Matt Rognlie @ludwigstraub @a_auclert argue that it will take up to five years for excess savings to work though the systems as individuals with higher marginal propensity to consume generate income for individuals with higher savings rates.
Deficit-financed fiscal transfers generate excess savings. One person’s spending is another person’s income. As we show, taking this fact into account implies that excess savings from debt-financed transfers have much longer-lasting effects than a naive calculation would suggest. In a closed economy, unless the government pays down the debt used to finance the transfers, excess savings do not go away as households spend them down. Instead, the effect of excess savings on aggregate demand slowly dissipates as they “trickle up” the wealth distribution to agents with lower MPCs. Tight monetary policy speeds up this process, but this effect is likely to be quantitatively modest. The partial equilibrium scenario summarizes the conventional wisdom according to which the effect of excess savings will dissipate in a few quarters. By contrast, our benchmark scenario suggests that these effects will stick around for roughly 5 years.
Profit PuzzlesCarter Davis, Alexandre Sollaci and James Traina Social Science Research Network
Public firms’ returns on the book value of assets are down ~ 50% from 1980 and private firms’ returns have doubled. @EconTraina @ASollaci @CarterDavisFin
Why have US aggregate profit rates increased while financial market rates decreased since 1980? We propose a mismatch hypothesis: Profit rates in the national accounts track the return on capital for all firms, while financial market rates track the cost of capital for public firms only. We show public-firm profit rates halved since 1980, matching trends in financial markets and suggesting low market power. Mechanically, this residual private capital return series shows private capital returns had to have increased substantially to account for this secular break between aggregate and public firm profitability. The degree of this shift is significant: Private firms’ profit rates are on average 10% higher than public firms’ in the post-2000 period. Nonfinancial domestic private-firm profit rates doubled, suggesting high market power or risk. Size and sector differences cannot explain the divergence, though intangible-intensity might. Our results indicate substantial biases in extrapolating public-firm trends to the aggregate economy.
.@M_C_Klein argues that the decline in excess savings has largely been driven by high-income households. In 2022, these households had above-normal spending, low interest and dividend receipts, and high tax payments for 2021 capital gains.
Americans liquidated more than $1Tof “excess” savings in 2022, eliminating more than half of the surplus accumulated since the pandemic began. If the current pace continues, the entire stock will vanish by the end of this year. The great dissaving of 2022 can be explained by the (relative) misfortunes afflicting high earners as society normalized. First, dividend and interest income were unusually weak. U.S. post-tax corporate profits in 2022 were roughly 40% higher than in 2019, but dividend payments to shareholders were up just 14% because companies opted for buybacks. Meanwhile, the combination of soaring asset values and the relative preference for buybacks has meant that wealthy Americans owed substantial taxes in 2022 based on 2021 capital gains. Personal income tax payments, which include capital gains, are currently running 26% above what would be expected based on the 2018-2019 trend. Employee pay is 2% above trend while payroll tax receipts are about 0.5% above trend.
.@mattsclancy highlights evidence that major productivity gains in research result from allowing scientists & researchers to cluster with other highly skilled inventors. Allowing more high-skilled immigration could boost per capita GDP growth rates by 9%.
Moving to the USA raises citations to math publications four-fold, or 2.5-fold if you restrict attention to people who become a math academic at home or abroad. Comparing New Zealander migrants who return or stay abroad - the ones who stay abroad get up to four times as many citations as those who return. PhD students who stay in the USA get 4-6 times as many citations to their work as their peers in the same program who end up moving back to a country with GDP per capita outside the top 25%. That’s a pretty consistently large effect. And we get similar kinds of results when we look at other proxies for scientific achievement, whether it’s counting publications, patents, or becoming an invited speaker to the International Congress of Mathematicians. A model of the innovation/immigration/trade economy between the US and EU...implies if the USA doubled the H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to 130,000, it would raise the real GDP per capita growth rate in each region by 9% in the long run.
.@JohnHCochrane argues that our existing tax system of “high statutory rates with a Swiss cheese of exemptions, immense cost, unfairness and distortion” should be replaced; he thinks a consumption tax would be more transparent and efficient.
