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What We Read Today 14 December 2014

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

Senate approves $1.1 trillion spending bill (Ed O'Keefe and Sean Sullivan, The Washington Post) The Senate approved the omnibus appropriations bill already passed by the House which will fund most of the government until the end of September when fiscal 2015 closes.  The Saturday night vote was taken after attempts by a group of Conservatives led by Ted Cruz (R,TX) to delay voting failed.  The group had wanted to tie passage of the bill to imposition of limitations on President Obama's recent executive order on immigration.  The final vote was 56-40 (Yea = 31 D, 1 I, 21 R and Nay = 21 D, 1 I, 18 R).

What the $1.1 trillion spending bill contains (Rebecca Shabad, The Hill)  The appropriiation bill just passed reverses key provisions of the Dodd-Frank act pertaining to restrictions on banks investing in derivatives.  It also removes restrictions that limited what donors can give to political candidates and parties.  So banksters have more freedom to gamble and to bribe politicians.  Great!  There are several other riders attached to the legislation which are described in the article.

Lawmakers unhappy with Cruz's strategy (Scott Wong, The Hill)  One thing that Republicans are unhappy about is that, because Ted Cruz managed to keep the Senate open over half of the weekend, the Democrats were able to put through a number of President Obama's nominees that would otherwise have waited for votes until the new Congress with a Republican majority in the Senate was installed.  It had been the Republican strategy to do just that.

Clouds fill Grand Canyon in rare weather event (Associated Press, MSN News)  How much fog do you need before you call the event a cloud?  How about a mile high fog.  Does it ever rain in the bottom of the canyon when there is such a fog/cloud event?  We have heard it said that the Grand Canyon can make its own weather.  Since vinyardists arrange water features near hillsides to create microclimates optimal for their vines, we guess that the "weather" in the Grand Canyon, which is far too big to be called a microclimate, should we call it a "miniclimate"?  We suggest that, since the canyon is grand, it be called at least a "midiclimate".  Would "maxiclimate" would sound too pretentious?

Click for three view slide show at MSN.

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Ferguson and Related News








Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times/CBS News Non-Employed Poll (Liz Hamel, Jamie Firth and Mollyann Brodie, The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation)  This survey covered all segments of the U.S. population but the most interesting and concerning  data for us is the data on the prime working age group 25-54.  This age group comprises just over half of the about 235 million U.S. population aged 18 and older (52%, approximately 125 million).  Of these 125 million prime age adults, about 30 million (13% of the total adult population 18 and older) are non-employed.  The categories into which these 30 million people fall are broken out in the graphic below.  The largest component is disabled with more than 10 million so categorized.  This has increased dramatically since 2007.  See next article.  See other following articles written about various aspects of the Kaiser survey results.

Click for large image.

Enabling Disability Fraud (Townhall Finance)  This article makes a claim that disability fraud is increasing in recent years based on the observation that disability claims have risen sharply.  We won't get into that discussion (except for one comment below) but the data is not debatable:  Between 2007 and 2011 disability benefits increased more than 50% for people in their 50s.  Econintersect:  It is curious that the three spike peaks in the graph occur for ages 50, 55 and 60.  Why?  Are people so distracted by the milestone birthdates that they have increased incidence of injury?  Or is there such a thing as psychological disability from trauma of aging?  See the next article for more recent data on disability claims.

Click for large image at Townhall Finance.

Not Looking for Work: Why Labor Force Participation Has Fallen During the Recovery (James Sherk, The Heritage Foundation)  The increase in disablity benefits from 2007 to 2011 was nearly reversed by 2014.


women-working-global-nyt-2014-dec-13Why U.S. Women Are Leaving Jobs Behind (Claire Cain Miller and Liz Alderman, The New York Times)  The U.S. is unique in the developed world in that women are also leaving the work force.  There has still been a decline from 74% to 69% for U.S. women in the prime working age group aged 25-54 since the turn of the century.  For the last half of the 20th century the labor force participation rate for women was rising, even as, since about 1955, participation by men has been falling.  See the next article.

