The Weiner Component #141 – Fiscal, Monetary Policy & the Republican Party

English: James Earl "Jimmy" Carter

English: James Earl “Jimmy” Carter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: United States mean duration of unempl...

English: United States mean duration of unemployment 1948-2010. Data source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: Average (Mean) Duration of Unemployment [UEMPMEAN] ; U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics; accessed August 14, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A map of the 12 districts of the Unit...

English: A map of the 12 districts of the United States Federal Reserve system. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Historically and in the present, Fiscal and Monetary Policy are the two major tools that the Federal Government is supposed to use to continually fine-tune the American economy.   Fiscal Policy is used by the Congress passing specific economic enhancing laws signed by the President and Monetary Policy is used by the Federal Reserve continually adjusting the U.S. money supply to maintain a healthy economic national environment.

 

During the Presidency of Jimmy Carter (1977 – 1980) unemployment rose to 7%.  This was also the post Viet Nam War period.   From 1977 on the government engaged in an expansive fiscal policy; there was an expansion in Public Works strongly supported by the President.  It averaged $4.38 billion per quarter.

 

At that period I was teaching Social Science classes at a High School in Southern California.  The School District was asked by representatives of the Federal Government to make a wish list of what they would like for the District.  A list of ten items was prepared by District officials and, as an afterthought, someone suggested a second or girl’s gymnasium and it was added to the bottom of the list.  The government officials choose the girl’s or second gymnasium as the item that would create the most jobs.

 

I remember that the high school got a second gym which was gray, the color of the concrete.  The money that paid for the gym ran out at that point and it was a few years before the School District came up with the funds to have the building painted.

 

It seemed that all the tasks and labor involved in building the gymnasium, both directly and indirectly, would create the maximum employment possible for the expenditure of the funds required for the project.  I suspect that Troy High School in Southern California is one of the few secondary schools in the country that has two separate gymnasiums.

 

To understand how this expenditure works for the benefit of the overall economy we have to trace the money and see what happens to it.  Usually money spent is actually spent six to eight times; it is a volatile substance.  For example, in producing and packaging the concrete used in the building the manufacturer has to pay his employees.  They, in turn, have to pay rent or a mortgage or, for that matter, buy food.  The landlord, bank, or supermarket continues the same process, and on and on for six to eight times becomes part of the natural flow within the economy.  This occurs with everyone directly or indirectly involved in producing that building.

 

Every million dollars the government spends creates six to eight million dollars in the exchange of goods and services.  To use an analogy, a child throws a rock into a quiet lake.  There are a large number of ripples spreading out in all directions from where the stone hits the water.  They spread out and dissipate as the stone drops to the bottom of the lake, infinitesimally raising the level of the water.  Consequently the $4.38 billion that the government added quarterly to the economy of the United States was actually generating a little over 26.3 to 35 billion dollars in new productivity every three months.  This also gives us an idea of the volatility of new money added to the National Cash Flow.  Of course if the reverse were to occur for any reason, such as the 2008 Real Estate Crash, the 26.3 to 35 billion dollars would be removed from the National Cash Flow.

 

In 1977, when Jimmy Carter became President, the 95th Congress was elected.  In that Congress the Democrats had a majority in both Houses of Congress; in the House of Representatives they had 292 elected Democrats to 143 Republicans and in the Senate there were 61 Democrats to 30 Republican Senators, a super majority which made the Senate filibuster proof, as only 60 votes are needed to end a filibuster.  The Democrats could pass any legislation they felt was needed and they applied, among other things, fiscal policy to the post Viet Nam War period.  Unemployment during the Carter period was considered high, running from 6.9% to 5.8%, and ending in 1980 at 7%.

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From the beginning of President Lynden Johnson’s acceleration of the Viet Nam War inflation slowly began to increase in the country.  The country was both fighting a war and allowing the public to maintain their peacetime standard of living.  By 1980 it had reached two digits and would that year eventually rise to about 15%.  The economic situation that occurred was labeled, stagflation.  It consisted of both stagnation, high unemployment, and inflation, prices rapidly rising because of shortages brought about by having fought a major war, maintaining the military during the Cold War, and supplying all the needs of the American people at the same time.

 

Generally during a period of inflation there are not enough goods and services available to match the demand and prices rise until a new equilibrium is reached of the goods and services offered.  If anything there should be lower unemployment.  But in this case there was also stagnation; there were not enough jobs for everyone able to work and wanting employment.  This was stagflation, the concurrent existence of two economic opposites.

 

There was a way to break this economic condition by having the Federal Reserve raise interest rates far higher than they were, raising the rate of inflation until it exploded.  But this would throw a lot of small businesses and even some large companies into bankruptcy.  This action would bring about immediate adverse economic conditions for a large number of people; it would bring about a short term depression which would temporarily increase unemployment.

 

President Carter had the Federal Reserve Chairman, Paul Volker, begin this process but then after receiving innumerable complaints President Carter backed off.  The next President, Ronald Reagan, allowed Volker to carry out this policy.  It took about a year and a lot of human misery to break this economic cycle.

