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Potshot at Progressive Economics Misses the Mark Print
Written by Dean Baker   
Monday, 27 June 2011 19:47
In his diatribe against progressive economics Rob Atkinson included the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in the list of institutions who he is attacking. I will let my friends at the Economic Policy Institute, the Levy Institute, Demos, and Center for American Progress argue their own cases, but Atkinson makes a number of mistakes that should be corrected.

First, his basic economic story is more than a bit confused. He is anxious to tout Germany and Japan as successes to contrast with the United States failure. While CEPR has put out numerous papers and articles over the years touting aspects of Germany's labor market policy along with that of other European welfare states (for example here, here, and here), and in particular its short work policy which has allowed Germany to actual lower its unemployment rate in this downturn, it's not clear that Germany and Japan have actually been successes in the way that Atkinson claims. Germany and Japan's productivity growth has consistently trailed that of the U.S. over the last 15 years. The gap is not huge, but it goes the wrong way for Atkinson's argument.

Germany and Japan do have large trade surpluses, as opposed to a trade deficit in the U.S., but this has a lot to do with informal protectionist barriers that presumably Atkinson does not want to see adopted in the U.S. The other major factor hurting U.S. trade is a dollar that is seriously over-valued, making U.S. goods uncompetitive. CEPR has written a great deal on this issue, arguing in numerous papers that the trade deficit will not be brought down to a manageable level until the dollar declines to a point where U.S. goods can be competitive in international markets.

Atkinson also seems not to like a vast body of research that indicates that growth is demand driven. Atkinson is right that this argument is getting old, but so is the theory of evolution. When he has some evidence showing that this research is wrong, I'm sure that he will have no problem getting an audience.

However, it is most bizarre to see Atkinson say that CEPR is not concerned about the supply conditions that foster growth. It would be almost impossible to look at our website without realizing that we deal with supply conditions all the time.

For example, we have written on alternatives to the incredibly inefficient patent system for supporting prescription drug research. In a free market drugs are cheap. As a result of patent protection, the U.S. Is projected to spend $3.7 trillion over the next decade on drugs. We could save close to 90 percent of this money ($3.3 trillion) if drugs were sold in a free market. Replacing the research currently supported by patents would cost us at most one-fourth this amount.

We have also proposed alternatives to copyright support for recorded music and videos, software, and even textbooks. The potential savings from ending copyright monopolies in these areas could easily exceed $100 billion a year.

We have also proposed a financial speculation tax which could raise close to $150 billion a year, while making the financial sector more efficient by eliminating tens of billions in transactions that serve no productive purpose.

We have also proposed expanding trade to subject highly paid professionals, like doctors, engineers, and lawyers to the same of international competition as autoworkers and steelworkers currently face. Patients could save themselves tens of thousands of dollars by getting major medical procedure in countries with more efficient health care systems. The government could save itself trillions of dollars if it let Medicare beneficiaries buy into the more efficient health care systems of countries like Canada and Germany. Unfortunately, when it comes to highly paid professional services Atkinson is an old-fashioned protectionist.

Atkinson would know that his caricature of progressive economists does not fit CEPR if he had ever looked at our website. Of course, anyone reading Atkinson's article would know there is a lot of material that he has not read.

One final point: it really is entertaining to be lectured about economics by someone who completely missed the stock and housing bubbles, the two largest asset bubbles in the history of the world.

 
Talk About Coincidence! Print
Written by Nicole Woo   
Friday, 24 June 2011 16:26

Yesterday CEPR released a new report about how work sharing can help prevent layoffs and reduce unemployment,  On the same day, both the Center for American Progress and the New America Foundation also published issue briefs about work sharing.

Really, it was a coincidence!  But is it a sign that work sharing is an idea whose time has come?

As "the first of our ideas that we believe could be achievable in Washington today," CAP's proposal provides context and analysis of how work sharing fits in today's political context.  It concludes:

Work sharing may not create jobs, but it will certainly help keep those who have a job at work if employers need to reduce hours. We’ve seen this policy work—very effectively—in other countries. And it’s a relatively simple (and cheap) way to reduce unemployment here at home. For workers and their families and for the broader pace of economic recovery, Congress clearly needs to consider these job-sharing ideas, and soon.