Miller and Alderman remark about the significant differences between the experiences of women and men in the labor market:

The poll also showed a stark difference between  the experiences of nonworking women and men.  Although the numbers of both have risen in the last 15 years, many more women appear to be in a better position to re-enter the work force. Women are much more likely to have left their last job voluntarily and less likely to say they suffer from health problems that keep them from working.

And also:

But the experience of not working is also considerably more positive for women than men, the poll shows, which means that women are often not desperate to return to work. Women are more likely to say that not working has improved their romantic relationships, while men are more likely to say those relationships have suffered. Women who aren’t working spend more time exercising than they once did. Men spend less.

Structural Trends in Employment by Age Group (Doug Short, Advisor Perspectives  Doug Short contributes to GEI.  This is a comprehensive analysis of the demographic structure of the labor market in the U.S. since the end of the Second World War.  There are a number summary observations we would like to make about the graph below:

  • Men (25-64) have had declining labor force participation (lfp) rates for approximately 60 years.
  • Women (25-64) increased lfp until the late 1990s, were level until the Great recession and have declined since.
  • Since the mid 1990s lfp for those 65+ has been increasing, but, for men, it is still only half of what it was in 1950.

Note:  There are two reasons the data in this article does not exactly agree with numbers in other articles discussed today that are related to the Kaiser study.  (1) Short has used non-seasonally adjusted data and (presumably) the other work used the more customary seasonally adjusted numbers.  (2) The Kaiser results discuss a smaller demographic cohort, age 25-54 vs. Short's 25-64.

Click for large image at Advisor Perspectives

Where Men Aren’t Working (Gregor Aisch, Josh Katz and David Leohardt, The New York Times)  A half century ago most men between 25 and 54 had jobs just about everywhere in the U.S.  That is still true today but only in some areas.  This article mentions areas such as the energy belt and affluent cities like New York (actually only parts of the city) and metropolitan suburbs filled with highly educated residents that have male employment in the prime working years 90% or higher.  But there are also areas with 50% or higher unemployment for 25-54 year old males.

Click for interactive map graphics at The New York Times.

The Rise of Men Who Don’t Work, and What They Do Instead (Amanda Cox, The New York Times)  What has changed for men in the last 14 years?  Disability, official unemployment, in school (without working) and taking care of home or family have all increased.  Retirement has decreased.  

Click for animated time-lapse graphic at The New York Times.

The Vanishing Male Worker: How America Fell Behind (Binyamin Appelbaum, The New York Times)  This is an article about the nonemployed - not working and, in most cases, no longer counted in the labor force.


Not Looking for Work: Why Labor Force Participation Has Fallen During the Recovery  (James Sherk, The Heritage Foundation)  This article was cited abovefor data on disability benefits.  Sherk reviews the factors that have led to a weak demand for labor since the Great recession.  Right off the top he says that the Obama stimulus did not limit the loss of employment.  This seems a little disingenuous since the stimulus was designed to deal with loss of employment peaking at 8% unemployment rather than the 10% which occurred.  The argument has to be that starting a 2-year stimulus program should have stopped the economic collapse in its tracks.  That is not a realistic expectation.  The severity of the downturn was misjudged and that was a bipartisan problem.  The response was partisan and the effectiveness should be judged by how the economy progressed after the program was underway.  We suggest that it performed exactly as planned in spite of being too little and too late.

Click for large graphic with accompanying caption statement at The Heritage Foundation.

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Oil Freefall Gives Dow Worst Week Since 2011; VIX Jumps (Bloomberg)

Fed’s Stanley Fischer Discusses Big-Bank Political Influence (The Wall Street Journal)

Never pay bonuses to CEOs – it makes them worse at their job (Money Week)

Minorities Fall Further Behind Whites in Wealth During Economic Recovery (The New York Times)

John Von Neumann Revolutionized Economic Theory (

IMF Seen Side-Stepping Congress to Overhaul Fund’s Governance (The Wall Street Journal)

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