American Millenials Far Worse Off Than Their Parents at the Same Stage in Life

January 16, 2017

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/01/13/millennials-falling-behind-boomer-parents/96530338/

An analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group “Young Invincibles,” released on Friday, finds that the millenial generation – especially white millenials – are far worse off economically than their baby-boomer parents were at the same stage in life – in 1989.  (See the above linked article.)

  • The median net worth of millenials is 56% lower.
  • Median income has fallen 21% in spite of the fact that a larger percentage of millenials (approximately 50% more) have a college education compared to baby boomers.
  • Home ownership is down by 3%.
  • Millenials are saddled with “drastically higher” student debt.

The article observes that “the analysis fits into a broader pattern of diminished opportunity.”

Looking beyond the Federal Reserve data, millenials are clearly much worse off than their parents in many other ways:

  • While most employers offered pensions in 1989, few do today.
  • The cost of health care is orders-of-magnitude higher than it was in 1989.
  • Good jobs were still fairly plentiful in 1989.  Not today.  The example cited in the article of a college-educated lady earning minimum wage making pizza isn’t a one-off.  It’s pretty typical.
  • The millenial generation is famous for depending on their parents for housing and additional support beyond that.  It’s not a matter of immaturity among millenials.  They do it out of necessity.  In 1989, no self-respecting baby boomer would be caught dead living with his/her parents.  There was no need.

None of this should come as any surprise to those who understand the consequences of the inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption.  It’s precisely what I predicted in Five Short Blasts, which I began writing in 1993.  Since 1989, the U.S. population has grown by approximately 25%.  But, worse than that, our effective population density has exploded by 200% since 1989 by economically erasing our borders and attempting to trade freely with badly overpopulated nations who prey on our market and bring nothing in return to the trading table but bloated labor forces, hungry to take jobs from Americans.  Diminished opportunity and worsening poverty is inescapable in those circumstances.

Sadly, most millenials are oblivious to what’s been done to them through globalization, which has been slickly packaged and sold to them as some sort of utopian state where we all live in perfect harmony together, masking the underlying truth – that their economic civil rights have been trampled by the greed of global corporations who feed on population growth to stoke their bottom lines.

 

 

 


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.

 


Trump

July 22, 2016

So disillusioned was I with Obama’s broken promises to address the problems with our trade policy, his broken promise to double exports in five years, his signing of the awful trade deal with South Korea and, more recently, his pursuit of bigger, more expansive trade deals with Pacific rim nations and with Europe, I vowed to myself that I would stay out of politics on this blog going forward.  However, as discoverer of the inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption, as author of the book Five Short Blasts that explains the relationship and its ramifications and, consequently, as an advocate of policies that would restore a balance of trade and move us toward a stable population, and in the wake of Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last night, I feel I can no longer ignore the elephant in the room.

Now more than halfway through my seventh decade on this planet, I have spent my whole life watching our country being sucked into the vortex of “globalism” in which the United States has evolved from a beacon of hope and prosperity into a host upon which overpopulated nations, unable to sustain themselves, could feed and thrive.  Our political parties evolved into one “Republicrat” party, supporting the trade and open-border policies that are central to making “The New World Order” tick.  The “hope and change” that Obama spoke of, especially his promise to fix our trade policy, I thought, might be our last chance to stop that madness.  In the wake of his betrayal, I figured that was it – that I’d never live to see an America again that was something other than the hollowed-out shell we’ve become.

On more than one occasion, I have called Donald Trump a “buffoon.”  We’ve seen him dip his toe into politics before, only to self-destruct through outlandish pronouncements and behavior.  He got my attention with his vow to “build the wall,” but I figured the same thing would happen again.  He’d soon self-destruct.  I thought that those who gave him a 1% chance of winning the nomination were being generous.  He was just grand-standing and having fun, enjoying another brief stint in the spotlight like he’s done before.

Then he vowed to rip up our trade deals and start over on trade, making new deals that actually worked for us.  He got my attention again.  I wanted to get my hopes up, but figured that, surely, his antics during the primary race would sink his chances.  To my amazement, they didn’t.  He was saying the right things about illegal immigration and about trade, but I was dismayed with the personal attacks.

Finally, last night, I saw the Trump I’d been wanting to see.  He was still Trump and, defying predictions that he’d back away from earlier promises in order to broaden his support, he actually doubled down on each one.  But gone were the personal attacks.

Trump was exactly right when he pointed out that our trade and immigration policies have done more harm to the poor, to the inner cities, to blacks and Latinos than to anyone else. I hope the folks from these demographics paid attention and kept open minds.

Unlike the Trump I’ve seen in the past, he seems truly sincere in his desire to turn the country in a very different direction.  At least that’s the way he came across last night.  It’s hard to imagine that a man 70 years old would subject himself to everything that goes with winning this nomination and waging the campaign to follow unless he really has a fire in his belly to do what he says.

