“Longest Streak of Job Creation in Modern Times”

(p. A1) The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in half a century last month, capping the longest streak of job creation in modern times and dispelling recession fears that haunted Wall Street at the start of the year.

The Labor Department reported Friday [May 3, 2019] that employers added 263,000 jobs in April, well above what analysts had forecast. The unemployment rate sank to 3.6 percent.

Employment has grown for more than 100 months in a row, and the economy has created more than 20 million jobs since the Great Recession ended in 2009. Much of that upturn occurred before President Trump was elected, but the obvious strength of the economy now enables him and fellow Republicans to make it their central argument in the 2020 campaign.

For the full story, see:

Nelson D. Schwartz. “U.S. Jobless Rate Hits 50-Year Low As Wages Expand.” The New York Times (Saturday, May 4, 2019): A1 & A13.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 3, 2019, and has the title “Job Growth Underscores Economy’s Vigor; Unemployment at Half-Century Low.”)

Modi Cut India’s Taxes, Corruption, and Regulations

(p. B1) MUMBAI, India — A jeans maker saw his delivery costs cut by half when the highway police stopped asking for bribes. An aluminum wire factory faced only three inspectors rather than 12 to keep its licenses. Big companies like Corning, the American fiber-optic cable business, found they could wield a new bankruptcy law to demand that customers pay overdue bills.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised nearly five years ago to open India for business. Fitfully and sometimes painfully, his government has streamlined regulations, winnowed a famously antiquated bureaucracy and tackled corruption and tax evasion.

. . .

(p. B5) Mehta Creation, a jeans maker in a dilapidated concrete building in the northern outskirts, paid a welter of taxes until two years ago. That included the dreaded octroi, a British import from medieval times that allowed states and some cities to collect taxes whenever goods crossed a boundary.

Mehta Creation’s budget was contorted by corruption. To avoid the octroi, which could triple the cost of a delivery and add delays, Mehta paid drivers about $5 for each parcel of jeans and then reimbursed them up to $6 per parcel to bribe the local police at every border, said Dhiren Sharma, the company’s chief operating officer.

Mehta’s costs dropped after the government abolished 17 taxes, including the octroi, two years ago and established instead a national value-added tax on most business activity. Continue reading “Modi Cut India’s Taxes, Corruption, and Regulations”

Many Fewer Killed in Natural Disasters Than Were Killed 50 Years Ago

(p. A13) . . . it’s deceptive to track disasters primarily in terms of aggregate cost. Since 1990, the global population has increased by more than 2.2 billion, and the global economy has more than doubled in size. This means more lives and wealth are at risk with each successive disaster.

Despite this increased exposure, disasters are claiming fewer lives. Data tracked by Our World in Data shows that from 2007-17, an average of 70,000 people each year were killed by natural disasters. In the decade 50 years earlier, the annual figure was more than 370,000. Seventy thousand is still far too many, but the reduction represents enormous progress.

The material cost of disasters also has decreased when considered as a proportion of the global economy. Since 1990, economic losses from disasters have decreased by about 20% as a proportion of world-wide gross domestic product. The trend still holds when the measurement is narrowed to weather-related disasters, which decreased similarly as a share of global GDP even as the dollar cost of disasters increased.

For the full commentary, see:

Roger Pielke Jr. “Some Good News—About Natural Disasters, of All Things; In half a century, the average number of annual fatalities declined more than 80%.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 3, 2018, and has the same title as the print version.)

Pielke’s op-ed piece quoted above, is related to his book:

Pielke Jr., Roger. The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change. Tempe, AZ: Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, 2018.

As Some Occupations Decline, Others Advance

Occupations that the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to grow and to decline. Source: WSJ article cited below.

(p. B3) . . . the impact of automation is increasingly spreading to the service sector as well. Government economists expect steep declines in employment for typists, telephone operators and data-entry workers. Even jobs that might once have seemed relatively secure, such as legal secretaries and executive assistants, are expected to decline in coming years.

At the same time, technology is creating new opportunities for statisticians, engineers and software developers — the workers developing the algorithms that are changing the global job market.

For the full story, see:

Ben Casselman. “Experts Foresee a U.S. Work Force Defined by Ever Widening Divides.” The New York Times (Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017): B3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 24, 2017, and has the title “A Peek at Future Jobs Shows Growing Economic Divides.”)

