Hard Not to Be a Pessimist

edna_pessimism© CAN STOCK PHOTO / EDNA

It’s hard not to be a pessimist when looking at these trends:

We have been in a Depression (masked by debt) since 2008

Baker & Company Advisory Group makes a shocking assessment:
Debt is not income — not for you and me, and not for the government either — but it’s counted as such when computing GDP. So the arithmetic is quite simple: without the artificial stimulus created by spending the proceeds of newly issued Treasury bonds, our GDP has declined an average of 7.45% each year since 2007! …

There were 121,875,000 people employed with full-time jobs in November of 2007 (just before the 2008 crises). As of August 2017 there were 125,755,000 people with full-time jobs. That means our economy has added a paltry 3,880,000 full-time jobs in almost 10 years as the population grew by about 23 million.

Does this look like a recovery to you?

 

The thing America strives for most? Complacency

George Will reviews Tyler Cowen:

Although America is said to be – and many Americans are – seething about economic grievances, Tyler Cowen thinks a bigger problem is complacency. In his latest book, The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream, Cowen, professor of almost everything (economics, law, literature) at George Mason University and co-author of the Marginal Revolution blog, argues that the complacent class, although a minority, is skillful at entrenching itself in ways detrimental to the majority. …

For 40 years, Cowen believes, “We have been building toward stasis,” with a diminishing “sense of urgency.” Americans and American businesses are, on average, older than ever. Interstate migration – a risk-taking investment in a hoped-for future – has been declining since the mid-1980s.

Although there is much talk about job churning, the percentage of workers with five or more years on the job has increased in 20 years from 44 to more than 50. Declining labor mobility is partly the result of the domestic protectionism of occupational licensing.

 

The second-class office workers

The Wall Street Journal reports:

For millions of Americans who work as contractors, real careers are out of reach and each day brings reminders that they live in a different world than the employees sitting nearby.

 

New data shows retirees are on the move, but young folks are a different story

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The share of Americans who moved to a different residence last year fell to its lowest point in the past decade, according to new estimates from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

And, by a very similar measure, the past decade has been, by far, the lowest in the almost 70 years the government has been keeping track.

 

Baby boomers are refusing to sell and will age like a fine wine in their homes

Dr. Housing Bubble writes:

Housing used to be a young person’s game. The U.S. housing market and to a large extent, the economy was driven by home buying and big ticket purchases. But that has definitely changed since the housing market imploded with the 2000s. It has also changed in terms of people marrying later, having fewer kids, and basically preferring to live in city centers versus suburbs. In other words, not a big need for McMansions. …

Over half of homeowners in the U.S. are now 55 and older. And this figure is only going to grow over time. Inventory still remains near record lows. Also, while home building has picked up, it is still historically weak given the demand: At the peak we were humming at 1.8 million housing units being built per year. We are currently at 823k. That is one million short from the peak days of the housing bubble. The system is gridlocked.

 

Struggling Americans once sought greener pastures – now they’re stuck

The country is the least mobile since after World War II, even in economically depressed rural locales.

 

How the modern world made cowards of us all

Arthur C. Brooks writes of the prevalence of risk-averse behavior, particularly among young people. People under age 30 today are almost a third less willing than under-30s in 1996 to relocate for their careers. The fraction of people in this age group who own their own businesses has plummeted by about 65 percent since the 1980s.

While only a quarter of 24- to 29-year-olds were unmarried in the 1980s, almost half of that age group is unmarried today. And the US fertility rate has fallen to its lowest point since 1909.

Delaying the jump to adulthood has real social consequences. Economic changes have contributed to these trends, to be sure. But there is another culprit: a diminishing frontier spirit and an increasing paranoia about taking big leaps.

 

Why Americans have stopped moving

Kyle Smith writes at The New York Post:

Americans are stuck. Locked into our jobs, rooted where we live, frozen at our income levels. More than at any previous point in our history, we’ve stopped moving – whether moving up the income ladder or packing up a truck and finding another home. We’ve grown ossified, rigid.

The flip side is that we’re stable. If we weren’t so content, we’d be more willing to gamble, to shake things up, to start a new firm or join one. Maybe we’re fine where we are. But maybe this period of stasis cannot last. Maybe it even portends a period of massive disruption.

 

Young Americans aren’t moving like they used to

Ryan Streeter writes in USA Today:

Traditionally, rapidly growing cities have been built by ambitious people looking to make a better living and start a family. But there has been a dramatic shift over the past 15 years. Today, older, richer Americans are driving metro growth while younger, poorer people stay put. Domestic migration is at its lowest point since World War II because working-age people are not moving like they used to.

Various explanations have been offered, among them two general trends behind America’s declining geographic mobility among working-age adults. First, the rise of dual-income households with similarly earning spouses has made it less likely that both would want to relocate simultaneously to a new city. … The second trend is a more troubling decrease in mobility among younger, less affluent Americans owing to what some analysts see as policy disincentives. These include locally administered public benefits, health insurance and licensure requirements that make moving too much of a hassle.

The recent Census figures hint at a third, related trend that also might be reducing geographic mobility: the need for financial resources to move to nice places. Too many cities and states make it difficult or expensive to do so with increasingly restrictive policies.