, it was inflated buy a whole bunch of groundless .com shit. Just because yoour delusion of economic value is wrapped up in that doesn't mean the rest of us aren't better off with the present economy.

This is a fantastic new campaign strategy:

"Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"
"No, but that was just a delusion of economic value."
"Oh, okay. Yeah, I'll get that super-sized."
"No problem, Sir. I'm not unhappy with the state of the country at all!"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:54 AM on August 26, 2004


hackly - so then is the point of this post to discredit Bush and slam his capabilities as President or is it to discuss the long term problem of wealth disparity and poverty in America? If it's the former, fine, for whatever that's worth. If it's the latter, the jab at Bush in the initial post skews the issues and makes honest discussion and debate impossible. And something tells me that the 35 million people living in poverty couldn't give a damn if Bush or Kerry was president in November, because it won't make a lick of difference to the bigger picture unless part of Kerry's platform is to impose immediate wealth redistribution and institute a state-controlled command economy.
posted by loquax at 9:59 AM on August 26, 2004


Show us some proof of this in recent history, please.

Actually, doesn't recent history show that average household income has fallen over the past few years?
posted by crank at 10:06 AM on August 26, 2004


George Bush: the stupidity of his opponents is, perhaps, the single most compelling reason to reelect him.

I love all the cute 23 year-olds in the subway with their witty anti-Bush buttons--so persuasive!
posted by ParisParamus at 10:18 AM on August 26, 2004


You are worse off if the average cost of goods and services also increases by 2.5, which tends to happen when overall wages rise.

The trend that crank refers to above is true; however, the extent to which Bush is at fault is disproportionately represented in this thread. Yes, his tax cuts and war cost a great deal in addition to the recession and real income has in fact declined. However, this trend, over the past 30 years, has shown itself to be true. Blame Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton as well. And a myopic Congress.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:23 AM on August 26, 2004


On top of which bl1nk was responding to a hypothetical by Ayn Marx that had us all doubling to tripling our wage. Hands up everyone who has had their wage double in the last year.
posted by Mitheral at 10:25 AM on August 26, 2004


It's the economy stupid! Again.
posted by nofundy at 10:27 AM on August 26, 2004


Here is one paper entitled: "Do Higher Wages Cause Inflation?" (PDF)

After reading the abstract I'm not sure if the answer to that question is yes or no. I think it's supposed to be "no." I would read the entire paper but if I'm having a hard time with the abstract, chances are I'm not going to do much better with the body of the paper. Plus, I would like to stay employed.

Any speed reading economists in the house?
posted by Alison at 10:30 AM on August 26, 2004


Well, BlueTrain, you may be correct. The trend has been around much longer than Bush. However, I think Bush sets himself up for criticism because of his 'compassionate conservative' campaign. I may simply be ignorant, as I don't watch much TV, although I do keep up with the news on the internet every day. However, my impression is that I've never seen Bush utter one word about helping the poor.

He talks on and on about making America stronger and occasionally refers to helping working families, but I've never once heard him utter anything about helping those families in this country most in need. Even more seriously, I've never seen any serious legislation oriented towards this goal either, at least not that has caught the public attention.

What's most ridiculous about this is the man believes God made him president and he professes repeatedly his born-again beliefs. Well, he's not a very good disciple of Jesus. Jesus said lots about rich people and material goods and helping the poor. In fact, Bush strikes me as one of the most unchristian christians around.

As for his 'faith based initiatives', gee, let's help a few homeless families. I've got a better idea, why don't we help people get out of poverty? That's not a job for a church, its a job for a whole community, and it requires government involvement as well.

One church might be able to help one family out of poverty, but no amount of churches can seriously help millions. That requires government, and Bush refuses to lead on this issue.
posted by PigAlien at 10:30 AM on August 26, 2004


...all the cute 23 year-olds in the subway...

Paris?
posted by eatitlive at 10:30 AM on August 26, 2004


bl1nk's point, sans his actual number, is about the truest thing you can say in macroeconomics. Wages, more than anything, drives inflation. Average wage increases will cause inflation. As a general principle, it's indisputable.

But wages have been stagnating or falling, even though GDP has been growing. This is because productivity has been growing unsually fast and so it hasn't taken jobs to grow the economy. Meanwhile, the people who get mostly non-wage income, like the investors and others, have been the ones to reap the rewards of the growing economy. So it may be (and I don't know) that average overall income has risen in the last few years, but I don't think wages have.

Anyway, Ayn Marx is in a very important sense wrong in his/her basic assertion: some recent studies and common sense tell you that poverty is relative, not absolute. So, yes, when income gaps increase, some people are worse off.

I'm as willing as anyone to understand a portion of what "poverty" and "wealth" are in absolute terms: say, essentials, health, life expectancy. We can gloss over the difficulty in defining "essentials". And so we can safely conclude that in this absolute sense, people most everywhere, and certainly people in the US, are better off than they were in the past.

