Tag Archive: US economy

Sep 04 2012

Corporate Welfare Has Not Created Jobs

The 2012 Democratic National Platform talks big about job creation and rebuilding the middle class which has been taking hits since the Reagan tax cuts in 1984. While it touts the fact that the private sector has created jobs and the manufacturing sector is growing, its not enough. Most of the jobs that have been created are low paying. The Democratic Party has done little to debunk the lie that the wealthy corporations and individuals are job creators. By rubber stamping the past policies of giveaways to corporations and extending the Bush/Obama tax cuts, the Democrats have made the problems for the ever shrinking middle class even worse.

In two articles at Common Dreams, writers Paul Buchheit and John Atcheson debunk the “job creators fraud” and lay out the real problem ailing the economy, “corporate welfare”. In Mr. Buchheit’s article, he concisely cuts through the “job creator” nonsense with the facts.

Based on IRS figures, the richest 1% nearly tripled its share of America’s after-tax income from 1980 to 2006. That’s an extra trillion dollars a year. Then, in the first year after the 2008 recession, they took 93% (pdf) of all the new income.

He also notes that the wealthiest 10% own 83% of the financial wealth (pdf) and only pay 15% tax under the premise that they would create jobs. Instead they put that wealth into tax fee accounts overseas (pdf).

Mr. Atcheson breaks it down noting that the 15% tax rate allows the wealthy to avoid some $59 billion in taxes per year and by sheltering profits off shore, “(c)orporations are given $58 billion a year in tax breaks (pdf).” Hedge fund managers are given a tax break that allows them to pay only 15% on their earnings, avoiding at least $2.1 billion in taxes a year. Yet, as he further points out:

We spend $59 billion on social welfare programs, but more than $92 billion on corporate subsidies.  According to the Environmental Law Institute, fossil fuel industries alone get more than $70 billion in subsidies, with most going to the oil and gas sector.  Yeah, we certainly can’t afford to deprive Exxon of its record profits just to give money to needy kids.

Add to that $1.2 trillion the $9 trillion in low interest and no interest loans from the Federal Reserve and $700 billion bank bailout that these corporations and banks are making huge profits on and paying no taxes. You have, Mr. Buchheit notes, “$10 trillion in misdirected dollars.  Just 1/10 of that would create 25 million jobs, one for every unemployed or underemployed worker in America. Or a $45,000 a year job for every college student in the United States.”

These are the facts that Mr. Buchheit’s lays out:

The Wall Street Journal noted in 2009 that the Bush tax cuts led to the “worst track record for jobs in recorded history.” 25 million people remain unemployed or underemployed, with 30 to 50 percent of recent college graduates in one of those categories. Among unemployed workers, nearly 43 percent have been without a job for six months or longer.

For the jobs that remain, most are low-paying, with the only real employment growth occurring in retail sales and food preparation. A recent report by the National Employment Law Project confirms that lower-wage occupations (up to about $14 per hour) accounted for 21 percent of recession losses and 58 percent of recovery growth, while mid-wage occupations (between $14 and $21 per hour) accounted for 60 percent of recession losses and only 22 percent of recovery growth.

The minimum wage is shamefully low, about 30% lower (pdf) than the inflation-adjusted 1968 figure. And the tiny pay can’t be blamed on small business. Two-thirds of America’s low-wage workers, according to another National Employment Law Project (pdf) report, work for companies that have at least 100 employees.

All these job woes persist while productivity has continued to grow, with an 80% increase since 1973 as median worker pay has stagnated. [..]

With the bulk of their assets buried in “low-risk investments (bonds and cash), the stock market, and real estate”, the wealthy are not creating jobs:

… Only 3 percent of the CEOs, upper management, and financial professionals were entrepreneurs (pdf) in 2005, even though they made up about 60 percent of the richest .1% of Americans. A recent study found that less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs came from very rich or very poor backgrounds. They come from the middle class.

There is ample evidence that more jobs were created when the top marginal tax rates were high.

Instead of cutting our social safety net, as President Obama has agreed to do in his “Grand Bargain”, we need to end the corporate welfare programs and put an end to the lie that if we tax the wealthy less they’ll create jobs.

Apr 27 2012

The Good, the Bad and That Dead Fairy

The Confidence Fairy is Dead but its ghost is still haunting the halls of the European Union countries and the United States, as Herr Doktor notes:

This was the month the confidence fairy died.

For the past two years most policy makers in Europe and many politicians and pundits in America have been in thrall to a destructive economic doctrine. [..]

The good news is that many influential people are finally admitting that the confidence fairy was a myth. The bad news is that despite this admission there seems to be little prospect of a near-term course change either in Europe or here in America, where we never fully embraced the doctrine, but have, nonetheless, had de facto austerity in the form of huge spending and employment cuts at the state and local level.

Krugman also pointed the de facto austerity policy of the Obama administration and Congress have added to the stagnant job market:

Here’s a comparison of changes in government employment (federal, state, and local) during the first four years of three presidents who came to office amid a troubled economy:

Public Employment in 3 Administrations

That spike early on is Census hiring; [..] If public employment had grown the way it did under Bush, we’d have 1.3 million more government workers, and probably an unemployment rate of 7 percent or less.

The job market is taking its toll on consumer spending which will continue to slow down any recovery:

More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week and consumer confidence declined by the most in a year, signaling that a cooling labor market may restrain household spending. [..]

“There has been some slowdown in the labor market,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York, who correctly projected the level of jobless claims. “That makes consumers feel less confident, and makes them more cautious about their spending. We could see some weakness in April payrolls.”

