Tag Archives: USA

9,2% | Bloomberg oppsummerer konsensus på ØKT ledighet i USA. 9,2%, opp 0,1%png.

Calculated Risk gir oss svake nyheter (ikke for første gang):

On Friday the BLS (Bureau of Labour Statistics) will release the September Employment Situation Summary at 8:30 AM ET. Bloomberg is showing the consensus is for an increase of 65,000 payroll jobs in September, and for the unemployment rate to increase to 9.2% from 9.1% in August.

Overall the economic data for September was fairly weak, though mostly better than in August. The BLS reported zero jobs added in August, so «better» doesn’t mean much. Of course, the Verizon labor dispute subtracted 45,000 payroll jobs in August, and these jobs will be added back in the September report. So better means more than 45,000.

CR oppsummerer amerikanske data her.

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Smil og vær glad | Høydepunkter fra Bernankes snarvisitt til Kongressen (og han ser ikke lyst på ting.)

For dere som har The Federal Reserve liggende i favoritter, gratulerer din nerd. For alle andre tar vi en titt på Bernanke sin siste tale, nemlig den til Kongressen idag, 4. oktober. Han starter med det positive i første paragraf:

There have been some positive developments: The functioning of financial markets and the banking system in the United States has improved significantly. Manufacturing production in the United States has risen nearly 15 percent since its trough, driven substantially by growth in exports; indeed, the U.S. trade deficit has been notably lower recently than it was before the crisis, reflecting in part the improved competitiveness of U.S. goods and services. Business investment in equipment and software has continued to expand, and productivity gains in some industries have been impressive. Nevertheless, it is clear that, overall, the recovery from the crisis has been much less robust than we had hoped.

Og der var det over. 110 ord med positivitet, og velkommen til murveggen.

Husholdningene:

Consumer behavior has both reflected and contributed to the slow pace of recovery. Households have been very cautious in their spending decisions, as declines in house prices and in the values of financial assets have reduced household wealth, and many families continue to struggle with high debt burdens or reduced access to credit. Probably the most significant factor depressing consumer confidence, however, has been the poor performance of the job market.

Jobbmarkedet:

Over the summer, private payrolls rose by only about 100,000 jobs per month on average–half of the rate posted earlier in the year.1 Meanwhile, state and local governments have continued to shed jobs, as they have been doing for more than two years. With these weak gains in employment, the unemployment rate has held close to 9 percent since early this year. Moreover, recent indicators, including new claims for unemployment insurance and surveys of hiring plans, point to the likelihood of more sluggish job growth in the period ahead.

Boligmarkedet:

The housing sector has been a significant driver of recovery from most recessions in the United States since World War II. This time, however, a number of factors–including the overhang of distressed and foreclosed properties, tight credit conditions for builders and potential homebuyers, and the large number of «underwater» mortgages (on which homeowners owe more than their homes are worth)–have left the rate of new home construction at only about one-third of its average level in recent decades.

Finansmarkedet:

In the financial sphere, as I noted, banking and financial conditions in the United States have improved significantly since the depths of the crisis. Nonetheless, financial stresses persist. Credit remains tight for many households, small businesses, and residential and commercial builders, in part because weaker balance sheets and income prospects have increased the perceived credit risk of many potential borrowers. We have also recently seen bouts of elevated volatility and risk aversion in financial markets, partly in reaction to fiscal concerns both here and abroad. Domestically, the controversy during the summer regarding the raising of the federal debt ceiling and the downgrade of the U.S. long-term credit rating by one of the major rating agencies contributed to the financial turbulence that occurred around that time.

Gjeld og Europa:

Outside the United States, concerns about sovereign debt in Greece and other euro-zone countries, as well as about the sovereign debt exposures of the European banking system, have been a significant source of stress in global financial markets. European leaders are strongly committed to addressing these issues, but the need to obtain agreement among a large number of countries to put in place necessary backstops and to address the sources of the fiscal problems has slowed the process of finding solutions.

Den amerikanske staten:

Another factor likely to weigh on the U.S. recovery is the increasing drag being exerted by the government sector. Notably, state and local governments continue to tighten their belts by cutting spending and employment in the face of ongoing budgetary pressures, while the future course of federal fiscal policies remains quite uncertain.