NAF's policy brief goes into more detail, looking at the effects of work sharing in OECD countries, with special focus on Germany and Canada, as well as in the U.S. states that currently have work sharing programs in place.

NAF_worksharing

Read more...

 

 
Labor Market Policy Research Reports, June 18-24, 2011 Print
Written by Jane Farrell   
Friday, 24 June 2011 15:58

The Center for Economic and Policy Research, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Demos, Economic Policy Institute, Employment Policy Research Network, and Political Economy Research Institute released the following reports on labor-market policy over the past week.


Center for Economic and Policy Research

Work Sharing: The Quick Route Back to Full Employment
Dean Baker


Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Tax Holiday for Overseas Corporate Profits Would Increase Deficits, Fail to Boost the Economy, and Ultimately Shift More Investment and Jobs Overseas
Chuck Marr and Brian Highsmith

Read more...

 

 
A Lesson on the Federal Reserve Board and the Deficit Print
Written by Dean Baker   
Monday, 20 June 2011 13:45
Let's take this great moment of national deficit hysteria to teach people a bit about the Federal Reserve Board and the deficit. The Wall Street types get very upset when the rest of the country thinks that they should have any influence over Fed policy. But the Fed is part of the government, which means until Goldman Sachs and J.P.Morgan suspend the constitution, the public through its elected representatives can tell Ben Bernanke and the Fed what to do.

One thing that the public could tell Ben Bernanke to do is to hold on to $3 trillion in government bonds and/or mortgage backed securities over the next decade, instead of selling these assets back to the public. This matters hugely for future deficits.

Although you will not hear it discussed in the Washington Post, the Fed refunds the interest it earns each year back to the Treasury. If it hold $3 trillion in bonds that earn an average interest rate of 5 percent a year (the Congressional Budget Office's projected interest rate for the longer term), this translates into $150 billion a year refunded to the Treasury. That would come to $1.5 trillion over a decade.

Read more...

 

 
Labor Market Policy Research Reports, June 7-17, 2011 Print
Written by Jane Farrell   
Monday, 20 June 2011 09:30

The Center for American Progress, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Employment Policy Research Network, and Political Economy Research Institute released reports on labor-market policy over the past week.


Center for American Progress

Partnering for Compensation Reform: Collaborations between Union and District Leadership in Four School Systems
Meg Sommerfeld


Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Camp-Hatch Proposal Would Harm Long-Term Unemployed and Weaken Recovery
Michael Leachman, Hannah Shaw, and Chad Stone


Employment Policy Research Network

Underemployment Problems Experienced By Workers Dislocated From Their Jobs Between 2007 and 2009
Joseph McLaughlin, Mykhaylo Trubskyy, and Andrew Sum

No Rights Without a Remedy: The Long Struggle for Effective National Labor Relation Act Remedies
Ellen Dannin

Why At-Will Employment Is Bad for Employers and Just Cause is Good for Them
Ellen Dannin

What We Owe Our Coal Miners
Anne Marie Lofaso

Economic Analysis of Labor Markets and Labor Law: An Institutional/Industrial Relations Perspective
Bruce Kaufman


Political Economy Research Institute

Employment Estimates for Energy Efficiency Retrofits of Commercial Buildings
Dr. Heidi Garrett-Peltier

 
Which Tax Cuts are Best for the Economy? Print
Written by Nicole Woo   
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 14:48

With much chatter over the past week about the White House suggesting an employer-side payroll tax cut to stimulate the economy and hiring, let's look at what CEPR's Dean Baker (currently on vacation) said about the Schumer-Hatch employer tax credit for new hires that was in effect for much of 2010:

There has been extensive research on the impact of the minimum wage on employment, almost all of which finds that the 15-20 percent increase in the cost of labor that resulted from recent increases in the minimum wage have led to no measurable decline in employment. If a 15-20 percent increase in the cost of labor does not cause firms to cutback employment, then we can’t believe that the 6.2 percent decline in the cost of labor from the Schumer-Hatch bill will lead to any noticeable increase in employment.

