Not long ago, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released its Local Area Personal Income data for 2015.
And I downloaded some data, using the “interactive data” tool to the right on the website, to see if various trends I have observed in the past have continued. The data show that the Tri-state area continues to be a much richer than average part of the U.S., due mostly to those living and working in Manhattan (many of the richest of whom live in the suburbs), but Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens remain relatively poor. Manhattan is rich enough that New York City’s share of the nation’s personal income is stable even as its share of the nation’s population continues to fall. In New York State the total earnings per worker of state and local government workers (including employee benefits) continues to soar relative to the earnings of most private sector workers, who are left worse off as a result. The idea that lower wages for private sector workers are offset by, and in some sense caused by, higher employer costs for employee benefits hasn’t been true for more than two decades, and Obamacare did nothing to alter this. And more and more people have become self-employed, freelance, and contract laborers, rather than being employees at all, and the average earnings of such workers continues to fall. A series of charts and some discussion follows.
This year’s election is finally coming to an end, and as expected I didn’t watch any of the debates. Did I miss anything?
As I noted in my prior post,
the business cycle, with expansions and recessions, means that comparisons over time for data items such as work earnings and income are only meaningful if one compares economically similar years. The press reports an increase in inflation-adjusted work earnings from 2014 to 2015, but that is merely what should be expected in an economic upturn. A comparison between 2005 and 2015, on the other hand, shows falling median earnings over the business cycle. As a follow up, with economic trends for U.S. men compared with women, and less educated workers compared with more highly educated workers, an issue in the Presidential election, I downloaded some additional American Community Survey work earnings data to see that the actual situation is – in the U.S., NYC, and nearby areas.
For most of its history, the Staten Island Expressway had six lanes, with three in each direction, and service roads that were interrupted rather than continuous. For much of the past decade it has been under construction with the publicly announced purpose of adding mass transit – a busway down the center. With “auxiliary lanes” added in the vicinity of Todt Hill, according to the announced plan.
“A design approval document was prepared in support of the CE determination. A review of the project indicates that the project will have no significant environmental impact. It does not individually nor cumulatively have a significant environmental impact, and is excluded from the requirement to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or an Environmental Assessment (EA).”
During construction the traffic lanes were shifted first to one side of the road, and then to the other. Including all the lanes used at one time or another, the whole thing seemed to be 12 lanes wide. So what would the final product look like? Last Saturday, on a trip to New Jersey, I found out. It is a 10-lane road with two – one in each direction — in theory restricted to high occupancy vehicles (3+ people), but with limited compliance with that rule and no enforcement. The two additional general traffic “auxiliary lanes” extend from the Verrazano Bridge nearly to Victory Boulevard, almost the entire length of the island. Surprise!
In the 1990s there was an improving statistic that was as central to New York City’s turnaround as the decrease in the crime rate: the increase in mean distance between failures (MDBF) on the New York City subway. This figure, which measures how long the average subway car goes before it breaks down in service, is considered a key measure of the overall health of a railroad.
In any statistic there are random variations, in part due to temporary unusual conditions. That’s why a one-month increase or decrease in the crime rate, compared with a year earlier, or a one-year increase or decrease in school test scores, doesn’t really mean much. Once a trend is really established, however, it ought to be news. Which is why I was shocked to find, in the MTA Board materials, that MDBF has been falling for three years, not on a one-month basis but on a 12 month moving average basis. The decrease is now significant enough to affect service as people experience it, and may mark the start of a significant downward spiral for the system.
I don’t usually comment on other people’s reporting, but I couldn’t let a Bloomberg News report of a 1970s deal with Saudi Arabia, a deal to mortgage America to ensure cheap gasoline, pass without stating how nauseating it is.
The basic framework was strikingly simple. The U.S. would buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plow billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending. It took several discreet follow-up meetings to iron out all the details…But at the end of months of negotiations, there remained one small, yet crucial, catch: King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud demanded the country’s Treasury purchases stay “strictly secret.”
And so it has been until today. The Saudis may have asked for secrecy, but secrecy suited American politicians and Generation Greed in general as well. They didn’t want to face just how much of America’s future they were selling off so Americans could have cheap gasoline in the past. It was just too embarrassing. This shows the reality of the values of a generation if nothing else does. What a disgrace!
The Federal Reserve Z1 data on U.S. public and private debt was released for 2015 on March 10…
and I downloaded it and updated my spreadsheet to see if there has been any progress in getting this country and its inhabitants out of the financial hole.
There has not. Excluding the debts financial companies owe to each other, total U.S. debts varied between 128 and 142 percent of GDP from 1952 to 1981, a time of much greater equality in the U.S. than today. But by 2008 total non-financial debts had increased to 237 percent of GDP. To the extent there has been a recovery from the Great Recession, it is because this figure increased to about 252 percent of GDP in 2015. And the U.S. economy, and the global economy, remain at the point where, in the cartoon, Wile E Coyote has run off the cliff, is hanging in the air, and realizes that gravity is about to take him down.