No U.S. Population Growth for Six Months?!?!

March 21, 2017

As part of my monthly calculation of the size of the actual labor force (for the purpose of analyzing the monthly employment report), I use the U.S. population as determined by the “Population Clock” on the home page of the U.S. Census Bureau.  As I write this, it stands at 324.73 million.  This figure typically grows at the rate of about 180,000 per month.  That’s a scary rate of population growth.  The U.N. estimates that half of all world population growth by 2050 will be caused by the growth of the population in only eight nations – seven third world nations and – you guessed it – the United States, the only developed nation that continues to experience third-world-like population growth.

But I’ve noticed something strange in the last six months, and especially since the beginning of the year.  In December, the population clock actually fell back by almost 600,000.  Since then, the population has been growing at a rate of only about 80,000 per month.  Today, it stands at almost exactly the same level as it did at the end of September.

This is great news, but I suspect that some of the reason for the slowdown is not good news.  You may recall that sometime back around December, the CDC announced that death rates in the U.S. were rising while life expectancy had actually declined slightly.  But there’s some really great news too.  Illegal immigrants are being deported and the entry of new illegal immigrants has slowed dramatically.  Even legal immigration has slowed since Trump took office.

Although it’s still early in this new trend, a couple of observations are in order:

  • Most economists predict economic gloom and doom to accompany a lack of population growth.  Contrary to that, the U.S. economy has experienced its best growth in many years in the past six months.  A brightening economic outlook is one of the outcomes I predicted in Five Short Blasts that would accompany a stabilizing or even declining U.S. population.
  • A rising death rate is another outcome that I predicted in my book for nations whose population densities continue to grow beyond a critical level, driven by rising unemployment and poverty.

This is all something I’ll be watching closely as immigration continues to slow dramatically during the Trump administration.

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Week 1 Done

January 28, 2017

The world is slowly awakening to a new reality.  It has profoundly changed.  And that may be an understatement.

Throughout the campaign, Trump’s “populist” rhetoric was dismissed by many – especially by those who stood to lose the most if globalization were dismantled – as exactly that, a play for votes or posturing designed to win concessions in the highly unlikely event that he would actually be elected president.  After all, this is the author of The Art of the Deal, a book about his tactics for winning in the business world.  He’s just  staking out his opening position.  Right?

During the transition, however, he doubled down on his rhetoric and stacked the cabinet mostly with people aligned with his positions.  The world grew a little more nervous.

Then came inauguration day and, I have to admit, that even I was taken aback by his speech.  It was as though he picked up a rhetorical two-by-four and began swinging at everyone who’d had a role in America’s trade mess and economic decline, and any who doubted his intentions or who stood in his way.

Now his first week in office is history, and what a week it was.  TPP (the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal) is dead.  NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Deal) is as good as dead.  The wall on the southern border will be built.  Tariffs on Mexican imports will pay for it.  Immigration from many Middle Eastern countries has been brought to a halt.  And, in stark contrast to Obama’s visit to Mexico in the early days of presidency to discuss renegotiating NAFTA, a humiliating experience that yielded only more Mexican tariffs on American goods, Trump has put Mexico on notice.  If you can’t accept the new reality of American tariffs on Mexican imports and an all-out effort to halt illegal immigration from your country, then too bad – we have nothing to talk about.

Some seem to get it.  Some American companies have begun hedging their bets with announcements of plans to invest in American manufacturing.  Still, the world is largely in a state of denial.  Markets around the world continue to rally on optimism over the aspects of the Trump agenda that it likes – corporate tax breaks and infrastructure spending – while shrugging off the possibility that Trump means business about imposing tariffs on imports.

The world is made up of only two economies, really.  One is the economy of the more sparsely populated countries, able to gainfully employ their workers, which is dominated by the United States.  The other is the rest of the world, badly overpopulated and heavily dependent on manufacturing for export to the aforementioned countries – again, most notably, the United States.  Tariffs on imports into the U.S. will  totally alter the host-parasite relationship that exists between the two.  Those who continue to blindly invest in the economies of the latter may be making a serious mistake.