But can he?  Can he get the political establishment to go along with with his plans – plans that seem radical and dangerous to many of them?  Can he back us out of trade deals in the face of threats from these other countries that will probably scare the hell out of people?  I have said that restoring a balance of trade would not be without pain, driving up the cost of goods until our own domestic manufacturing can get re-established.  Can he, a total Washington outsider, do this without mucking it up and perhaps forever sinking any hope that it will ever be tried again?   Will he be brain-washed into joining the ranks of the globalists as Obama was?  (That would seem unlikely with Trump.)  Does he really have the energy and drive to make all this happen?

Or am I just being suckered again?  I hope not.  As one who understands that the effects of our enormous trade deficit and our immigration policies on our economy dwarf all other factors – including currency valuations, Fed policy, stimulus programs, and so on – I have to at least give the benefit of the doubt to candidates who are at least claiming that they’ll tackle these issues.  Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I’ll keep doing my small part to convince you and others of the perils of our free trade and open border policies.

 


America’s Worst Trading Partners in 2015

May 19, 2016

It’s time for my annual ranking and analysis of America’s best and worst trading partners for 2015.  No surprise, it was another dismal year for American manufacturers, racking up the 40th consecutive year of trade deficits and setting a new record in the process – a deficit of $648 billion.  That surpasses last year’s record deficit by a whopping $109 billion.

Since the surpluses of trade with our best trade partners is overwhelmingly swamped by the deficits with our worst partners, let’s begin there.  This year I’m going to first present the list in the most basic terms – a list ranked in order of the sheer size of the deficits. Check out this list of America’s twenty worst trade partners in terms of our deficit in manufactured products:  Top 20 Deficits, 2015.

The nations at the top of this list should come as no surprise to anyone.  Trade with China dwarfs them all with a deficit of $367.5 billion – more than four times larger than our second largest deficit with Japan.  That’s not surprising when you realize that China has ten times as many people as Japan.  China actually accounts for about one fifth of the entire world’s population.  The following are some other key observations about this list:

  • Look at the population density of these nations.  The average population density is 737 people per square mile.  That’s eight times the density of the United States.  With only one exception – Sweden – every nation on this list is more densely populated than the U.S.  Most are much, much more densely populated.
  • Eight of these nations are wealthy European nations.
  • Over the past ten years, our trade deficit has worsened with 17 of these nations.  Most have worsened dramatically.  The nation with whom our balance of trade has improved the most (that is, with whom the deficit has declined the most in the past ten years) is Sweden – the only nation on the list less densely populated than the U.S.
  • Our trade deficit with Japan has actually declined by 18% over the past ten years.  Why?  Simple.  South Korea is “eating their lunch.”  Imports of South Korean cars – Hyundais and Kias, along with imports of South Korean appliances like those made by LG, Samsung and others – has cut into Japan’s market share.  Remember when President Obama signed a new trade deal with South Korea in 2012, proclaiming it a “big win for American workers?”  In three short years our trade deficit with South Korea jumped 50%.
  • Our fastest growing trade deficit is with Vietnam, growing by 440% in the last ten years.  Some may point to the fact that at $6100 per person, Vietnam has the lowest purchasing power parity of any nation on this list – only slightly better than India – and that this is the reason for the explosive growth in our trade deficit with them.  However, our second-fastest growing trade deficit is with Switzerland, a nation that is actually more wealthy (with higher wages) than the U.S.  What Vietnam and Switzerland do have in common is a high population density.  It’s the one thing that (nearly) all of these diverse nations have in common.

Many people will look at this list and quickly conclude that, when it comes to our trade deficit, the problem is China and so that’s where we should focus.  Somehow, some way, they’re obviously not playing fair with us.  They’re manipulating their currency, they’re ignoring workers’ rights.  They’re trashing the environment.  And so on.  So let’s get tough with China.

The problem is that China can legitimately complain that of course our deficit with them is big, simply because they are a big nation.  Person-for-person, our trade deficit with Japan is worse.  OK, so in an effort to be fair, let’s broaden our efforts to include Japan.  “Not so fast!” the Japanese will complain.  “What about Germany?  Their surplus with you is nearly as large and they have only half as many people as we do!”

The point is that in determining the root cause of these enormous deficits in order to formulate an effective trade policy, we need to factor out of the equation the sheer size of these nations.  Let’s determine who are really our worst trade partners on a person-for-person basis.  So here’s a list of our worst trade partners in terms of the per capita trade deficits:  Top 20 Per Capita Deficits, 2015.

Now we can see what a mistake it would be to simply conclude that China is the problem.  In per capita terms, they barely make the list of the top twenty worst deficits.  In fact, there are now ten European nations on this list and, in per capita terms, our trade deficit in manufactured products is worse with all ten of them than it is with China.  Here are some more key observations about this list:

  • Once again, all but two of the nations on this list – Sweden and Finland – are more densely populated than the U.S.  Most are far more densely populated.  Only three have population densities less than the median population density of the world, which is 184 people per square mile.  One – Ireland – is right on the median.  The other 80% of the nations on this list are much more densely populated.
  • Most of these are wealthy nations, with an average purchasing power parity of $44,370 per person.  In fact, the top of the list is dominated by the wealthiest.  Clearly, the argument that low wages cause trade deficits doesn’t hold water.  If anything, the cause and effect is exactly the opposite.  Running large trade surpluses makes nations wealthier.
  • There is one nation on this list that is a net oil exporter – Mexico.  I point this out because oil is priced in U.S. dollars, and every dollar spent on oil produced by foreign countries must be repatriated to the U.S., since that is ultimately the only place where they are legal tender.  Those dollars are repatriated in several ways, primarily through the purchase of American bonds or through the purchase of American goods.  The latter tends to make net oil exporters strong buyers of American products, which usually means that the U.S. enjoys a surplus of trade in manufactured products with such nations.  But not Mexico.  What this means is that the large trade deficit in manufactured goods that we have with Mexico is actually even worse than it appears.  For a nation whose population density is one of the lowest on the list – less than twice that of the U.S. – it means that something beyond population density – such as some unfair trade practice – is at work here.  Ditto for Ireland, which has fashioned itself into a tax haven for manufacturers, virtually bankrupting itself during the “Great Recession” of a few years ago.

If you are seeing such data for the first time, it may be a little early, based on this data alone, to conclude that population density is the driving force behind trade imbalances.  More proof is needed.  If such a relationship exists, then we should see exactly the opposite at the other end of the spectrum.  We should see a list of America’s best trade partners – those with whom we have trade surpluses – loaded with nations with low population densities.  We’ll take a look at that list in my next post.

If you’re already acquainted, however, with the relationship between population density and trade imbalances, which I explored thoroughly in Five Short Blasts, then this data is just further proof that population density is, in fact, the driving force behind these trade imbalances.  Such deficits are inescapable when applying free trade theory, which fails to account for large disparities in population density, to such nations.  It will only get worse with each passing year, exactly as we have seen.

 


America’s Worst Trading Partners

January 12, 2016

I have finally finished tabulating the trade data for each country for 2014.  (2015 data won’t be released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis until sometime in March.)  What took me so long?  This is no small task.  Since the BEA doesn’t track “manufactured products” as a category, I have to take the data for hundreds of product codes for each of 165 nations and subtract out the categories of raw materials in order to arrive at a figure for manufactured products.  I maintain a massive spreadsheet for each nation and then compile the results for all on an even bigger spreadsheet.

Anyway, the results are in and over the next couple of weeks or so, beginning with this post, we’ll break down and analyze the results.  I like to begin by listing America’s 20 worst per capita trade deficits in manufactured goods.  In essence, this is a list of America’s 20 worst trade partners.  These trade deficits are expressed in per capita terms in order to put the citizens of all nations on an equal footing.  For example, our trade deficit with China, when expressed in dollars, dwarfs that of every other nation because they represent one fifth of the world’s entire population.  But when it comes to trade, borders are meaningless and China could just as easily be 100 smaller nations instead of one.  It would have no effect on our total trade deficit whether we draw a line on a map around 1.3 billion people, or draw 100 lines around clusters of 13 million people each.  Expressing the deficits in per capita terms eliminates the sheer size of nations as a factor.

If you’re new to this web site, you probably expect to see this list populated with poor nations.  You’d be wrong and, by the end of this post, you’ll understand why.  So let’s take a look at the list for 2014:  Top 20 Deficits, 2014.  Some observations are in order:

  1. The key take-away from this list is that 18 of these 20 nations are more densely populated than the U.S.  Most are much more densely populated.  The average population density of this list is 539 people per square mile.  This compares with the U.S. population density of about 87 people per square mile.  This average is up from the average population density of 504 people per square mile on the 2013 list.
  2. Instead of poor, low wage nations, this list is populated by rather wealthy, high wage nations.  The average purchasing power parity (PPP) of the nations on this list is $40,700 per person, up from $35,330 in 2013.  Only one nation on this list has a PPP of less than $10,000 – Vietnam, at $5700 per person.  Only three other nations have a PPP of less than $20,000 – Costa Rica, Mexico and China.  By comparison, U.S. PPP was $54,400 in 2014.
  3. Though our trade deficit with China has exploded since they were first granted “Most Favored Nation” status in 2000, their position on this list has barely budged since I published Five Short Blasts in 2007.  They were 19th on the list in 2006 and have risen only one point to 18th in 2014.  That’s because our trade deficit with nearly all of these nations has grown just as rapidly.  To illustrate this, I’ve included a column on the chart that shows the percent change in our balance of trade with each nation over the past ten years.  Our deficit with China has grown by 82%.  But the results with some other nations have been even worse.  In 2006, Costa Rica didn’t even appear on this list.  In fact, in 2005, we had a trade surplus with Costa Rica.  That has now reversed into a large trade deficit, big enough to move them to number 8 on this list.  The same is true for Vietnam.  In 2005 they were nowhere close to being on this list but, in the past ten years, our deficit with Vietnam has worsened by almost 500%.  Our deficit with Switzerland has worsened by over 200% in the last ten years, moving them to 2nd on the list.  It’s worth noting here that Switzerland is the one nation on the list that is even wealthier than the U.S.  But the one thing all of these nations have in common is a high population density.
  4. In case you’re tempted to conclude that Costa Rica, Vietnam, Mexico and China are on this list because of low wages (low PPP), consider this.  In the past ten years, their PPPs have risen by 41%, 136%, 50% and 184% respectively.  If wages are a factor in trade imbalances, then such rapidly rising wages should tend to slow or even reverse our trade deficit with these nations.  Instead, each is accelerating.
  5. It’s also worth noting here than one of the only two nations on the list less densely populated than the U.S. – Sweden – is slowly sliding off of this list.  Our trade deficit with Sweden has actually improved by 44% over the past ten years – the only such improvement on this list.  As a result, they’ve slid from no. 2 on the list in 2006 to no. 12 in 2014.
  6. Another nation that has slid noticeably on this list is Japan.  They were no. 4 on the list in 2006, sliding to no. 10 in 2014.  Why?  Other nations, most notably South Korea and Germany (who have each risen on the list), have cannibalized their auto exports.  This explains why Japan’s economy has been mired in recession for years.