 

When this came about, early in the Reagan administration, the President got on national television holding a copy of the Sunday New York Times Business Section and said something to the effect of there were umpteen pages of jobs available according to the newspaper and that if there were no jobs where the people lived then they should go to where there were jobs.  This presentation exacerbated the problem because suddenly there were old jalopies crisscrossing the country, being driven by people looking for employment, following whatever rumor promised jobs somewhere else.  This so-called friendly advice or thoughtless act created the homeless problem in the United States.

 

This policy, by the Federal Reserve which was necessary that broke the inflation cycle which had been begun by President Lynden B. Johnson in the 1960s, created an instant depression but ended the stagflation.  Interest rates dropped to a low single digit where they remained until 2008, when they dropped even further almost approaching zero, where they remain today.

 

As a footnote it should be noted that the people who pay for this low interest are the people in the United States who deposit their money into the banks and receive an interest payment on most of their deposits of one tenth of one percent per year.  The amount of interest most people get on their bank holdings is so low it is not even taxable.

 

Fiscal Policy with other economic remedies ended this economic crisis.  The other equally important economic remedy was Monetary Policy.  This is controlled by the Federal Reserve.

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Monetary Policy is the process that the Federal Reserve uses to control the supply of money, its availability, and the cost of money or its rate of interest in the country.  Its objective is aimed at the growth and stability of the economy.

 

The Federal Reserve (FED) has twelve regional banking districts, each with a major regional bank and each with a possible auxiliary bank covering the entire United States, with the major one in Washington, D.C.  It is a private government banking system that controls all the public banks in the country.

 

The FED’s major function is to regulate the private or public banks and to help control economic growth and stability, as well as maintain low unemployment and maintain predictable exchange rates with other currencies.

 

The tools the FED uses are:

(1) Its Open Market operation, constantly buying and selling bonds to increase or decrease the amount of money available in the National Cash Flow.  Here it works from the Public or National Debt, increasing or decreasing it to fine-tune the economy.

2) Adjusting the Discount Rate, setting the interest rates in the private banks by the amount it charges them interest.  The private banks determine the interest they charge the public based upon the interest they pay the FED.  They have to make a reasonable profit above what they pay to the FED.  The higher the FED’s interest rate the more expensive the money is and the less is borrowed.  Conversely the lower the interest rate potentially the more will be borrowed and used for economic expansion.  And the more employment will occur.  Since the 2008 Real Estate Crash the interest rate has dropped to almost zero (one tenth of one percent), and expansion has very slowly occurred.  In fact we are still, seven years later, in the process of recovering from that crash.

(It should also be noted that since 2011, when the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives there has been no Fiscal Policy.  In fact the House has forced through bills increasing the unemployment level and exacerbating the recession.  They have been very good at worsening economic conditions and then blaming the Democrats for it.

3) The third method is raising the Reserve Requirements that the banks are required to observe.  The public banks have to keep a certain percentage of their deposits for every loan they make.  But regulating the amount that the bank has to keep the Federal Reserve can significantly increase or decrease the amount of money that a bank can lend.

 

Among all the dollars deposited in the banks this would also include demand deposits (checking accounts).  Most people deposit their paychecks and reserve funds in banks which pay them a token interest for these funds.  People can at any time withdraw part or all of their money.  Meanwhile the banks lend out this money.  By law they must keep a small percentage, about five percent.  The banks can then lend out or invest ninety-five percent of the money deposited.  This expands the amount of money in circulation.  If the FED were to raise the Reserve Requirement to ten percent this would lower the amount that the banks can lend out by 50%.

The actual amounts that the banks have to keep in reserve are: up to 14.5million 0%, over 14.5 million to 103.6 million, 3%, over 103.6 million, 10%.  It should also be noted that after a bank lends out all its available funds it can deposit its loan papers with the FED and lend out the money all over again under the same conditions.  It should be noted that once the money lent out is redeposited into the banks 95% of it can again be loaned out.  Interestingly the FED is now considering raising the current reserve requirement.

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Using their Reserve Requirements, up to the end of 2008, the major banking houses in the United States had created trillions of dollars in real estate value by constantly mortgaging and remortgaging individual properties at higher and higher rates throughout the 50 states.  This collapsed virtually overnight towards the end of 2008.  President George W. Bush, at the very end of his presidency bailed out the major banking houses which were then facing bankruptcy.  This process was continued by the new president in 2009, Barak Obama.  While a few banking houses went under and were absorbed by other banking houses the Federal Government had no choice but to bail out most of the banks.  For one thing all the commercial banks had all their deposits insured up to ½ million dollars each by the Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation (FDIC).  The Federal Government would be liable for all this money if most of the banks failed.  In addition most of the business transactions in this country are paid for by either checks or credit cards that are all processed through the banks.  If the major banking houses like the Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and most other bands were to suddenly disappear the movement of money throughout the United States would practically cease and the country would face a depression that would make the Great Depression of 1929 look like a weekend disruption.

