Sept 18, 2013 Balance of Payments Trends
Sept 8, 2013 August  Employment Situation
Aug 8, 2013 Why the FED is waffling on raising the FED Funds Target Rate
July 4, 2013 Cacophony of Monetary Policy
May 20, 2013 Clawing Back to 2007 Employment Levels
May 15, 2013 Getting the Income Distribution Right the First Time
Apr 25, 2013 U.S. Competitive Rebound? U.S. Emerging Nation?
Apr 9, 2013 Gaps: Jobs,  Growth, & Fiscal
Apr 5, 2013 Disastrous Jobs Report for March (March madness)
Mar 20, 2013 Federal Reserve Rolls Along
Mar 15, 2013 Feb 2013 Labor Rpt
Feb 12, 2013 Income Distribution-Separating Light from Heat
Dec 31, 2012 Fiscal Cliff --- Increased Spending
Dec 24, 2012 Fiscal Cliff---Rising Revenues with current tax cuts?
Dec 13, 2012 November Jobs Report
Nov 28, 2012 Regulation and the Financial System
Nov 17, 2012 Employment Escarpment - Moving the Jobs Needle
Oct 31, 2012 Update on Shale Gas and Tight Oil
Oct 11, 2012 Restructuring of an Industry: US Light Vehicles
Sep 4, 2012 Resuscitating the Moribund US Economy
August 4, 2012 Unemployment Rises Again
July 21, 2012 Misguided Fiscal Policy: Is it a case of fool’s gold, or the Consequences of Economic Ignorance?
July 6, 2012 Let Freedom  Ring!!! The Shale Gale
June 26 Productivity Macro
June 11, 2012 Painted into Corner
June 4, 2012 Encouraged Worker Effect
May 28, 2012 European Honeymoon Over
May 14, 2012 Back to Basics
May 4, 2012 Labor Force Participation Rate Shrinking
Apr 26, 2012 Income Distribution
Apr 15, 2012 Energy Independence
Apr 6, 2012 Jobs Jobs Jobs
2012 Articles March and Earlier
2011 & 2010 Articles
About us
Links of Interest
Straw Poll
Definitions & Miscellaneous

2012 Volume Issue 19

Economic Newsletter for the New Millennium

July 21, 2012

Donald R. Byrne, Ph.D.

Associate Editor
Edward T. Derbin, MA, MBA

For a downloadable version, click here

Fools Gold July 21, 2012.pdf

...a bit more compressed version of same

Fools Gold July 21, 2012 Compressed.pdf

Misguided Fiscal Policy: Is it a case of fool’s gold, or the consequences of economic ignorance?

A number of pundits have been telling the public that when the Obamacare becomes effective, many older workers will retire early and pay the health care penalty [tax] as Chief Justice Roberts insists it to be understood as, or continue to apply for permanent disability; and once either is achieved, their problems are solved, i.e., until they cross the scriptural bar to eternal life. 

Who really cares, if for example the Labor Force Participation Rate remains low or even decreases further?  Why does it matter if fewer people are in the labor force (Labor Force = Employed + Unemployed), as long as the unemployment rate falls (Unemployment Rate = Unemployed as a percent of the Labor Force)?

Hold on a minute!  

Let’s go back to Economics 101 and review the basics of coping with scarcity, which is why economic systems are formed in the first place.  Ideological rhetoric is fine for stirring up the masses but has shown it ends up causing a lot more serious problems than had existed when the revolution occurred.  It also results in tens, if not hundreds of millions of people like you and me being killed in the process.  In recent memory, there were the fascists and communists.  How about Nazi Germany and the communist Soviet Union for starters?  


BACK TO THE BASICS: a society copes with scarcity


All of us cannot have all we want of everything we want, aka, scarcity.  To produce the goods and services all of us want require the transformation of limited  productive resources that exist (labor, debt and equity capital, entrepreneurship, and land) in a process termed, production.

