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Real Wages Plunge in March. As we would expect, Bush's popularity took a hit as well. The numbers are even worse than they appear, the CPI-W adjusted wages came out with an even bigger drop than before.

This is a big problem.

[Stirling Newberry is Chief Economist for Langner and Company the opinions expressed here are his own. Crossposted at Bopnews.]

Regular readers will know that the economy is at a crossroads: the Federal Reserve is tightening interest rates in hopes of squeezing out inflation. Greenspan has bet, for the second time, that increased interest rates would push money out of commodities and into equities, and that pricing power in protected sectors would abate.

That real wages are falling, and oil prices are rising again means that his bet is, again, not working. This means Wall Street is going to take another knock for the day. There was an earlier signal that wall street was headed for a down leg in this bear market.

But it is the big picture I would like to talk about here: and that is that our economy is sick. High housing demand drives oil demand, oil demand means money is moving out of stocks and into commodities. In essence, the entire economy is "rent heavy". The Republican Party is the party of rent, and they continually promise people the chance to be first, and then collect a toll from people who come afterward. The problem is that rent is the price we pay for information. Rent can only positively help if it reduces the cost of other rent paid, by making labor and capital more efficient, out of labor, by making capital more efficient - or out of both labor and capital. The last slows the economy, and eventually leads to bone crunching recessions.

The US, because it is able to borrow heavily is avoiding the immediate consequences of this situation, but we will not remain immune forever.

What is the solution. Looking at the supply side. No, really.

- - -

The term "Supply Side economics" was coined by journalist Jude Wanninski, and used to support reductions in marginal tax rates under Reagan. However, as a branch of economic thinking, it remained limited to a few people, and never became rigorous or respectable. Then Paul Krugman - the man who, arguably knew more about the supposed roots of the idea than anyone - tore it apart in "Peddling Prosperity". The Republican Party, which had really only wanted the brand name to justify the only thing they care about - moving the burden of public income off the rich and on to others - dropped it.

In fact, Republican policies now are "demand side" - that is, they have been doing everything possible to stoke demand - demand for houses and stocks particularly. Even revenue reductions on income are, if you think about, a demand side policy. They increase demand for investment. That's demand side, not supply side, policy.

Liberalism is the original supply side theory of economics - first from the surplus of supply at the beginning of the Great Depression, then in a series of policy moves and changes which were targetted at making sure America had access to the supplies of resources, labor, and capital that it required. While Demand side thinking is the most celebrated aspect of Keynesian economics, demand side policies are the reward for keeping the supply side in order. In Keynesian economics, consumption and money and interest are all undifferentiated. To keep using Keynesian formulations - which are very power and useful - the responsibility of the policy making body - Congress and the President in our case - is to make sure that it stays this way.

This is why the liberal Keynesian order fell apart the first time: LBj fought the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. Vietnam did not get us access to supplies of what we needed, and, in fact, allowed the middle east - where the oil bottleneck was developing - to fall apart. We could not have won Vietnam, because Vietnam wasn't the war we should have been involved in. Economists call this "opportunity cost", the opportunity cost of Vietnam was two Arab Israeli wars, and the resulting radicalization of OPEC.

The current Republican regime has pursued demand side policies all the way along - their idea of supply side was to invade Iraq to get a supply of oil. Invading Iraq for oil is the last war - not this war. The problem is not lack of oil, it is lack of investment supply. I've been saying this since 2001, and finally, of all people, Ben Bernanke agrees with this idea. Only being a demand side reactionary, he blames the "global savings glut". A savings glut is a way of saying there is too much investment demand for the investment supply. Ben is saying "the economy isn't overweight, it is undertall!"

This is why we are locked in the cycle we are in, and the Federal Reserve's demand side policy - remember, interest rates don't create supplies of anything, they increase the amount of demand by lowering the costs of borrowing - or they decrease demand by raising the costs of borrowing - isn't working. No amount of increased demand will generate new supply.