Americans have finally gotten fed up with playing the role of enabler to ever-worsening overpopulation, using immigration as a relief valve and trade to prop it up.  Trump has hastened the day when the rest of the world must face the consequences on their own.


U.S. Life Expectancy Declines in 2015 as Death Rates Rise

December 13, 2016

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/12/08/has-us-life-expectancy-maxed-out-first-decline-since-1993/95134818/

As reported in the above-linked article last week, the National Center for Health Statistics  (NCHS) reported that the average life expectancy for Americans born in 2015 actually fell by one month – from 78.9 years to 78.8 years.  Here’s a link to the full report:  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db267.pdf

This was the first decline since 1993 when the average life expectancy fell from 75.8 to 75.5 years – the only other decline since record-keeping of this statistic began in 1980.

One year does not make a trend, so one may question the significance of the decline.  However, there is a trend evident in the data.  Prior to 2o15, the longest stretch of flat life expectancy was three years, from 1984 to 1986, when the average life expectancy held at 74.7 years.  The decline in 2015 brings life expectancy to the same level it was at four years ago in 2012.  And it’s not as though human life expectancy is reaching some sort of limit at that level.  Thirty nations have a higher life expectancy – extending well into the 80’s.

Average life expectancy is a function of the death rate.  The NCHS lists the top ten leading causes of death in the U.S.  Among these top ten causes, the death rate rose for all but one – cancer.  But in spite of the fact that cancer and heart disease are far and away the two leading causes of death, the rise in every category except cancer was enough to more than offset the decline in the death rate due to cancer.  It seems that there may be something at work that crosses all categories of death rate.

It’s very likely that that underlying cause is worsening poverty.  Though poverty is never considered a cause of death, being an outside factor instead of a medical factor, it is far and away the number one killer in the world.  Consider this:  among those nations with a longer life expectancy than the U.S., the average “purchasing power parity” (or “PPP,” a measure of income) is over $41,000, the thirteen nations who rank at the bottom in terms of life expectancy (less than 50 in some cases) have an average PPP of less than $3,000.  It takes money to live a long life.  It takes money to pay for health care, to eat a healthy diet, to maintain vehicles in a safe condition, to hold depression at bay, and so on.

The U.S. ranks right up there (19th) with the top nations in terms of PPP.  However, the median household income peaked in the U.S. in 1999 at $57,909.  By 2012 it had slipped to $52,666.  It should come as no surprise, then, that average life expectancy since that time has been flat or, as in 2015, actually declining.

This is precisely the outcome, the inescapable collision between a growing population density and declining per capita consumption, that I warned of in Five Short Blasts.  Relying on population growth as a crutch for economic growth, the U.S. has continued to grow its actual population and has dramatically exacerbated the effect by exploding its “effective” population by engaging in free trade with badly overpopulated nations.  The manufacturing sector of our economy has been gutted and the supply-demand equation for labor has been thrown out-of-balance, driving down incomes.

The Obama administration can fool itself all it wants with its gimmicked statistics on jobs and unemployment, but they can’t alter the real world consequences of its failed trade and immigration policies.  Poverty is the very mechanism by which nature will eventually correct the problem of human overpopulation.  The 2015 life expectancy data may be the first indication that that process has begun in America.

 


Overpopulated Nations Sucking the Life out of American Manufacturing

May 11, 2016

I’ve finished my analysis of trade in manufactured goods for 2015 and the news isn’t good.  The effect of attempting to trade freely with nations that are much more densely populated than our own intensified yet again in 2015, dragging our deficit with those nations to a new record.

Check out this chart:  Deficits Above & Below Median Pop Density.  First, some explanation of the data is in order.  I studied our trade data for 166 nations and separated out those product codes that represent manufactured products.  Subtracting imports from exports, I was able to determine the balance of trade in manufactured goods for each.  I then sorted the data by the population density of each nation and divided these 166 nations evenly into two groups:  those 83 nations with a population density greater than the median (which, in 2015, was 184 people per square mile) and those 83 nations with a population density below the median.  I then totaled our balance of trade for each group.