Our income and estate tax system is broken. It has high statutory rates with a Swiss cheese of exemptions, immense cost, unfairness, and distortion. A consumption tax, with none of the absurd complexity of our current taxes, is the answer. It funds the government with the least economic distortion. A consumption tax need not be regressive. It’s easy enough to exempt the first few thousand dollars of consumption or add to the rebate. Taxes overall must finance what the government spends. Collecting it in one tax rather than lots of smaller taxes doesn’t change the overall rate. It’s better for voters to see how much the government takes.
The @economist notes that “almost all” recent AI breakthroughs have come from large firms, in large part due to their access to the computing power required to develop state-of-the-art AI models.
Almost all recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence globally have come from large companies, in large part because they have the computing power. Amazon, whose AI powers its Alexa voice assistant, and Meta, which made waves recently when one of its models beat human players at “Diplomacy,” a strategy board game, respectively produce two-thirds and four-fifths as much AI research as Stanford University, a bastion of computer-science eggheads. Alphabet and Microsoft churn out considerably more, and that is not including DeepMind, Google Research’s sister lab which the parent company acquired in 2014, and the Microsoft-affiliated OpenAI.
.@Brad_Setser shows that Chinese exports are still at a record level relative to global output and concludes, “Graph is clear; China never deglobalized.”
It is hard to “reglobalize” when there hasn’t yet been any real deglobalization. The world will start deglobalizing when Chinese exports of global manufactures are no longer at a record level relative to global output and when China no longer needs to draw a record amount of net demand from the world to sustain its unbalanced economy. The graph is clear; China never deglobalized.
.@Jasonfurman notes GDP is “basically at CBO’s pre-pandemic forecast.” Consumer spending, which has enjoyed “huge fiscal support in 2020 and 2021,” is running well ahead of the CBO’s pre-pandemic forecast, while residential investment declined by 26.7%/yr.
Overall GDP is basically at CBO's pre-pandemic forecast. The big story for economic growth was the consistent strength of consumer spending, which is more than two-thirds of the economy. It has been consistently running well ahead of CBO's pre-pandemic forecast. Likely continued impact of huge fiscal support in 2020 and 2021. The countervailing story is the collapse of residential investment. It has fallen for 7 straight quarters, fell 19.3% over the last four quarters, with a decline of 26.7% (annual rate) in Q4. Biggest since the financial crisis. And the third story is that over the pandemic recovery the huge increase in US demand was partly accommodated by rising imports and production shifted from exports to domestic consumption. But the large increase in the trade deficit has been narrowing.
.@EthanYWu offers support to the Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan view that population aging is inflationary as retirees create more demand than supply.
An ageing population, and the dependency it creates, will hamper supply and stoke inflation. Mikael Juselius and Elod Takats of BIS’s core insight: “The young and the old are inflationary, while the working-age cohort is disinflationary.” That is, prime-age workers create more supply than demand, while their elders and juniors do just the opposite.
Tim Krupa from @GoldmanSachs reports that the foreign-born labor force is rebounding from 2.8M below trend in September 2020 to 1.2M below trend in March 2022.
Starting in 2019, tighter immigration policies under the Trump Administration followed by pandemic disruptions depressed the US foreign-born working-age population. The foreign-born labor force fell 2.8 million below its long-term trend level in April 2020 and remained 1.2 million below trend in March 2022. The foreign-born population has grown 137k per month in the past 18 months, compared to 68k per month from Jan. 2010 to Jan. 2019. The chart above shows the foreign-born labor force has grown 110k per month in the past 18 months, compared to 42k per month during the prior period.
Michael Cembalest @jpmorgan notes that it has been difficult for legislators to increase tax receipts beyond 19% of GDP, and yet entitlement spending plus interest is likely to exceed that level by 2032.
The above chart plots the history of US tax increases since 1950 (as % of GDP and vs Federal receipts as a % of GDP). While there have been tax increases of 2% of GDP or more, they occurred when overall tax receipts were much lower. The red square shows the required increases in taxes, which if spent entirely on increasing discretionary spending, would reduce the ratio of entitlements to non-defense discretionary spending back to 2.2x (its 2006 level). The Sanders high net worth income and capital gains tax plan and the Warren wealth tax plan appear as well.