 

Interestingly the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates in their Third Debate, on November 10, 2015, mostly stated that if they were elected to the presidency one of the first things that they would do would be to get rid of the Dodd/Frank Bill that was passed to avert a possible repetition of the 2008 Crash and, if there were to be another economic crash they would not bail out the banks, that nothing is “too big to fail.”

 

What this 3d Republican Debate illustrated was that these people are blatant liars who will say anything to get elected or that they are totally ignorant of Macroeconomics or any other type of economics.  I don’t know which position is worse?  I was also shocked that the “media,” who seems very conscious of “fact checking” didn’t pick up on any of this.

 

If another Banking Crash were to occur and one of them were President of the United States at the time he/she would be forced by their own advisors to again bail out the banks.  For one thing it would probably cost the Federal Government and taxpayers directly more money to not bail them out and the following economic breakdown of the society would last for well over a decade, which is how long it took for the Great Depression to end.

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President Barak Obama’s major problem, after he assumed office in 2009 was dealing with the Real Estate Crash that he inherited from the Bush Administration.  For his first two years in office he had a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress that cooperated with him.  The Republicans at this point at a meeting agreed to oppose everything he did and make him a one term president.

 

In 2006 Ben Bernanke was appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve by President George W. Bush.  Bernanke replaced Alan Greenspan.  Bernanke working with President Obama utilized creative Monetary Policy to essentially pull the country out of a major depression without being able, after 2011, to get any cooperation from the House of Representatives.  Up until 2015 there was no Fiscal Policy applied.  Toward the end of 2015 both Republican dominated Houses of Congress passed a bipartisan bill to extend Federal Funding on road construction and maintenance throughout the nation which had initially been passed into law before the Republicans took control of the House and was due to end.

 

Initially after 2011 Bernanke innumerably called for Congress to enact Fiscal Policy legislation.  Obama even presented a proposal for much needed infrastructure improvements which would also create a large number of jobs.  This proposal never even reached the floor of the House.  If anything the Republican House of Representatives cut Federal Government funding to a multitude of programs and decreased, on a number of levels, government jobs actually worsening unemployment under the guise of economizing.

 

The FED then came up with a creative twist to Monetary Policy.  One additional major problem that came with the Real Estate Crash was who owned the properties/homes that then had mortgages on them of greater value than the property was worth.  The mortgages had been divided up into fractional shares, distributed to innumerable hedge funds, and the banks had reorganized record keeping on a very sloppy basis.  It was, in many cases almost impossible to discover who owned 50.1% of many if not most of the properties.  This was a dilemma that would ordinarily take two or more decades to clear up.

 

The FED’s solution to this problem and the shortage of money in the National Cash Flow that was causing the massive unemployment was to add 85 billion to the economy every month for a period of over two years.  45 billion was used to buy mortgage paper (fractional pieced of mortgages) in all fifty states and forty billion was used to buy back debt paper (government bonds).  This added one trillion twenty billion dollars to the National Cash Flow a year.  It was gradually phased down and ended in 2015.

 

Currently it looks like interest rates for the public will remain at almost zero for at least the balance of 2015.  But unemployment has dropped nationally to around 5%.  Creative Monetary Policy had turned a possible great depression into a recession and brought the country well in the direction of economic recovery.  All this has been done under the administration of President Barak Obama largely with no cooperation from the Republicans in Congress.

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Issues are never simple cause and effect actions.  There are always multitudes of variable affected in addition to the major outcome desired.  Everything consists of hard choices.  These should be made by experts who are aware of all the possible outcomes.  Or, at the very least, it will be people who will listen to experts and act accordantly.

 

In November of 2016 a major election is coming up, the next Presidential Election.  Both major political parties will be presenting a host of candidates for the Presidency and Congress.  The entire House of Representatives will be up for election and also one third of the Senate. In addition there will be major elections in all 50 states.  The people will speak by voting or not voting.  If the Republicans maintain their majorities in both Houses of Congress and in the majority of the states then very little will be done in the next four years.  The public by their action or inaction will decide what the future will hold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Weiner Component #122 – Jobs: A Successful United States

n the United States today we have about 5.5% known unemployment plus, at least, if not more than 5 percent hidden unemployment. That is much too much in a country as wealthy as the U.S.  The known unemployed, register and are actively looking for work; the unknown unemployed have given up, feeling ultimate defeat they are no longer looking for jobs.

 

The existence of both these groups is a sad comment upon this country.  For a nation as rich as ours, with all the needs it has for constantly improved infrastructure there is no excuse for this situation.  We are a modern nation that is still living largely in the last century when most of our infrastructure was created.  In a manner of speaking we are like the young man who has just acquired his first automobile and expects it to last forever without any real care or maintenance.