In 2014, the U.S. suffered a total trade deficit in manufactured goods of $539.9 billion.  The trade deficit in manufactured goods with just the twenty nations on this list was $728.3 billion.  In other words, these twenty nations account for our entire trade deficit in manufactured goods, and then some.  It should be clear to anyone that it’s the large disparity in population density between the U.S. and these nations that drives our trade deficit.  It’s just as clear that low wages play no role whatsoever.  Any trade policy that fails to take into account the role of population density in driving trade imbalances is doomed to failure, just as U.S. trade policy has been for decades.

Those who blame trade imbalances on low wages either don’t understand trade or are simply lying.  So too are those who blame currency valuations – something we’ll examine later.  And those who tell you that we simply need to be more competitive are playing you for fools.  The only way to restore a balance of trade is by applying tariffs to counteract the effect of population density.

Not enough proof?  Stay tuned.  In my next post we’ll take a look at the opposite end of the spectrum – America’s twenty best trade partners – and see if population density is a factor there too.

 

 


Per Capita U.S. Auto Sales Declining

January 9, 2016

New vehicle sales were released a couple of days ago.  The headline of the story is that sales set a new record in 2015 – 17.47 million, beating the previous record set in 2000.  It got me wondering.  2000 was fifteen years ago.  Since then, the U.S. population has grown by about 13%.  So the new record should have easily topped the 15-year-old record, right?  Wrong.  It barely beat the 2000 record by only about 100,000 vehicles, or by about 0.6%.

So I couldn’t help but wonder:  is it possible that we’re already beginning to see a decline in the per capita consumption of vehicles in the U.S., which is what the inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption that I presented in Five Short Blasts would predict?  In Chapter 10 of the book I theorized that the U.S., though much less densely populated than many other nations, had already crossed the threshold where a growing population density begins to erode per capita consumption and, with it, the economy, and that this happened sometime perhaps in the ’50s or ’60s when our population was half of what it is today.

New vehicle sales is one piece of consumer data that’s readily available and not a closely-guarded secret of some market research company.  So it was time to find out how new vehicle sales have changed over time as our population has grown.  I plotted such sales going back to 1968 versus the U.S. population and here’s the result:  auto sales 1968-2015.  The following are some observations about this chart:

  1. New vehicle sales tend to swing up and down pretty wildly, dropping precipitously during recessions and shooting back up during recoveries.
  2. I don’t know what  happened prior to 1968, but it’s clear that between 1968 and 1978, the per capita consumption of new vehicles was rising quickly, jumping 44% to .067 vehicles per person, which is about one vehicle for ever 15 people.
  3. That figure of .067 vehicles per person in 1978, when our population was about a third lower than today, still stands as the record level.  The next peak of per capita consumption of new vehicles in 1986 didn’t quite rise to the same level, reaching 0.66.  The next peak in 2000 – the record that was just broken this year – reached only 0.62 new vehicles per person, well short of the 1978 peak.
  4. This total vehicle sales record set in 2015, when expressed in per capita terms, even misses the 2000 mark by quite a large margin.

Clearly, per capita consumption of new vehicles is in decline, and has been declining since as far back as 1978.  One could argue that 2015 may not be a peak, that vehicle sales have been climbing steadily since 2009 when they reached their lowest level of the entire 1968-2015 period.   The auto industry projects that sales could go higher in 2016.  I think that’s unlikely.  First of all, though 2015 was a record year, the sales rate in December fell to its lowest level since June, and December is typically one of the strongest sales months of the year.  Secondly, 2015 was the sixth consecutive year of sales volume increases, the longest of the 1968-2015 period.  Previously, the longest period of annual sales volume increases was four years, from 1983-1986.  Finally, look at what’s happening in the economy in general beginning in December.  Many economic indicators are now turning negative.  Most would agree that the auto industry’s expectations of a stronger 2016 are a pipe dream.

So just how fast is per capita consumption of new vehicles declining?  To find out, I re-plotted the data beginning with 1978 and had the computer generate a trend line with an equation to describe it.  Here’s the new chart:  auto sales 1978-2015.  Now you can see the clear downward trend.  Of the four different mathematical formulas that could be used to describe the trend – linear, logarithmic, exponential and power – the best fit was a linear equation.  The formula is included in the chart:  f(x) = -.0003x + .06.  (I’ve rounded off the two constants for clarity.)  This means that as our population continues to grow at the same rate – about 1% per year – per capita new vehicle sales will decline by .0003, which is about a 0.5% decline.

