If Jeff Bezos walks into a bar, the average wealth of the bar’s patrons suddenly shoots up to several billion dollars — but none of the non-Bezos drinkers have gotten any richer.
.. Since the 1970s, however, the link between overall growth and individual incomes seems to have been broken for many Americans. On one side, wages have stagnated for many; adjusted for inflation, the median male worker earns less now than he did in 1979. On the other side, some have seen their incomes grow much faster than the income of the nation as a whole. Thus C.E.O.s at the largest companies now make 270 times as much as the average worker, up from 27 times as much in 1980.
.. similar disconnect between overall growth and individual experience seems to lie behind the public’s lack of enthusiasm for the current state of the economy and its disdain for the 2017 tax cut. G.D.P. numbers have been good in recent quarters, but much of the growth has gone to soaring corporate profits, while median real wages have gone nowhere
.. But how do facts like these fit into the overall story of economic growth? To answer this question, we need “distributional national accounts” that track how growth is allocated among different segments of the population.
.. Producing such accounts is hard but not impossible. In fact, the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman have already produced estimated accounts with considerable detail over the past half century. The main message is one of growth going disproportionately to the top and not shared with the bottom half of the population, but there are also some surprises in the other direction. For example, the middle class, while still lagging, has done better than some common measures indicated thanks to fringe benefits.
.. In a reasonable world, then, something like the Schumer-Heinrich bill would become law in the near future. In the real world, of course, the proposal will go nowhere for the time being — because Republicans don’t want anyone to know what distributional national accounts might reveal.
.. By now everyone knows that conservatives routinely yell “socialist!” whenever anyone proposes doing something to help less fortunate members of our society — which is a key reason so many Americans now think favorably of socialism: If guaranteed health care is socialism, bring it on. But the right doesn’t just cry foul at any attempt to limit inequality; it does the same thing whenever anyone tries to talk about economic class, or measure how different classes are faring.
.. My favorite example here is still former senator Rick Santorum, who denounced the term “middle class” as “Marxism talk.” But that was just an especially ludicrous version of a general attempt on the right to suppress talk about and research into where the economy’s money goes. The G.O.P.’s basic position is that what you don’t know can’t hurt it.
And to be fair, progressives like the idea of distributional accounts in part because they believe that more knowledge in this area would help their own cause.
For a second month in a row, annual inflation fully offset average hourly wage growth in June, leaving workers’ real hourly earnings flat from a year earlier despite falling unemployment and a generally strong economy. Production and nonsupervisory employees, a category which includes blue-collar workers, saw their real average hourly wages fall 0.2% in June from a year earlier after a similar slip in May.
.. While workers made up for higher prices by working slightly more hours per week, the stagnation of Americans’ purchasing power underscores questions about the extent to which workers are benefiting from an economy that by many other measures is booming.
.. “Wage growth remains surprisingly weak,” said David Kelly, chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, in a note to clients earlier this week. “The remarkable ability of firms to lure more workers back into the labor force and get stronger productivity gains from them without raising wages is a clear positive for profits.”
.. in June, Fed “participants generally agreed that the economic expansion was progressing roughly as anticipated, with real economic activity expanding at a solid rate, labor market conditions continuing to strengthen, and inflation near the Committee’s objective,” according to meeting minutes released last week.
Economists said Thursday’s data generally supported their view that inflationary pressures are gradually picking up.
.. The impact of those tariffs, should they take effect, won’t be negligible, economists say.
Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the goods subject to the proposed tariffs account for almost 6% of the core CPI, meaning that a 10% levy would lift the index by up to 0.6 percentage point.
.. “The Fed can’t stand back and ignore a hit of this size, given the tightness of the labor market,” Mr. Shepherdson said in a note to clients dated Thursday. “People will seek to be compensated for the squeeze on their real incomes as a result of higher prices, and their chance of being able to force employers to pay up is better now than at any time since the crash.”
If things go as planned, one day soon Chinese trains will pull into Kathmandu, Nepal, on a new railroad built to lessen the landlocked Himalayan country’s dependence on India.
.. It’s time to acknowledge that in raw economic terms China has comprehensively outpaced India. If winning regional influence depends on building ports and railroads abroad, or dazzling visitors with skyscrapers and broad boulevards at home, then India’s prospects look bleak.
Compared with China, however, India remains a bastion of free speech, minority rights and judicial independence. New Delhi ought to play to these traditional strengths by deepening them.
.. On Monday, China blocked HBO.com after comedian John Oliver ran a segment that discussed Mr. Xi’s alleged touchiness about his purported resemblance to Winnie the Pooh.
.. it wasn’t always a certainty that China would pull ahead. According to the World Bank, as recently as 1990 India’s per capita income ($364) was higher than China’s ($318). Paradoxically, China’s communists unleashed market forces more effectively than their democratically elected counterparts in India.
.. Four years ago, Mr. Modi looked set to enact the sweeping reforms India needs to eradicate poverty and catch up with China. But despite a few successes, such as a national goods and services tax and a bankruptcy law that makes it easier to exit a failed business, the Indian prime minister disappointed. He more resembles his lackluster socialist predecessors than a market-friendly East Asian leader.
.. India’s archaic labor laws suppress job growth by making it extremely hard to fire workers during a downturn.
.. With a per capita income of $8,100, the average Chinese is nearly five times as rich as the average Indian. The gap has widened over the past 10 years.
.. 48 of the world’s 100 tallest buildings are in China. None are in India.
.. the ruling Bharatiya has earned a reputation for intimidating reporters with massive lawsuits, pressuring media barons to sack unfriendly editors, and using lap-dog television channels and a vicious troll army to smear political opponents.
Millennials needn’t worry about retirement, Alicia Munnell, 75, writes, as long as they “are willing and able to work longer than their parents and grandparents did.”
It may not be surprising that younger Americans, who will largely be responsible for cleaning up the financial wreckage the boomers are leaving behind, are not particularly enthusiastic at the prospectof working longer and harder for the same quality of life enjoyed by previous generations.
.. the proximate causes of millennials’ financial difficulties, such as the Great Recession and the dot-com bubble: “Millennials entered the labor market during tough times.
.. The “good news,” as she calls it, is that retirement is a long way off and that simply by working into their 70s, millennials will be able to make up a lot of lost ground.
.. Between 1989 and 2016, the real median income of houses headed by people younger than 35 increased by just 4 percent. That’s just about enough to keep pace with overall inflation.
.. The problem is, however, that many prices have been rising much more rapidly than the pace of inflation. Prices are rising fastest for the things that are absolute necessities: Health care. Food. Housing. Education. Things you literally need to survive. As a result, households have to take on more debt to make ends meet.
.. By asking millennials to work to age 70 you’re treating the symptom, not the underlying disease.
.. Selling American elites, who tend to be older and wealthier, on the notion that the young just need to work harder is easy. But the idea that workers urgently deserve an across-the-board pay raise — a raise that would come, often, from higher payments from those same older and wealthier people — is a much tougher sell.