However, the only thing that really matters to people is their own subjective experience of whether they're happy or not. For whatever reason, their material existence factors heavily in this subjective judgment. And for whatever reasons, their relative material wealth plays a large role in this evaluation. It's simply true. And because this is simply true, and because what it means to be "poor" is such a squishy concept, then it's simply wrong to disregard that for most people it's a relative, not absolute, concept.

I, for one, don't think that Bush is in a first-causes sense responsible for either the short recession or the horribly disapointing recovery. I, for one, think that some of what we're seeing is the product of adjustments to the weirdness of the late 90s. Even so, I have no doubt and, these days, most economists have no doubt, that there's about a bazillion things Bush could have done but didn't to have improved the situation and things could be quite a bit better. Particularly in regard to what is most important to people: jobs. Bush is at least responsible for a reckless neglect.

On Preview: Alison's link...I'll look at that in a minute. But, in general, it's hard to imagine anyone coming to the conclusion that it's "no". Sometimes it doesn't, of course. But both theory and history have demonstrated that it does, almost always.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:36 AM on August 26, 2004


On top of which bl1nk was responding to a hypothetical by Ayn Marx that had us all doubling to tripling our wage. Hands up everyone who has had their wage double in the last year.

Anecdotal evidence is of course meaningless (on either side), but while my salary is only up 40% or so in the last year, it is up 237% since Bush took office. Without changing employers.

I, of course, don't credit any politican for this. But I also didn't blame any politician when I was struggling to make any money a few years ago.
posted by obfusciatrist at 10:50 AM on August 26, 2004


George Bush: the stupidity of his opponents is, perhaps, the single most compelling reason to reelect him.

I love all the cute 23 year-olds in the subway with their witty anti-Bush buttons--so persuasive!

I love how FreedomParamus says random crap, gets refuted, then insults everyone. I flattered that he thinks I'm cute, though.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:51 AM on August 26, 2004


unless part of Kerry's platform is to impose immediate wealth redistribution and institute a state-controlled command economy.

This is the only way to alleviate poverty? So it's basically capitalism with a monster underclass, or wealth redistribution?

Sorry but I don't buy it. Managed capitalism, serious investments in education, loosening of some government regulations, improvements in fuel economy, tax breaks for the lower brackets, and many many other methods can be used to alleviate poverty, it doesn't have to be inevitable.

I don't think you can blame Bush for creating poverty, but you can blame him for not seriously working to alleviate it. There is no doubt that it is not a priority of his administration, which is fine, he doesn't really pretend that it is. But to set up the question as a matter of commad economy vs. capitalism is just wrong, in my opinion.
posted by cell divide at 10:54 AM on August 26, 2004


thanks, eatitlive. another great piece of ammo for when my girlfriend tries to get me to move to NYC for the umpteenth time

not that this fellow isn't insane, but the hatred feels so Brooklynesque. (not that there aren't many things (and people) that i love in and about NYC.) now i just wasted 20 minutes cruising the SF missed connections to find something just as hate-filled. no luck so far ...
posted by mrgrimm at 11:02 AM on August 26, 2004


If your income triples, but mine only doubles, am I worse off?

This bizarre little hypothetical is relevant how, exactly?
posted by ook at 11:03 AM on August 26, 2004


It's relevant over the long-term, because that's what's happened in the last, oh, fifty years in the US. Of course, as I wrote, his assumption that the answer is "no" is wrong.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:14 AM on August 26, 2004


Cell divide: I think you may be right in the systematic revamping of the current system may alleviate poverty, social capitalism is a keen idea. However, I don't think such changes will happen. There is too much money and power invested in the current system that it will either continue on under any elected president, or the whole thing collapses and we rebuild. Our system depends on unemployed/underemployed people, that keeps wages/costs down. There will always be poverty in the current American system, we depend on it.
posted by edgeways at 11:19 AM on August 26, 2004


This is the only way to alleviate poverty? So it's basically capitalism with a monster underclass, or wealth redistribution?

yes. it will get more obvious as natural resources dwindle.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:23 AM on August 26, 2004


It's relevant over the long-term, because that's what's happened in the last, oh, fifty years in the US

But the poverty line itself is also adjusted each year for inflation over the long term. It doesn't make any sense to factor it in twice.
posted by ook at 11:34 AM on August 26, 2004


Yes, his tax cuts and war cost a great deal in addition to the recession and real income has in fact declined. However, this trend, over the past 30 years, has shown itself to be true. Blame Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton as well. And a myopic Congress.

The trend that began around 1971 wasn't that average income decreased, but rather that the growth in real wages has declined. People have been earning more each year, but the marginal increase from year to year has become smaller than it was prior to '71.

