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How Junk Economists Help The Rich Impoverish The Working Class — Paul Craig Roberts – PaulCraigRoberts.org
How Junk Economists Help The Rich Impoverish The Working Class
Paul Craig Roberts
Last week, I explained how economists and policymakers destroyed our economy for the sake of short-term corporate profits from jobs offshoring and financial deregulation.
That same week Business Week published an article, “Factory Jobs Are Gone. Get Over It,” by Charles Kenny. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-23/manufacturing-jobs-may-not-be-cure-for-unemployment-inequality Kenny expresses the view of establishment economists, such as Brookings Institute economist Justin Wolfers who wants to know “What’s with the political fetish for manufacturing? Are factories really so awesome?”
“Not really,” Kenny says. Citing Eric Fisher of the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank, Kenny reports that wages rise most rapidly in those states that most quickly abandon manufacturing. Kenny cites Gary Hufbauer, once an academic colleague of mine now at the Peterson Institute, who claims that the 2009 tariffs applied to Chinese tire imports cost US consumers $1 billion in higher prices and 3,731 lost retail jobs. Note the precision of the jobs loss, right down to the last 31.
In support of the argument that Americans are better off without manufacturing jobs, Kenny cites MIT and Harvard academic economists to the effect that there is no evidence that manufacturing tends to cluster, thus disputing the view that there are economies from manufacturers tending to congregate in the same areas where they benefit from an experienced work force and established supply chains.
Perhaps the MIT and Harvard economists did their study after US manufacturing centers became shells of their former selves and Detroit lost 25% of its population, Gary Indiana lost 22% of its population, Flint Michigan lost 18% of its population, Cleveland lost 17% of its population, and St Louis lost 20% of its population. If the economists’ studies were done after manufacturing had departed, they would not find manufacturing concentrated in locations where it formerly flourished. MIT and Harvard economists might find this an idea too large to comprehend.
Kenny’s answer to the displaced manufacturing workers is–you guessed it–jobs training. He cites MIT economist David Autor who thinks the problem is the federal government only spends $1 on retraining for every $400 that it spends on supporting displaced workers.
These arguments are so absurd as to be mindless. Let’s examine them. What jobs are the displaced manufacturing workers to be trained for? Why, service jobs, of course. Kenny actually thinks that “service industries–hotels, hospitals, media, and accounting–have taken up the slack.” (I don’t know where he gets media and accounting from; scant sign of such jobs are found in the payroll jobs reports.) Moreover, service jobs have certainly not taken up the slack as the rising rate of long-term unemployment and declining labor force participation rate prove.
Nontradable service sector jobs such as hotel maids, hospital orderlies, retail clerks, waitresses and bartenders are low productivity, low value-added jobs that cannot pay incomes comparable to manufacturing jobs. The long term decline in real median family income relates to the movement offshore of manufacturing jobs and tradable professional service jobs, such as software engineering, IT, research and design.
Moreover, domestic service jobs do not produce exportable goods and services. A country without manufactures has little with which to earn foreign exchange in order to pay for its imports of its shoes, clothing, manufactured goods, high-technology products, Apple computers, and increasingly food. Therefore, that country’s trade deficit widens as each year it owes more and more to foreigners.
A country whose best known products are fraudulent and toxic financial instruments and GMO foods that no one wants cannot pay for its imports except by signing over its existing assets. The foreigners buy up US assets with their trade surpluses. Consequently, income from rents, interest, dividends, capital gains, and profits leave US pockets for foreign pockets. It is a safe bet that Hufbauer did not include any of these costs, or maybe even the loss of US tire workers’ wages and tire manufacturers’ profits, when he concluded that trying to save US tire manufacturing jobs cost more than it was worth.
Eric Fisher’s argument that the highest wage growth is found in areas where higher productivity manufacturing jobs are most rapidly replaced with lower productivity domestic service jobs is beyond absurd. (Possibly Fisher did not say this; I’m taking Kenny’s word for it.) It has always been a foundation of labor economics that workers are paid the value of their contribution to output. Manufacturing employees working with technology embodied in plant and equipment produce more value per man hour than maids changing sheets and bartenders mixing drinks.