The aging of the American population has left the US short 1.9M workers relative to 2019. A decline in labor force participation of older workers is responsible for a drop of another 500,000 workers. @gelliottmorris @S_Rabinovitch
The labor-force participation (LFP) rate of prime-age workers (aged 25-54) and the foreign-born workforce have almost fully recovered. Neither explains the current squeeze. The biggest shortfall comes from Americans getting older and leaving work behind. Since 2019 those aged at least 65 have gone from less than 16% of the population to nearly 17%. Moreover, unlike prime-age workers, many people who retired early as covid-19 struck have not come back to work. LFP among older Americans, which rose from 12.5% in 2000 to 20.7% in early 2020, has dipped to 19.3%, the same as in 2016. The aging of the population accounts for the loss of 1.9m workers (0.7% of people aged at least 16), while the overall drop in LFP, mainly among the old, is responsible for a further 0.5m (0.2%).
The Colorado’s River’s flow has averaged less than 10M acre-feet a year in the past three years vs. a long-term average of under 15M. The reduced flows may force the Federal government to impose water use restrictions affecting 40M Americans. @Cflav
The states that rely on water from the shrinking Colorado River are unlikely to agree to voluntarily make deep reductions in their water use which would force the federal government to impose cuts for the first time in the water supply for 40 million Americans. The Colorado River Compact apportioned the water among two groups of states. The so-called upper basin states would get 7.5 million acre-feet a year. The lower basin got a total of 8.5 million acre-feet. A later treaty guaranteed Mexico, where the river reaches the sea, 1.5 million acre-feet. The premise that the river’s flow would average 17.5 million acre-feet each year turned out to be faulty. Over the past century, the river’s actual flow has averaged less than 15 million acre-feet each year. From 2000 through 2022, the river’s annual flow averaged just over 12 million acre-feet; in each of the past three years, the total flow was less than 10 million.
.@WSJ reports that year-over-year wages for the bottom 10% of earners increased 9.8% relative to 7.4% for the median for all workers. Workers in the top 10% of earnings saw a 5.7% gain.
Median weekly earnings for all workers were 7.4% higher, year-over-year, at the end of 2022, according to an analysis of newly released Labor Department data. The bottom 10th of wage earners—those that make about $570 a week—saw their pay increase by nearly 10%. Better pay increases late last year went to workers who attended college, a reversal from earlier in the pandemic when those who hadn’t completed high school saw outsize gains. The annual rate of wage growth for workers with less than a high school diploma touched a recent peak in the second quarter of 2022, when it was up 11.1% over the prior year, higher than the 7.6% wage growth during that period for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median raise for Black Americans employed full-time was 11.3%, compared with the prior year.
According to a new @USCBO forecast, US population growth after 2033 will be driven by immigration, which will account for all American population growth in 2042. @Bloomberg
US population growth will be driven entirely by immigration within two decades, according to the latest forecasts by the Congressional Budget Office. The projections, published on Tuesday, show a population of 373 million by 2053 — about 3 million more than the CBO was expecting a year ago. That’s partly due to a sharp increase in the forecast for immigration in 2023 and the following two years, after pandemic travel restrictions eased — adding some 1 million to the population over that period. Much of the growth is projected to come in the so-called prime-age bracket, between 25 and 54, that is the core of the workforce. The CBO expects that cohort to increase by about 1.1 million people, or 0.9%, each year.
.@jan_eeckhout suggests that, when the underlying inflation data is not especially noisy, it might be appropriate to use “instantaneous” measures of inflation, which consider only very recent data. “Instantaneous inflation” hit 2% in Dec ‘22.