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In late 2008, under a Republican Administration, after thirty some years of at first gradual and then accelerated economic growth in the Housing Market, the Real Estate Bubble burst and the entire economy of the United States was about to crash, beginning with the major banking houses within the country.  The Treasury Department, under a Republican Administration, extended hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to these banks to keep them solvent and functioning.

In Europe and Asia, on a smaller scale, the nations there underwent the same crisis with similar solutions.  Some of the nations of Europe like Greece and Spain, had lived richer than others on this new wealth that the banking houses had created and were far more in the red than others countries.  This was particularly true in the Eurozone.  Some of those nations underwent extreme austerity measures in order to be bailed out by the European Central Bank or the other nations in the Eurozone.  This was done in 2009. They are still in extreme economic troubles.

In the United States we went from at least 12% unemployment in 2009 to 5.5% by 2015. What saved the country from falling into a deep depression, deeper than that of 1929, was the Federal Government bailouts of the banks and the auto industries, plus innovative use of Monetary Policy by the Obama Administration.

Unemployment today, in early 2015, is still a problem in the U.S., particularly for the young and unskilled.  Another problem tends to be rates of pay.  The Federal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 per hour before social security, assorted taxes, and unemployment insurance are taken out.  While many states have a higher minimum wage the Republicans in Congress refuse to raise the National minimum wage.  It has existed for several years now while prices have gradually increased.

What’s interesting or odd here is that Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, is attempting to gain the Republican presidential nomination on a platform of “right to work” laws.  These laws mean that no business can have a closed union shop; no worker has to join a union where ever he works.  The object of these laws is to break the power of the unions across the U.S. and he probably would like to get rid of the minimum wage, as was suggested during the Reagan Administration.

Henry Ford, in his early factories, discovered or realized that if you pay your workers enough they will buy the product they are producing.  The same premise holds true today: if workers earn more they will spend more.  In essence increased spending equals increased production, and consequently more profit for everybody. Growing productivity creates jobs and raises the standards of living within the country.  And conversely the lower the national income distribution the lower the productivity and the higher the unemployment.

No one can buy goods and services with money they don’t have.  Somehow the Republican understanding of the situation throughout the country is backward; their goal, regardless of what they say or believe, is actually to reduce productivity throughout the nation and increase unemployment.  This they have very effectively done since 2011 when they achieved dominance in the House of Representatives.

If we look at their current goal of keeping the minimum wage at $7.25 an hour.  Working at that rate for 40 hours a week allows an individual to earn $290.00 a week, which works out to about $1,160 a month, and $15,080.00 for a 52 week year before assorted government withholdings.  This puts this person living alone slightly above the poverty line, which is $12,300 for one adult, $15,853 for two adults is slightly below the poverty line, $19,055 for two adults and one child is well below the poverty line, and $24,008 for two adults and two children.  If that amount is doubled by both adults working full time at that rate of pay then their condition improves but who will take care of the child or children.  It’s a sad comment upon a society that will not pay a goodly percentage of its workers enough to not live in poverty or to live just above the poverty level when they are fully employed.  We are a nation with a good percentage of employed being working poor.

There is an interesting note of irony here.  The working poor person earning the $7.25 an hour is almost below the legal poverty level.  In most states this person qualifies for food stamps and government medical aid, as well as other programs.  All these aid programs are paid for by tax dollars.  Ultimately, then, the tax payers in the country are subsidizing those businesses or industries that pay the minimum legal wage.  Consequently a good percentage of these companies’ profits are being paid indirectly by the American taxpayer.

In the April 16, 2015 issue of the L.A. Times there was an article dealing with this subject which cited a UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research study.  They reported that 56% of all state and public assistance in the United States now goes to working families.  That adds up to 153 billion a year, including 25 billion in state funding.  Individually California spends 3.7 billion, New York 3.3 billion, and Texas 2 billion on public assistance programs.  These go to, among others, fast food employees, child and home care workers, and part-time college faculty.

To quote the L.A. Times: “Last week the Colorado Fiscal Institute said 600,000 Colorado employees, or a quarter of the state’s working force earned less than $12 an hour. As a result taxpayers ante up about 304 million a year to cover their healthcare costs… It’s clear these big employers are shifting their costs to the taxpayers.”

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George W. Bush’s presidency ended in 2008 and Barak Obama became president in 2009.  Most of his early efforts were aimed at keeping a deep depression from happening.  Unemployment still increased but it was minor compared to what it might have been.

Today are there enough jobs in the society to keep everyone who wants to work fully employed?  There were jobs for everyone up until the end of 2008 before the Real Estate Bubble burst.  At that time the banking houses in the United States were encouraging people to use their homes as bank accounts and constantly withdraw their equity from their homes and spend it.  The society was flowing with money.  Once the Bubble Burst there was an intense shortage of funds and unemployment was well over 12% overnight.

There has been a large percentage of recovery since 2009 but the bulk of the National Income has gone to the upper echelon of society with very little going to the middle class and even less than that going to the bottom of society.  The distribution of the National Income is completely out of kilter.  It is encouraging, with Republican help, a shrinkage of economic prosperity.  If it were not for the creative Monetary Policy the Federal Reserve used this country would now be in the doldrums with everyone, all Republicans and Democrats, currently well off and otherwise, suffering considerably.