In my book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism And Economic Dissolution Of The West (2013), I point out the obvious mistakes in “studies” by Matthew Slaughter, a former member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, and Harvard professor Michael Porter. These academic economists conclude on the basis of extraordinary errors and ignorance of empirical facts, that jobs offshoring is good for Americans. They were able to reach this conclusion despite the absence of any visibility of this good, and they hold to this absurd conclusion despite the inability of a “recovery” (or lack of one) that is 4.5 years old to get off the ground and get employment back up to where it was six years ago. They hold to their “education is the answer” solution despite the growing percentage of university graduates who cannot find employment.
Michael Hudson is certainly correct to call economists purveyors of “junk economics.” Indeed, I wonder if economists even have junk value. But they are well paid by Wall Street and the offshoring corporations.
What the Brookings Institute’s Justin Wolfers needs to ask himself is: what is the redefinition of economic development? For my lifetime the definition of a developed economy is an industrialized economy. It has always been “the industrialized countries” that occupy the status of “developed economies,” contrasted with “undeveloped countries,” “developing countries,” and “emerging economies.” How is an economy developed if it is shedding its industry and manufacturing? This is the reverse of the development process. Without realizing it, Kenny describes the unravelling of the US economy when he describes the decline of US manufacturing from 28 percent of US GDP in 1953 to 12% in 2012. The US now has the work force of a third world country, with the vast bulk of the population employed in lowly paid domestic services. The US work force no longer looks like the work force of a developed country. It looks like third world India’s work force of three decades ago.
Kenny and junk economists speak of the decline of US manufacturing jobs as if they are not being offshored to countries where labor is cheap but replaced by automation. No doubt there has been automation, and more ways of replacing humans with machines will be found. But if manufacturing jobs are things of the past, why is China’s sudden and rapid rise to economic power accompanied by 100 million manufacturing jobs? Apple computers are not made in China by robots. If robots are making Apple computers, it would be just as cheap to make the computers in the US. The Chinese manufacturing workforce is almost the size of the entire US work force.
US companies employ Americans to market the products that are produced abroad for sale in the US. This is why US corporations employ Americans mainly in service jobs. Foreigners make the goods, and Americans sell them.
Economic development has always been about acquiring the capital, technology, business knowledge, and trained workforce to make valuable things that can be sold at home and abroad. US capital and technology are being located abroad, and the trained domestic workforce is disappearing from disuse and abandonment. The US is falling out of the ranks of the industrialized countries and is on the path to becoming an undeveloped economy.
This Graceless Age…
The consumption-oriented lifestyle could in no way scale across 7 billion people, so this was always a zero sum game between haves and have nots.
Global policy-makers saved the globalized ponzi scheme from itself in 2008. Now having squandered all resources, the odds that they can save it again are somewhere between zero and impossible. The first melt-down to weaken the model. This next one to kill it, for good…
The New Rome
Worthless political thought dealers. Vacuous media buffoons. Country club CEOs hell bent on liquidating their own country. Wall Street greed idolators. Self-important billionaires sprinkling their Central Bank-inflated wealth on the indolent masses. Hollywood’s fake gods and goddesses saving the world one comic book remake at a time. Steroid-bloated millionaire athletes pimping factory slave made sneakers to poverty-stricken inner city youth at $150 a pair. Testosterone-depleted boy-men running around like refugees, incapable of anything beyond their own immediate self-gratification. Idiocratic masses, stewing in a lethal cauldron of junk food and junk culture – too stoned to realize how stoned they are.
Life Without SUVs: Inconceivable
Third grade math indicates that the consumption-oriented lifestyle is in no way scalable across 7 billion people. In the U.S. alone, 5% of the world’s population consume 20% of global resources. It’s a tale of moral and intellectual bankruptcy that today’s thought dealers would allow so much legacy industrial assets to be liquidated just to propagate the fundamentally unsustainable for a few years longer. Despite doubling 229 years worth of national debt in just the past 7 years, today’s dumbfucked leaders, clueless academics, and the Idiocracy at large just can’t face the idea that their overriding mission to consume this planet, is now ending.