And even though the predictions about the housing market have been optimistic don’t be fooled, there is a dark side as falling home prices drag new buyers under water

More than 1 million Americans who have taken out mortgages in the past two years now owe more on their loans than their homes are worth, and Federal Housing Administration loans that require only a tiny down payment are partly to blame.

That figure, provided to Reuters by tracking firm CoreLogic, represents about one out of 10 home loans made during that period.

It is a sobering indication the U.S. housing market remains deeply troubled, with home values still falling in many parts of the country, and raises the question of whether low-down payment loans backed by the FHA are putting another generation of buyers at risk.

As of December 2011, the latest figures available, 31 percent of the U.S. home loans that were in negative equity – in which the outstanding loan balance exceeds the value of the home – were FHA-insured mortgages, according to CoreLogic.

In an interview with The European Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz said:

…When you look at America, you have to concede that we have failed. Most Americans today are worse off than they were fifteen years ago. A full-time worker in the US is worse off today than he or she was 44 years ago. That is astounding – half a century of stagnation. The economic system is not delivering. It does not matter whether a few people at the top benefitted tremendously – when the majority of citizens are not better off, the economic system is not working… [..]

The argument that the response to the current crisis has to be a lessening of social protection is really an argument by the 1% to say: “We have to grab a bigger share of the pie.” But if the majority of people don’t benefit from the economic pie, the system is a failure. I don’t want to talk about GDP anymore, I want to talk about what is happening to most citizens.

Meanwhile back in Europe with the distinct possibility that French President Nicholas Sarkozy may lose to the Socialist candidate François Hollande, some leaders are getting the message but aren’t ready to give up totally:

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager struck a deal with the opposition and got a majority backing on an austerity package to meet the 3 percent budget deficit target in 2013, after seven weeks of talks with Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party failed and led to the collapse of the minority government.

The package increases the value-added tax to 21 percent from 19 percent, doubles the bank tax to 600 million euros ($791 million) and changes the financing of mortgages, De Jager said in a letter to parliament yesterday.[..]

The Labor Party, the Socialist Party as well as the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders didn’t back the agreement. “This is a bad package and the people with a state pension will pay the bill,” Wilders said in parliament.

In an editorial in Bloomberg News, the editors expressed their ideas how European leaders can “boost economic growth in the euro area”:

First, Europe’s leaders must recognize that common deficit rules alone will not guarantee the currency union’s survival. When countries such as Italy and Spain fall into a spiral of shrinking output and rising budget deficits, countries with stronger economies must be willing to help, either by transferring funds or by stimulating their own demand.

Currently, that would mean more German spending. [..] The Bundesbank would also need to live with a little more German inflation than the current 2.1 percent. Higher prices in Germany would help make other euro- area economies and their exports more competitive, reducing both their current account deficits and Germany’s surplus.

Second, the agreement should give Spain and Greece in particular more time to bring down debts piled up over the past 30 years. Requiring them to slash education, research and development, and other budgets will only stunt their future growth potential. To calm markets concerned about Spain’s deficits, the rest of Europe — Germany again — and the International Monetary Fund would have to provide more bailout funds.

Finally, the pact should acknowledge one of the most immediate requirements for a return to economic expansion: Recapitalization of private sector banks so that they can start providing businesses with more credit. Without that, Europe is doomed to anemic growth and a persistent confidence crisis, no matter what documents its politicians may sign.

Stiglitz in his interview makes two important points. First, “The question of social protection does not have to do with the structure of production

It has to do with social cohesion or solidarity. That is why I am also very critical of Draghi’s argument at the European Central Bank that social protection has to be undone. There are no grounds upon which to base that argument. The countries that are doing very well in Europe are the Scandinavian countries. Denmark is different from Sweden, Sweden is different from Norway – but they all have strong social protection and they are all growing.

Hear that, Mr President and Congress? Get your hands off reduction in the social safety net.

And second, that here in the US, “politics is at the root of the problem“:

Most Americans understand that fraud political processes play in fraud outcomes. But we don’t know how to break into that system. Our Supreme Court was appointed by moneyed interests and – not surprisingly – concluded that moneyed interests had unrestricted influence on politics. In the short run, we are exacerbating the influence of money, with negative consequences for the economy and for society. [..]

The diagnosis is that politics is at the root of the problem: That is where the rules of the game are made, that is where we decide on policies that favor the rich and that have allowed the financial sector to amass vast economic and political power. The first step has to be political reform: Change campaign finance laws. Make it easier for people to vote – in Australia, they even have compulsory voting. Address the problem of gerrymandering. Gerrymandering makes it so that your vote doesn’t count. If it does not count, you are leaving it to moneyed interests to push their own agenda. Change the filibuster, which turned from a barely used congressional tactic into a regular feature of politics. It disempowers Americans. Even if you have a majority vote, you cannot win.

The Europeans may well be the “game changers” because the election of their politicians doesn’t hinge on campaign contributions, long drawn out primaries or a rigid two party system that has degenerated into a lack of political choice. We need to kill the fairy once and for all and put governance in the hands of the American people.

Aug 30 2010

US Economy Grinds To Halt… Again

Bernanke

Calling it “basically no more than five rectangular strips of paper,” Fed chairman Ben Bernanke illustrates how much “$200”

is actually worth.
Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion

WASHINGTON-The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct.

What began as a routine report before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday ended with Bernanke passionately disavowing the entire concept of currency, and negating in an instant the very foundation of the world’s largest economy.

“Though raising interest rates is unlikely at the moment, the Fed will of course act appropriately if we…if we…” said Bernanke, who then paused for a moment, looked down at his prepared statement, and shook his head in utter disbelief. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. None of this-this so-called ‘money’-really matters at all.”

“It’s just an illusion,” a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. “Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless.”