Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ninety-Nine Percent

In the last 30 years the top 1% of Americans saw their real, after-tax  income increase nearly fourfold. And how about the "other" 99%? Look below (click to enlarge)...

One picture is worth a thousand words

The chart appears in an article in The Economist (Income Inequality in America:The 99 Percent), which includes the following passage:

...the data are powerful because they tend to support two prejudices. First, that a system that works well for the very richest has delivered returns on labour that are disappointing for everyone else. Second, that the people at the top have made out like bandits over the past few decades, and that now everyone else must pick up the bill.

Couldn't have said it better myself (and I don't frequently agree with The Economist).

The chart in The Economist article comes from a very interesting study done by the US Congressional Budget OfficeThe following chart is on its cover.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Battle For Europe

From all the news flow out there it appears to me that we are nearing a so-called "inflection" point in the European debt crisis.  After a summer and early fall of spinning wheels to no end, European leaders are faced with a stark choice: finally do something serious, or watch the entire euro structure fall apart with unimaginable consequence for the European Union as a whole.

There is a eurozone summit meeting this weekend, to be quickly followed by another one three days later on Wednesday.  If the Franco-German axis (no, I do not use the term lightly) does not reach a mutually satisfactory agreement on Greece, expanding the EFSF and bank recapitalization then the inflection will point straight down.

The Battle for Europe is, tragically, being fought by generals who are well out of their depth.  They created a continent awash in funny money and a population that for decades felt entitled to their comfortable - albeit debt financed - lifestyle. Oh yes, even the holier than thou Germans;  I mean, how else could  those "other" Europeans afford to buy millions of BMWs, Airbuses and Miele washers exported by Germany if not through debt?  It's not as if Kalamata olives or jamon Serrano have much value-added, after all. And vacations in Terremolinos, Rhodes or Costa Brava are on perennial all-inclusive, cheapest-is-best  offer...

 Let's Hope It Doesn't Come To This, Again

Europe desperately needs a whole new cadre of strong and decisive leaders who will turn things around.  Maybe the current ones will see the light and pave the way for them by gracefully bowing out, after taking whatever steps are necessary right now to forestall implosion. But, I'm not holding my breath..

Thursday, October 6, 2011

SNAPpy? Surely Not.

I occasionally look at the US Dept. of Agriculture data on food stamps (now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP) because, in my opinion, it provides a much better "on the ground" feel of the real economy.

It certainly doesn't look snappy.

As of July 2011 a record one in seven Americans, or 14.5% of the country's entire population, was receiving food aid.  That's far above the 9% mean over the last 30 years.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, died yesterday, age 56.  He was one of those very few people who changed the world for the better and who will always - and uncommonly - be remembered with admiration and fondness.

Have a Beautiful Trip Steve