Ben Leet

  • Since 1980 to 2012, 32 years, the lower-earning 90% of households has experienced a decline in their share of the national income. On a per household basis, each household, almost 100,000 US households, has lost about $20,000 a year owing to this shift. Prosperity arguably has not reached the lower-earning 50%, and 40% of Americans endure hardship says the United Way report titled ALICE. For the lower 90% of working households an added $20,000 a year would change their lives. Economist Olivier Giovanonni writing at the Levy Economics Institute says that up to 12 to 15% of the national income has shifted from the 90% to the higher-earning 10%, and today that amounts to close to $3 trillion per year, he states, " at the pace of 15 points of net national income or $1.8 trillion in 2012 alone." “What Do We Know about the Labor Share and the Profit Share, Part 3” is the essay, and the graph and last pages 34, 35, display the shift, and the data comes out of a study by Saez, Piketty, and Zucman. Trump signed the 2017 tax cut bill that cut taxes on the top 1% by $50,000 per tax unit, and by$800 per unit among the middle earning 40 to 60%tile households. Anyone who thinks he is trying to enrich the well-being of middle earning voters is wrong just by the evidence. A look at Sanders’ page on Foreign Trade shows his plan: " Despite the president’s tough rhetoric and haphazard tariffs, under Trump, we now have a record-breaking $890 billion annual trade deficit in goods. And since Trump was elected, multinational corporations have shipped 185,000 American jobs overseas. That is unacceptable." Why has Trump failed to do all the 5 things mentioned in this plan, when all it takes, says the author, is a stroke of the pen?

  • The U.S. has suppressed wages since 1973, in fact the “average weekly wage income” of “nonsupervisory workers” was higher in 1965 than today in 2020, says the BLS table — see here: https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CES0500000031 — In 1965 the GDP per citizen was around $15,000, and today it’s over $50,000, but the wage income for 82% of workers is lower. The Jobs Quality Index, on this site, says there are 106 million such workers, and their average income, says the BLS, was higher 55 years ago, while the total per capita disposable income has tripled (see BEA Table 2A). This is called wage suppression. About 70% of economic activity is driven by consumer expenditure, so one can imagine the negative impact wage suppression has had in the U.S., not to mention China and Mexico and the entire world. I have many issues with the one-sided explanation of the WSJ, but I should have fewer with this excellent site. But this article is laced with a bias towards anti-this and anti-that. The article fails to mention the complicity of U.S. large, trans-national corporate investments in Chinese industry. We suffer from a Global Class War, as Jeff Faux explained a decade ago in his book of that title. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth makes the same case I’ve just laid out. The research of Piketty, Saez and Zucman show that around 15% of the national income has shifted from the lower 90% of households to the top 10% over a 34 year period, 1980 to 2014. Unless the analysts at CPA start to report on the catastrophe of U.S. economic policy their constant harping on China will sound hollow even meaningless. Go to the BLS, the BEA, and the Washington Center, and start explaining those facts. A savings glut: look at the total household net worth to GDP ratio, and say that the U.S. is not running an unprecedented excess of savings (use the Flow of Funds report for the net worth figure).

  • Walter Wriston in 1992 published “The Twilight of Sovereignty”, he was a former CEO for CitiBank. The problem of ceding power to multinational global corporate power pre-dates the Clinton presidency. The Neo-Liberal project has been based on untethered capital flowing across national borders essentially converting the economic engines of the world’s nations into subsidiaries of U.S. and global corporations. This is the “race to the bottom”, and it is the topic of Jeff Faux’s 2006 book The Global Class War. Faux co-founded the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning FDR supporting think-tank. I’m bothered with the CPA broadcasting the anti-Chinese rhetoric. An article by Vijay Prashad at TriContinental states that on January 1st the Chinese minister of health phoned Mr. Redfield, the head of the U.S. Center for Disease Control, informing him of the viral outbreak, and a week later called back and “burst into tears”, and by the time on January 27 when it was determined that the virus was transmissible human to human, the WHO had been informed two weeks prior and the genetic code had been uploaded to the WWW and German scientists were already working on a vaccine. The Chinese did everything right, as far as I can tell, preventing an even greater disaster. On January 29 Mr. Trump said the virus was no problem and everything would be fine, “I can assure of that”. Other western leaders ignored the Chinese warning. Forty-three days later in mid March Mr. Trump issued the emergency warning. Were the Chinese to blame for his delay? It is bad journalism and absurd to push the unsubstantiated anti-Chinese claims. The CPA, if it wants to preserve a credible balance, should address this over-emphasis on culpability of the Chinese. You sound petty and partisan and wrong.