As you can see, in 2015, our balance of trade in manufactured goods with the less densely populated half of nations was once again a surplus, but a smaller surplus of $74 billion.  This is down from $132 billion in 2014 and is less than half of the record high of $153 billion in 2011.

Conversely, our balance of trade in manufactured goods with the more densely populated half of nations was a huge deficit, plunging to a new record deficit of $722 billion, beating last year’s record by $53 billion.

Some observations about these two groups of nations are in order.  Though these nations are divided evenly around the median population density, the division is quite uneven with respect to population and land surface area.  The more densely populated nations represent almost 77% of the world’s population (not including the U.S.), but only about 24% of the world’s land mass (again, not including the U.S.).

Think about that.  With the people living in 76% of the world’s land mass, the U.S. enjoyed a surplus of trade of $74 billion in manufactured products.  But with the rest of the world – an area less than a third in size – the U.S. was clobbered with a $722 billion deficit!  Population density is the determining factor.  Not wages or wealth.  Wealthy nations were just as likely to appear among the deficit nations as among the surplus nations.  Not currency valuations.  Virtually ever currency in the world weakened against the dollar in 2015.  Population density is the key factor that drove these trade imbalances.

Some may point to the increase in the trade deficit as proof that currency values and manipulation are driving the imbalance.  But the data from previous years has shown that no such relationship exists.  A much more likely explanation is that American exports are declining and imports are rising because as more and more manufacturers lose ground to foreign competition, there are fewer and fewer products available for export or for purchase by domestic consumers.  Like a horde of mosquitoes, the overpopulated nations of the world are literally sucking the life out of American manufacturing and, with it, the American economy in general.

So what’s to be done?  “Give free trade enough time to work,” free trade advocates say, “and these imbalances will even themselves out.”  Wrong.  Free trade policy has had decades to work, beginning with the signing of the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947 and the result has been that the trade deficit with densely populated nations just gets worse and worse.  This happens because free trade theory doesn’t account for the inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption.

The only remedy that would restore a balance of trade is the same trade policy that the U.S. employed until 1947 to maintain such a balance – tariffs.  The use of tariffs to compensate the U.S. for nations’ inability to provide us access to equivalent markets – markets that have been emaciated by overcrowding – would restore a balance of trade and breathe life back into the American economy.

 


Per Capita GDP Contracts in 1st Quarter

April 29, 2016

Recessions are determined by two consecutive quarters of contraction in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, or “GDP.”  But what if the GDP grows, but more slowly than the growth in the population?  In that case, your share of the economy has shrunk, as it has for every American, and it’ll feel like a real recession to you.  So that’s how recessions should really be defined – in terms of per capita GDP.

By that measure, the next recession may very well already be underway.  Though GDP grew in the first quarter, though by a paltry 0.5% (as announced yesterday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis), per capita GDP actually contracted by 0.2%, thanks to the population growing at an annual rate of 0.8% in the same time period.

This is the 2nd time in four quarters that per capita GDP declined.  It happened in the same 1st quarter time period last year, falling by 0.2%.  The difference is that last year the economy was already beginning to rebound by the end of the first quarter as we emerged from an extremely harsh winter.  This year, the economy stalled in spite of relatively mild weather and, with the first month of the 2nd quarter already behind us, the economic slowdown appears to be intensifying.

This stagnating of the economy isn’t just a one or two-year phenomenon.  It’s been developing for a long time now.  During the 8-year period beginning with the 1st quarter of 2008 (just before the onset of the “Great Recession”), per capita GDP grew at an annual rate of only 0.5%.  (Check this chart:  Real Per Capita GDP.)  During the 8-year period prior to that (2000-2008), it grew at an annual rate of 1.4%.  And during the 8-year period prior to that (1992-2000), it grew at an annual rate of 3%.  Though the economy continues to grow, albeit ever more slowly, in terms of GDP, per capita GDP has essentially ground to a halt.