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The odd part of all this is that the country could easily be well off with full employment and everybody having at least a decent standard of living.  The key here is expending money in Fiscal Policy which Congress controls.  The Republicans are loath to spend money on things other than the military.  They are very conscious of the National Debt that they have mushroomed since Reagan took office but for which they claim no credit.

Interestingly the Federal Government currently owns well over 50% of its own debt. Legally, it seems, no one, with the exception of the Federal Government, can owe itself money.

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The infrastructure of the United States is still in the 20th Century.  Some of it was installed over a hundred years ago.  Underground pipes and sewers are continually breaking down and being repaired to the level where they are just usable again.  It’s currently a Band-Aid approach; barely maintaining but no really improving anything.

President Obama had a plan in 2011 to drop unemployment that the Republican House of Representatives chose to ignore for two reasons: one, He presented it and two, it cost money, which they are loath to spend on anything except the military and business expansion like the Keystone project.

The prime example of Fiscal Policy is the New Deal that Franklin D. Roosevelt inaugurated in 1933 when he became President during the Great Depression.  While the Republican, Herbert Hoover was President when the Great Depression broke in 1929, he was incapable of such massive spending Roosevelt began in 1933.

Roosevelt was able to fund the New Deal by doubling the money supply in the nation.  He had government officials collect all the gold coins in circulation and replace them with paper money. The value of the gold was then doubled from $18 an ounce to $36. And suddenly the money supply doubled; there was twice as much money in circulation.

While this did not get the country out of the depression it did significantly improve economic conditions.  In order to end the Great Depression the Roosevelt Administration would have had to, at least, quadruple the money supply beyond that level. That situation occurred during the 1940s when World War II broke out.

The New Deal was a series of domestic programs encompassing Relief, Recovery, and Reform and enacted from 1933 on.  It included laws passed by Congress and executive orders issued by the President.  Programs like the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Core (CCC) made the government the largest employer in the nation.  Others like Social Security, the Fair Labor Standards Act that set maximum hours and minimum wages for most categories of workers and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are with us today.  Banking reform was reconstituted after the 2008 Banking Debacle.  There were a myriad of other agencies mostly denoted by the letters; all of which created jobs, upgraded whole sections of the nation, and brought about

Did the government have to do this?  Obviously not; but in so doing the Federal Government took on the responsibility of providing for the common man (forgotten man) where he could not then provide for himself.  It was in the mind of Roosevelt and his administration necessary in order to save our free capitalistic society.

This is what the current Republican Congress seems to be incapable of doing. They feel this country cannot afford this luxury today.  I suspect they also feel that the unemployed are really themselves responsible for being in that condition.  Whether there are jobs available or not is immaterial.

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Fiscal Policy is something the Federal Government is going to have to get involved with sooner or later whether they want to or not.  The infrastructure of the United States was built during our period of urbanization and industrial development, from the late 19th Century through the 20th Century.  Our growing needs then were a lot smaller than they are now.  We grew then from a country of 140 plus million to over 350 million people today.  Some of the sewerage pipes in many cities are over 100 years old.  Roads, freeways, and interstate highways have to be maintained and improved.  The electric grid that runs throughout the nation has to be upgraded.  Many schools are antiquated and should be replaced or upgraded.

All of this is mentioning only a small portion of what needs to be done.  We can take a piece-meal approach, fixing things as they break down and wait until a point comes when much of the infrastructure can no longer be repaired or the Congress can begin a process of bringing the infrastructure into the 21st Century, rebuilding for today’s population..

Money is not really the problem for the Federal Government since it owns most of its own debt.  Actually spending money would increase government tax receipts.  In fact it would significantly increase the amount of taxes received on all levels of government, city, state, and federal.

What the Republican Congress is doing by refusing to even consider fiscal policy is exacerbating unemployment, encouraging the growing wealth of the upper ten percent, working to shrink the middle class, and radically increase the lower classes.  They are working to bring back the conditions of the 1880s and 1890s when there were massive divisions between the different classes within society.

Interestingly Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, who has successfully gotten the Republican members of Congress to sign a pledge that they will, under no circumstances, raise taxes, has stated that his favorite period in U.S. history was the last two decades before the 20th Century.  It would seem he has been working very hard to bring us back to that period of inequality.

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More jobs are needed.  The current Congress will do nothing to alleviate the problem; instead they will by their actions increase it.  What will determine our future direction will be decided by the 2016 Presidential Election.  If we reelect a Republican Congress and also vote for a Republican President then conditions will continue as they are now, probably getting far worse.  If, on the other hand, both Houses of Congress are Democratic, then fiscal policy should bring about a radical lowering of unemployment and an overall return of prosperity for all levels of society.

