Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Chart of the day

Posted: 21 August 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

student loans-per recipient

As evidence of the “coming student loan apocalypse,” Shahien Nasiripour provides data about the astounding growth in student loan debt. As you can see in the chart above, average federal student loan debt per borrower has risen more than 50 percent between 2007 (when it was $18,233) and 2014 (now $27,481).*


That’s what students (and their families owe). By way of comparison, in terms of ability to pay, what’s happened to workers’ pay in the United States during that same period? Well, it’s only gone up (in nominal, not real, terms) 16 percent (from $702.40 in July 2007 to $843.50 July 2014).

In other words, students and their families’ ability to service their student loans is falling further and further behind the amount of debt their forced to take on in order to pay for their education.

Something has to give. . .


*Total federal student loans have grown even more: by an extraordinary 112.5 percent over that same period.

student loans-total


Special mention

10592846_803015526398499_7620099498090850397_n mike3sept


Neil Irwin, Claire Cain Miller, and Margot Sanger-Katz have assembled a series of charts documenting America’s enduring—and, in many cases, growing—racial divide. I have reproduced some of them below.

One of the key pieces of information they don’t include has to do with incarceration rates. As you can see from the chart above (from the Pew Research Center [pdf]), African American men were 5 times more likely to be incarcerated in 1960 than white men (relative to the size of each demographic group)—a rate that grew to over 16.5 in 2010.

Here are the other charts:



higher education







Special mention

152465_600 August 16, 2014

And one more for good measure. . .



Of course, there’s a bidding war for Family Dollar Stores, one of the country’s biggest deep-discount retailers!

According to Richard W. Dreiling, Dollar General’s chairman and chief executive,

“It’s fair to say that the economy is creating more of our core customers,” he said. “The middle-income customer is getting squeezed.”

Dreiling’s view is confirmed by the latest report on household income trends from Sentier Research [pdf]. Their Household Income Index shows the value of real median annual household income in any given month as a percent of the base value at the beginning of the last decade (January 2000 = 100.0 percent). As readers can see in the chart above (red line), the index for June 2014 stood at 94.1 compared to 98.8 in December 2007, when the “great recession” began, and 97.0 in June 2009, when the “economic recovery” supposedly began. The index had increased unevely from August 2011 (the low point) to this summer.

What does it mean? In short, it means that average American households have been beaten down—and therefore have been forced to pinch pennies by purchasing at discount retail stores like Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General—and that their incomes, while far below their peak, have in fact been rising over the last few years—which means they are able to spend more of their pennies at those same discount retailers.

Clearly, as I’ve argued before, “there’s a lot of profit to be made in selling discount commodities to the low-income and falling-income American families whose numbers have grown over the course of the past three decades, and especially in the midst of the Second Great Depression.”


To listen to the leaders of American corporations, their lobbyists, and their friends in economics, U.S. corporations are losing out in the competitive battle with foreign corporations because they face tax rates that are much too high. Therefore, they are “forced” to engage in tax inversions unless and until corporate tax rates in the United States are lowered.

I’ve explained before (e.g., (here, herehere, and here) how actual corporate taxes are, in fact, much lower than the mjuch-ballyhooed statutory rate. But you don’t have listen to me. Let Edward D. Kleinbard, a professor at the Gould School of Law at the University of Southern California and a former chief of staff to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, explain how the United States tax code is not impeding global competitiveness. In fact, he argues, the opposite is true.

The recent surge in interest in inversion transactions is explained primarily by U.S. based multinational firms’ increasingly desperate efforts to find a use for their stockpiles of offshore cash (now totaling around $1 trillion), and by a desire to “strip” income from the U.S. domestic tax base through intragroup interest payments to a new parent company located in a lower-taxed foreign jurisdiction. These motives play out against a backdrop of corporate existential despair over the political prospects for tax reform, or for a second “repatriation tax holiday” of the sort offered by Congress in 2004.

The problem in the United States is not an anti-competitive tax structure. It’s that more and more of the surplus captured by American corporations, which could be taxed to pay for government expenditures, is beyond the reach of federal authorities. The result has been to shift more and more of the federal tax burden onto individuals—onto rich individuals, who like American corporations find all kinds of ways to shelter their income, and onto poor ones, who simply can’t pay any more than they currently are.

Something’s got to give—and American corporations, their lobbyists, and their friends in economics are working hard to make sure corporate profits remain in the hands of a few.


More than 4 out of 5 voters back Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to raise the minimum wage from the current $8.25 an hour to $13 over the next three years. (There’s also a statewide ballot in November to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour.)

living wage-Chicago

Just to put things into perspective, according to the Living Wage Calculator, the current minimum wage is less than the poverty wage for an adult with 2 children. And the proposal to raise the minimum wage next year to $9.50 an hour is still a dollar an hour less than a living wage for an adult with no children.

So, of course, the vast majority of people in Chicago support raising the minimum wage. It’s the least that can be done.


Special mention

bootsontheground_590_396 mike2sept

private employment

The Washington Post tries to put a positive spin on the recent pattern of job growth. However, the underlying study (from the National Employment Law Project [pdf]) offers quite a different view: even though jobs gains have recently accelerated in higher-wage industries, the imbalance of especially pronounced gains at the bottom and slow growth in mid-wage industries persists.

In particular, lower-wage industries accounted for 41 percent of employment growth from July 2013 to July 2014, outpacing both mid-wage industries (26 percent) and higher-wage industries (33 percent).

What that means is, today, lower-wage industries employ 2.3 million more workers than at the start of the recession, while there are now 698,000 fewer jobs in mid-wage industries and  522,000 fewer jobs in higher-wage industries.

occupational wages

And it gets worse: First, averaged across all occupations, real median hourly wages declined by 3.4 percent from 2009 to 2013. And, second, lower- and mid-wage occupations experienced greater declines in their real wages than did higher-wage occupations. While median wages in the two highest quintiles declined by an average of 2.1 and 2.5 percent, respectively, occupations in the bottom three-fifths saw median wage declines of between 3.6 to 4.6 percent.

That’s a lot of ground to make up. And no matter how positive a spin they try to put on it, we’re a long way from having achieved a recovery for most working people.



According to the United States Department of Agriculture, even as the unemployment rate continued to fall, fully 14.5 percent of U.S. households (17.6 million, or 49 million people) suffered from food insecurity at some time during 2012, a figure that was essentially unchanged from 14.9 percent in 2011.The prevalence of food insecurity declined from 11.9 percent of households in 2004 to 11.0 percent in 2005 and remained near that level until 2007. In 2008, the prevalence of food insecurity increased to 14.6 percent of households and was essentially unchanged at that level through 2012 (14.5 percent).

According to a new report from Feeding America [pdf], which provides food for 15.5 million households (or 46.5 million people) nationwide,

  • More than 12 million households are forced to eat unhealthy food because they can’t afford better-quality groceries. They risk adverse health effects that can make their financial plight worse.
  • 66 percent of households said they’ve had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care. Thirty-one percent said they had to make that choice every month.
  • 69 percent of households that rely on food charities to survive have been forced to choose between paying for utilities and paying for food.

Put in terms any mainstream economist would understand: the supply of food-insecure households in the United States creates a high level of demand for federal programs like the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and for the 58,000 food programs associated with Feeding America.

And still it’s not enough.