Why is this happening?  It’s pretty simple, really.  Most of our population growth is in urban areas where there’s been strong demand for apartment-style housing.  We examined in a recent post how renters are increasingly paying a greater percentage of their incomes on rent.  And people who live in apartments in metropolitan areas face big obstacles when it comes to car ownership – especially the lack and high cost of parking, both at home and at work, not to mention the traffic issues in the cities.  It’s just cost prohibitive to own a car, so many opt for public transportation.  The root cause of this situation, though, is ever-worsening crowding driven by the increase in population density.

Sure, there are many factors that may be at play here but, for each one you can name, I can name another offsetting factor.  Cars are built better and last longer?  Everything about our society pushes people to buy new cars more often – not less.  Cars are less affordable?  Dealers now practically give cars away, with loan durations of six or seven years, when three years was the norm back in ’78.

This decline in the per capita consumption of vehicles is yet another example of the conflict of interest that’s created once a population breaches that critical level and begins to drive down per capita consumption.  If you’re a consumer, it’s in your best interest that the population stabilize or even shrink a bit, increasing your quality of life and enabling you to live in uncrowded conditions where you can enjoy all that life has to offer, including the freedom to own a car and travel at will.  But if you’re General Motors, it’s in your best interest that the population continue to grow because if the population grows by 1% and per capita consumption declines by 0.5%, your total sales volume still increases.  And we saw this happen in 2015.  Sales set a new record in spite of a significant decline in per capita sales.  And so it’s also in the best interests of General Motors to fund candidates who support high rates of immigration.

Immigration-fueled population growth is steadily ruining our quality of life.  Though few really understand why, more and more Americans seem to sense this and it at least partly explains the popularity of the few candidates who at least oppose illegal immigration.

 


Renters financially stressed

December 29, 2015

http://www.cnbc.com/2015/12/09/housings-new-crisis-half-your-income-for-rent.html

I’m finally getting caught up on some things.  One of them is this above-linked article that appeared on CNBC three weeks ago.  It illustrates the fact that, in America, home ownership is declining and housing is becoming less affordable, even for renters.

In Five Short Blasts we saw how a rising population density, as it does with the per capita consumption of virtually everything, dramatically reduces the per capita consumption of dwelling space.  The average citizen of Japan, a nation ten times as densely populated as the U.S., lives in a dwelling less than one third the size of the average American’s.  So it’s only reasonable to expect that, as America grows more densely populated, the same thing will happen:  our homes will get smaller.

Indeed, as the per capita consumption of everything declines, it’s inescapable that employment will decline as well, and poverty will increase.  People who are poor can afford even less, exacerbating the decline in consumption.  Thus, worsening population density and rising poverty work synergistically to spawn a downward spiral.

This article is evidence of the downward spiral in the economic condition of Americans:

“The crisis in the number of renters paying excessive amounts of their income for housing continues, because the market has been unable to meet the need for housing that is within the financial reach of many families and individuals with lower incomes. These affordability challenges also are increasingly afflicting moderate-income households,” said Chris Herbert, managing director of the center.  (Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies)

… Homeownership is now at the lowest level in half a century, and some expect it could go significantly lower. Household formation is expected to continue its slow rise, but almost entirely on renter households, not owner households.

It’s important to note the relationship here between incomes and housing.  Yes, it’s only natural that poorer people will tend to be renters instead of home buyers and will occupy smaller dwellings.  But the trend toward smaller dwellings also reduces employment in the housing industry, just as lower per capita consumption reduces employment in every industry.  We consume less because we grow more crowded.  We grow poorer when we consume less.  And we then consume even less because we’re poorer.  It’s a process that feeds on itself.

There’s only one way to break this cycle – to stop the rise in population density and level off our population at a sustainable level.


Immigration, Muslims and Trump

December 11, 2015

Since economic damage caused by immigration-fueled population growth is one of the key themes of this blog, and since immigration has been a red-hot topic in the media for the past few weeks, it may seem strange to my readers that I’ve been conspicuously silent on the topic.  I’ve been debating whether to wade into this subject, since my focus has been the sheer volume of immigration and not how it relates to any particular group of people.  But Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants has raised the issue to such a fever pitch that I feel compelled to weigh in.

Trump began the debate on immigration with his position on illegal immigration.  He has a way of alienating many people with inelegant rhetoric, calling Mexican illegals murderers and rapists, but his concern with illegal immigration is a valid one that taps into a deep-seated disgust among the American people with politicians who, for decades, have turned a blind eye to the problem or, as in the case of our current president, actually encourages it.

Then came the Syrian refugee crisis, and many openly worried about the possibility of Islamic extremists hiding among them.  As if on cue came the Paris attacks and, sure enough, among the perpetrators was one who had recently entered Europe as a “refugee.”  Don’t worry, our politicians and bureaucrats assured us, we’re doing everything possible to make sure that such people are screened out of our immigrant pool.  Here it should be noted that many Republican governors, and even some Democrats, vowed that no Syrian refugees would be allowed to settle in their states – a position that seems little different that the one taken by Trump.