The nation’s Gross Domestic Product or GDP is the aggregate of market values for all goods and services produced during a period of time such as one year.  Note that we cannot and do not simply add the myriad of goods and services produced.  We can, however, aggregate or add the market prices of said goods and services.  That is the real meaning of one of the definitions of money; money as the unit of account

Unfortunately, the value of money changes as the price level or average of prices changes.  When prices on the average rise, it is termed inflation and reduces the real value of a nominal amount of money.  When prices on the average fall, it is termed deflation and increases the real value of a nominal amount of money.  To eliminate the changing value of money as the unit of account, the nominal GDP must be adjusted to arrive at the real GDP.   Using Real GDP is necessary to compare [Nominal] GDP and its changes over time. 

GDP includes the goods produced to replace the capital goods that have worn out or have become obsolete.  When this depreciation of the capital stock is netted out, what is left is called Net National Product or NNP and is available for current consumption (Personal Consumption Expenditures – PCE), Gross Private Domestic Investment (GPDI), Government Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment (GCE&GI) and Net Exports.  Imports add to the Net National Product and are available for these types of spending. 

Usually Imports of Goods and Services are netted from Exports of Goods and Services to arrive at Net Exports of Goods and Services (NEGS), often referred to simply as Net Exports which is equivalent to the term, Trade Balance.  When such exports exceed imports, it is called a trade surplus and when such imports exceed exports, it is called a trade deficit.


U.S. Trade Deficit: Good, Bad, or Irrelevant?
October 10, 2003



February 3, 2012


We can see the effects of Trade Balance deficits and surpluses in the following two graphs.

1-When the US imports goods and services from abroad, it increases its capacity to consume and accumulate capital goods.jpg

2-When the China exports goods and services to the US (abroad), it deccreases its capacity to consume and accumulate capital goods within China.jpg

That, the GDP, is the total pie of goods and services that our economy has to distribute.  If we want to grow the pie, we must either increase the productive resources, labor, debt and equity capital to finance the increased stock of capital goods, entrepreneurship, and exploitable land (natural resources and space) or increase the productivity of our productive resources by such things as investing in technological improvements and human capital.  

The cost of growing the economic pie is that consumption (both personal and collective) must be reduced to free resources for growing the economic pie (the measure of which is real GDP).  

Collective consumption (such as paying salaries for public safety, public officials, public school teachers, etc.) and collective investment (such as paying for the construction of a public road system that lasts for several years…hopefully) refer to government purchases and of goods and services plus government investment (currently called Government Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment (GCE&GI)). 


It is important that you understand the difference between Government Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment (GCE&GI) [again, it was formerly referred to as Government Purchases of Goods and Services (GPGS)] and Government Transfer Payments (GTP), such as Family Income Allowances.  The former is part of aggregate demand and is one of the sources of spending on the GDP.   The latter is a subsidy to households that increases households’ Disposable Income.  Both GCE&GI and GTP are financed either by government taxes or government borrowing.  To the recipient, a transfer payment benefit is NOT currently earned, that is, it is NOT the reward for the households’ [currently] supplying of productive resources in the transformation process called production.  Since they are paid for by government taxes or government borrowing, it simply reflects the fact that there are no true free lunches.  Somebody pays even if the recipient of the ‘lunch’ does not.  Also, remember that when government borrows to finance its spending that results in a tax burden for debt service (interest and retirement of debt).

3-Gross Federal Debt is scheduled to top 20 trillion dollars by the end of the 2016 fiscal year (September 2016).jpg

4-While the total debt has risen dramatically, interest expense has remained moderate...that will change if and when the interest rates rise.jpg

5-Outstanding Debt at the State and Local Level has risen in recent years.jpg



6-Interest payments are taking increasingly larger chunk out of State and Local Government Budgets.jpg

Total government spending is the sum of GCE&GI and GTP.  If the total of government spending exceeds government revenues, which are overwhelmingly taxes, a government budgetary deficit occurs.  This causes the outstanding government debt to increase.

7-The Federal Budget Deficit was shrinking from 2004-2006, but it has been on the grown since.jpg

8-In the past, State and Local governments often had budget surpluses but they have experienced significant deficits since the financial collapse in 2008.jpg

The following charts reflects the current figures related to the discussion above and in most cases contrasts them with earlier periods to show the changing picture.