  • Bernie Sanders has been delivering this message for over a decade, but he does not blame the commies in China, he blames the corporatists who have bought our government and funded Senator Hawley’s campaign. Multinational corporations based in the U.S. expanded into low-wage nations willingly, joyfully, and profitably, these business people gave up their allegiance to the U.S. long ago, this is Robert Reich’s old critique. Ralph Nader has been excoriating the ‘investor trade dispute settlement’ since 2000. Lori Wallach in 2004 wrote her book Whose Trade Organization?, and John Maynard Keynes in 1946 spelled out the trouble caused by persistent mercantilistic nations running trade surpluses. All these warnings were routinely ignored and belittled by mostly Republican politicians, but also Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson and probably back to Reagan era secretaries of the treasury, Jim Baker and Donald Regan. What most disturbs me about Sen. Hawley (and others who sound like Sen Joseph McCarthy reborn) is his focus on China, when it should include all other trade partner nations and the corporate executives and especially Mexico. Inequality in Mexico is almost criminal and it is perpetuated by a business elite that is very violent and anti-democratic. Political murder is common in Mexico. The senator’s rhetoric sounds pollyannaish and lacks self-criticism. This is nothing new. This anti-democratic anti-worker anti-labor-union theme is the stock and trade of the Republican Party, with a lot of aid from Democrats. The issue should be ecumenical, there is plenty of blame to go around.

  • BLS shows in February 2020 some 158,759,000 were employed. In April 133,403,000. A drop of 25,356,000. (Table A-1. Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and over, 1985 to date)
    A Brookings report says, “An estimated 46 million Americans have already been laid off or seen a reduction in hours as a result of COVID-19, according to Gallup survey data collected from March 27 to March 31, 2020. This amounts to around 28% of workers.” 46 million is 29% of 158.76 million.
    The report: “Official jobless figures will miss the economic pain of the pandemic
    Jonathan Rothwell, Friday, April 3, 2020”
    Americans are not financially prepared for this. In September 2017 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau published a Financial Well-Being report and asked adults "How much money do you have in savings today (in cash,checking, and savings account balances)?” This is called “Liquid savings.” (see page 81)
    less than $250 — 24%
    less than $1,000 — 35%
    less than $5,000 — 54%
    less than $20,000 — 74% American adults answered.
    Meaning the majority are not prepared for an extended loss of income.
    The Prosperity Now web page, Scorecard, found that — Nationwide 25.4% of credit card holders have reached the 75% of credit limit on their cards;
    Those who have saved for emergencies — 57.8% have saved — 42.2% have not saved
    Consumers with Debt in Collections — 21.2%
    Another poll asked about missing a paycheck, every two weeks, would it be a difficulty? The American Payroll Association reports 74% said yes; 40% said a major difficulty, and 34% said a slight difficulty. A Harris poll found that respondents say they always (23%) or usually (17%) or sometimes (38%) live paycheck to paycheck, for a total of 78%. My blog – http://benL88.blogspot.com, Economics Without Greed, Part Two

  • Half of U.S. workers, 83 million, earn on average less than $15,000 a year is the finding of the Social Security Administration’s report on wages, 2018. -- https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2018 - The top earning for the lower half was $32,838.05, called the median wage income for 167 million workers. The lower half, 83 million, can be divided into 3 equal parts: the lowest earning part earns less than $7,500 (with an average of $2,500 yearly), and then combining the next two parts those workers earn a median of $19,000. The $19,000 comes from a Brookings report Meet the Low-Wage Workers. I find that the JQI lacks a certain detailedness as to actual income. It gives the impression that the median, which is around $43,000 a year is the norm for the lower earning 55% of private sector workers, which is incorrect. I wish the authors would also report the median incomes for the “above median” and for the “below median”. The lower-earning half, 83 million workers, earn in wages less than 8% of the national income, about $1.2 trillion. Total national income is around $18 trillion says the BEA, and the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation places total at $15.6 trillion for 2019. The JCT shows that 49% of households earned 13.0% of taxable income. I’m not content with that summary; the JCT shows that the lowest earning 49% (85 million tax units) earned $2.03 trillion or an average of $23,822 in 2018. (Half of 128 million total U.S. households is 64 million, 85 is 66% of 128.) Which I regard as very low income households. The JQI reflects a greater income than the actual income for the lower half, is my contention. The JQI is a very valuable metric as it is. Since 1990 62% of new jobs have been below the median annual income for private sector workers, I think that was the finding of the JQI original report. Dan Alpert, I hope he reads my comment, I admire his work above many many others.