Current practice to measure inflation for monetary policy uses the average annual inflation rate. When inflation changes fast, whether increasing or decreasing, the annual average rate is biased towards data from too far in the past and conveys the true price level with six months delay. I propose to use instantaneous inflation as a more adequate measure of the price change. The measure trades off noise in the data with the precision of the instantaneous price change. Using the latest inflation numbers, it shows that instantaneous inflation in the US and the Eurozone is back to the target of 2% and that the high inflation period is over. Instantaneous core inflation, which excludes food and energy, is falling, but at 4%, it remains higher than the inflation target of 2%. The conventional measure of core inflation is at 5.7%.
.@Edsall argues that a “white rural red wave” is the driving force of the Republican party today and cites shifts in Wisconsin suburban and rural voting patterns between 2016 and 2022.
In 2016, Ron Johnson rode Trump’s coattails and the Republican trail blazed by the former governor Scott Walker to a 3.4 point (50.2 to 46.8) victory and swept into office, in large part by running up huge margins in Milwaukee’s predominantly white suburbs. That changed in 2022. Craig Gilbert, a fellow at Marquette Law School conducted a detailed analysis of Wisconsin voting patterns and found that Johnson, "performed much worse in the red and blue suburbs of Milwaukee than he did six years earlier in 2016. So again, how did Johnson win? The simple answer: white rural Wisconsin. As recently as 17 years ago, rural Wisconsin was a battleground. In 2006, Jim Doyle, the Democratic candidate for governor, won rural Wisconsin, about 30 percent of the electorate, by 5.5 points. “Then came the rural red wave,” Gilbert writes. “Walker carried Wisconsin’s towns by 23 points in 2010 and by 25 points in 2014.” In 2016, Johnson won the rural vote by 25 points, but in 2022, he pushed his margin there to 29 points.
Value-added/full-time employee in the US construction sector was ~40% lower in 2020 than in 1970; had construction productivity grown at 1% a year, aggregate US labor productivity would have been 10% higher. @Austan_Goolsbee @ChadSyverson @nberpubs
Figure 1 shows indices of U.S. construction sector labor productivity and TFP from 1950 to 2020. For comparison, it also plots the same indices for the overall economy. Throughout the 1950s and well into the 1960s, both measures of construction sector productivity grew steadily. Indeed, they outpaced their whole-economy counterparts during that period. By 1970, however, the construction sector’s labor productivity and TFP had both begun to fall. By 2020, while aggregate labor productivity and TFP were 290 percent and 230 percent higher than in 1950, both measures of construction productivity had fallen below their 1950 values. This is stunningly bad productivity performance for a major sector. Construction labor productivity fell at an average rate of about 1% per year from 1970-2020. Had it instead grown at the (relatively modest) rate of 1%per year, aggregate labor productivity (and plausibly, income per capita) being about 10% higher than it actually was.
.@JBSay notes there have been at least 400,000 unexpected deaths among the US working-age population since 2020. Netting out Covid deaths and unnatural deaths (homicide, suicide, overdose, etc.) he finds a spike starting in 2021.
In 2021 group life [insurance] payments exploded by 20.7% over the five-year average and by 15% over the acute pandemic year of 2020. If we remove both Covid-19 and unnatural deaths (homicide, suicide, overdose, etc.), we see a dramatic spike of natural, non-Covid-19 deaths among working-age people beginning in the spring and summer of 2021. To overgeneralize: In 2020, the vulnerable died of Covid at unusually high rates. In 2021 and 2022, Covid continued its assault, but the young, middle-aged, and healthy also died in aberrantly high numbers of something else.
.@Brad_Setser and @EtraAlex note Japanese investors are withdrawing from global debt markets, selling $200B of debt in 2022 relative to buying a mean of $100B a year over the previous decade.
The global economy has already adjusted to a slowdown in Japanese institutional fixed-income demand—Japanese investors have gone from buying about $100 billion a year of foreign bonds on average over the last ten years to selling close to $200 billion in 2022. The most likely outcome in 2023 is a continuation of the roll down in Japanese holdings of foreign bonds observed in 2022, as the large pool of hedged Japanese investors allow maturing bonds to roll off at par rather than reinvest abroad. That more mundane reality still implies the large flow into global fixed income from Japanese institutional investors over the last decade will dwindle to a relative trickle.