Inflasjon:

Prices of many commodities, notably oil, increased sharply earlier this year, as I noted, leading to higher retail gasoline and food prices. In addition, producers of other goods and services were able to pass through some of their higher input costs to their customers. Separately, the global supply disruptions associated with the disaster in Japan put upward pressure on prices of motor vehicles. As a result of these influences, inflation picked up during the first half of this year; over that period, the price index for personal consumption expenditures rose at an annual rate of about 3-1/2 percent, compared with an average of less than 1-1/2 percent over the preceding two years.

As the FOMC anticipated, however, inflation has begun to moderate as these transitory influences wane. In particular, the prices of oil and many other commodities have either leveled off or have come down from their highs, and the step-up in automobile production has started to reduce pressures on the prices of cars and light trucks. Importantly, the higher rate of inflation experienced so far this year does not appear to have become ingrained in the economy. Longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable according to surveys of households and economic forecasters, and the five-year-forward measure of inflation compensation derived from yields on nominal and inflation-protected Treasury securities suggests that inflation expectations among investors may have moved lower recently. In addition to the stability of longer-term inflation expectations, the substantial amount of resource slack in U.S. labor and product markets should continue to restrain inflationary pressures.

Merk at Bernanke bruker to hele paragrafer til å adressere inflasjon.

Finanspolitkk:

I would submit that, in setting tax and spending policies for now and the future, policymakers should consider at least four key objectives. One crucial objective is to achieve long-run fiscal sustainability. The federal budget is clearly not on a sustainable path at present. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, formed as part of the Budget Control Act, is charged with achieving $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction over the next 10 years on top of the spending caps enacted this summer. Accomplishing that goal would be a substantial step; however, more will be needed to achieve fiscal sustainability.

Dette er det langsiktige argumentet for budsjettene, i neste paragraf kommer det kortsiktige:

A second important objective is to avoid fiscal actions that could impede the ongoing economic recovery. These first two objectives are certainly not incompatible, as putting in place a credible plan for reducing future deficits over the longer term does not preclude attending to the implications of fiscal choices for the recovery in the near term. Third, fiscal policy should aim to promote long-term growth and economic opportunity. As a nation, we need to think carefully about how federal spending priorities and the design of the tax code affect the productivity and vitality of our economy in the longer term. Fourth, there is evident need to improve the process for making long-term budget decisions, to create greater predictability and clarity, while avoiding disruptions to the financial markets and the economy. In sum, the nation faces difficult and fundamental fiscal choices, which cannot be safely or responsibly postponed.

En liten digresjon, men en relevant en, hvis jeg kan. På CNN sine nettsider kunne du idag lese en artikkel skrevet av Alan Blinder (økonom i Clinton-adm.) og Glenn Hubbard (økonom i Bush-adm.) som tar for seg områder innen finanspolitikken hvor republikanere og demokrater kan enes.

Tilbake til Bernanke og den obligatoriske linjen i slutten av innlegget:

The Committee will continue to closely monitor economic developments and is prepared to take further action as appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability.

Siste paragraf:

Monetary policy can be a powerful tool, but it is not a panacea for the problems currently faced by the U.S. economy. Fostering healthy growth and job creation is a shared responsibility of all economic policymakers, in close cooperation with the private sector. Fiscal policy is of critical importance, as I have noted today, but a wide range of other policies–pertaining to labor markets, housing, trade, taxation, and regulation, for example–also have important roles to play. For our part, we at the Federal Reserve will continue to work to help create an environment that provides the greatest possible economic opportunity for all Americans.

(panacea = mirakelkur)

Som alltid er Bernankes innlegg litt som å lese i kaffegrut. Men noe av det som skiller seg ut er hans fokus på inflasjon og finanspolitikken. Inflasjonen en selvfølge, finanspolitikken et ønske om aksjon.

Dette er så nærme Bernanke har kommet til ‘få ut fingeren nå’ til Kongressen, noensinne:

[…], as putting in place a credible plan for reducing future deficits over the longer term does not preclude attending to the implications of fiscal choices for the recovery in the near term.