The second part of the failure of the Republican Party's policies is to confuse what supply means. There are two ways to increase supply. One is to get more of what you are short of. Problem, what happens if what you are short of is getting more and more expensive to get. Economists call this "diminishing returns", each dollar of new investment gets less and less of what you want out of it. Oil is exactly at that point - regardless of when oil peaks, it has already plateaued in our current structure. To get more oil means building out more infrastructure, if that would even work at all. One reason energy seems so cheap, is that very little energy infrastructure has been added - the last refinery in America came online in 1976. It is amazing how cheap things are if there is no capital expenditure cost.

The other kind of supply is finding a better way to get the same result. This is, in fact, the real supply side thinking: find a substitution, a more efficient way of doing things, or a way of regulating out inefficient use caused by market anomolies. A 1 mpg increase in Cafe would get more oil than all of ANWR. Making "passenger trucks" part of CAFE would get more oil than the insurgency there is costing us. And so on.

So today's action is a small postage stamp picture of the big problem. Today isn't a crash, nor even the beginning of the crash - but it is a clear warning that the micro-economic allocation pursued by the Republicans is not effective, and that the meso-economic expectations they have generated in housing is leading people to gut the rest of the economy so they can continue speculating on real estate - and burning gasoline to do it. In fact, as we move to the twilight of this housing boom, gasoline consumption will go up, as people race around to whack up even more houses while there is still time. It's the redneck dot com bubble.

And it has kicked into where internet stocks were in 1999 - that last big run before the end.

So in short, by squeezing wages, that squeezes everybody who makes things. That means less reason to invest, and that means more money piling up looking for a place to go. It goes into the mortgage market, which keeps rates low. That sells more houses, which mean that people burn more gasolien to build them and to commute to them. This pushes more money into commodities and takes it out of stocks. Which means less reason for other people to stay in stocks. A nasty bit of work that is.

Until real wages start climbing again, and the US goes to real supply side thinking - creating new products and better ways of doing things - the demand side problems with oil and money are going to simply make any interest rate moves worse. Alan Greenspan has helped make this bed, but at this point, he has very little control over what happens. He can only raise rates, and hopes the next quarter point does what the last 8 have not.

Originally posted to Stirling Newberry on Tue May 10, 2005 at 12:17 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Nicely done (4.00)
    I will probably do an in-depth diary on the markets in the next few days.

    God knows what will happen if the trade numbers are bad....

    The Fed has turned money into a hoar, throwing it out on the street to trick for Bush.

    by bonddad on Tue May 10, 2005 at 12:15:14 PM PDT

  •  Why the Hell is it... (4.00)
    that I have to read the foriegn press (The Financial Times and The Economist) to figure out what the hell is going on with my own nation's economy?

    "[A] 'Sharecropper's Society' [is] precisely where our trade policies, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, are taking us." - Warren Buffet

    by RichM on Tue May 10, 2005 at 12:16:31 PM PDT

    •  that's the warmup question (none)
      the real questions are;

      who owns the American media (which so obviously aims to keep us in the dark), and

      what's in it for them?

      •  Even That is a Warmup Question (4.00)
        It occurs to me that nobody would allow the sale of all the nation's public physical space--all the town squares, all the streets, all the government buildings, all the highways, waterways, airspace, all the parks--to a few private owners.

        But the fact is we have effectively done just that in the way we built the "information" economy and society over the last century.

        The real question is: why have we allowed so much of the nation's economic, societal and political activity to relocate into the new virtual mass-media spaces without thinking to civilize those spaces by bringing them under some analogous balance of owners' vs society's rights like those we devised over the millennia for physical spaces?

        Why is it that we allow the spaces, where the most fundamental activities of modern society occur, to be owned and operated as private property almost exclusively for the interests and benefit of the owners?

        Why is it that a dozen private property owners can be in position to decide what the United States of America can know and discuss?

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Tue May 10, 2005 at 01:49:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree (none)
          but it's sort of always been that way. Print and broadcast media consolidated power into the hands of the few going back to the Spanish American "War."

          The difference is the utter lack of regard for the well being of the common working class family. Fed a diet of bread and circuses, they won't know what hit them if the bottom ever drops out.

          •  But It Had Once "Always Been" (none)
            that roads, rivers, ports and sea lanes were operated as private property by anyone who could take control of them.