Again, almost as if on cue, we get the terrorist attack in San Bernardino.  In spite of the Obama administration’s reluctance to label it a terrorist attack by Islamic extremists, it was quickly obvious to all that that is exactly what it was.  In spite of the government’s assurances that ISIS sympathizers and other jihadists are monitored by the FBI, we now know that the perpetrators had been planning such events for years right under the FBI’s nose and nobody noticed.  So Trump, in his usual fashion of addressing a valid issue in a way that offends, called for a complete shutdown of all immigration by Muslims.

While all politicians and world leaders have been quick to condemn his remarks, polls have shown a lot of agreement among the American people.  Those who agree with Trump can, at the very least, be forgiven.  Americans value tolerance and freedom.  It’s written into our constitution.  But there’s only so much that people can take.

It all started slowly enough, beginning with the American hostage crisis in Iran in 1979.  In 1993 came the World Trade Center bombing which failed to bring down the building, but did kill six people.  In 2001, the “911” attack did bring the buildings down and killed over 3,000 people.  In 2006, Mohammed Reza Tahiri-azar plowed his SUV into a group of pedestrians at UNC-Chapel Hill to avenge the murders of Muslims around the world.  In 2009 there was the massacre at Fort Hood.  In 2013 there was the Boston marathon bombing.  In 2014 there was the New York City hatchet attack on police officers.  Later in 2015, four marines were killed at a recruiting center in Chattanooga.  A sailor was later killed by the same attacker at a naval reserve center.  Finally, there is the massacre in San Bernardino that prompted Trump’s remarks.  The frequency of these Islamic extremist terrorist attacks is increasing exponentially.  In addition to these attacks in the U.S., Americans are subjected daily to a litany of attacks throughout the world including ISIS beheadings and a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive.

To be fair, not all terrorist attacks are the works of Islamic extremists.  There have been attacks by the KKK, left wing extremists, right wing extremists, white supremacists, anti-Semites, black radicals, Christian radicals and eco-terrorists.  However, among the 59 terrorist attacks chronicled by Wikipedia in the U.S. since 1990, nineteen were perpetrated by Muslims.  Of the 3,351 people killed in terrorist attacks since 1990, 3,158 of them died in attacks perpetrated by Muslims.  To put this into perspective, in a nation where Muslims represent about 1% of the population, they have accounted for 32% of the terrorist attacks since 1990 and 94% of the deaths in those attacks.  In a society as diverse as that of the U.S., there are going to be “nut jobs” of every stripe.  But the above statistics seem to speak to a greater propensity among the followers of Islam toward such violence.

In the wake of such attacks, we are told that these people do not represent Islam, but some sort of perversion of Islam.  On this past Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd dared to ask the question, “Is the Islamic extremism espoused by ISIS a warped distortion of Islam? Or does it tap into a strain of Islamic thought?”  One of the panelists – Asra Nomani, author of Standing Alone:  An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam, had the following things to say on the subject:

… we are opposing a very real interpretation of Islam that espouses violence, social injustice, and political Islam.

… The problem is sitting in the birthplace of Islam, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where this interpretation of Islam has gone out into the world over the last four decades, creating militancy groups from Indonesia, to now, San Bernardino, California …

… There are hundreds and hundreds of followers of Islamic State around Europe and the U.S. The Saudis are showing this. And all you have to do is look at the conversation inside of our mosques and inside of our communities. And you will hear it. And I hear it. And I have to say that I saw it in 2002, went to Islamabad, Pakistan, and met women who were supporting this ideology. I call them the Taliban Ladies Auxiliary back then. This young woman in California would’ve been a star member of it.

That the Koran speaks of infidels and seems to justify waging holy war (jihad) against them is indisputable fact.  I think the question is how literally this is interpreted and how seriously it is taken by Muslims.  This lady, who clearly knows what she’s talking about, believes that, at least in the Middle East, it is not just a “strain of Islamic thought” but a rather prominent belief system.

That’s probably not the case among American Muslims.  It seems logical that people who have such a belief system would not willingly migrate to such a land of infidels as the U.S. – what some in the Middle East refer to as “The Great Satan.”  But it’s also logical to believe that a small number would, perhaps rationalizing it as a way of positioning themselves for jihad.

So what’s to be done to protect ourselves from more Islamic extremist attacks in the future?  As justification of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan to take on extremists, we were told that “we must fight them over there so that we don’t have to fight them here at home.”  It always begged the obvious question that no one ever dared to ask.  “If they are over there, why would we ever have to fight them here unless you let them in?”  It never made any sense.

Today, as we’ve done for decades, the U.S. admits roughly a million legal immigrants each year.  (Another million enter illegally.) In recent years, that pool of legal immigrants has included probably 100-200,000 Muslims from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.  Our leaders assure us that all of these immigrants are thoroughly vetted.  Really?  Do you believe that the government is really able to do that? It certainly doesn’t seem so, when the FBI admits that it’s currently tracking thousands of ISIS sympathizers in the U.S. and has made over 70 arrests this past year. It’s impossible to accurately screen that volume of immigrants and to monitor that many extremists. What we’ve learned about the San Bernardino attackers makes it clear that the authorities missed a lot of obvious red flags. Can there be any doubt that they’re missing others? How long before they attack?