This is exactly what the inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption would predict – that eventually over-crowding would erode per capita consumption to a point where per capita GDP would actually begin to contract.  That’s exactly what we see happening now.  Though we continue to lean as heavily as ever on population growth to stoke the economy, that strategy has begun to backfire. We are all becoming worse off as a result.  It’s time for economists to wake up to the fact that this blatantly-flawed economic strategy is doomed to failure – that population growth has become a drag on the economy.


Pope OKs Contraceptive Use for Zika

March 2, 2016

http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/18/health/zika-pope-francis-contraceptives/index.html

This is stale news, but I can’t let it pass without comment.  A couple of weeks ago, Pope Francis was asked whether it’s permissible to relax the Catholic Church’s ban on the use of contraceptives in places like Brazil where cases of microcephaly among newborns has skyrocketed as a result of the Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitoes.

For those unaware, the Catholic Church has long opposed virtually all methods of contraception except for “natural” family planning – avoiding sex when the woman is most fertile.  As stated in the above-linked article, the Catholic catechism states that anything that works to “‘render procreation impossible’ is intrinsically evil.”

Over the centuries, the Catholic Church has gone well beyond Christ’s charge to spread the gospel, and has interpreted some of his teachings as empowering the pope to make rules and pass judgment on aspects of our lives that have little or nothing to do with Christ’s teachings.  This has led to various forms of abuse and corruption over the ages.

Many dumb rules persist.  Excluding women from the priesthood.  Forbidding priests to marry.  Forbidding divorce.  But this rule about contraception is probably the dumbest of all.  The rationale offered by the church breaks down no matter which way you look at it.

This rule is rooted in the belief that it is God’s will that humanity thrive and grow.  OK, fair enough.  I won’t argue that point.  Beyond that, however, who’s to say how that plan fits into God’s plan for the world?  Obviously, God created an extremely complex ecosystem with checks and balances to keep everything on an even keel.  In the early days of man’s existence, our ability to have offspring every nine months, year-in and year-out, was necessary to assure the survival of the species in the face of disease and famine and other factors that kept infant mortality high and life spans short.  But God gave us brains that He expected us to use to tame these forces and improve our lives.

So which was God’s will – that starvation, disease and exposure to the elements kill us off prematurely, or that we employ such things as medicine to counteract them?  It seems clear to me from Christ’s parable about the talents that He expected us to use our brains to better ourselves.  So if He expects us to use our brains to reduce our death rate, isn’t it logical that He would also expect us to use our brains to rein in the excess procreative capacity that we’re left with?  Surely He doesn’t expect us to procreate ourselves to the point of becoming like a plague of locusts, whose population then collapses when resources are exhausted.

So how did regulating our procreative capacity become “intrinsically evil?”  What about the vow of chastity that the clergy take?  That surely renders procreation impossible.  So how is that not evil?  Suppose everyone decided that they wanted to be a priest or nun, and took a vow of chastity?  The human race would soon be extinct.  Wouldn’t that be evil?  Even if it was only Christians who took such a vow, Christianity would soon be wiped from the face of the earth, extinguishing Christ’s message.  That would be evil.

Natural family planning, if done with discipline, can be very effective in avoiding procreation.  So does God really care whether one employs that method over some other form of contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies if the result is the same?  Doesn’t that seem a bit silly and illogical for someone like God?

Back to the example of the Zika virus.  It seems that not every case of Zika among pregnant women results in microcephaly.  So the use of contraception will make procreation impossible, while rolling the dice with Zika could still yield healthy babies.  Which does God prefer in this case?  Is Zika itself “evil,” or is it just one of those factors that nature uses to maintain balance in the world?  If God wanted to, couldn’t He intervene and protect the unborn from the ravages of this disease?  So why doesn’t He?  Is it possible that He expects us to put our intellects to work in fighting the disease and avoid giving birth to damaged babies when possible?