I think the absolute decline in average income over these past few years is an unusual event in post-depression economic history. As for where to ascribe blame- I guess that depends on your politics...
posted by crank at 11:41 AM on August 26, 2004


yeah, sorry if my effort to be pithy made my statement seem obtuse. I was just pointing out that increasing income by itself isn't an accurate estimation of prosperity. It's like talking about prices by looking at an increase in demand and pretending that supplies are unlimited or don't exist.

fwiw, I don't think Bush is entirely to blame for the tepidness of the American economy. I do think, though, that he's being dishonest with all of his talk about 'turning the corner' (unless he means it in the Londoner's sense where 'around the corner' is actually 'turn the corner, walk three blocks, cross this rotary, over that bridge, down a flight of steps, and you should see it ... off in the distance.')
posted by bl1nk at 11:42 AM on August 26, 2004


Eatlive, that is SO not me that it's not funny. I have nothing against the woman I reference. Everyone has the right to be young, cute and ignorant. But I don't take solice in the fact that a disproportionate number of Kerry supporters are probably under age 30; you know, age doesn't get you, automatically, wisdom, but it doesn't hurt.

And as an aside, I like Park Slope women--certainly a better genre than Upper East Side Women or Suburban women!

What's the deal with Craig's List being used as, in effect, a blog?

Also, there was a piece in today's NYPost about F Train romantics....

Yes, I may be one of the few in Park Slope who will not vote for Kerry....
posted by ParisParamus at 11:42 AM on August 26, 2004


bl1nk, the economy is good or better; as good as it was in mid-Clinton administration. Maybe you would prefer Pets.com back, and maybe the zeigeist isn't to your taste, but that's not the President's fault.

The only thing you can really "blame" the President for is the budget deficit. But without inflation being out of control, it's not clear how that's a really bad thing (at least this week, month, year).
posted by ParisParamus at 11:47 AM on August 26, 2004


Show me some reduced purchase power stats, please...
posted by ParisParamus at 11:49 AM on August 26, 2004


I love how FreedomParamus says random crap, gets refuted, then insults everyone. I flattered that he thinks I'm cute, though.

Sigh of satisfaction

Satisfaction...
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:52 AM on August 26, 2004


"I love all the cute 23 year-olds in the subway with their witty anti-Bush buttons--so persuasive!"

I like the limbless 50 year-old homeless veterans on the subway holding up signs asking for alms because their VA benefits have been cut and they are forced out on the streets with psychological problems - so persuasive!

We love you PP, don't ever change...
posted by longbaugh at 11:56 AM on August 26, 2004


the fact that a disproportionate number of Kerry supporters are probably under age 30

You're getting this "fact" from where? Your observations along the streets of Park Slope?

The way that our elders have been running things lately, I'll put my money and my trust in the under-30 crowd any day.
posted by archimago at 11:59 AM on August 26, 2004


I can deal without Pets.com, thanks for the condescension. What I would like to see, though, are more jobs. They don't have to be the wacky foosball playing jobs of the dot-com era, but they should be good, solid jobs that allow most people to feed and house themselves.

Bush's tax-cuts and his faith in trickle down economics have not delivered that, and I think that he's dishonest in saying that the supposed investment from these tax cuts are going to kick in 'any day now.'
posted by bl1nk at 12:13 PM on August 26, 2004


archimago: there's something in between college and grad students (who hate Bush as an authority figure, religious man and pro-life guy to the point where his other politics are, in truth, beside the point) and "elders." It's a simple fact of life that as you get older, you discover that you didn't know that much about life at age 25. Is it possible for a 25 year-old to realize that? Not sure.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:20 PM on August 26, 2004


Bl1nk: the US is doing way better job-wise (quality and quantity) than any of the so-called "more enlightened" socialist nations of Europe. Which doesn't mean we can't do better still, but might mean we're not doing bad.

Maybe the President has only marginal control over the economy, and you're just hoping for a perfect world?
posted by ParisParamus at 12:36 PM on August 26, 2004


the economy is good or better; as good as it was in mid-Clinton administration

I do not believe that is true, and most importantly it is not true for those people at the bottom of the income spectrum. As the posted link shows a higher percentage of people are in poverty now than during the Clinton years. While some jobs have been created, far too few high paying jobs have been created.

We did need economic stimulus, just not Bush's version. His gave most of the money to those at the top of the spectrum rather than to those at the bottom who needed it most. What is compassionate about that? Economically, putting money in the hands of the poor is more efficient during an economic downturn than putting it in the hands of the rich. The poor are more likely to spend it, i.e. get the money circulating. Growth comes from more available money and increasing velocity (circulation). Bush increased the supply but gave it to people less likely to either need it or circulate it. Some would argue that they would invest it, but during a recession capital investment doesn't help much as demand is already below capacity. As he screwed up Iraq, Bush screwed up the recovery. We need a more competent leader.
posted by caddis at 12:46 PM on August 26, 2004


the US is doing way better job-wise (quality and quantity) than any of the so-called "more enlightened" socialist nations of Europe.

