Posts Tagged ‘chart’

harvard4

We already knew that Millenials are “generation screwed.” Now we know, thanks to the latest Harvard Public Opinion Project survey, that the majority (51 percent) does not support capitalism—and even fewer (just 19 percent) identify as capitalists.*

It also seems the members of Generation Y don’t see socialism as the preferred alternative (only 33 percent support it)—but at least those who have participated in Democratic primaries have been voting overwhelmingly for the democratic socialist candidate.

 

*A subsequent survey that included people of all ages found that somewhat older Americans also are skeptical of capitalism. Only among respondents at least 50 years old was the majority in support of capitalism.

01_percent_food_insecure_households

According to a new study by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Lauren Bauer, and Greg Nantz (citations omitted),

In 2014 more than 15.3 million children—or more than one in five—lived in a food-insecure household in the United States. This is a marked increase from the years prior to the Great Recession, when an average of 12.9 million children lived in a food-insecure household. . .

After the onset of the Great Recession all household types saw sharp increases in rates of food insecurity, with households with children experiencing the largest increase. From 1998 to 2007 an average of 15.7 percent of households with children, 10.8 percent of households overall, and 6 percent of households with seniors were food insecure. The average from 2008 to 2014 was roughly 4 percentage points higher for households overall and for households with children, and about 2 percentage points higher for households with seniors. These changes amount to millions more Americans living in food-insecure households. Despite recent improvements in the economy, food insecurity rates are still higher than they were prior to the Great Recession, potentially reflecting higher rates of poverty and increased costs of other necessities such as housing.

It’s been a spectacular recovery from the Great Recession for a tiny group at the top. For millions of the nation’s children and working-class families, well, it’s meant something quite different—including a great deal of food insecurity.

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According to a new report on the state of U.S. retirement by the Economic Policy Institute, many Americans rely on savings in 401(k)-type accounts to supplement Social Security in retirement. This is a pronounced shift from a few decades ago, when many retirees could count on predictable, constant streams of income from traditional pensions.

Almost nine in 10 families in the top income fifth had savings in retirement accounts in 2013, compared with less than one in 10 families in the bottom quintile. This reflects a growing disparity in the new millennium as the share of families with retirement account savings declined significantly for all except the top income group.

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According to a new report on the state of U.S. retirement by the Economic Policy Institute, many Americans rely on savings in 401(k)-type accounts to supplement Social Security in retirement. This is a pronounced shift from a few decades ago, when many retirees could count on predictable, constant streams of income from traditional pensions.

Nearly half of working-age families have nothing saved in retirement accounts, and the median working-age family had only $5,000 saved in 2013. Meanwhile, the 90th percentile family had $274,000, and the top 1 percent of families had $1,080,000 or more (not shown on chart). These huge disparities reflect a growing gap between haves and have-nots since the Great Recession as accounts with smaller balances have stagnated while larger ones rebounded.

 

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The headlines this morning are all reporting the same thing: suicides in the United States are climbing dramatically. The suicide rate rose 24 percent between 1999 and 2014 after a decade and a half of declines. Moreover, the increase accelerated to an average of 2 percent a year after 2006 from about 1 percent a year from 1999 through 2006. And, finally, the suicide rate also continued to climb in the first half of the 2015.

What the hell is going on?

According to Alex Crosby, chief of the surveillance branch of the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention,

Suicide rates have risen historically during difficult economic times, when job prospects diminish. The CDC tied increases in suicides to foreclosures on homes and evictions several years ago, he said.

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In fact, according to a 2011 study in which Crosby participated,

the overall suicide rate generally increased in recessions, especially in severe recessions that lasted longer than 1 year. The largest increase in the overall suicide rate occurred during the Great Depression (1929–1933), when it surged from 18.0 in 1928 to 22.1 (the all-time high) in 1932, the last full year of the Great Depression. This increase of 22.8% was the highest recorded for any 4-year interval during the study period. The overall suicide rate also rose during 3 other severe recessions: the end of the New Deal (1937–1938), the oil crisis (1973–1975), and the double-dip recession (1980–1982). Not only did the overall suicide rate generally rise during recessions; it also mostly fell during expansions. For example, the overall suicide rate posted the sharpest decrease during World War II (1939–1945) and the longest decrease during the longest expansion period (1991–2001); during both of these periods, the economy experienced fast growth and low unemployment.