There are three major factors involved in mass shootings. One is the mental health of assailants as we’ve seen in the cases of the Aurora, CO theater massacre and the slaughter of kids in Newtown. Second is the issue of gun control. There’s more that needs to be done to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally deranged and known extremists. But, in the cases of terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslim immigrants (or, in some cases, by the succeeding generation that feels alienated), there has been an obvious failure of immigration policy. Finally someone, however clumsily, has identified what needs to be done – a drastic reduction in Muslim immigration.

“We’re a nation of immigrants,” we’re told. Well, first of all, I suspect that native Americans bristle at that statement. In fact, we were, at first, a nation of invaders and conquerors. Then came the immigrants. And why not? We were a vast land that was virtually uninhabited. The plaque at the base of Lady Liberty proclaims, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” So many have come that we now have our own huddled masses, tired and poor, stacked like cord wood in the inner cities. We’ve reached the point where overcrowding is eroding our ability to gainfully employ everyone. So, yes, we are a nation of immigrants. But it’s impossible to keep up the pace. This isn’t the early 1900s any more.

“That’s not who we are,” we’re told in response to the idea of excluding muslims from further immigration. “It’s unconstitutional.” Actually, it’s not unconstitutional. The supreme court has consistently maintained that the rights and freedoms promised in our constitution apply to U.S. citizens and do not extend to foreigners. We have a long-standing practice of discriminating when it comes to deciding who should be granted the privilege of citizenship. Besides, although we believe in freedom of religion, what are we to do when a group of people – that “strain of Islam” that seems common in the Middle East – uses our values and sensibilities as a weapon against us? How are we to deal with a religion that justifies – even promotes – murdering “infidels?”

Our leaders would have us believe that we really have only one option – to fight and defeat them “over there.” That strategy has been a proven failure in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we feel we have accomplished our mission, creating conditions for a democratic election, we draw down. As soon as we do, extremists move back in to fill the vacuum. And all too often, the democratic process that we fought so hard and paid so dearly to establish is simply used to pick the next theocratic dictator. In the end, the situation is worse.  It’s impossible to end the sectarian violence in that part of the world.

“We can’t give in to terror,” we’re told. “That’s exactly what they want us to do!” Really? Is that all these Islamic extremists really want? Fear? Terror? That doesn’t seem like a very lofty goal for martyrdom. What they really want is to rid the world of infidels, or at least their part of it.

Fine, I say, let’s give them what they want. (Remember the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for?”) They want their own culture and society, free of the influences of western civilization.  So let’s leave them alone. We don’t need their oil any more and they don’t need to be offended by the products of western society – and that includes food and medicine. Perhaps it’s time to halt all trade with the Islamic world, and halt all trade with any other nation who doesn’t do the same. We have fallen into a trap of wielding only our military might to address problem areas in the world. We grossly underestimate the power that cutting off access to our market would have.

A little harsh, you might say. Maybe. So we have another tool at our disposal – immigration policy.  The choice is to either do something about our immigration policy to assure that Islamic extremists are excluded from the immigrant pool, or to simply accept that terrorist attacks will continue and write off dead Americans as collateral damage – a price we’re willing to pay.  No one would choose the latter, though our leaders seem to be doing exactly that.

Trump has proposed a total ban on Muslim immigration as the way to make ourselves safe. But there is another way to do it without discriminating against Muslims, and that is to drastically reduce all immigration. In Five Short Blasts I proposed reducing immigration to the point where it is no longer a factor in population growth. That would be a level of about 50,000 immigrants per year vs. over a million per year today. If Muslims were represented in that group in proportion to their total population in the world (in other words, no discrimination whatsoever), then the number of muslim immigrants would decline to about 10,000. That would be about a 95% cut in Muslim immigration without resorting to any discrimination, and the reduction in total immigration would be a huge boost to our long-term economic outlook.  It would reduce the task of scrutinizing immigrants to a manageable level.

We Americans have reached the limits of our tolerance. We can’t take this any more. It’s time for action and time for new policies that will do the job. If you don’t have the stomach for Trump’s approach, that’s fine. I’ve offered an alternative here that would do the job just as well. Either way, something has to be done about immigration.


Where has the vanishing labor force gone? Now we have a clue.

November 11, 2015

Click to access 1518393112.full.pdf

Each month I criticize the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report on employment for using the “mysterious vanishing labor force” trick to keep the government’s official unemployment rate artificially low.  Since Obama took office in January, 2008, the U.S. population has grown by 19 million.  Yet, according to the BLS, the labor force has grown by only 3 million, an employment-to-population ratio of only 16% while the same ratio for the overall population is 46%.  It seems that some six million workers have gone missing.  These are the long-term unemployed that the BLS explains away as having “given up looking for work.”

So where have they gone?  How are they supporting themselves?  Well, the above linked study published by Princeton last week gives us an inkling about what’s become of them.  They’re living in despair.  And they’re dying.  As the study found, the mortality and morbidity among middle-aged whites in America has taken a very dramatic turn for the worse since 1998.