OK, I've read your spoor droppings long enough PeePee.
I'm calling bullshit on this. Prove it.
And your arrogance could be an entire novel length writeup in itself.
posted by nofundy at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2004


"Bush's tax-cuts and his faith in trickle down economics have not delivered "

Oh really? Growth is way up since the taxes started taking effect. Now, you they may (or may not) result in structural budget deficits, but you didn't write that. Which suggests you're just another I hate Bush liberal robot with no cranial matter.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:55 PM on August 26, 2004


The price of greatness is responsibility.

Sir Winston Churchill
posted by a3matrix at 12:56 PM on August 26, 2004


Prove it? Have you checked the unemployment figures in Europe lately, or EVER? Have you checked out how much less purchasing power Europeans have?

And calling me PeePee doesn't add to your ethos.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:59 PM on August 26, 2004


No, Paris. I'm neither hoping for a perfect world, nor am I hoping for an economy that was closer to Germany's or Britain's. Nice straw man, though. And growth has limited benefit on the rest of the citizenry if jobs and wages don't rise accordingly. Growth without jobs means that employers are pocketing all of the profits and increasing income disparity.

What I am asking for, among other things, is a shift in the tax burden away from a dwindling middle class in order to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship (which is the trump card that America holds over Europe). The country can do better, glad you agree with that, but additional citizens in poverty, a wider income gap and accelerating deficits aren't facts that I'd file under 'not bad'
posted by bl1nk at 1:04 PM on August 26, 2004


Paris, you argue in generalities, which does not make a strong argument. How can you possibly state, without evidence, that grad students as a group hate anything, let alone Bush? I'm not arguing that age often brings wisdom, I'm arguing that your basing your arguments on unfounded generalities that are born from your bias, which in my writing class earns you a big "Rewrite" on your persuasive essay.

who hate Bush as an authority figure, religious man and pro-life guy to the point where his other politics are, in truth, beside the point)

I just might cut the guy some slack if he were able to separate his religion and personal morals from his politics.
posted by archimago at 1:11 PM on August 26, 2004


By the way, remember, unemployment in a market economy will never be below ~4% So if Unemployment in the US is 5.5% in the US, and 10% in Germany or France, that's really a difference of 200-300%; not simply 100%.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:13 PM on August 26, 2004


Average wage increases will cause inflation. As a general principle, it's indisputable.

I would think the one thing Economics teaches us is that everything is disputable. Call me old-skool (like an old fool), but citing a couple of sources makes you look a little better in the end. That or buying me a # of drinks.

HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME
posted by yerfatma at 1:20 PM on August 26, 2004


Bl1nk, I would support your agenda if it had any basis to spur economic growth. Any lack of progressivity you see in the tax system is just overwelmed by income: the guys making $500 or $5M already pay so much more than those making $50 or 100K, even if they pay the same percentage. Face it: the rich already pay lots of taxes; and tax sheltered money doesn't sit there; it buys bonds and other investments.

What I could support, however, is doing away with the cap on Social Security Contributions, and lowering the average payment as a result--that seems like a no-brainer.

But you can't really lay that at the door of the Republicans, or Bush: no one is talking about that.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:22 PM on August 26, 2004


Paris, the numbers in the the linked document show that trickle down economics have not delivered. The economy may be showing signs of growth, but that growth is not trickling down to those attempting to climb out of poverty.

Nofundy, name calling only detracts from your argument.
posted by caddis at 1:22 PM on August 26, 2004


caddis. The poor get unpoor from education and getting their act together socially. The whole premise that four years of a President could significantly effect such a thing is laughable.

Not that reducing poverty is not something to be pursued, but why cite it as a reason that "Bush is a failure"? That's the 23 year-old non-thought of which I speak.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:29 PM on August 26, 2004


Average wage increases will cause inflation. As a general principle, it's indisputable.

A lot of people think so. However, this paper put out by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland suggests that not to be true. Money supply growth was shown to better predict inflation and inflation was more likely to cause wage growth than vice versa.

The poor get unpoor from education and getting their act together socially. The whole premise that four years of a President could significantly effect such a thing is laughable.

The data suggest that less people were poor during Clinton's term. In any event, I didn't cite that as evidence that Bush was a failure, only that trickle down hasn't worked. Bush's failure was in not using the incredibly expensive stimulus package either wisely or fairly.
posted by caddis at 1:43 PM on August 26, 2004


And here I thought the poor got unpoor by earning enough money...

Sorry, there is more to curing poverty than making everybody get a college education and "getting their act together socially" whatever that means. Surely you aren't buying the idea that if poor people got married they wouldn't be poor anymore? That is true only if the poor marry outside their socio-economic status. Furthermore, education does not guarantee a good paying job, it just makes it more easily attained.