There’s a clear correlation between capitalist downturns and U.S. suicide rates—both historically and in recent years.

Sure, people kill themselves with guns—and with drug overdoses and alcohol poisoning and by suffocating themselves. But we’re forced to have the freedom to kill ourselves by the suicidal instability of the way our economic and social life is currently organized.

 

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According to a new report on the state of U.S. retirement by the Economic Policy Institute, many Americans rely on savings in 401(k)-type accounts to supplement Social Security in retirement. This is a pronounced shift from a few decades ago, when many retirees could count on predictable, constant streams of income from traditional pensions.

As it turns out, nearly half of U.S. families have no retirement account savings at all. That makes median (50th percentile) values low for all age groups, ranging from $480 for families in their mid-30s to $17,000 for families approaching retirement in 2013. For most age groups, median account balances in 2013 were less than half their pre-recession peak and lower than at the start of the new millennium.

market concentration

Mainstream economists (such as Larry Summers and Paul Krugman) are clutching at straws to try to explain capitalism’s poor performance, especially the specter of low investment and slow growth—otherwise known as “secular stagnation.” The latest straw is monopoly power.

Even the Council of Economic Advisers (pdf) is focusing attention on the monopoly straw—although, like others within mainstream economics, they’re not at all clear why it’s happening.

there is evidence of 1) increasing concentration across a number of industries, 2) increasing rents, in the form of higher returns on invested capital, across a number of firms, and 3) decreasing business and labor dynamism. However, the links among these factors are not clear. On the one hand, it could be that a decrease in firm entry is leading to higher levels of concentration, which leads to higher rents. On the other hand, it could be that higher levels of concentration are providing advantages to incumbents which are then used to raise entry barriers, leading to lower entry. Or it might be that some other factor is driving these trends. For example, innovation by a handful of firms in winner-take-all markets could give them a dominant market position in a very profitable market that could be difficult to challenge, discouraging entry. Even though it is not clear whether or how these three factors are linked, these trends are nevertheless troubling because they suggest that competition may be decreasing and could require attention by policymakers and regulators.

While some on the liberal wing of mainstream economics have recently discovered increased concentration within the U.S. economy, they fail to credit the longstanding tradition outside of mainstream economics (e.g., within the Marxian critique of political economy) of analyzing the concentration and centralization of capital and the rise of “monopoly capital.”

Liberal mainstream economists simply have no theory of the contradictory dynamics of capitalism (one that can explain, for example, its recurring boom-and-bust cycles), much less a theory of the firm (other than hanging on to the fantasy of the social benefits of competition). That’s why they don’t have a theory of the causes and consequences of the rise of monopoly capital—nor, for that matter, do they indicate any knowledge of the criticisms of and alternatives to the theory of monopoly capital.

I’m thinking in particular of the work of Bruce Norton who, in a variety of articles, has identified some of the key problems in the theory of monopoly capitalism, especially the presumption that “capitalists always strive to increase their accumulation to the maximum extent possible.”* Norton draws particular attention to the wide variety of distributions of the surplus-value corporate boards of directors appropriate from their workers—not just in the form of dividends, but also “profit taxes, salaries of corporate supervisory managers, lawyers, financial and personnel officers, etc., [which are] equally central to the basic workings of the US economy and particularly aggregate demand.”

Each supports processes shaping in particular ways the social formation, the accumulation process, and the continued appropriation of surplus value, and each is a class process, a distribution of surplus labour. We need accumulation theory which takes pains (1) to identify all these various flows of surplus in a particular social formation and (2) to theorise their variegated inter relationships with other aspects of social life (including the continued extraction of surplus value).

That’s precisely what is missing from mainstream economics, including its liberal wing: a theory of the contradictory class dynamics of capitalist firms and of capitalism as a whole.

 

*See, e.g., his “Epochs and Essences: A Review of Marxist Long-Wave and Stagnation Theories,” published in 1988 in the Cambridge Journal of Economics, and “The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism and Classical Economics,” published in 1995 in History of Political Economy.