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Strukturell ledighet, part deux. Friksjon baby!

Screen shot 2011 09 03 at 01 44 13
I forhold til den forrige posten må du ikke tro at det dermed er sagt at alle deler konklusjonene nådd. Ved The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond (USA) (pdf) er de bekymret for at det kan utvikle seg strukturelle endringer i arbeidsmarkedet slik at hvis man ikke observerer økt friksjonsledighet akkurat nå, tilsier den kvikksanden de arbeidsledige befinner seg i akkurat nå at det kan oppstå friksjoner i de neste årene:

Long-term unemployment rose dramatically during the recent recession and remains elevated. A primary cause may be the fact that more workers with inherently low job finding rates have become unemployed. This would suggest that the natural rate of unemployment has increased, and that additional monetary stimulus may have only a limited effect on reducing unemployment.

Merk at

Long-term unemployment rose dramatically during the recent recession and remains elevated….This would suggest that the natural rate of unemployment has increased…

ikke akkurat er det mest definitive språket man bruker i økonomi. ‘This would suggest’ river ingen av hesten!

Alle disse argumentene kan man bruke for å argumentere for at sentralbanken ikke trenger å gjøre mer for de arbeidsledige, rett og slett fordi det ikke vil fungere. Friksjonsledighet kan ikke sentralbanken fikse.

Men husk at ikke alt er friksjonsledighet og at man trenger også grep for de andre ‘vanlige’ ledige.

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Strukturell ledighet, hva er det og hvorfor er det viktig å vite om dette? (nerdete)

Screen shot 2011 09 03 at 00 36 08
Denne artikkelen ble presentert under årets EEA (European Economic Association) konferanse i Oslo og er skrevet av Furlanetto (Norges Bank) og Groshenny (Sentralbanken i New Zealand, kjent som en av de mest uavhengige sentralbankene i ‘le monde’). (Kommer tilbake med flere blogposter om andre artikler jeg har lest).

Vi begynner med denne fordi artikkelen svarer på et spørsmål og metodene brukt er helt normale modeller (med de forutsetningene og forbeholdene som følger, ikke spør.)

I teorien finnes det noe som heter en ‘naturlig arbeidsledighetsrate’ (natural rate of unemployment) Du kan tenke på denne raten som det nedre gulvet i ledigheten, noen vil alltid gå ledig men samtidig være del av arbeidsstyrken. Akkurat som man snakker om et ‘naturlig rentenivå’. Noen ganger vil ledigheten/renten være unaturlig lav, noen ganger vil den være unaturlig høy. Det må derfor eksistere en naturlig rate ett sted, sant?

Her er dilemmaet:

If the high rate of unemployment observed in the US in recent years is due to a shortfall of aggregate demand, monetary policy (and perhaps fiscal policy) can play a constructive role. Instead, if structural factors are driving unemployment dynamics, monetary policy is not the appropriate tool and more targeted labor market policies could be more effective

Det er altså ulike tilstander i arbeidsstyrken, ledige vil jobbe, men finner ikke jobber. Firmaer har jobber men finner ingen ansatte, hvorfor? Og i noen tilfeller vil pengepolitikk fungere, i andre tilfeller fungere ikke fullt så mye.

Hvis du ikke er særlig interessert i metodene brukt i artikkelen, les introduksjonen og konklusjonen, du får masse ut at det.

Måten man svarer på om den naturlige ledighetsraten har endret seg under finanskrisen er å bruke en modell for en økonomi (vi kaller de Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium modeller), rett og slett ett sett med likninger som beskriver verden man lever i, og så sjokkerer vi modellen med de sjokkkene vi opplever i virkeligheten og i dette tilfellet prøver vi å reversere ut hva modellen sier den naturlige raten er, sammenliknet med de faktiske ratene over tid. Faktisk så bruker forfatterne kvartalstall fra 1985 og helt fram til 2010Q1.

Før jeg forteller deg konklusjonen i artikkelen, og svaret på spørsmålet over, legger jeg ved denne:
Screen shot 2011 09 03 at 01 24 54
Dette er figur 2, side 16 i artikkelen og viser kilder til ledighetssvingningene i 2000-2010.