Recently, the Economix blog in the New York Times noted about this policy:

Congress passed a temporary job creation tax cut last year that does not seem to have been terribly effective.

Remember:  That tax credit was for the full 6.2% in payroll taxes paid by employers, while the current idea being floated is for a cut of only 2%, so we can assume the effect would be even more miniscule.

Are there tax cuts that could work better?

Does the phrase "Making Work Pay" ring a bell?  At the end of last year, the Making Work Pay tax credit ended.  As CEPR's Shawn Fremstad pointed out earlier this year, that policy was more progressive than a payroll tax cut, providing greater relative financial relief to low-income and disabled workers, who are more likely to spend any extra money in their pockets than those with higher incomes.

And there's an employer tax credit for work-sharing, another idea from Dean Baker. The Nation magazine this week calls it one of The Five Smartest Congressional Bills You've Never Heard Of:

Read more...

 

 
Rise in CPI Slows as Energy Prices Fall Print
Written by David Rosnick   
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 11:25

Energy prices fell in May, resulting in the slowest rate of increase in the Consumer Price Index since last November, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics' reports on the consumer price, import/export price and producer price indexes. Energy prices had increased 26.4 percent since last June and 42.5 percent since the end of 2008.  However, prices had fallen rapidly in the second half of 2008 and are now 8.3 percent below their July 2008 peak. In regards to the May numbers, while we should not expect a sustained fall, it seems that energy inflation is abating.

Nonagricultural export prices rose 0.5 percent in May and have now risen 7.0 percent over the past 12 months.  While fuel accounts for about 7.6 percent of this index, driving up prices over this period, the dollar has also fallen 8.8 percent in the last year.  Consequently, the price seen by purchasers of U.S. exports in local currency has fallen by 2.4 relative to May 2010. The effect of the fall in the dollar on trade prices has resulted in conditions favorable to a reduction in the trade deficit.  Though the immediate mechanism is slightly higher inflation, the possibility of increased exports and domestic substitution of foreign goods bring welcome opportunities for the U.S. economy.

For more, check out our latest Prices Byte.

 
A Different Kind of Stimulus Print
Written by Franklin Serrano   
Tuesday, 14 June 2011 15:36

Famous conservative economist Milton Friedman used to compare an expansionary monetary policy to the government (the Fed in this case) dropping dollar bills from a helicopter. As it is well known, that led many to call Ben Bernanke "Helicopter Ben" because of the large increase in the monetary base that he has presided over to prevent a more serious credit crunch and to save the big banks from themselves.

Nowadays many analysts, including Mr. Larry Summers, think that not much more can be achieved with expansionary monetary policy. The U.S. economy is badly in need of a new fiscal stimulus. There is a great economic, political and ideological debate over whether a new stimulus would be necessary, efficient and/or politically acceptable in the present circumstances.

Many conservatives are very much against a new stimulus, almost as much as they one day were in favor of the second war against Iraq. Perhaps it would be easier to convince them to support a new stimulus by reminding them of a little-known but quite interesting fiscal stimulus operation that happened during the Bush Administration.

It appears that during May 2004 the U.S. government sent to Iraq military cargo planes full of U.S. dollars in cash to help with the "recovery" of the Iraqi economy. It is reported that 21 flights of Hercules C-130 planes full of 100-dollar bills took place. The amount of the "stimulus" appears to have been something like 12 billion dollars. The money was distributed widely among U.S. "contractors" and Iraqi ministries. It seems also that of that money, about 6.6 billion dollars has vanished without a trace and remains unaccounted for even today.

Now that must have made the operation particularly stimulating, especially for American "contractors." It seems that it is time to relive this operation. Bring on the C-130 planes. Forget "Helicopter Ben." What we need now is "Hercules Geithner."

 
Labor Market Policy Research Reports, June 4-10, 2011 Print
Written by Jane Farrell   
Friday, 10 June 2011 13:33

The following reports on labor-market policy were released over the past week.