What I find interesting is that nobody is talking about the public health issue of 45 million people (over 15% of Americans, or 3 out of every 20 people) being without health insurance. Think about that next time you are in a crowded place and hear somebody sneeze.
posted by ilsa at 1:53 PM on August 26, 2004


I think its too early to know whether the stimulous package was a bad or good idea. It was first proposed at time when it didn't seem necessary, and seemed to be an unnecessary gift to the affluent, but was actually implemented during a recession. So, it may have, in reality been the perfect idea.

I guess my point is that opinions on it are detached from reality, and are just based upon who is/was behind it.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:57 PM on August 26, 2004


PP: "Unemployment in the US is 5.5% in the US, and 10% in Germany or France"

But it's 5,9% in a semi-communist country as Denmark, and considerably lower in countries such as Ireland (4,5%), Austria (4,2%) and the Netherlands (4,8%) [ref - eurostat]

A pretty wide variety of governments/degree of regulation covered there.
posted by AwkwardPause at 2:00 PM on August 26, 2004


I guess my point is that opinions on it are detached from reality, and are just based upon who is/was behind it.

Or, in your case, detached from reality *because* of who or what is behind it.
posted by bshort at 2:07 PM on August 26, 2004


the US is doing way better job-wise (quality and quantity) than any of the so-called "more enlightened" socialist nations of Europe.

The unemployment rate in Sweden hovers around 4%, compared to 5.5% in the US. Even China is around 4%.

Prove it? Have you checked the unemployment figures in Europe lately, or EVER?

Being LOUD doesn't make it so.
posted by skyline at 2:07 PM on August 26, 2004


Awkward, someone else claimed the US employment rate is high. I attempted to impeach that claim--that's all. I'm sure the quality of jobs in Europe may be higher (because unemployment benefits last longer), and that many employed Americans have shitty existences.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:10 PM on August 26, 2004


Call me old-skool (like an old fool), but citing a couple of sources makes you look a little better in the end. That or buying me a # of drinks.

Just pick up a macro 101 book. I repeat: as a general principle, it's indisputable. In practice, it can be more complicated.

Like pretty much any other subject, macro has lots of introductory truths that as you learn more, need progressive revision. In many contexts, things that are taught as elementary truths turn out not to be so true. But, in this context, we're at a purely introductory level, everything is nicely abstracted and simplified. Wage increases are fundamentally inflationary. In the abstract, it's simple supply and demand.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:15 PM on August 26, 2004


UK unemployment figures are at 4.8%. The US is at 5.5% right now.

This socialist thing is really working out bad isn't it! Free healthcare, less people below the poverty line, higher employment. Sheesh, we never had it so tough...
posted by longbaugh at 2:15 PM on August 26, 2004


Poverty rates remained unchanged for Hispanics, non-Hispanic Whites, and Blacks, although it rose for Whites and Asians./1

Non-Hispanic Whites = Espanol(Spain)?
Why are Whites & Asians poorer now? Because of the penny stock.com companies?

Lets not forget there are over 300million people in the USA. Saw a report that said ever quarter year the US population grows the same population size of Sweden (can’t imagine that even though it was reported by a large news source).

What I find interesting is that nobody is talking about the public health issue of 45 million people (over 15% of Americans, or 3 out of every 20 people) being without health insurance. Think about that next time you are in a crowded place and hear somebody sneeze.
How much of the populace don't have it because they will not pay for it when offered it by their employer. Know many whom won't spend the money for it which is 25 bucks a month out of their paycheck. If not for my mom’s wisdom pushing me to buy it & having life saving medical emergencies in my early age, today would owe thousands in unseen medical expenses or even be dead just because I wanted few extra dollars in my paychecks.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:17 PM on August 26, 2004


wanted several extra dollars in my paychecks.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:19 PM on August 26, 2004


PP: so how many times do we have to prove you wrong before you admit it?
posted by bshort at 2:20 PM on August 26, 2004


As the population grows there are more rich & poor in the US.
Add about the health care - had a $70K medical expense picked up by Orange County, Ca but I did have to pay 20 bucks out of my pocket. I don’t see many things being free in life no matter where I live.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:31 PM on August 26, 2004


bshort: 9.2x
posted by ParisParamus at 2:36 PM on August 26, 2004


Here is one resource that shows unemployment rates in Europe and the US over the last ten years. According to this, Paris is correct, Europe's rates are higher, although the gap is narrowing.
posted by caddis at 2:36 PM on August 26, 2004


unemployment is a tricky thing. A lot of people work off the books (and all the more so when unemployment benefits don't last that long, like here in the US); Americans, who, on average, make more than Europeans, have more affluent parents with larger homes, may be able to put off taking a job, and probably have higher expectations for career, may put off working longer (thus higher unemployment).