Be sure to realize that interests rates are currently well below long-run averages as a result of the weak economy and the policies of the Federal Reserve Authorities.  This causes the understatement of the future burden of debt service of all governments.  It also should warn investors that when such interest rates eventually rise toward their long-term averages, it will trigger the realization of interest rate risk as the market prices of existing government securities fall, as well as those private sector debt securities.  This is due to the inverse relationship of the market prices of debt securities to interest rates.  The risk is lessened if the debt securities are adjustable, but they are a relatively small portion of outstanding debt securities.   

9-Personal Consumption Expenditures constitute the lion's share of Aggregate Demand (and GDP).jpg

10-Where Personal Consumption Expenditures have always been a large component of GDP since the financial collapse it has become even more important.jpg

11-Spending on Durable Goods has only just passed the 2006 level iin 2011 - this reflects the consumers inability to make larger expenditures on cars, appliances, etc.jpg

12-Investment took a huge hit as result of the housing collapse.jpg

13-Again Investment continues to underperform.jpg

14-Residential Investment was 762 billion dollars in 2006 - in 2011 it was 338 billion dollars - commercial has been flat.jpg

15-Government Spending on Goods and Services has continued to rise.jpg

16-Government Expenditures (as a percent of GDP) have fallen a bit but are well above previous levels.jpg

17-Federal spending on GCE and GI has increased by 32 percent since 2006 and State and Local spending has increased by 13 percent.jpg

18-Government Transfer Payments have continued to grow in spite (in part, because) of slower economic.jpg

19-Government Social Benefits - Transfer Payments - has grown enormously relative to the size of the GDP.jpg

20-Federal Transfer Payments have risen across the board especially in Unemployment Food Stamps and Tax Credits.jpg

If we want more collective consumption and investment or more transfer payments, which are funded by government taxes or borrowing, aggregate spending by the rest of the economy on goods and services must be reduced, including personal consumption.  This can only be avoided if the overall economy is growing sufficiently.  Unfortunately, many government spending policies are anti-economic growth in their effects, especially if the government attempts to fund them with tax rate increases. 


If we attempt to import more than we export to add to domestic production, our nation will incur a trade deficit and we will have to borrow from other nations to finance the trade deficit.  This is the major reason some European nations such as Greece and Portugal are facing default on their international debt.  Their debt burden is restricting personal and collective consumption and is the major cause of political unrest often leading to riots.  We have come close to it recently in some of the states in the Great Lakes’ region.


What happens when workers retire as the pundits tell us will happen in significant numbers as Obamacare gradually takes effect?  They will stop producing goods and services, and begin to liquidate their pool of retirement funds making debt and equity capital more scarce, etc.  In short, the size of the economic pie from which we all must obtain the goods and services we want, will necessarily shrink.  We are now experiencing increases in labor going into permanent disability status, also reducing the labor force participation rate.  We are beginning to look a lot like Europe.


Disability Ranks Outpace New Jobs in Obama Recovery


Posted 07/06/2012


“The economy created just 80,000 jobs in June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. But that same month, 85,000 workers left the workforce entirely to enroll in the Social Security Disability Insurance program, according to the Social Security Administration.

The disability ranks have outpaced job growth throughout President Obama's recovery. While the economy has created 2.6 million jobs since June 2009, fully 3.1 million workers signed up for disability benefits.”



This is the ultimate significance of any reduction in the Labor Force Participation Rate – whatever its cause: a shrinking labor force shrinks the size of the economic pie from which we all partake.


When the economic pie is NOT growing or even worse, when it is shrinking, those who receive more for whatever reason, i.e., a bigger slice of the economic pie, others will receive less; i.e., an absolutely smaller slice of the pie, not just a relatively smaller piece. 

This is the real meaning of the terms income redistribution.




Only if the economic pie grows and becomes larger, can we lessen this conflict.  With or without the rhetoric of redistribution, the conflict will occur.  Look at Greece and other European nations when they attempt to address the problems of income and wealth redistribution.  Do not take the lesson lightly.  For most of us, our roots are at least partly European; just the same, Africa, Asia, and South America, are not experiencing domestic tranquility, either.  Perhaps the penguins of Antarctica are the exceptions!


