Archive for May, 2015

Chart of the day

Posted: 31 May 2015 in Uncategorized
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Chiraq” has reported 120 killings through the end of April of this year. That’s up from the 105 homicides reported in the first four months of 2014.

In April, the victims were predominantly black, from the south side, young, and died from gunshot wounds. They were also increasingly female.

Chiraq

Posted: 31 May 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Chicago-homicides

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Apparently, some folks in Chicago are upset by the working title of Spike Lee’s new film: “Chiraq.”

Local politicians have lined up against the title. Mr. Lee has been confronted by Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who told him in a meeting last month that he was “not happy” about the name.

An alderman from the South Side, William Burns, was so perturbed by the title that he angrily suggested that Mr. Lee, the renowned director of films like “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X,” should not get the $3 million tax credit that he is seeking for filming here.

And even on the city’s crime-plagued South and West Sides, where most of Chicago’s gang warfare occurs, some residents who are accustomed to seeing, hearing and reading about violence said they had mixed feelings about a movie starring their city called “Chiraq.”

What else would you call a film about a city that has averaged 441 murders and 2577 shooting victims for the past four years?

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Special mention

E7BACEDA-37C9-4968-A795-7531B41582D5_590_392 www.usnews

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Special mention

www.usnews cjones05262015

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Stuart M. Butler thinks we’re being distracted by the Great Gatsby curve (which, remember, posits a positive relationship between income inequality and income immobility).

I agree—but for very different reasons.

Butler’s argument is that we’re focusing too much on inequality instead of mobility, that is, finding ways to move people at the bottom (characterized by “high school dropouts, pitiful savings rates, and the problem of children parenting children”) up the income ladder.

The problem, of course, is, even if some individuals succeed (within or between generations) in moving up the ladder, the existence of the ladder and the growing gap between rungs on the ladder mean we’re still faced with the fundamental problem of grotesque levels of inequality. The only change (if upward and, with it, downward mobility increase) is different people occupy those highly unequal positions, that is, a highly unequal society remains.

It’s a bit like the problem with Paul Samuelson’s famous statement (in “Wages and interest: a modern dissection of Marxian economics,” American Economic Review 47 [1957], 894): “Remember that in a perfectly competitive market, it really does not matter who hires whom; so have labor hire capital.”

The fact is, if labor and capital changed sides, and labor hired capital, it would still be the case that capital and labor occupy different positions in capitalist production: labor receives wages in exchange for their ability to work, while capital gets the profits produced by the laborers.

So, we can either focus on who occupies which rung in the distribution of income (or who hires whom in the capital-labor relationship) or we can focus instead on the obscenely and increasingly unequal distribution of income (and the fact that, in the existing capital-labor relationship, the capital share is growing while the labor share is declining).

If we don’t focus on the real problems of inequality and class, we’ll just continue to be distracted by the Great Gatsby curve.

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I’ve illustrated and discussed lots of different “gaps” on this blog: between productivity and wages, between the top 1 percent and everyone else, and so on. All of them point to growing inequality in the United States.

But here’s another one we should be concerned about: the growing gap between mean and median family income. As the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis explains,

The graph above shows real family income in the United States in constant (2013) dollars. The mean is the average across all families. The median identifies the family income in the middle of the sample for every year: half of incomes are higher, half are lower. We quickly learn three things from this graph: 1. Family income has been growing much more slowly since the 1970s. 2. There are several episodes of declining income, and they become increasingly long and deep. 3. Median and mean incomes are diverging.

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The growing gap in family income can be mostly easily seen in the chart above, in which the mean is divided by the median. As is immediately evident, this ratio has steadily increased over many decades (and many presidential administrations, both Republican and Democrat), with a dramatic jump from 1992 to 1993 (the last year of Bush the Elder’s presidency).

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The U.S. economy (measured in terms of total output or GDP) shrank in the first quarter of 2015—declining by 0.7 percent, which overturned the preliminary estimate of an increase of 0.2 percent that was reported last month.

But corporate profits (after tax, without inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments) continued to rebound, rising 3.1 percent in the first quarter of 2015 from the fourth quarter of 2014, after falling 3 percent in the prior period. Even more dramatic, profits were up 9.2 percent from the same quarter a year earlier, the biggest increase since 2012.

Given the reported decline in economic growth, we can expect renewed debate about the statistical quirks in government data (having to do with seasonable adjustments and the like). But the real debate should be about the fundamental unevenness of the current recovery—with corporate profits soaring and everyone else being left behind.