Ok, her er konklusjonen:

We estimated a DSGE model with nominal rigidities and search and matching frictions. Our main result is that the large increase in unemployment in the aftermath of financial crisis is entirely driven by fluctuations in rationing unemployment. Therefore, according to our model, monetary and fiscal policy have a lot to play to counter the large shortfall in aggregate demand, in keeping with views proposed by Krugman (2010) and Bernanke (2010).

Hittil er der normale friksjoner i økonomien som kan forklare arbeidsledigheten, altså ‘rationing unemployment’. De vanlige grunnene til at arbeidere blir arbeidsløse i dårlige tider.

Forfatterne finner lite bevis for ‘frictional unemployment’, altså uvanlige hindere til arbeidsledigheten. Om det være geografiske, eller evner eller andre mismatch faktorer.

Forfatterne tar forbehold. Dette er et ‘working paper’ og det gjenstår tre ulike utvidelser av artikkelen.

Uansett er dette interessant, og den forrige Nobelprisen* i økonomi (*teknisk sett en minnepris, ikke blant de opprinnelige kategoriene) gikk til arbeidsmarkedsøkonomer spesielt.

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Nothing from nothing leaves nothing. Ingen netto jobber ble skapt i USA august.

Det er en ting som er verre enn å forvente dårlige nyheter – å faktisk få dårlige nyheter:
EmployPopAug2011

Dagens dårlige nyheter kom i form av sysselsettingstall fra Bureau of Labour Statistics:

Nonfarm payroll employment was unchanged (0) in August, and the unemployment
rate held at 9.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Employment in most major industries changed little over the month. Health
care continued to add jobs, and a decline in information employment reflected
a strike. Government employment continued to trend down, despite the return
of workers from a partial government shutdown in Minnesota.

Så antall offentlige ansatte er på en nedadgående trend, men private jobber klarer ikke å skape nok jobber for å skape ett netto positivt resultat.

Her er ledighetstallene sortert på gruppe (disse er verdt å huske):

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (8.9
percent)
, adult women (8.0 percent), teenagers (25.4 percent), whites
(8.0 percent)
, blacks (16.7 percent), and Hispanics (11.3 percent) showed
little or no change in August. The jobless rate for Asians was 7.1 percent,
not seasonally adjusted.

Legg spesielt merke til ledigheten til de unge, 25,4%. Forferdelig demotiverende for unge sjeler å 1) ikke ha jobb, 2) gå på trygd og 3) ikke ha noen lyse utsikter.

(Jeg kommer tilbake til strukturell ledighet og ny forskning som viser at den ikke har endret seg.)

I tillegg kommer nedjusterte tall for juli:

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised from
+46,000 to +20,000, and the change for July was revised from +117,000 to
+85,000.

Denne sysselsettingsrapporten legger seg på toppen av dårlige nyheter som både finanspolitikken og pengepolitikken skal ta hensyn til. Hvordan tenker f.eks en sentralbank?

Sentralbank og algebra

NewImage.jpg
Likningen over viser hvordan sentralbanker tradisjonelt tenker. Når økonomien avviker fra langsiktig trend betyr det at sentralbanken opplever ett tap. Dette gjelder både når det går bra og når det går dårlig. Det liker ikke sentralbanker og, som i Norge, skulle de ønske at inflasjonen lå på 2% (i USA)/2,5% (i Norge) hele tiden. L er derfor loss. Dette er et minimeringsproblem, dvs. at venstresiden (altså tapet ved å avvike fra trend) bør være minst mulig og hvordan skal kan sette renta i en slik situasjon. Du kan se av høyresiden hva som forårsaker slike tap. Når inflasjonen, π avviker fra π-trend opplever sentralbanken tap. Når produksjonen, y avviker fra y-trend, opplever sentralbanken tap. ‘i’ i dette tilfellet er avvik fra kjente rentesettingsregler. Ikke tatt med i likningen er f.eks. utenlandsk rente, utenlandsk etterspørsel, valutakurs osv. osv. Men det er slik en sentralbank tenker og som regel er det de to første faktorene på høyresiden som er viktigst, inflasjon og produksjon. Og produksjon er tett knyttet til sysselsettingen, og med en ledighet på 9,1% er dette avviket langt unna trend på 5%-6%.