It will be all in the hands of the voting public.  If they all vote their interests then the problem can be solved or, at least, move in the direction of a solution.  If enough people vote their beliefs or prejudices or stay at home and refuse to vote then the country will continue as we are now and probably go downhill economically.

To me the unemployment problem is ridiculous.  It can so easily be solved.  We can have full scale employment and solve our infrastructure problems at the same time.

 

 

 

The Weiner Component #73 – The Problem of the Distribution of the National Income

Manhattan Panoramic View, NYC

One of the greatest misnomers to come out of the 2008 Real Estate Debacle was that the CEOs’ large compensation packages and the massive spending by the general public were closely interrelated.  The spending affected the extent of the salaries but it was separate from them.  The bundling of mortgages caused the Real Estate Bubble.  Going back to the last two decades of the 20th Century many individuals and families began to add their home equity to their incomes in order to enjoy all the comforts possible.  With the continual rise of real estate values over a thirty plus year period this seemed infinitely possible.  With the ever-growing demand for major and minor items by the general property owning public the country was in a period of immense profit for all types of retail concerns.  People bought cars, boats, bigger houses in better neighborhoods.  They frequented restaurants, bought new clothing, TVs, almost anything.  As corporate profits increased CEOs demanded and got greater and greater bonuses and overall compensation packages.  There was full employment; banks were earning greater and greater profits.  The country, the world was living in a sort of fairyland that would presumably go on forever.

And then, at the tail end of 2008, the bubble burst and hard reality set in.  Property values dropped, in many cases, well over fifty percent.  Demand for products fell and there was massive unemployment.  People could not meet their bills.  Many owed far more on their homes than they were worth.  Everyone, including the CEOs faced disaster.  Then the government jumped in with $900 billion worth of loans and saved both the banking industry and the country from a massive depression.

The CEOs were very frustrated.  They had gotten these phenomenal salaries and now they were gone or practically gone.  For some bonuses had been cut in half.  The CEO of Bank of America was very upset particularly after President Obama had insisted that no bailout money be used to pay bonuses.

In addition corporate profits dropped significantly at the end of 2008.  The country was in unbelievable economic pain.  By 2010 the economy was expanding again.  This continued through 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.  During 2011 Congress slowed growth with the Debt Ceiling crises.  The next year the fiscal cliff held the economy hostage, again reducing job growth.  By 2013 many workers had left the labor force, because of constant inability to find almost any kind of work, supposedly reducing the unemployment rate.

In 2008, with the crash, the Gross Domestic Product was $14,720.3 trillion.  The GDP per capita was $48,951.  The following year it dropped to $14,417.9 trillion with the per capita level at $47,041.  In 2010 it slightly exceeded the 2008 level and in 2011 it was $15,533.8 trillion with the per capita rate at $48,282.  By 2012 the country was in the $16 trillion level and by 2914 it has reached $17 trillion with the per capita level also rising.

The unemployment level increased significantly from the end of 2008 on rising to 9.9% of the workforce and then gradually dropping by 2013 to about 6.7%.  Keep in mind that this percentage does not include those that are underemployed or who have given up looking for work.  We can only guess at these numbers.

Of course the irony of all this is the level of the per capita income which would give a family of four if it existed in real life a little under two hundred thousand dollars a year.  What exists is a wide distribution of incomes with the bulk of the $17 trillion going to a very small percentage of the population.  For example a person working at Wal-Mart for $7.25 an hour with a family of four would have to apply for food stamps and other government aid in order to survive while the CEO of any giant corporation would be earning about a million dollars a month or more.  If I remember correctly the CEO of Hewlett Packard received about $15 million in 2013.  The general compensation for CEOs could be more or slightly less.

Interestingly in cases like that of Wal-Mart it is the taxpayer, who generally is earning a lot less than the per capita level of income, that pick up the difference needed for the Wal-Mart worker’s family to survive through the various entitlement programs the federal and state governments provide.

Wages, salaries, compensation packages vary greatly.  Only a very small percentage would reach the actual level of the per capita income.  And a much smaller percentage would be above it.  And still a much smaller number, perhaps a hand-full, would have their income in the millions of dollars.  There are even a few in the billion dollar category.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during the Great Depression and again during World War II, stated that a person could only spend so much during a year or during a lifetime.  There was no need for them to earn that much more.  He wanted to tax excess profits.  Congress in neither case would go completely along with him.

Currently the tax system is set up so that anyone earning over $140,000 a year pays a fixed rate on everything earned over this amount.  The more he earns over this the smaller is the percentage of his income that he pays in taxes.  This means that the average family earning under $140,000 a year, which is most of us, pays a greater percentage of their income in federal taxes.  In essence the rich can store endless barrels of money for countless future generations or use some of the money to buy elections while everyone else can do without and just generally survive, with some people not even really surviving.  In the case of corporate subsidies, this money can be used for lobbying and political campaigns to buy influence in the federal and state governments even though it is indirectly paid by the taxpayer.