Current unemployment rates are now what they were in the Mid-1990's, "everyone" was happy. So if you don't feel happy, consider seeing a psychotherapist, not John Kerry.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:41 PM on August 26, 2004


Holy crap that Craigslist screed was funny...
"This is the kind of evil shit you force into the minds your fellow commuters when you are being rude to them. It is only amplified when it is obvious that you know you are being a twatface, and you never know when people will snap and actually kill your monkeyass.

This is how close you are to getting killed everyday. Fuck anthrax, fuck mustard gas, and fuck terrorists, you’re in danger of pissing off your fellow New Yorker and having your throat pulled out of your face, all because you have to be absolutely comfortable 24/7."
Also...
When you start multi-billion dollar wars, then cut taxes, you reduce revenue. Now, that may not matter to you directly, but there are these folk that drive around in big red trucks with flashing lights on them -- they care very much about lost revenue. Know who else cares? All those police officers you've hired to help fight the war on terror at home. That is, fired to help fight the war on terror.

Don't tell me the president's economic policies can't hurt or help the people in this country.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:44 PM on August 26, 2004


Caddis: But does it make sense to compare US with Europe as one entity? Methinks not, as Europe - albeit integrated n'all - still is many different units, especially the countries outside the eurozone, with widely differing labour market regulation, tax schemes etc.

As your link states: "Unemployment is high in the four largest economies of Continental Western Europe, namely France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Exclude these four countries and the famous European unemployment problem more or less disappears”
posted by AwkwardPause at 2:46 PM on August 26, 2004


To exclude France, Germany, Italy and Spain is like excluding California, New York, Texas and Massachusetts (and probably ten more large states) from the US economy.
posted by caddis at 2:51 PM on August 26, 2004


Just pick up a macro 101 book. I repeat: as a general principle, it's indisputable. In practice, it can be more complicated.

I actually picked up a Bachelor's in Economics instead. There's a danger after working on computer or two to thinking everything is a solvable system that's easy to understand. And then to start thinking people are just a series of inputs and outputs that are fairly predictable. And then the unsolvable mystery becomes why everyone around is pissed off all the time. But I digress.

I don't necessarily disagree with your contention, but I would like to see it backed up with a citation. Other people in this thread have posted counter-examples but you've yet to step up with anything other than an assertion.
posted by yerfatma at 2:56 PM on August 26, 2004


Then you're just being difficult? You have a degree in economics. Am I wrong?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:33 PM on August 26, 2004


Current unemployment rates are now what they were in the Mid-1990's, "everyone" was happy.

i wasn't. i couldn't find a job.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:38 PM on August 26, 2004


Here's one:
The Phillips curve is named after New Zealand economist A. W. Phillips. In 1958 Phillips observed a negative relationship between the unemployment rate and the rate of wage inflation in data for the United Kingdom. The Phillips curve that economists use today differes in three ways from the relationship Phillips examined.

First, the modern Phillips curve substitues price inflation for wage inflation. This difference is not crucial, because price inflation and wage inflation are closely related. In periods when wages are rising quickly, prices are rising quickly as well.
—Excerpt from inset: "The History of the Modern Phillips Curve", Chapter 13, Page 361, _Macroeconomics_ by N. Gregory Mankiw
Note to audience: this is a basic text by a very highly regarded—or at least he used to be (look him up)—macroeconomist. This is just something I found in a cursory search. The principle is so broad as to be assumed in many cases.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:46 PM on August 26, 2004


caddis: but let's talk about France, Germany, Italy and Spain, then.

It's got nothing to do with the poor people of Portugal anyway.
posted by AwkwardPause at 4:40 PM on August 26, 2004


Dude, this is going to be an entirely too-long screed, but you should be ok with that (have you considered why you try to get people mad at you? Seriously: "Note to audience," "basic text," "look him up," cursory search". Was there that much violence at home as a kid you need to attract all this negative attention? I don't mean to be cruel, but WTF are you working out here?).

The principle is so broad as to be assumed in many cases.

Full disclosure: here's my cursory search. Most of this stuff is in PDF form.

It turns out that the vast majority of the published evidence and the evidence presented below suggests that there is little reason to believe that wage inflation causes price inflation. In fact, it is more often found that price inflation causes wage inflation.

Many economists now believe that the Phillips Curve characterization of the relationship between unemployment and price inflation is too simplistic to explain what is evidently a more complex interdependence. The Phillips Curve may still be useful in a short run context, but is not sufficient to explain the long run dynamics of the relationship, and shifts in the entire function over time.

Demand pressure on wage side can be measured by the unemployment rate (Philips curve), but the more accurate measure is the vacancy rate as this shows the actual demand for labour. However these two measures moved very closely until the middle of 20th century and then started to deviate. Also as seen from the graph the simple correlation is very bad between RPI and vacancy rate.

The reason for this . . . is that the lower markup leads to higher output which induces the monetary authority to raise the money growth rate, which in turn
leads to higher inflation.


In the late 1990s, the situation is precisely the reverse: the U.S. economy exhibits low inflation combined with low unemployment.