Hvis man også trekker inn Okuns lov i dette (hvor mye produksjonen må øke for å redusere ledigheten med ett prosentpoeng), ligger den på 0,4-0,5. Altså, hvis produksjonen (BNP) øker med 1% poeng reduseres ledigheten med 0,4%-0,5%. Husk også at veksten må allerede ligge på 1,5%-2% for å holde tritt med befolkningsveksten.

9,1% – 6% = 3,1%/0,5% = 6,2. Hvis USA ligger ett prosentpoeng over befolkningsvekst tar det 6,2 år (meget optimistisk) å redusere ledigheten til strukturell ledighet, i 2018. Anslagene for vekst ligger ikke i nærheten av 3%, og derfor kikker vi heller på 2018-2020 eller senere hvis ikke noe blir gjort.

Finanspolitikk, jeg ser på deg Obama!

I et standard ny-klassisk oppsett er dette egentlig barnemat. Pengepolitkken er oppbrukt, vi er allerede ved zero lower bound, rentene kan ikke senkes videre. I dette tilfellet bruker man finanspolitkk for å øke aktivitetsnivået uten å risikere et press oppover på renten. Akkurat nå er faktisk renten USA låner penger i markedet negativ i reelle termer, dvs. at inflasjonsraten overstiger den nominelle renten (reell rate på 10Y var vel -0,05% idag).

Men hvis dette var barnemat, hvorfor har vi ikke gjort dette?

1) Finanspolitikk i USA er vanskelig

2) Finanspolitikk i USA er vanskelig
3) Finanspolitikk i USA er vanskelig
4) Demokratene har presidenten og Senatet, republikanerne har Kongressen.

5) Hvordan tror du man reagerer på snakk om tiltakspakke etter den latente gjeldsdiskusjonen.

6) Dette er derfor sentralbanksjef Ben Bernanke snakker til politikere som om de sitter i en sandkasse.

Talen til Bernanke ved Jackson’s Hole er omtrent som Drillo følte seg etter han satte inpå Carew, alle byttene var brukt opp, det var ingenting han kunne nå gjøre bortsett fra å rope beskjeder. Hans eneste håp er at spilleren på banen tar seg sammen. Må være smått frustrerende og Bernanke er ikke lett frustrert.

Hvis du synes dette ble litt mørkt er jeg helt enig. Men det er sant, alt sammen:
EmployRecessAug2011

Economics, the dismal science indeed!
(Ekstrapoeng til de som gir meg artist på ‘Nothing from nothing leaves noting’ i kommentarfeltet 🙂 )

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1. september annonserer Barack Obama sin jobbplan. Hva er i den tro?

Tenkte jeg skulle surfe litt rundt å hente inn litt informasjon om denne planen president Obama har tenkt å annonsere (endelig!) for å takle arbeidsløsheten og den seige veksten i USA. Hva kan vi forvente av tiltak, hva har lekket til media:

  • An extension of federal funding for emergency unemployment benefits
  • An extension of the payroll tax holiday, possibly expanded to include the employers’ portion of Social Security taxes
  • An extension of temporary businesses «expensing» of capital investments
  • A new tax credit for businesses that increase the size of their workforce
  • Infrastructure spending, perhaps including renovation of public schools
  • A job-training program targeting the long-term unemployed, possibly modeled after a program in Georgia
  • To pay for these short-run initiatives, the President may seek more long-term deficit reduction than called for under the recent debt ceiling deal

Den første er arbeidsledighetstrygd. Og økt finansiering. Effektene av arbeidsledighetstrygd i en slik svak økonomi som USAs er usikre. Noen mener at multiplikatoren til arbeidsledighetstrygd er høy, dvs. at trygden brukes i økonomien og ringeffektene er større enn andre tiltak. Andre mener på den andre siden at trygden reduserer incentiver arbeidsledige har for å kikke etter en jobb, og vil også forsinke omtrening av arbeidstakere. Noe forskning sier at å IKKE forlenge ledighetstrygd vil faktisk REDUSERE den naturlige arbeidsledighetsraten i økonomien. Usikkert på om dette er under normale omstendigheter eller i en depressiv økonomi.