This website has presented in several newsletters, the reasons for income inequality.  Some are justifiable and necessary in coping with scarcity.  Others are not and on a per capita or average basis, and cause more scarcity rather than less.  Households (human beings) that supply more productive resources, including more hours per work year (sacrificing more leisure) or are more productive due to the sacrifice of embodying in themselves more human capital and supplying more of other types of productive resources such as debt and equity capital (savings), to the transformation process called production, earn and deserve more income as a result.  Households (human beings) that defer more consumption, i.e. save and take greater risks as they invest, earn more and in the context of commutative justice, deserve more.   And so it goes for all productive resources.  Equity is not equality!


However, when productive resources are emplolyed by firms that have market or monopoly power, for reasons we have examined in these newsletters posted on this web site, they can earn incomes that are excessive or inequitable.  As Shakespeare said, “Ay, there's the rub.”


This market or monopoly power means the firms or groups of productive resources such as labor unions, by reducing supply, can earn more than what is equitable.  Ill-conceived laws, or inept enforcement of even good laws that regulate the degree of competition in the product and productive resource markets, result in an INEQUITABLE income distribution.  It is more unequal than is needed and destroys EFFICIENCY as well; such market or monopoly power also tends to cause higher unemployment rates than would otherwise occur and tends to also to introduce into the economy, an inflationary bias bringing us periods such as occurred in the late 1970s.


If income redistribution is solely to reduce this excessive inequality arising from the exercise of market or monopoly power that results in inequities and inefficiencies, it is not due to capitalism but to the refusal to pass legislation to assure significant competition and/or to the inept, even if not corrupt, anti-trust authorities, legislatively mandated and well compensated to enforce the many laws on the books.


Referring to the timeless, Adam Smith:

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”



It is predictable, indeed the evidence is already beginning to appear, that redistribution schemes that fail to distinguish between EQUITY and EQUALITY will initiate economic meltdowns.  We must promote competition to prevent excessive inequalities and inequity in the distribution of income from happening in the first place and the need for redistribution will diminish significantly.

Before you act rashly and assume your lunch will be paid for by others, remember that when the problems mount from ill-conceived redistribution schemes, some will have to be thrown under the bus.  A word to the wise should be sufficient.

It is always easier to lock the barn door so the horse does not run away than to give chase to the horse pursuing its self interest.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  

Pearls of wisdom spoken by those of the past

1. We are ignorant of history or we ignore the lessons of history and as George Santayana warned us: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

2.  Recall the words of Alexis de Tocqueville: “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

3.  Reconsider the words of Margaret Thatcher: “"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.” 

4.  Or is political chaos inevitable when elected representatives are so generously compensated and desire to be elected for life and political campaigns cost in the billions of dollars. 

“And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Lord Acton (John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton)

5.  Perhaps it is all of the above.


Please God, bless America.

The following charts address some of the issues examined above.

21-Real GDP has rebounded since 2009 but it slipped in 2011 and continues to underperform in 2011.jpg

22-Civilian Noninstitutional Population continues to rise adding more potential people for the workforce to backfill the departing baby-boomers.jpg

23-the fall-of in the Civilan Labor Force illustrates the discouraged workers giving up on seeking employment and simply leaving the workforce.jpg

24-Rising ranks of those Not in the Labor Force further illustrates the problem of people simply being unable to secure jobs-retiring early-seeking disability-or giving up hope.jpg

25-the collapse in Real GDP is even clearer when you attach it to people on a per capita basis - in this case it is shown relative to the Civilian Noninstitutitonal Population.jpg

26-breaking the Real GDP down in relation to the Labor Force shows how the GDP per person in the Labor Force has actually surpassed the 2008 level.jpg

27-Last in the series shows how income levels have become so skewed - with so many fewer people employed - the GDP ratio has actually risen in this group.jpg

28-2008 Labor Force Participation Rate of 66 percent.jpg

29-2009 Labor Force Participation Rate falls to 65.4 percent.jpg

30-2010 Labor Force Participation Rate of 64.7 percent.jpg

31-2011 Labor Force Participation Rate of 64.1 percent.jpg

32-Before 2009-2011 the last time the Labor Force experienced a NEGATIVE annual change was 1950-1951.jpg

33-While the Noninstitutional Population has fluctuated a bit it is still expanding - the Labor Force has gone into negative territory from 2009-2011.jpg