This may be the first concrete evidence that the theory I proposed in Five Short Blasts – that the worsening unemployment driven by a rising population density and by trade with overpopulated nations will increase poverty and, ultimately, will begin to drive up death rates.

Your first reaction may be similar to mine – that when you hear of increased mortality among Americans, obesity and all of its related problems are probably the leading cause.  Americans are paying the price for living the good life.  However, this study found that that’s not the case at all.  Worsening obesity contributed only a small fraction to the death rates among this group.  The increase in the death rate is heavily driven by suicides, drug overdoses and alcoholism.  These are the afflictions of people whose dreams have been destroyed and who have lost hope.  So dramatic is the increase in mortality, that the study compares it the AIDs epidemic:

“If it (the death rate) had continued to decline at its previous (1979-1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999-2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015.”

Why hasn’t this trend shown up in any of the mortality data published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC)?  As the study points out, this data is lost in the “disaggregation” done by age and race in the CDC reports.

The study discusses possible causes for this trend:

“Although the epidemic of pain, suicide, and drug overdoses preceded the financial crisis, ties to economic insecurity are possible.  After the productivity slowdown in the early 1970s, and with widening income inequality, many of the baby-boom generation are the first to find, in midlife, that they will not be better off than were their parents. Growth in real median earnings has been slow for this group, especially those with only a high school education. However, the productivity slowdown is common to many rich countries, some of which have seen even slower growth in median earnings than the United States, yet none have had the same mortality experience.  The United States has moved primarily to defined-contribution pension plans with associated stock market risk, whereas, in Europe, defined-benefit pensions are still the norm. Future financial insecurity may weigh more heavily on US workers, if they perceive stock market risk harder to manage than earnings risk, or if they have contributed inadequately to defined-contribution plans (31).

So why did this begin in 1998 or soon after?  In 2000 the U.S. granted “Most Favored Nation” trading status to China, opening the door to a flood of imports that has decimated what remained of American manufacturing.

President Obama took office in 2008 on a promise of “hope and change,” and on a promise to fix the trade policies that were wreaking havoc on the middle class.  He broke that promise and even exacerbated the trade problem.  Well, it seems that for many Americans, that “hope” that he promised was their last hope.  Americans are literally paying with their lives for America’s idiotic trade policies.


Americans Growing Poorer

September 19, 2015

Click to access p60-252.pdf

The above-linked report – “Income and Poverty in the United States:  2014” – was published by the Census Bureau a couple of days ago.  The news isn’t good.  In spite of the supposed decline in unemployment and all the talk of economic recovery, the median household income fell once again and the poverty rate remained at or near the highest level in fifty years.

There’s tons of data to sift through in the report, so I’ll simply quote a few of the key findings of the report:

“Median household income was $53,657 in 2014, not statistically different in real terms from the 2013 median of $54,462 (Figure 1 and Table 1). This is the third consecutive year that the annual change was not statistically significant, following two consecutive years of annual declines in median household income.”

“Median household income … in 2014 … 6.5 percent lower than the 2007 (the year before the most recent recession) median ($57,357), and 7.2 percent lower than the median household income peak ($57,843) that occurred in 1999.”

“In 2014, the official poverty rate was 14.8 percent. There were 46.7 million people in poverty.”

“The 2014 poverty rate was 2.3 percentage points higher than in 2007, the year before the most recent recession (Figure 4).”

Median household income has declined every year since 2007, and even the median income in 2007 was less than the median income in 1999.  This is the longest period of decline since the Census Bureau began tracking the data in 1967.  From 1967 to 1999, the median household income (for all races) rose from approximately $42,000 to $57,843 – a increase of 38%.  Since 1999, however, it has declined by 7.2%.

This is exactly what the inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption would predict – that as our population density (including our “effective” population density) rises beyond a critical level, worsening unemployment and poverty is inescapable.

So what was it that happened after 1999 that threw median incomes into what increasingly appears to be a permanent state of decline?  Our population density has been rising by about 1% a year for decades but our “effective” population density – the population density that we take upon ourselves when we combine with another nation through “free” trade – skyrocketed in 2000.  That was the year that the Clinton administration granted China “permanent normal trade relations” satus, opening the door to “free” trade with China.

Look back at Chapter 7 of Five Short Blasts (especially Figure 7-5 on page 130), where we examined what happened to our effective population density as we combined our economy with other nations through “free” trade.  The effect of trading with Ireland – the nation with whom we have the largest per capita trade deficit in the world – is negligible.  They’re so small that it makes no change to our effective (combined) population density.  Add Mexico to the list, and our density rises from 85 people per square mile to 118.  Add Germany and it rises to 132.  But, when China, with one fifth of the world’s population, is added to the mix, our effective population density rockets to 242!  The downward pressure on our labor market and incomes suddenly becomes overwhelming.

As long as we continue to blindly apply “free” trade policy to all nations with no consideration of the effect of population density, the resulting downward spiral in our economy is inescapable.  With each passing year, the data on incomes and poverty in America bears this out.