Den andre er en skattefri dag, foreslått å inkludere arbeidsgivers andel av pensjonen.

Ellers er det andre skatteregler som skal innføres for å gjøre det enklere for bedrifter å ansette, samt penger for ett omtreningsprogram for å gjøre ‘matching’ av jobb og jobbsøkere lettere.

Se særlig etter infrastrukturinvesteringer. Denne er komplisert. I normale tider, med lave renter, ville infrastrukturinvesteringer gi dramatiske effekter i økonomien, gitt at investeringen var stor nok. Multiplikatoren på slike investeringer er høy, men vanskelig å rettferdiggjøre i dagens politiske klima i USA. Den må være stor nok for å kunne gjøre noe med ledigheten, som er på 9,1%.

I den situasjonen USA befinner seg nå er det ikke så altfor mye finanspolitikken kan gjøre for økonomien, 1) fordi politisk polarisering gjør det umulig å få til noe på selv ‘mini-New Deal’ plan og 2) poenget er at den er både kortsiktig til nytte og langsiktig til nytte, noe som er vanskelig å se for seg.

Economics, the dismal science indeed.

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En kort historie om USAs bensinavgift.

Jeg har lett etter en slik oppsummering en stund, om hvordan USA finansierer vedlikehold og nybygging av vei-infrastrukturen.:

A short history of America’s gas tax woes:

In late September 1982, Ronald Reagan was asked whether he would support a hike in the federal gas tax. “Unless there’s a palace coup and I’m overtaken or overthrown, no, I don’t see the necessity for that,” Reagan quipped. Yet a few months later, Democrats had posted big gains in the midterm elections, and an exultant Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, the Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, delivered a speech in Washington arguing that the gas tax needed to go up — from 4 cents per gallon to 9 cents per gallon — in order to bankroll a “massive reparation of the nation’s bridges and roads.”

By December, Reagan had relented. The new gas tax would fund highways, bridges, and mass transit and was predicted to create 320,000 jobs. Reagan argued that it wasn’t really a tax, anyhow, but a “user’s fee.” What’s more, Reagan told reporters, “we’d be doing this if there were no recession at all.” Better not to think of the new five-year, $27.5 billion bill as a jobs program, Reagan explained in his weekly radio address: “We simply cannot allow this magnificent system to deteriorate beyond repair.” (Incidentally, as Time noted, Dick Cheney, then a representative from Wyoming, was highly skeptical of the bill.)

As it happened, Reagan’s reversal turned out to be the high-tide mark for Republican gas-tax support. Nowadays, the big worry among transportation advocates is that tea party types in Congress will let the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax expire when it comes up for renewal Sept. 30. (If no action is taken by then, the tax drops to 4.3 cents per gallon and it will become impossible to maintain federal funding for highways and bridges.) So how did we get from Reagan to here?

The major inflection point came in 1990, when George H.W. Bush ended up supporting a deficit-reduction bill that included a 5-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike. His transportation secretary, Samuel Skinner, tried the Reagan trick of calling the proposal a “user fee” that didn’t violate Bush’s no-new-taxes pledge. This time around, however, conservatives weren’t biting. Although older Republicans like Bob Dole said that a gas tax hike was worth examining, conservatives in the House, including Newt Gingrich, were flatly opposed to any tax hike and balked at the bill.

In 1993, after Bill Clinton came into office, Congress passed yet another deficit-reduction bill — this one with a further 4.3-cent-per-gallon tax hike. Clinton had loudly bashed the gas tax during his campaign, arguing that it exacerbated inequality and that a broader energy tax would be fairer. But Clinton’s BTU tax foundered in the Senate, and the Democratic Finance committee decided to swap in a gas tax hike instead. This time, not a single Republican voted for it.