Anyone who reads this after-the-collapse, must come to terms with the fact that they were financially bludgeoned merely because they took all of the above decadence for granted – “business as usual”. And the fact that they were incapable of third grade math or otherwise had their heads buried straight up their own ass. Even at this late stage, the vast majority are totally bought in to the status quo and its inherent exploitation-based mentality. It’s totally unquestioned.
What to tell the grandchildren?
“Yeah, we thought it was odd – trying to borrow our way out of a debt crisis. And we really felt bad about bankrupting your generation, but those shopping sprees were fantastic. Personally, I was skeptical trusting the same morons with the global financial system after they crashed it in 2008, but then Bernanke gave them a free bailout and a lot more gambling money, so they seemed happy. I was really taken aback when the Chinese stopped lending us their money – after all, we’d been paying them $.10 on the dollar in wages. Totally ungrateful. Overall though, I’ll be honest, I was too busy watching the Dow, the NFL and Faux News, so I really had no clue what the hell was going on in the real world…”.
And now, we just learned, 400 Priests defrocked by the Pope over a two year period, for child molestation. A thousand plus years of shameful secrets disgorged in one exhale. Do we really believe that this is all a modern problem? That this legacy of sexual abuse has not been secretly propagated for centuries? Of course not. Suffice to say, This is a bad time to be left faithless, going into what will very likely be the most deadly period in human history.
I highly doubt that the U.S. would ever turn full blown communist – let’s face it, today’s phony Obama-socialism is nothing more than foodstamp-based riot control while billionaires complete the estate sale. Those Americans who honestly think that the U.S. is on the verge of socialism, need to take their first-ever trip outside of the U.S. and get some fucking perspective. That said, there are several well known countries where opinions are turning decidedly against capitalism, not the least of which is Japan. Suffice to say, the age of Sociopathic Corporations run by sociopathic frat boys is coming to its inevitable bad ending.
What difference can one man make in all of this madness? I’ve met enough good people in my lifetime to know that they are out there. They are just few and far between. Therefore the hope is that the impending “reset” bludgeons today’s amoral self-absorbed jackasses and their dumbfuck ideas into abject oblivion, all while keeping enough of decent humanity still intact to rebuild upon.
I realize that’s a stretch, but it’s all I’ve got…
P.S. Scroll down. My new blog background reflects the end of a graceless age and the (eventual) promise of a new and better one. Not the end. The beginning.
Or it might just be the stronger Prozac. Who knows?
Credit-monitoring agency TransUnion says the non-mortgage debt of Canadians is likely to set a record next year.
In its first such annual forecast, TransUnion predicts the average consumer’s total non-mortgage debt will hit an all-time high of $28,853 by the end of 2014.
That would be about $1,100 more than the $27,743 of debt consumers are expected to have at the end of this year.
TransUnion says car loans are expected to drive the increase in such debt, which also includes credit card debt, lines of credit, student loans and the like.
On the plus side, the credit-monitoring agency says it expects loan delinquency rates to continue to decline in the coming year, falling to 1.66 per cent at the end of 2014 compared with 1.76 per cent forecast for the fourth quarter of this year
Both figures are down from 1.93 per cent in 2012 and 2.87 per cent in 2009.
“The average Canadian consumer’s total debt is expected to rise by four per cent in 2014, which would be more than $4,500 higher than what we had observed five years earlier in 2009,” Thomas Higgins, TransUnion’s vice-president of analytics and decision services, said in the report.
Higgins noted that while the 2014 increase is much greater than the expected one per cent rise in 2013, it is in line with consumer debt growth of recent years.
“In recent years, the increase in auto sales has helped propel the total debt number and we believe auto captive loans will once again be a driver of this increase in 2014,” he said.
“Instalment loans also have played a major role and we don’t expect there to be a material change in this trend,” he added.
While TransUnion expects delinquency levels to drop next year and remain significantly lower than just a few years ago, “there is a slight concern that delinquencies could rise once interest rates increase,” Higgins said.
However, he added that at this time “we do not believe interest rates will rise enough to materially impact delinquency levels.”
- Consumer appetite for debt returned in spring (globalnews.ca)
- Debt by numbers: Troubling trends in Canadian consumer spending (theglobeandmail.com)
- Canadians’ appetite for debt rises in second quarter (bnn.ca)
- Canadian consumer debt rises to $27,000: TransUnion (thestar.com)