Obviously there is something wrong with this system.  Something in the way of reform has to be brought about or eventually tragedy will occur.  People will accept a lot of inequities but eventually these inequities become so blatant and their misery so great that they will violently be objected to.

The rich seemingly have endless amounts of money.  They are using some of it to influence the general public in elections.  In essence they are buying influence in government which is being used for their own benefits.

 

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The Weiner Component #66 – Macroeconomics & the GDP

Imagine a giant caldron or pot as high and as large as the tallest building you’ve ever seen,

The western front of the United States Capitol...

The western front of the United States Capitol. The Capitol serves as the seat of government for the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. The building is marked by its central dome above a rotunda and two wings. It is an exemplar of the Neoclassical architecture style. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

filled[ with money, paper bills, with over 17 trillion dollars in it.  This is the Gross Domestic Product, the GDP, the amount of wealth produced in one year in the United States.  It represents the monetary value of all the goods and services produced and consumed in a twelve month period.  The money is a paper means of exchanging all this wealth and productivity, all the goods and services produced in one fiscal year.  It has no real value except as a token of transfer, goods and services for goods and services.  There is nothing behind the dollar except the word of the Federal Government.  Gold, which has a high value, cannot be used for money because there is not enough of it in existence to meet the financial needs of any of the many industrial nations.

The real wealth is what is produced and exchanged.  The money is merely the means of exchange that rates one unit of productivity against another and is used nationally or internationally.  The currency, then, is the tool through which this system of exchange occurs.  It can be used immediately or stored in institutions like banks or credit unions and used at some point in the future.  Money can also be used as a commodity, loaned or rented out with interest for a period of time or it can be used for all sorts of investments that pay interest or dividends.  It is in every case a tool to satisfy different types of wants and needs.

To consider money as the source of wealth is to be naïve.  The amount one has through earnings or inheritance can be used as a sort of score to determine one’s level of success against that of all other people in the society.  It is a government supplied tool that allows for the productive functioning of society.

It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to keep enough of it in circulation, a constant cash flow, so that full productivity occurs.  A shortage of the money supply in the nation can cause economic recession and eventual depression.  An excess amount of money in the National Economy can bring about run-away inflation, too much money available for the goods and services produced.  The Federal Government’s task is to provide just enough for full employment and full creation of the goods and services needed for the highest possible standard of living for the entire population.

This is not easy and requires constant readjustment because, according to the U.S. Census Bureau the population of the nation is increasing at the rate of one additional person every eleven seconds.  This figure includes births, immigration, and deaths.  In 2010, the time of the last National Census, the estimated population was 308,745,536, and this was considered a low count.  While an adjustment upward was made a year later this figure was used for the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives.

One has to keep in mind that in addition to this number the population since then has increased at the rate of 5.46 people per minute, 327.27 per hour, 7,854.55 per day, 54,981.81 per week, 2,866,911 per year, plus another 7,854 for leap years.  The money supply has to be continually increased to keep up with these ever-growing numbers or the country moves in the direction of economic constriction, unemployment, recession, and finally depression.  All this is supposed to be done by the Federal Reserve with the aid of Congress and the President.

The Federal Reserve continually monitors the economy and continually makes its adjustments through Monetary Policy.  It can strongly but not completely affect the amount and flow of currency. The other section of the Federal Government that is supposed to continually affect the level of economic prosperity in the country is Congress.  They do this through fiscal policy; passing laws that can diminish or create employment throughout the United States by either increasing or decreasing government spending.  In essence through the passage of laws they can constrict or expand the cash flow and the level of employment

If we look at the actions of the Republicans in the House of Representatives from 2011 on, when they gained control of that body, it would seem that they by their actions are working very hard to bring this country into an economic depression and not allow for any recovery from the Real Estate Debacle of 2008.  We are still, six years later at seven plus percent unemployment.  Millions of people are still not earning enough to maintain a decent standard of living.  There is growing hunger in America, that many people are not food secure.  What are the Republicans proposing and trying to push through Congress?  Massively reducing food stamp and other programs that are vital for the proper survival of fifteen or more million people.

Their version of job creation is to massively reduce Federal spending for entitlement programs while wasting twenty-five billion dollars on shutting down the Federal Government for a period of time.  If one looked for a plan to destroy the United States or make it into a third rate nation then one would do exactly what the Republicans in Congress have been and are trying to achieve, to bring a large part of the population into despair and desolation.

The Republicans are acting like the Hoover Administration did from 1929, when the Great Depression broke, until 1933, when the Roosevelt Administration came into being.  Is it an act of maliciousness or just simply economic ignorance?  They are attempting to run the country as they run or ran their household budgets.  One Tea Party Congressman stated that he understood economics because he had raised a family.  They are making money the object of value and ignoring the potential productivity of the nation.  They are actually using the principles of Microeconomics, which works well with households, businesses, and state and municipal governments but can create disaster if it is used to run an industrial nation of over 300 million people.

 


 

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The Weiner Component #64 – So Called Economic Prosperity & Economic Disaster

English: Monthly changes in the currency compo...