That basic political dynamic hasn’t changed a bit. Since 1993, the gas tax has been stuck at 18.4 cents per gallon, and it’s not indexed to inflation. That means the Highway Trust Fund has periodically run into funding problems. For years, Congress’s solution has been to juggle money around rather than cut highway spending or raise the gas tax. In 1995 and 1997, the Republican Congress shifted the portions of the gas tax dedicated to deficit reduction (6.8 cents per gallon all told) back to the Highway Trust Fund. That solved the problem for a short while.

Then, in 2008, the Highway Trust Fund ran out yet again. Three years earlier, Republicans and George W. Bush had renewed the gas tax, but refused to raise it. So, as oil prices spiked and Americans cut back on driving, federal gas revenue was suddenly no longer sufficient to pay for roads and bridges. So Democrats in Congress just kicked in general funds — $8 billion in 2008, plus an estimated $43.2 billion in stimulus money in 2009. But those fixes were also temporary. As the CBO has reported, the Highway Trust Fund will keep losing money — by 2018, it will be short $80 billion. And that’s if the gas tax is renewed this fall.

At this point, there are only three solutions. One is to just accept that the gas tax will never be increased and that we’re just going to have to make do with less infrastructure spending. In the House, Florida Rep. John Mica has put forward a transportation reauthorization bill that would cost $230 billion over six years — a 33 percent cut from current levels. State officials say that would be a nightmare, given our crumbling roads and bridges. A second option, floated by Barbara Boxer in the Senate, would be to keep transportation spending at current levels and just chip in general tax revenue to cover the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, at least until a better solution can be worked out.

The third option, of course, would be to do what Ronald Reagan did and just raise the gas tax. Call it a “user fee” and smile broadly. At this point, though, a palace coup looks more likely.

(Via Ezra Klein.)

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Amerikansk 10-års obligasjon er på 0,00%

6a00e551f080038834015434631ccf970c Det er også mulighet for gratis penger. Kan noen vennligst legge litt mer vekt på akkurat dette enn media gjør allerede takk.

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Opp og ned er like langt i 2011

OSLBørs.png
Mønsteret fra slutten av forrige uke fortsatte i dag. Tilliten er på bunn, tilliten til politikere, til vekstutsikter, til gjeldsløsninger (eller fravær av), til stort sett det meste du kan tenke deg. Det er derfor vi ser slike kraftige fall på børsene. Men tilliten til amerikanske statsobligasjoner er stryket.Screen shot 2011 08 08 at 21 22 49(Bloomberg.com)
Rentene på 10-års obligasjonen gikk ned. Markedet sa ‘neh..’ til nedgraderingen til Standard & Poor’s forrige fredag (og den nedgraderingen er en egen bloggpost i seg selv.)

Oslo Børs slet med denne globale negative tilliten idag, ned over 5%. De dårlige vekstutsiktene fra oljeimporterende land driver oljeprisen ned, og også den oljetunge norske børsen. Oslo Børs er ned over 20% så langt i år.

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Jeg har ventet på en god grunn til å snakke om økonomisk vekst. Her er en unnskyldning.

Bruce Bartlett, som vi har nevnt her tidligere, kommenterer på skattekutt som kilde (eller ikke) for økonomisk vekst og det å sette skattekutt i sentrum for et økonomisk vekst argument er en dårlig idè (les hele, fet er meg):

What Really Matters for Growth (It’s Not Tax Rates):

When Republicans talk about economic growth, they tend to talk as if there is only one factor that affects it: tax rates. Thus, last week former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, put forward an economic plan that he said would raise growth rate of the real gross domestic product to 5 percent per year from its historical level of about half that. His only specific proposal for achieving this ambitious goal was to slash tax rates on the wealthy.

Pawlenty would cut the top individual income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, cut the corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, and eliminate completely all taxation of capital gains, interest and dividends – the principal sources of income for the wealthy. Implausibly, Pawlenty asserted that despite reducing revenues by some $8 trillion over the next 10 years – from the lowest level of federal revenues as a share of GDP in 60 years – that his plan would balance the budget. I could find no data or analysis of how Pawlenty’s plan would actually achieve this goal.

My purpose today is not to criticize the particulars of Pawlenty’s plan, which is very much in the Republican mainstream, but rather to talk about the nature of economic growth and how one-dimensional the GOP view is. The truth is that economists know a lot about what causes growth and what policies will raise the growth rate, and tax rates have a far smaller role than most people and all Republicans believe.