Employment Policy Research Network

Economic Analysis of Labor Markets and Labor Law: An Institutional/Industrial Relations Perspective
Bruce Kaufman


Political Economy Research Institute

Fighting Austerity and Reclaiming a Future for State and Local Governments
Robert Pollin and Jeff Thompson


Institute for Women's Policy Research

Pay Secrecy and Wage Discrimination
Ariane Hegewisch, Claudia Williams and Robert Drago, Ph.D.

 
Labor Market Policy Research Reports, May 7 - June 3, 2011 Print
Written by Jane Farrell   
Friday, 03 June 2011 12:15

Over the past month, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, Economic Policy Institute, Employment Policy Research Network, Political Economy Research Institute, and The Roosevelt Institute have released reports on issues relating to labor-market policy.


Center for Economic and Policy Research

Labor Market Policy in the Great Recession: Some Lessons from Denmark and Germany
John Schmitt


Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

Low Wage Jobs Dominate NYC Job Growth
John Petro

Read more...

 

 
Very Little Positive News in Latest Jobs Report Print
Written by Dean Baker   
Friday, 03 June 2011 09:45

The unemployment rate climbed back up to 9.1 percent in May, as the rate of private-sector job growth slowed to just 83,000, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics employment report. The prior two months data were also revised downward, lowering the average job growth for the last three months to 160,000, approximately 70,000 more than what is needed to keep pace with the growth of the labor force.

The weakness in the private sector goes along with a government sector that lost 29,000 jobs in May and has lost an average of 24,300 jobs over the last three months. State and local governments will continue to make cutbacks, and there is a strong likelihood of further cuts in federal spending in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Without new stimulus, the unemployment rate may continue to creep upward.

For more information, check out our latest Jobs Byte.

 
CEPR News May 2011 Print
Written by Dawn Lobell   
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 14:30

The following newsletter highlights CEPR's latest research, publications, events and much more.

CEPR on Greece and the Eurozone

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot wrote an op-ed that was published in the New York Times (CEPR’s first op-ed to appear in the print edition). The op-ed, titled “Why Greece Should Reject the Euro”, argues that Greece should at least consider leaving the euro. The op-ed received a great deal of attention from the press, including this blog post by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Krugman gives Mark kudos for suggesting that Greece consider abandoning the euro, but he stops short of endorsing the idea. Mark countered with this Guardian column, where he defends his position, stating: “Whether or not these countries decide to rethink the euro itself, simply reconsidering – in all of Europe – the right-wing economic policies of the eurozone authorities would be a big step forward for the region.” Mark also discussed the Greek debt crisis with Andrea Catherwood on Bloomberg Television's "Last Word", with Theo Caldwell on Sun News’ “The Caldwell Account,” and other programs.

Mark also published an article on solving the euro crisis that appeared in The Nation. CEPR Co-Director Dean Baker weighed in as well, penning this article on the European Central Bank.

Read more...

 

 
The AAPI Perspective on the Recession and the Recovery Print
Written by Nicole Woo   
Thursday, 26 May 2011 14:15

Yesterday, CEPR was honored to present some our research at the 2011 Asian American and Pacific Islander Summit, hosted by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and House Democratic Leadership.

CEPR's presention, titled The AAPI Perspective on the Recession and the Recovery (pdf), was part of the Summit's Economic Development and Housing Panel.

Our main points were:

1. AAPIs suffered just as much as other racial/ethnic groups in the recession.

2. Aggregate data about AAPIs mask remarkable diversity within the AAPI community.

3. “Good policy requires good data.”  There is a need for better disaggregated data about AAPIs.

4. CEPR will release a major report about AAPI workers in July.  This presentation is a preview of that work.

For example, the slide below shows that from 2006 (the year before the recession started) to 2009, the median income of AAPIs dropped about the same as other groups:

AAPI-HHincome

And this slide points out that, while the aggregate data show that AAPIs have the lowest unemployment rate, it actually masks a wide range of unemployment rates among AAPI ethnic subgroups:

AAPI-unemployment

Click here (pdf) to view the entire presentation.