English: President Barack Obama confers with F...

English: President Barack Obama confers with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke following their meeting at the White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Economic growth has been increasing at a phenomenal rate; with the United States in the last quarter of 2013 reaching a point where there was a surplus, more money coming in in taxes than was being spent.  Dr. Ben Bernanke, the then chairman of the Federal Reserve felt that it was growing too rapidly.  Apparently complete economic recovery with a 6 ½  to 7 percent unemployment level does not really denote a healthy economy.  This would mean that we have an excess surplus percentage of the population that exists within our so-called healthy economy.

The question is how can you have economic recovery with 6 ½% to 7 % of the population still actively looking for employment?  And what about the group that has given up looking for work or those that are underemployed?  While we don’t know the exact numbers of these people they could make up another 6 ½ to 7 percent, or for that matter, the number could be greater.

Can we truly have prosperity with 10 to 14 percent unemployment and underemployment?  If we look at the statistics the amount of money available in the country, the GDP, has increased exponentially but the distribution of these massive funds have been and are in the process of changing with a greater and greater percentage going to the upper echelon of society and a smaller and smaller percentage going to everyone else.  General wages have essentially stayed the same or risen very slowly with prices rising at a slightly more rapid rate.  People are finding that their incomes, which may be slowly rising, are buying less and less each year.  This situation is reminiscent of the 16th Century when inflation existed for a 90 year period.  Wages remained essentially the same but the value of money, which was gold coins at that time continually decreased in value; that is, every year it bought less.

The 16th Century was the time that Spain looted the gold supply from the New World, the Americas, and yearly brought to Europe shiploads of gold that were almost immediately turned into coins and circulated throughout the continent.  As the amount of gold in circulation rose the value of the money dropped.  A small group became fabulously wealthy while the rest of society suffered without having an inkling of what was causing their misery.

We are essentially in the same position today.  A small group, the upper earning percentage of the population of the United States, is seeing their incomes explode while the bulk of the population is being pushed slowly economically downhill.  The country is recovering, both from the Real Estate Debacle of 2008 in terms of the amount of currency in circulation and seeing a growth of funds beyond that point, but the distribution of those dollars is giving that money to the upper echelon with a fractional increase to the general population and the high unemployment level continuing.

This is a scary scenario for the welfare of the country. We have more money available in the general society but a goodly number of people are excluded from any part of it.  The minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour and we still have unacceptable levels of unemployment throughout the country.  As a note of irony we have couples working in the U.S. at the minimum wage level and still having to apply and receive Government aid in order to survive with a family of four.

The country seems to be returning to prosperity and misery at the same time.  Recovery would be better at a slower pace with unemployment decreasing as economic recovery is increasing.  Massive changes are necessary if overall economic health is to come about.

We are currently living in a society where the bulk of the population has no real understanding of economics.  They see everything in terms of their household budgets.  They see the government spending money it supposedly does not have, therefore throwing the country deeper and deeper into debt.

This, common sense approach, is all nonsense.  Most people still think of money as gold.  This is untrue.  There is nothing behind the dollar but the word of the government.  It prints and issues money as needed.  It also, through it many agencies like Social Security and Medicare and otherwise owns at least fifty percent of its own debt.  In 2013 the Federal Reserve turned over, well over seventy billion dollars to the Treasury.  Most, if not all of this, was interest from the National Debt which the Federal Government owes and owns.

Recovery would be better at a slower pace, but whether or not it occurs, changes are necessary if massive economic health is to come about.  We have to decide whether all people have a right to a minimum level of economic functionality or if one group deserves to have all the benefits that society can provide and the rest deserve to persist as best they can.  Actually if nothing is done the latter will occur.

Today money is a tool of the Federal Government used to effect economic health within the society.  There is no gold behind the dollar.  The Government prints what is needed for the society to function.  Its value is based upon the word of the Central Government.  The amount in circulation in the United States is controlled by the debt limit which is set by Congress.

Also the amount of money in circulation is determined by an inflation factor.  If there is too much money available, more money than goods and services available, then the value of the money decreases.  If, on the other hand, there is too little cash circulating in the general society then the value of the money increases and deflation occurs.  The Federal Reserve monitors this and attempts to keep a proper balance.

To the individual, the members of Congress, money has value.  It provides for their and their family’s needs.  If the members of Congress apply this position to National Expenditures then they are actually shrinking the economy and exacerbating negative conditions, tightening government spending and adding to unemployment.

It is an interesting conundrum.  Applying “common sense” family budgetary rules to the running of the United States could possibly bring about a recession or depression.

The basic principle, which is a hard one to comprehend and accept, is that consumption is as important as production.  Without consumption there is no need for production.  By allowing an ever increasing majority of the National Income to go to the upper percentage of the population there is less and less money available to the rest of the population.  Consequently the amount of goods and service they can consume is continually decreasing.  The system is working against itself.

Are we having real economic prosperity or is the country working toward economic disaster?  An interesting question!

 

 

 

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