To present the textbook view of what determines long-term economic growth, I turned to an actual textbook by Harvard economist Gregory Mankiw, who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for George W. Bush.

Mankiw begins by noting that economic growth is essentially a function of productivity – output per man-hour. How much a worker can produce is a function of several things: physical capital (machines, equipment, public infrastructure), human capital (education and training), natural resources (energy, land), and scientific and technological knowledge.

The key determinant of the amount of capital available to workers is saving – foregone consumption from current production. In general, more saving will lead to more investment, and more investment will raise productivity and growth.

Economists have spent many years trying to figure out how to increase the rate of saving, without much success. Insofar as individuals are concerned, their saving is largely determined by the need to save for retirement, get the down payment on a house, pay for their children’s education, and have a financial cushion for unforeseen circumstances. These are all things people would have to save for even if they got no return on their savings at all. Consequently, reducing the tax rate on saving is very unlikely to raise the personal savings rate. Research on the impact of tax-favored savings accounts, such as Individual Retirement Accounts and 401(k) plans, shows that people mostly shift their saving and don’t increase the total amount. Of vastly more importance, economically, is saving and investment by businesses and governments.

What matters for business investment is not the corporate tax rate, but the ultimate tax rate on capital including the tax on the corporation’s owners, the shareholders. In 2003, that was almost 58 percent – 35 percent at the corporate level and as much as 35 percent at the individual level. Now, that combined rate is at most 45 percent because in 2003 the tax rate on dividends was reduced to a maximum of 15 percent.

Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that the 2003 tax cut did anything to stimulate corporate investment. Indeed, according to the Federal Reserve, nonfinancial corporations have increased their holdings of liquid assets to $1.8 trillion from $1.2 trillion since 2003. Thus it’s implausible that a further reduction in the corporate rate, as Pawlenty and other Republicans favor, would do much to raise investment.

What is holding back business investment is not taxes, but poor economic prospects. For some time, members of the National Federation of Independent Business have listed “poor sales” as their number one problem. Businesses are not going to invest, no matter how low the tax rate is, if there is no demand for their output.

Government mainly affects savings not so much through tax rates as through the budget deficit, which constitutes negative saving. When government borrows, it takes funds out of the economy that would otherwise be available to finance domestic investment. Alternatively, the U.S. must borrow more from foreigners, which increases the trade deficit. In the national income and product accounts, the trade deficit is subtracted from GDP, thus lowering growth.

The bottom line is that neither taxes nor spending by themselves are the most important government contribution to the investment climate; it’s the budget deficit. Consequently, a reduction in tax revenue which raises the deficit is unlikely to stimulate domestic investment because more money will have to be borrowed from abroad. Conversely, a tax increase dedicated to deficit reduction could well be stimulative, as was the case with the 1982 and 1993 tax increases. Contrary to Republican dogma, rapid growth followed on both occasions.

A big cut in the budget deficit would be destabilizing in the short-run, but a reduction in the long-term deficit would free up more national saving for private investment. But if taxes are cut at the same time, as Republicans insist, then the economic consequences are ambiguous. With federal taxes at a historical low – they are currently just 14.8 percent of GDP versus a postwar average of about 18.5 percent – it’s implausible to argue that further tax cuts will stimulate growth. Indeed, there is good reason to think that undermining the government’s ability to raise revenue will raise prospects for future deficits, which will drain saving from the economy and reduce investment. For this reason, I am also very skeptical of the idea just floated by the White House to further cut the payroll tax.

If we want to raise the long-term rate of growth, we have to go back to the textbook and increase saving and investment, channel more public investment into education and basic infrastructure, and do everything in our power to promote scientific research and technological advancement. It’s not sexy and it takes a lot of time, but it works.

For 2 uker siden leverte jeg inn min siste eksamen på masternivå; faget var ‘Økonomisk vekst’. Så poengene Bruce nevner sitter ennå langt framme i hodet. Gi meg noen dager på å formulere en kommentar til dette. I mellomtiden, sjekk her

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