 
Labor Market Policy Research Reports, May 14 - May 20, 2011 Print
Written by Sairah Hussain   
Friday, 20 May 2011 13:34

Several new labor market research reports were released this week:

Economic Policy Institute

We're Not Broke nor Will We Be
Lawrence Mishel

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Ryan Medicaid Block Grant Would Cause Severe Reductions in Health Care and Long-Term Care for Seniors, People with Disabilities, and Children
January Angeles

Institute for Women's Policy Research

Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Leave in the United States
Annamaria Sundbye, Ariane Hegewisch

National Employment law Project

An Assessment of Methods and Findings of the New York City Economic Developement Corporation's Living Wage Study
Sylvia Allegretto, T. William Lester, David Howell, Jeanette Wicks-Lim, Stephanie Luce, Robert Pollin, Michael Reich, Paul Sonn, Annette Bernhardt, James parrot, Michele Mattingly, Bettina Damiani, Brad Lander

Political Economy Research Institute

Conditions for Workers at Target: Estimates for a Proposed California Supercenter
Jeanette Wicks-Lim

The Roosevelt Institute

Dramtatic Job Revisions Bust Structural Unemployment Myths
Mike Konczal

 
Why Do Opponents of Social Security Have So Much Difficulty Getting Their Facts Right? Print
Written by Dean Baker   
Wednesday, 18 May 2011 11:24

The obvious answer is because it doesn’t matter. Those pushing for cuts in Social Security and the other big items on the right’s agenda can get the basic facts about Social Security, the budget and the economy wrong over and over again and it doesn’t in any way affect their standing in the public debate on these issues. One need only look at the career of former Senator Alan Simpson, who has repeatedly shown that he doesn’t have the most basic understanding of the finances of the Social Security system, yet is still seen as a respected voice on this topic.

In keeping with this “ignore the facts” approach, the Progressive Policy Institute recently released a paper by Sylvester Schieber telling readers that Franklin Roosevelt would be pushing large cuts in Social Security benefits for middle income workers. Schieber and the Progressive Policy Institute have been pushing cuts to Social Security for close to two decades so it is not exactly surprising that they would be trying to take advantage of the current hysteria around the budget deficit to push their agenda on this topic.

What is interesting is that in their eagerness to take money away from ordinary working people they showed even more disregard for the facts than usual. They referred to the Center for Economic and Policy Research as “a research arm of the AFL-CIO.”

Why would Mr. Schieber and the Progressive Policy Institute think that CEPR is a research arm of the AFL-CIO? CEPR lists our funders on its website, which clearly states that “CEPR does not receive any funding from corporations, unions, or foreign governments”.   Neither the AFL-CIO nor any individual unions appear on this page. Or, they could have looked to the 990 forms filed with the IRS every year. In fact, CEPR provides a link to our financial forms on the sidebar on nearly every page of our website.

It’s possible that Schieber and the Progressive Policy Institute live in some crazy fantasy world, but it’s more likely that they just assumed that because CEPR has been aggressive in telling the truth and confronting misinformation from Wall Street funded organizations, that it must be on the payroll of the AFL-CIO.

Read more...

 

 
Will the Cartagena mediation process help resolve the crisis in Honduras? Print
Tuesday, 17 May 2011 14:17
Many Latin America watchers were thrown for a loop last month when a bilateral meeting in Cartagena, Colombia between Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia suddenly metamorphosed into a trilateral encounter that included Porfirio Lobo, the controversial president of Honduras.  It was hard enough grappling with the image of Chavez and Santos, considered to be arch-enemies only a year ago, slapping one another on the back and heralding warm relations between their countries.  Now it appeared that Chavez had also warmed up to Lobo, the leader of a government that Venezuela and many other South American countries had refused to recognize since the coup of June 28, 2009 that toppled democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya.

Various media outlets were quick to suggest that, as a result of the friendly meeting, Chavez was prepared to back the return of Honduras to the Organization of American States (OAS).  Since Venezuela had been the most outspoken critic of Honduras’ post-coup governments, it seemed conceivable that in no time the country would recover the seat that it had lost by unanimous decision of the OAS’ thirty-three members following the 2009 coup.