Democrat Warren Buffett Admits to Being “a Card-Carrying Capitalist”

(p. B1) The most prominent face of capitalism — Warren Buffett, the avuncular founder of Berkshire and the fourth wealthiest person in the world, worth some $89 billion — appeared to distance himself from many of his peers, who have been apologizing for capitalism of late.

“I’m a card-carrying capitalist,” Mr. Buffett said. “I believe (p. B3) we wouldn’t be sitting here except for the market system,” he added, extolling the state of the economy. “I don’t think the country will go into socialism in 2020 or 2040 or 2060.”

There is something oddly refreshing about Mr. Buffett’s frankness.

. . .

Mr. Buffett’s moral code is one of being direct, even when it is not politically correct. In his plain-spoken way, Mr. Buffett, a longtime Democrat, acknowledged that the goal of capitalism was “to be more productive all the time, which means turning out the same number of goods with fewer people or churning out more goods, with the same number,” he said.

“That is capitalism.” Two years ago at the same meeting, he bluntly said, “I’m afraid a capitalist system will always hurt some people.”

. . .

. . . at his core, he believes that the pursuit of capitalism is fundamentally moral — that it creates and produces prosperity and progress even when there are immoral actors and even when it creates inequality.

. . .

One prominent chief executive I spoke with after the meeting said he wished he could speak as bluntly as Mr. Buffett. He said in this politically sensitive climate, he often has to tiptoe around controversial topics and at least nod at the societal concern of the moment.

Therein lies the truth of the particular moment that the business community faces and one that, at least so far, Mr. Buffett, at age 88, may be immune from.

And so while Mr. Buffett may have missed an opportunity to use his perch, he comes to his views of a just business world honestly.

For the full commentary, see:

Andrew Ross Sorkin. “Buffett Still Champions Capitalism.” The New York Times (Monday, May 6, 2019): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 5, 2019, and has the title “Warren Buffett’s Case for Capitalism.”)

Are We “Made of Sugar Candy”?

(p. 11) Less a conventional history than an extended polemic, “Capitalism in America: A History,” by Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge, a columnist and editor for The Economist, explores and ultimately celebrates the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of “creative destruction,” which the authors describe as a “perennial gale” that “uproots businesses — and lives — but that, in the process, creates a more productive economy.”

. . .

. . . , Greenspan’s admiration for the rugged individualists who populate the novels of Ayn Rand (who merits a nod in this history) and the frontier spirit that animated America’s early development shows no sign of weakening as Greenspan has aged. He and Wooldridge lament that Americans are “losing the rugged pioneering spirit” that once defined them and mock the “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” that now obsess academia.

The authors quote Winston Churchill: “We have not journeyed across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy.” But now, they conclude, “sugar candy people are everywhere.”

Their prescription for American renewal — reining in entitlements, instituting fiscal responsibility and limited government, deregulating, focusing on education and opportunity, and above all fostering a fierceness in the face of creative destruction — was Republican orthodoxy not so long ago. Before the Great Recession it was embraced by most Democrats as well, and more recently by President Bill Clinton, the recipient of glowing praise in these pages.

No longer. “Capitalism in America,” in both its interpretation of economic history and its recipe for revival, is likely to offend the dominant Trump wing of the Republican Party and the resurgent left among Democrats. It’s not clear who, if anyone, will pick up the Greenspan torch.

For the full review, see:

James B. Stewart. “Creative Destruction.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018): 11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Nov. 2, 2018, and has the title “Alan Greenspan’s Ode to Creative Destruction.”)

The book under review, is:

Greenspan, Alan, and Adrian Wooldridge. Capitalism in America: A History. New York: Penguin Press, 2018.

Australia’s 27-Year Economic Expansion

(p. A2) Australia is experiencing an amazing economic run—a 27-year expansion that survived a regional economic crisis in the 1990s, a global economic crisis in the 2000s, and a boom-boost cycle in its core commodity sector in the 2010s.

Its experience offers lessons for the U.S. and the rest of the world. Among them, the laws of economics don’t dictate that expansions run on preset timetables. Wise policy-making, and some good luck, carried Australia’s expansion into the record books.

For the full commentary, see:

James Glynn. “THE OUTLOOK; Keeping an Economic Boom Going.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, July 16, 2018): A2.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 15, 2018, and has the title “THE OUTLOOK; How an Economic Boom Can Run Out the Clock.”)