No one knows the answers to such questions.  In the same way, no one can claim to know God’s will when it comes family planning or the larger issue of stabilizing our population.  The Church’s ban on the use of contraceptives is stupid and has probably done more to perpetuate and proliferate poverty and misery than any other human-imposed factor.  I suspect that this Pope would be perfectly happy to strike down this ban (as one of his predecessors nearly did at the request of bishops years earlier), if it wouldn’t result in an uproar among the ever-shrinking conservative wing of the Church.  I think more people would be attracted to the Catholic faith if it weren’t for all of the dumb rules like this one. As a Catholic, I find this whole controversy to be downright embarrassing.

 

 


U.S. Trade: A Tale of Two Worlds

January 21, 2016

Divide the world in half by population density and the results couldn’t be more different.  In 2014, it grew worse again.  The half of nations with a population density above the world’s median – 184 people per square mile – left the U.S. with a trade deficit in manufactured goods of $669 billion in 2014.  That’s up by $35 billion from the record set in 2013.  It has worsened every year since 2009.

The other half of nations – those with a population density less than the median – yielded starkly different results.  The U.S. enjoyed a trade surplus in manufactured goods of $132 billion with those nations.  That’s down from $147 billion in 2013 and down from the record of $153 billion set in 2011.

Here’s the chart:  Deficits Above and Below Median Pop Density.  If this isn’t proof of the relationship between population density and trade imbalances, I don’t know what is.  The number of nations is the same, but the less densely populated nations give us a $132 billion surplus, while the more densely populated nations leave us with a $669 billion deficit.  Still the U.S. applies the same free trade policy to all nations without any consideration to population density.  Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

One may counter that the results are skewed by the fact that the more densely populated half of nations includes more people than the other half, and that it includes China, which accounts for more than half of the above deficit.  Fine, so let’s analyze the data in some other ways:

  • Dividing the world in half by population is a little awkward, because China falls right in the middle.  It requires including some of China’s people in the more densely populated half, and some in the less densely populated half, and dividing our deficit with China proportionately.  If we do that, we find that the U.S. has a trade deficit in manufactured goods of $464 billion with the half of people living in more densely populated conditions.  By contrast, we have a trade deficit of $72.8 billion with the half of people living in less densely populated conditions.  The trade deficit with the more densely populated half of people is more than six times worse than our deficit with the half of people in less crowded conditions.
  • Let’s look at it another way.  Let’s divide the world’s land mass (not including Antarctica) exactly in half and compare the more densely populated half to the less densely populated half.  Then we have a trade deficit in manufactured goods of $666.8 billion with the people living in the more crowded half of the world, and a trade surplus of $130 billion with the less crowded half of the world.
  • Instead of dividing the world in half, let’s divide it around the U.S. population density – those nations more densely populated vs. those less densely populated.  Of the 165 nations studied, 112 are more densely populated than the U.S. and 53 nations are less densely populated.  The U.S. has a trade deficit in manufactured goods of $701.2 billion with nations that are more densely populated, and a surplus of $164.5 billion with those that are less densely populated.  That’s a difference of $865.7 billion.
  • The U.S. has a trade deficit in manufactured goods with 56 nations.  Of these 56 nations, only four are less densely populated than the U.S.:  Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Laos.

Any way that you look at it, the relationship between population density and trade imbalance just absolutely screams out at you.  But economists don’t see it.  They don’t see it because they won’t look.  They won’t look because of their adamant refusal to give any credence to the notion that population growth has any economic consequences.

Trade deficits, they say, are the result of other factors:  low wages, currency manipulation, lax environmental and labor standards, etc.  Or they say that trade imbalances are merely transitory, that such imbalances will correct themselves as the economies of underdeveloped nations grow.

Proving that trade imbalances are caused by disparities in population density also requires disproving the above pet theories of economists.  We’ll tackle that in my next posts.