But soon more details emerged from the meeting that suggested that there were still significant hurdles ahead for Lobo.  Chávez had not in fact agreed to support Honduras’ immediate return to the OAS.  Instead the three leaders had drawn up a road map for Honduras’ possible return with the direct input of exiled former president Mel Zelaya, who was reached by phone during the meeting.   As had occurred in previous negotiations, a series of conditions were put forward with the understanding that their fulfillment would open the door to OAS re-entry.

Read more...

 

 
Inflation Remains Low as CPI Rose 0.4% in April Print
Written by David Rosnick   
Friday, 13 May 2011 10:45

Core inflation remained low last month as the Consumer Price Index rose 0.4 percent in April and at a 6.2 percent annualized rate over the last three months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest report on the consumer price and the producer price indexes. A rapid increase in energy prices continues to drive headline inflation. Energy prices were up 2.2 percent last month and were at a 42.8 percent annualized rate over the last three months as they recovered from 2008, when they fell 35 percent in just five months. Energy prices currently stand at 7 percent below the peak in July of that year.

With core inflation remaining low and real hourly earnings flat or falling over the last six months, there is little general concern of rapid price increases.  (The average real wage has fallen 1.6 percent in the last two years.) As energy prices return to their 2008 levels, some slowing of headline inflation may result.

For more, check out our latest Prices Byte.

 
Labor Market Policy Research Reports, May 2 - May 6, 2011 Print
Written by Sairah Husain   
Friday, 06 May 2011 11:30

This week, we post links to reports from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Economic Policy Institute.

Center on Budget and Policy Prioirities

Ryan Medicaid Block Grant Would Cause Severe Reductions in Health Care and Long-Term Care for Seniors, People with Disabilities, and Children
January Angeles


Economic Policy Institute

Heading South: U.S.-Mexico Trade and Job Displacement after NAFTA
Robert E. Scott

 
Strong Job Growth Couldn't Push Unemployment Down in April Print
Written by Dean Baker   
Friday, 06 May 2011 10:30

Even though the economy created 244,400 new jobs in April, the unemployment rate returned to 9.0 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest employment report. Last month was the third consecutive month of job growth in excess of 200,000, with an average of 233,000 per month. While the growth is encouraging, the rise in employment last month benefited from one-time factors that will not be repeated, such as job growth for retail and restaurants inflated by the later-than-usual Easter.

The April rise in unemployment was almost certainly just a measurement error that partially reversed the extraordinarily rapid decline reported in December and January. Over the last year, the household survey shows employment growth of just 764,000 (adjusted for the change in population controls). This compares to an increase of 1,313,000 jobs reported in the establishment survey. We should have expected labor force growth of roughly 1,000,000 over this period. This implies that the job growth we have seen should have only led to a drop in unemployment of 0.2 percentage points, not the 0.8 percentage point drop we actually saw over the last year.

For more information, read our latest Jobs Byte.

 
Hours ... Seconds ... Whatever Print
Written by David Rosnick   
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 14:58

Over at Heritage, Diane Katz makes a tiny little error today in her piece on the regulation of energy use by appliances.  Arguing that the “standby mode” on microwave ovens consumes a minuscule amount of energy over the course of a year, Katz writes:

"But a typical U.S. household consumes about 11,000 KWh of electricity per year. Based on testing done by the department, a microwave oven in “standby mode” consumes an average of just 2.65 watts of power. On an annualized basis, that constitutes a mere .006452 KWh of electricity."

Indeed, 0.006452 kWh per year is not a large amount of power—merely 0.00006 percent of typical household consumption.  By comparison, 0.00006 percent of all federal spending ($3.7 trillion in 2011) comes to $2.2 million— about equal to seven minutes of spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ($159 billion).

Unfortunately, 2.65 Watts actually comes to 23.2 kilowatt-hours per year— a figure 3600 times larger.  Thus, a single unused microwave accounts for 0.2 percent of the annual electricity in the typical household.

If that still seems small, consider that 0.2 percent of all federal spending comes to $7.8 billion—a figure 87 times larger than the federal government’s funding of NPR ($90 million.)

UPDATE: Katz has corrected the error.

 
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