Best I can tell, the Curve is "highly regarded" in short time spans only. And I think it describes a one-may relationship that works the opposite of how you took it. But I'm not sure yet. So in the end, thanks for making me dig into a subject I haven't touched since the day I graduated. I might do some more digging; the Riksbank paper had a lot of good stuff in there and some actual math (and the conclusion was an interesting one, that cursory glances at available data may cause even the most learned of monetary policy gurus to hit the brakes or gas irrationally).

Economics works well with 2 variable graphs. X and Y can be put on a chalkboard pretty quickly. But simplistic analysis doesn't help anyone except the nightly news looking for easily digested sound bites. There are so many factors in every US household's little economy and the number of inputs are only getting bigger and better. Think of the credit card offers you toss in the trash each day: those represent a kind of economic freedom and power few people at any income level could enjoy up until the 19th century. I'm not sure how I feel about Neal Stephenson's new trilogy, but if you've read any of it, think of Elsa's machinations. The things that take her years and criss-crossings of the Continent to pull off are point-and-click operations for anyone with a checking account today. 20 years from now paper money will be as foreign a concept in the First World as it was 500 years ago. Your fingerprint or whatever will identify your credit level just like in every sci fi work from the last ten years.

Apologies to troutfishing for style biting.
posted by yerfatma at 5:00 PM on August 26, 2004


Your fingerprint or whatever will identify your credit level just like in every sci fi work from the last ten years.

You mean like this one? Or this one? Or this one? Or this one?

Why has yerfatma's post made me more scared?
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:21 PM on August 26, 2004


I also wonder how the 'discouraged workers' are treated in the ranking of EU and US unemployed. I know that in the US, after I believe six months of unemployment, you are assumed to be a discouraged worker and taken off the rolls of unemployed, though I seem to remember an attempt to lower that span of time recently in order to artificially lower unemployment rates. I have no idea how this factor is measured in the EU.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:31 PM on August 26, 2004


"Note to audience," "basic text," "look him up," cursory search".

Sorry. I should have written "Yerfatma knows this, but for everyone else this is an introductory text by a well-regarded (at least he used to be—nowadays his reputation is possibly not as good for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who Googles him) macroeconomist. There's probably many more citations like this available; this was just the first one I came across in a not very serious attempt to find one."

But, you know, that'd be 65 words compared to 43. I said simply what I said in the style I said it because that's how it came to me most naturally to say it. Quit psychoanalyzing me. If someone has a problem with a "difficult" word like "cursory", then that's their problem, not mine.

As for your links...well, good luck getting intro to macro taught differently.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:36 PM on August 26, 2004


yerfatma: This book by Eric Schlosser (of 'Fast Food Nation' fame) suggests that paper money is absolutely here to stay. The reason? The powers-that-be realize fully well that the black market exists, but also realize that without the ability to import slaughterhouse labor from Mexico and pay them next to nothing under the table, the economy would probably collapse. That's the thesis in a nutshell: that the benefits of an illegal or semi-legal drug trade and illegal migrant labor are so vital to the well-being of the country that no one in their right mind would actually want to get rid of or legalize them.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:41 PM on August 26, 2004


It might be under-paid labor is essential to the current market system. The US became what it is today by massive amounts of slave labor, and poor wage mining/railroad/manufacture work and continues to maintain through the use of migrant (legal and otherwise) labor, what would happen to us economically if we actually paid these people Min. wage? Or compensated for poor/no pay in the past?
(this doesn't begin to take unpaid "women's work" into account, a whole 'nother can of worms)
posted by edgeways at 6:36 PM on August 26, 2004


I've seen similar suggestions, but I have trouble believing the economy's health rests upon such bedrock. As for paper money, I wonder if there's an institution that can really prevent its replacement. I'm not saying the US Government will stop printing dolla' dolla' bills; I'm thinking PayPal 4.0 (but an open, peer-to-peer, buzzword-enabled paradigm type version) will be what replaces currencies.
posted by yerfatma at 6:52 PM on August 26, 2004


Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't unemployment rates in the US only count those actively looking for work? Could it be that the rates now are the same as the mid 90s, but that a whole lot more people today have been out of work so long that they have given up looking? Also, rates don't take underemployment into account, so perhaps a combination of both of those factors would explain why it doesn't feel nearly as good today as it did in 1998.
Although, I will admit, the job market does seem to be improving. (in anticipation of a Kerry administration, perhaps)
sorry, couldn't resist.
posted by bashos_frog at 7:28 PM on August 26, 2004


Well, hell, at least poor people don't tend to vote Republican, unless of course they're stupid as well as poor.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:30 PM on August 26, 2004


EB, your quote from Mankiw does not justify your stance. A mere relationship between wages and inflation does not prove that wages drive inflation. Many economists would say that you have got it backwards. They would say price inflation causes wage inflation, not vice versa. See my post above for one source, see yerfatma's post for several. Here is one more.
Indisputable indeed.
posted by caddis at 7:51 PM on August 26, 2004


kaibutsu:
According to Eurostat, being ranked amongst the unemployed requires that one has "actively sought employment at some time during the previous four weeks."
posted by romanb at 10:40 PM on August 26, 2004


And here I thought the poor got unpoor by earning enough money...