  • Another way to finance the expenses of the Covid-19 is a wealth tax. In January 2009 the total U.S. household net worth was $48 trillion, equal to $58 trillion adjusting for inflation in 2020. Today it’s over $118 trillion, so private wealth has doubled (58 plus 60 = 118), and that is odd because economic growth was not stellar after the Great Recession, it was the slowest recovery on the books since WWII. How could total wealth double in a lousy economy? That’s a long story having to do with economic surplus going to 1% to 10% and being flooded into the financial markets causing asset escalation, but it did double, look at the Fed’s Flow of Funds report, page 2, and look at the report for December 2010 to verify my numbers. An added $60 trillion (58 plus 60 = 118) is also equivalent to about $250,000 of new wealth per adult today. But it is untaxed. This new wealth tax could be far greater than an improved corporate tax. It could pay for not only normal expenses but the Covid expenses. As for income taxes, the Tax Cut Act of December 2017 reduced taxes for the top 1% by 50,000 each, and for the middle family by less than $780. (See ITEP.org article TCJA by the Numbers, 2020) That tax cut could be rescinded, that would help.

  • “Mainstream moderates” are clearly in the minority on this issue. Many political progressives, Bernie Sanders in particular, support this Lighthizer approach. You can read Robert Kuttner at the American Prospect, “Trump’s One Good Appointee”, and you can read Robert Scott at the Economic Policy Institute who repeatedly focuses on American job losses due to bad trade policy, and Ralph Nader very strongly criticized the Investor Trade Dispute Settlement, and Democrats voted against NAFTA which was passed by a deciding majority of Republicans. Apple Computer and most of the brand manufacturers use Chinese labor which comes under criticism for working employees 56 hours a week on average. Labor abuses in Mexico where the minimum wage is $5 a day, and labor union rights are non-existent also fall under criticism from the left. John Maynard Keynes proposed strong trade balancing measures to prevent mercantilism, and promoted fines on nations that consistently ran surpluses. It is a problem that a majority, right and left, seek remedied. The core of the problem is the economic system itself, unbridled capitalism. Always “racing to the bottom” for lower wages and lower health and environmental standards, always competing away rival production that produces mammoth monoliths of monopoly that are too big to fail – to the detriment of most, and certainly dropping wage incomes worldwide. Since 1980 incomes for 50% of Americans have not risen, stagnant at $16,000 per adult, while the top 1% income per adult grew from $430,000 to $1,300,000 — the findings of Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Some research shows about a $3 trillion per year shift in “share of national income”, about 15% of national income, from the lower-earning 90% of workers now going to the top 10%. And that means a loss of about $20,000 per family in the lower-earning 90% of U.S. families. Progressives seem to be the most clearly focused on reversing these trends.

  • I praise CPA for keeping open the comment box. Keynes had a plan to balance trade that required nations that ran excessive surpluses to pay fines commensurate with their surplus. Paul Davidson describes this in his book The Keynes Solution. China is a mercantilistic nation that has based its prosperity on foreign sales, low wages, and high inequality, not to mention authoritarian central planning, rigid capital controls, currency manipulation, and maybe even anti-democratic anti-free speech governance. In an ideal world where people cooperated instead of competed to the death of one another, we would not have patents and manufacturing secrets, but we would create policies to ensure balanced trade and internal development leading to self-sufficiency. As the world comes closer in trade, standards that include worker and citizen development or “prosperity” will replace the mistaken model we now have. Half of humanity says the Pew Research report survives on less than $5 a day, and others say $7.40 a day. This fact tells me our present model is inadequate. In the U.S. we have severe inequality of income and wealth. We could replace that we a true coalition for prosperity that advocated a much higher Earned Income Tax Credit, a higher minimum wage, and stronger powers for labor unions when negotiating wage income. Look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics data — https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CES0500000031 — it shows that “average weekly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers” were higher in December 1964 than in December 2019, 55 years and the weekly wage growth is a negative number, while the per capita output of the economy has nearly tripled. It is time for concern, and the Jobs Quality Index is an excellent tool to measure wage growth for the 82% who are PN workers. Keep the comment box open. Thanks. My blog: http://benL88.blogspot.com

