Addressing Poverty in a Free and Dynamic Society

 

With an unemployment rate now down to 4.2% and the average wage rising 3.1% in the past year, the U.S. is finally recovering from the Great Recession which ended in June 2009. My last several posts have described an optimistic scenario for the U.S. economy going forward.

  • The American idea is thriving.  The U.S. is the world’s most competitive large economy. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are in the process of revolutionizing all aspects of life, all over the world. Productivity growth in the digital industries has grown at the annual rate of 2.7%, much faster than for physical industries. Democracy is mostly flourishing around the world.
  • Ecommerce is one example of a thriving industry.   Fulfillment center weekly wages are 31% higher on average than for brick and mortar retail in the same area. Total ecommerce related jobs have increased much faster in the last two years than have traditional retail jobs been lost.
  • Income inequality can be addressed effectively by speeding up economic growth (with tax and regulatory reform), improving educational (especially with early childhood) opportunities and with better training programs for the unemployed and underemployed to qualify them for the millions of skilled jobs going begging for lack of qualified applicants.

One additional feature needed is “A balanced and sensible anti-poverty program,”  to help many of the down and out get back on their feet.


The way to accomplish this is with:

  • Work requirements as a condition of public assistance. The work first approach has been shown to have better outcomes with regard to attachment to the labor force (see above chart) than even approaches which focus on training and education.

Conclusion. The U.S. economy is basically sound. We lead the world in many industries and especially in digital technology.  There are lots of good jobs going begging for lack of qualified applicants.  The best anti-poverty program is job training.

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Democrats Need to Get More Serious about Economics

 

My last post makes the case that the “American Idea” is thriving, contrary to a sense of gloom from many quarters. For example, the Democratic Party is so tied up with complaining about Donald Trump, that it is failing to address the fundamental reason why Mr. Trump was elected President last fall: the plight of blue-collar workers.
For well-known reasons (globalization and the growth of technology), blue-collar workers are not yet enjoying the full benefits of rising prosperity as much as the college educated managerial and professional classes. The basic reason for this is:

  • Slow economic growth, averaging just 2% of GDP per year since the end of the Great Recession in June 2009. Our currently low unemployment rate of 4.2% and the prospects for regulatory reform and tax reform suggest that growth might start picking up soon.

Faster growth is already occurring in the area of ecommerce, see here and here.


Consider:

  • Fulfillment center weekly wages are 31% higher on average than for brick-and-mortar retail in the same area.
  • Ecommerce workers are not likely to be college graduates but need a mixture of physical and cognitive skills.
  • In the past two years the ecommerce industry has added 178,000 jobs in electronic shopping firms and another 58,000 jobs for express delivery companies. At the same time brick-and-mortar retail full time equivalent jobs have dropped by 123,000.
  • Americans spend 1.2 billion hours per week shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. Since 2007, roughly 64 million hours per week of these “unpaid hours” have shifted to fulfillment center workers and truck drivers. In this way unpaid household shopping hours are turning into paid market work.
  • The economics of manufacturing will likely soon be changed in a similar manner from producing and distributing goods in bulk to small-batch manufacturing closer to the customer.

Conclusion. “The internet of goods,” spearheaded by Amazon, has already increased the productivity and wages of many retail (fulfillment center) workers and will soon do the same thing in manufacturing. This is private enterprise at its finest.

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