And part of doing that is not unnecessarily crippling yourself with poor choices: insufficient education, irresponsible reproduction, uncontrollable spending, criminal escapades and so forth.

That said, I wonder how many of the new 1.3 million in poverty are under the age of one?
posted by Dreama at 10:47 PM on August 26, 2004


Here is one resource that shows unemployment rates in Europe and the US over the last ten years. According to this, Paris is correct, Europe's rates are higher, although the gap is narrowing.
Pardon me if this was already corrected, but this is not a comparison of Europe and the US over the past ten years. It is a comparison of the Eurozone, which is the set of countries of the European Union which have adopted the Euro currency. This includes: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.

This link, from AwkwardPause, shows each country in more detail, including the Eurozone, EU 15 and EU 25.
posted by sequential at 11:21 PM on August 26, 2004


FreedomParamus kind of lost his (already shaky) credibility as an economist when he yelled at us that the "war in Iraq will pay for itself". indeed.
posted by matteo at 2:33 AM on August 27, 2004


caddis: you're right. But that paper and some of the others that have been linked to actually validate my point. Because they all attempt to debunk the common economic wisdom that wage increases are inflationary.

It's hard for me to understand how in the abstract, simplified model, wage increases aren't necessarily inflationary. It's easy for me to understand that in a complex system and in the real world, this simple relationship is obscured by many others.

Anyone that has an undergraduate, or better yet, graduate degree in econ is equipped to evaluate and properly comprehend these competing claims. I think the rest of are not and run the risk of being a lot like creationists cherry-picking real papers to support a biased and uninformed opinion. I'm glad to be aware that there are caveats about this idea, but for the most part I'm going to stick with what seems to me to be the relatively firm consensus opinion on the matter.

This is very similar to the thread the other day on Sapir-Whorf where rodii jumped on me for indiscriminately bashing it. But I've heard for years from linguists complaints about S-W and the consensus has been and still is that the strong form of it, the naive form of it—the form that one encounters in the popular imagination—is pernicious and false. Of course, it's more complicated than that, really. It always is. But I'm not equipped to evaulate the complications.

Now, either we laypersons can know something and can talk intelligently about technical subjects, or we cannot. It's true that we often forget how limited our knowledge is on any of these topics—but, hell, every expert is a layperson on twenty other topics they talk about and make the same sorts of mistakes. I do think we—I—should be more careful about this. But I think it's reasonable for us to think we can know something and talk about stuff that we're not experts on. In doing so, we're basically stuck with the sorts of things that show up in introductory college texts of the material. And, did I say this already?, as we all know where we are experts, that introductory material always later turns out to be misleading. But there's a reason it's there, and a reason it's considered "true".
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:53 AM on August 27, 2004


sequential, I stand corrected. Eurozone it is.
Thanks.

EB, I am not sure what you are getting at. In any event, I think most of the criticism you got here stems more from the arrogance and condescension in your posts. We all screw up around here and a little humility goes a long way.
posted by caddis at 7:02 AM on August 27, 2004


Matteo, the war in Iraq will clearly pay for itself, even if the return-on-investment has not been immediate.

Delayed gratification is part of becoming an evolved, mature human being--did you know that?
posted by ParisParamus at 10:07 AM on August 27, 2004


That said, I wonder how many of the new 1.3 million in poverty are under the age of one?

According to the Census figures, 800,000 of the newly poor are under 18. This being the case, it seems likely that less than half the 1.3 million newly poor are under the age of one.

(BTW, you did realize that I was reponding to Paris's oversimplified cliché with one of my own, right?)
posted by ilsa at 1:21 PM on August 27, 2004


Delayed gratification is part of becoming an evolved, mature human being--did you know that?

Which would explain why you couldn't wait to get into Iraq.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:40 PM on August 27, 2004


"Well, hell, at least poor people don't tend to vote Republican, unless of course they're stupid as well as poor."

Stav, unfortunately poor people do tend to vote Republican. For example, Nebraska has three of the ten poorest counties in the entire country, yet is staunchly Republican. Why? Well, poor people tend to vote culture issues over, say, pocketbook issues, which is hilarious considering that, well, they're poor.

You could also try and draw some conclusions based on the educational levels of these poor areas -- their ill-equipped and underfunded schools creating (surprise, surprise) an undereducated population that votes with its gut more often than with its brain. You pose a pretty obvious if...then, which has a pretty obvious answer, but every time I connect the dots for people, I get yelled at for being a big meanie.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:20 PM on August 27, 2004


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