Posts by Teresa Ghilarducci
May 16, 2009, 05:11 PM ET
Watch closely the conflict of interest between stockholders and executives.
The New York Times reports that executives of banks are rushing to pay back loans from the government to the detriment of the banks themselves.
Executives at a relatively healthy North Carolina bank cut shareholder dividends and are selling more stock — diluting current shares — in a rush to pay back cheap, 5 percent, government “Troubled Asset Relief Program” loans. Instead they should be taking that cheap money and leveraging. Why are the executives doing it? Because they don’t want Obama and Congress capping their compensation to half a million a year. People, pension funds, endowments, and increasingly, the American tax payer, own stocks in...Read More
May 8, 2009, 06:21 PM ET
So, it takes about 160,000 new jobs to be created every month to keep up with the population growth. Today’s government report shows that we lost 539,000 jobs in April. Typical buzz on the blogs and electronic newspapers interpreted the news positively. How can this report be viewed as good news?
Well, it is less bad than the 707,000 job-loss average over the last three months. But there is no comfort in today’s report except that we have stopped a free fall. The U.S. has lost 5.7 million jobs since December 2007 and Steve Greenhouse reports that the jobs people are finding are often low paid and part time. Men’s jobless rate of 10% had not been this high since June of 1983; and the time it takes people to find a job is almost three months, which is the longest level ever recorded.... Read More
May 7, 2009, 10:55 AM ET
Soon into a recession, when the media is filled with bad news, the good-news people have their say. Lots of things get popular in a recession is the message. Cheer up! In bad times inferior goods do well.
In economics a commodity that enjoys an increase in demand when consumer income falls is “inferior” — the opposite is a normal good, of which we want more of when we get richer — think running shoes and mid-grade red wine.
It’s fun and reassuring to think of good things in bad times: In the Great Recession Lexus sales go down, but buy Wal-Mart stock. Yesterday Wal-Mart reported better than average sales. Also Kraft foods reported sales of macaroni-and-cheese dinners soared by more than 10 per cent since January. And Phillip...Read More
April 29, 2009, 11:58 AM ET
The rich are getting richer, but the Wall Street Journal wants to shoot the messenger. The John Bates Clark Medal is awarded by the American Economic Association to “that American economist under the age of 40 who is adjudged to have made a significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.” The current winner is economist Emmauel Saez who provides an enormous service updating statistics on how much the richest people in the country have compared to everyone else. (Peter Orzag, one of Obama’s top economists, praises Saez here.)
Although, the richest 10 percent of Americans has, indeed, done well — they got 49.7 percent of all the income in 2007 (latest data available) and that was the highest level since 1917...Read More
April 29, 2009, 11:44 AM ET
We know single mothers have it bad. They are poorer than married mothers and their work lives are constrained by child care. Lots of complaints and worries from their end, and society’s. In the face of this woe, it’s curious that most divorce filers women. One reason mothers leave marriages or don’t marry at all may be that as economist Heidi Hartmann observed 20 years ago, and as better data in a great paper by sociologist Emily Passias at Ohio State shows, single mothers may have more time to themselves than married women. There is a long line of academic research — think Arlie Hochschild — and vicious popular culture depicting men as big babies. “I have four...Read More
April 24, 2009, 01:26 PM ET
We need a deal by April 30 or Chrysler files for bankruptcy. American taxpayers are in tricky five-party negotiations to stop that from happening. It’s lining up with 4 groups on our side and one on the other.
Taxpayers lose big if Chrysler folds. Not only will we have unused capacity on our hands — factories and people — we miss the opportunity to tell a car company what to make and how to make it. Face it!; we have been wanting to shake up Detroit forever. Taxpayers (represented by the Obama Administration and Congress) have lined up the United Autoworkers; the private equity group Cerberus; and Fiat, the Italian car maker of very cute cars.
The bondholders are on the other side; they will get more if Chrysler is sold off in pieces.Read More
April 22, 2009, 04:33 PM ET
What if we could create jobs in America’s most distressed regions, clean up air pollution, and help middle- and lower-income people the most? Early April, with support from President Obama, Congress moved ahead, with little notice or fanfare, to embrace a European idea for stimulating the economy and ridding the roads of gas-guzzling “clunkers” and replacing them with fuel-efficient cars.
Cash-for-clunkers is a much better transportation program than light rail — we don’t even make light rail cars in the U.S.! Light rail makes sense for only less than half a dozen densely packed American cities. Our spread-out cities need, besides cleaner cars, better buses — fancy, quiet, clean ones that middle-class people will ride in.
One cash-for-clunker approach is to give vouchers to drivers who ...Read More
April 20, 2009, 01:19 PM ET
President Obama, surely bowing and stooping to Republican attacks on the growing government deficit (for the record, many economists say the federal government should spend another trillion to stop job losses) said April 14 in a speech at Georgetown University that entitlement programs, and he named Social Security and Medicare, need to be scrutinized and reformed.
What is an entitlement? Medicare spending changes according to health-care prices and how many people use the system, which depends on their eligibility. Congress does not vote to spend the money every year: Until Congress changes the law, those who are eligible get the benefit. That is why Medicare, Social Security are called entitlements — which is a loaded word for sure. Hurl an insult at someone: “You are sooooo entitled.”
But, one source of entitlement is rarely discussed in public, and worse, hardly ever...Read More
April 15, 2009, 06:49 PM ET
Americans seem pretty mad, which makes sitting politicians pretty nervous. Scrambling to respond to outrage over AIG executive bonuses, bank bailouts, and auto-company assistance, the chief of General Motors had to walk the plank and the Democratic leadership pushed a doomed, but appealing, bill to impose a 90-percent levy on bank executives’ bonuses.
But, a recent Financial Times survey shows Americans may not be so fierce after all. Although 75 percent of the Americans and Europeans polled said they believed managers were overpaid and unethical, the Americans and Brits were not in favor of changing the bonus system, which is the way managers get overpaid. This is strange indeed. American executives are paid far more, in absolute terms and in comparison to the average worker. The Economic Policy...Read More
April 12, 2009, 11:43 AM ET
Beware recession fatigue. We have been getting jobs numbers the first Friday of every month; they are a familiar and concrete gauge of the recession. Last month we lost over a million full time jobs, adding to the 15 million unemployed losing jobs since the recession began in December 2007. A person not at work is income lost forever, the service never to be performed, the output that will never get produced. Last week, The New York Times’s reliable economics reporter Lou Uchitelle’s article argued that stores, factories, and capital shuttered by a downturn take years to be revived, if ever at all.
Job losses are not the only relevant gauge of a recession’s brutality. Services not paid for in a recession are lost forever and so is the help —...Read More