Good Season(al Adjustment)

By the time you read this, the big news is likely to be jobs. It hasn’t been a hot topic since the election, and most of what was said during that strange period wasn’t exactly true. The big job gains for February, along with a large round-up for January, make it impossible to ignore.

The economy has definitely turned around.

It’s all over but the shouting, of which there will be a lot. There is little doubt that Republicans will claim credit for a big turnaround in 2017, which will be utter crap. This has been a long time in the making and things have not been actually bad for a long time. Nevermind. Positive news will feed on itself and everyone will be happier.

But there is one final twist to the very good news – it’s really in the adjustment.

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GDP Catches Up

GDP is 1%. That’s terrible. Our country is dying at 1% GDP.

Donald Trump, Third Debate

One of the great things about debating political points today is that anyone who actually knows what’s going on has no idea where to start. Trump was referring to the real (inflation adjusted) growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which was lagging at the start of the year. But with a new number for the third quarter of 2016 showing a net 3.2% growth you have to wonder – What is this guy talking about?

The short version is that it bounces around all over the place. The long answer takes a lot of graphs. Welcome to Barataria, land of the long answer. Prepare for some hand waving.

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Three Views of The Economy

When the summer livin’ is easy, I enjoy sitting out on the porch with a few tunes.  Today’s lazing soundtrack was “Three Views of a Secret” by Jaco Pastorius as I went over some old posts to see if anything needed revisiting.  And this piece from July 2011 popped out as a debate that is still raging – but with some resolution.  It seemed to fit the tension that always builds in a Jaco piece.

Economists, as noted before, have widely divergent views about the economic situation and what should be done about it.  But the experiments that have been running through various economies are teaching us all a little bit along the way as to who may be right.  It’s worth revisiting.

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Growth is … ?

“Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”
– Kenneth Boulding

The figure for growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for the second quarter came in, and it wasn’t bad – 2.3%, and the revision to the first quarter was a positive if sluggish 0.6%. Like so many economic figures it’s not great but it’s also not bad. We’re still muddling through this year hoping to make it through to better times ahead.

But will there be better times? The Federal Reserve accidentally posted on its website, briefly, some internal estimates from their own economists that show that where 2015 and 2016 won’t be too bad, with growth in the 2.3-2.4% range, it may taper off after that. But can we expect better? Should we, for that matter, expect more growth from the economy?

Or is one of the big changes in this new economy a much lower growth rate than we are used to?

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What is Software Worth?

When is the value of something not its true value? When you’re adding up Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of course. That may sound ridiculous, given that the rise and occasional fall of GDP is the yardstick by which we measure how we’re doin’ as an economy. Isn’t it just the sum total of all the goods and services that we produce?

The short answer is “no”, but the long answer is “yes”. It depends a lot on what you mean by “goods” or “service” or “produce”. If that sounds like a huge amount of fudge for something so important, you may want to just enjoy the chocolate induced coma for a bit. Because some goods, like computers and software, have been falling in price but increasing in potential and quality dramatically for a while. Hardware is “hedonically adjusted” to take care of this, but software isn’t. And that difference might be extremely important.

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Inflation? Naw.

After years of low interest rates and quantitative easing that amounts to more or less printing $4.5T, it would be easy to predict that inflation is bound to rise eventually. More dollars means, by supply and demand, that they have to be worth less, yes?

But the opposite is happening as the US economy charges ahead as the strongest economy in the developed world. While we have stopped stimulating our economy, Japan and Europe are only accelerating their programs. The US is poised to lose the currency war with the strongest currency standing – and a guarantee of lower prices for a lot more than just gasoline in the near future.

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6 Myths About the Economy

If you pay attention to social media, or even just talk amongst your friends, you may have heard some awful things about the economy.  Many people, Republican and Democrat, are convinced that things are simply not improving.  The feeling tends to be stronger among Republicans, especially Tea Partiers, who believe that socialist policies are still killing us.  But the mood crosses party lines rather fluidly.

It boils down to six persistent myths about our economy today.  Some are based on old news, taken from horror stories from the depths of this depression around 2010.  Some are simply wrong.  But all of them reinforce the emotional reason why this is indeed a depression, a dark feeling shared across society.  It’s also rather wrong.  Let’s run them down.

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