  • I’m looking for some balance in the CPA. I appreciated the stance regarding tariffs, but labor rights in the U.S. are under attack from the Trump administration, and the cause of raising the minimum wage receives no support. I just read an article by left-leaning economist Jeff Faux – http://www.jefffaux.com/?p=642 - a strong critic of wrong-headed trade deals for decades. He agrees with Mr. Ferry about the tariffs, he’s also very left-wing. The Trump Admin. also has supported extreme positions on the NLRB and Dept. of Labor, and cut necessary health and safety regulations. This “coalition” CPA needs some balance. At the EPI.org they listed “10 Actions that Have Harmed Workers”: https://www.epi.org/publication/ten-actions-that-hurt-workers-during-trumps-first-year/ - The economy is far more than foreign trade. Many countries’ human rights and labor rights behavior are abysmal to non-existent, and that should enter into your critique, for instance Mexico. Your emphasis on strictly Chinese imports lessons your influence and cuts back the broad support you deserve. Have you ever criticized the Tax Cut and Jobs Act? I doubt it, that shows a certain narrowness. Read the article at ITEP.org, “The Tax Cut by the Numbers” - in short it was focused mostly on the highest earners, the middle to lower income received peanuts. Increasing inequality is a benchmark of inept policy making.

  • Half of U.S. workers’ collective or combined wage income amounts to just 7% of national income; or 83 million workers earn just over $1 trillion collectively and have an average income of below $15,000 in wages - says the Social Security Administration report on wage income, 2018: https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2018 — And the average wage income of 82% of the work force, nonsupervisory workers, was higher in 1965, all of 54 years ago, says the BLShttps://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CES0500000031 — The Trump administration has been a disaster for the National Labor Relations Board and for labor union rights, and for minimum wage improvement. The CPA seems to be focused only on one aspect of the national economy, manufacturing. I fully support your view point, it’s refreshing to read the list of grievances, but you are sorely lacking in speech to improve the lives of those in low paying jobs. As you mention, 62.5% of the 32 million private sector jobs created since 1990 have been low-paying low-hours, as the JQIndex shows. We still need a higher minimum wage and much stronger labor rights. The CPA is too narrowly focused to be of any value to most workers or most Americans. The average household income is around $141,000, yet perhaps 10% of households are average, and the median is less than half. The average wealth per household is over $800,000 (see Flow of Funds, page 2) yet half own less than $95,000, and 40% own a net zero in net worth. Let’s have some focus on corporate behavior that could ameliorate this imbalance at home. The United Way charity claims in its ALICE report that 40% of households endure hardship or poverty. CPA should focus on that side of the problem as well. Perhaps you can’t see beyond your own personal self-interest, which is the main social problem we live with, and that which plagues China as well. I wrote a blog: http://benL88.blogspot.com

  • I took notes. The report for November I think says that average weekly income of 103 million nonsupervisory workers was $795 per week, which may also be $41,340 yearly. 55% of the jobs were low wage/ low hours paying $528.08 per week for 30 hours of work paying $17.60 an hour, and the yearly income is $27,300. The other 45% were high wage/ high hours paying $1,137 per week, or $59,124 yearly for working 38 hours a week at $29.92 an hour. The difference weekly is $609, and yearly it’s $31,824. In the pdf explanatory JQI publication the stated gap was $402 an hour. Now it’s 50% higher. I wonder if I’ve read this correctly, and I think it can and should be spelled out as I just did. I get the JQI monthly mark of 81. I’m asking for a comment to confirm of correct my reading, thanks. The Social Security Ad. report on wage income shows that 46% earn less than $30,000 and 75% earn less than $60,000. I’m trying to put the two groups into the earning percentile of full-time workers submitting W-2 forms. Take off the 20% roughly who are part-time low earners, the two average incomes may be 26th and 55th percentile. Maybe. Government workers, partial year workers, it’s impossible to say exactly. And then the pool is reduced and the percentiles float higher. Complex. https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2018 — Great invention JQI.

  • Dan Alpert is a staff member of CPA. He published the book “The Age of Oversupply” and in chapter 14 summarizes the principals of fair international trade. Not only fair but sustainable development in non-developed countries. “A Global System that Works”. He calls for an “International Clearing Union” that would require a “continuous trueing up of large-trade imbalances among fully sovereign independent currency-issuing nations.” Just what that is he can explain to you. Mercantilism is a policy to export unemployment to deficit-trade balance nations, and the result we see in the hollowing out of the U.S. manufacturing sector. His solution requires a new conceptualization of trans-national trade. I enjoyed this short video. I just read the chapter by Alpert and was looking for where he was writing. He had been with the Century Foundation, now he is with Coalition for Prosperous America.