Oct 5 2014

Those not in the labor force but looking for a job now rose last month: The funny numbers behind the unemployment rate.

Those “not in the labor force” Americans continues to expand while the headline unemployment rate continues to decline.  Some pundits will try to argue that this number does not accurately portray those looking for work.  Well how about a category called “not in the labor force, want a job now” for categorizing those looking for work?  We actually have a category that specifically looks at those not in the labor force but wanting a job today.  And that number went up by 90,000 last month while the unemployment rate fell.  Depending on how you define a healthy economy, you can find data that largely supports the broad case that most Americans are falling behind while a smaller portion is doing exceptionally well.  Some of this is part of the new economic framework of a system largely dependent on financialization.  It is odd to see those looking for work rise while the unemployment rate drops.

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Oct 2 2014

Inflation over 270 years: It is hard to feel the tornado of price erosion when you are standing in the eye of the financial storm.

People tend to be creatures of habits. It always intrigues me how most of the people I speak with seem to already assume that prices will always go up. It is the default life position. They know the sun will rise, grass will typically be green, and prices over time will go up. While some are based in natural law, inflation is and will always be a human made condition. So it is important to step back from the day to day operations that guide us and actually look at where prices stand today in relation to history. I think most in the US really don’t have the fear of say South America or Europe when it comes to inflation because they have never witnessed a full crisis driven by out of control money policies. Today, we are told that inflation is low yet when we actually step back, inflation is already eroding the purchasing power of the middle class dramatically. It is usually helpful to look at history as to learn from our past.

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Sep 29 2014

When income growth hits a brick wall: From 1949 to 1979 over 60 percent of all income growth went to the bottom 90 percent. After that, things changed for the middle class.

People routinely wake up every day, grab breakfast, and hurry out of their door to work. Most are merely running on a treadmill trying to make sure they have enough money to pay the bills that come down like a torrent of water. Is this pinching of the wallets really a shrinking of the middle class or is something else going on? If we examine income growth after World War II we find convincing data that yes, people are feeling financially pressured because income growth is simply not occurring like it once did. Most of the gains are not going to the working and middle class. Healthy income gains with steadily rising prices allowed many Americans to truly increase their standard of living. Today, you have many items including housing, healthcare, and education quickly outpacing any income gains to be had. On top of this situation you have many other costs being thrown onto the public including rising healthcare costs and the need to save for retirement. When we look at retirement figures the numbers are troubling. Most will need to work until their heart stops beating on that treadmill. Many are feeling poorer because in many measurable ways, they are poorer.

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Sep 27 2014

Primed for work but out of a job: 1 out of 4 Americans 25-54 not working and the continued expansion of those not in the labor force.

For most Americans, the best indicator of a healthy economy is having a job. With many Americans entering older age, the number of those not in the labor force is booming. It doesn’t appear to be on the radar of people that the reason the unemployment numbers look the way they do is because a massive number of Americans simply are not counted in the labor force. This ability to ignore a large portion of your population allows the numbers to appear better than they are. But this is for the entire US population. If we look at those 25-54 we find that 1 out of 4 is without a job. This is the prime working years for many Americans. The Great Recession has been a challenge for many working families. The lack of good paying work, weaker benefits, and inflation has dug deep into the pockets of many Americans. When 1 out of 4 Americans in their prime working years is out of work, something else has to give.

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Sep 24 2014

The New Normal for the American Dream – 3 Cornerstones: Low wage jobs, high levels of college debt, and a retirement that consists of working until you pass away.

There seems to be a growing acceptance that the American Dream is hardly as accessible as it once was. Low wage jobs, higher education tuition pushing many into untenable levels of debt, and a new vision of retirement all seem to connect into one new theme. The new theme revolves on a much more challenging road in achieving the American Dream. The majority of working Americans have no sizable portion of stock wealth. In fact, close to 90 percent of stock wealth is in the hands of 10 percent of the population. That is why in spite of the rise of the stock market by 200 percent since 2009, many Americans remain gloomy when it comes to the economy. They are merely spectators to the high flying charts of Wall Street. Most Americans do know that their wages are stagnant, that food costs are jumping, healthcare is anything but affordable, and the road to a college education is paved with high levels of debt. Even the cornerstone of the American Dream which is a home, is very expensive thanks to hot money flowing into the sector and crowding out regular home buyers and pushing the home ownership rate to multi-decade lows. What is the New Normal when it comes to the American Dream?

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Sep 19 2014

When the middle class loses the battle to inflation: Census data shows household income continues to stagnant while debt continues to expand.

The annual Census data was recently released and showed a grim picture when it comes to household income. While GDP continues to grow and the stock market continues to reach new peaks, the middle class continues to fall further behind economically. Americans however continue to add mountains of student debt and auto debt as to make up for the lack of income growth. This appears to be a seminar of better living through debt. The middle class is witnessing the impact of inflation. While the CPI figures highlight moderate growth, just look at the cost of housing, cars, education, food, and healthcare and ask yourself if inflation really is that tame. It is not. Inflation is hitting middle class Americans where it hurts the most unfortunately. That is why the new Census data combined with figures on debt growth highlight a disturbing trend. That is a trend where middle class families are plugging gaps in income with going into deeper debt.

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Sep 16 2014

Poor Americans carry a record level of debt leverage: Subprime economics and leveraging the poor into a treadmill of continual poverty.

Poor Americans carry deeper debt levels than they did during the depths of the Great Recession. To boost auto sales, many dealers have decided to offer subprime loans to prospective clients that have very little financial means. Many for-profit colleges have a business model that virtually solicits and lures in poor Americans into their debt saddling paper mills. So it is probably no surprise that poor Americans are now carrying the heaviest debt loads in history. The argument is interesting from some of these financial institutions and similar to what was being delivered during the subprime housing days. These “generous” lenders are making loans where no one else is. Of course the caveat is they are gambling with other people’s money. In the case of student debt, the American people will foot the bill for any implosion that happens and in the mean time salaries for executives at these institutions are extremely high. The model of financing based on too big to fail is all too familiar. The financial system has mastered the art of being a viper and extracting all wealth possible before things go bust. Poor Americans are in worse shape today than during the Great Recession.

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