            One of the processes of civilization was to establish public ownership and access in addition to private ownership of transportation infrastructure. We call people who try to privatize certain land and sea routes "pirates." On the other hand we allow private ownership of railroads.

            In the physical world we have evolved a mix that allows the private sector to own and operate some infrastructure or to be hired by the public to construct or maintain or operate others.

            There must be analogous development that we've not yet conceived, because the information lanes are almost devoid of citizen and societal rights of access. A few media owners own our collective consciousness. That's absolutely insane.

            We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

            by Gooserock on Tue May 10, 2005 at 04:11:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Why broadcast media? (none)
          Bluntly, physics made the last century's broadcast media not only possible, but pretty damned near inevitable.

          Forget printing presses for the moment.  Basically, all the new media of the 20th century was radio spectrum media- radio and TV, mostly.  The problem is that there is a limited number of frequencies we can broadcast on, and if I'm broadcasting on a given frequency, you can't be.  Everyone can not own their own radio or TV station, there simply isn't enough spectrum.

          So the physics forces us into a broadcast model- with a (comparitively) small number of broadcasters/transmitters/content producers and a much larger number of listeners/receivers/content consumers.  Of course, if there is a limited supply of something value, a bidding war ensues driving the price up- which again gaurentees that the rich corporations are the only ones who can afford to own radio or TV stations.  And from this economic lock on that half of our communications infrastructure, the corporations also managed to take over the other half (print media and movies).

          When I say that the internet changes this equation, I'm being strictly literal.  There is no  limit to the number of web pages we can put up on the internet- everyone can have their own web page.  Also note that no web page is signifigantly "better placed" than any other web page- there is nothing driving me to www.cnn.com or www.fox.com instead of www.dailykos.com or www.mydd.com.  It's the ultimate level playing field- and may the best community win.

          At least, it is currently- we'll see if copyright and patent law changes the fundamental nature of the net.

          "Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it." --Mark Twain

          by bhurt on Tue May 10, 2005 at 03:00:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Why? Because our Govt is no longer (none)
          the Govt of the People. It's been bought and paid for by Big Biz. And Business worships one thing, money. Business has no loyalty to the US or the American working family.

          Just like War Generals they have knocked out the communications capabilities of their enemy. This is class warefare. Now, with impunity, they can dismantle all the gains made by the middle-class over the past century.

          Eventually, people will understand all this 'bad luck' has been legislated upon them.

          "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master." -George Washington

          by CitizenOfEarth on Tue May 10, 2005 at 03:08:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There is no one government... (none)
            There are official government agencies, but they may or may not be the ones really setting policy..

            There have been all sorts of changes going on.. The Internet makes it difficult to control the spread of information.. in a sense, it acts as a huge accellerator on the rate of learning and progress..

            That tends to be a 'leveller'

            There are changing standards of what is right and wrong.. international standards.. frustrating those in different nations who would return us to a cold and needlessly regressive, ultra-legalistic interpretation of all laws..

            It all comes down to WHAT YOU BELIEVE GOVERNMENT IS FOR and what its authority comes from..

            Most of us think it comes from a vote of the people, but Ive heard that Americans dont even have a 'right' to vote enshrined in law.. we just have a right to be equal with other nonvoters..

            That could cause problems in the future.. because in a national emergency, its not clear who takes command - are they elected representatives, or something else... Who elects them?

    •  Don't be so glum (none)
      I watched Lou Dobbs tonight, and he said it was all Mexico's fault for sending those illegal immigrants to the US.

      As soon as we get more armed guards on our southern border, everything will be just peachy.

  •  "High housing demand drives oil demand" (none)
    Could you please explain this connection?
  •  Trading Logic (4.00)
    Could anyone explain why oil prices went up when it became clear that there is a shortage of refinery capacity and a moderately sized refinery had some problems?

    Hasn't OPEC been on its best behavior? Haven't crude oil inventories been increasing over the past few weeks? Is there something here that I don't understand or is it that commodities traders can't tell the difference between crude, heating oil and gasoline?

    Republicans are poor stewards of America's government.

    by freelunch on Tue May 10, 2005 at 12:23:21 PM PDT

    •  It doesn't make sense to me either (none)
       - probably just hot money buying the rumor.
    •  Might have something to do with refineries in US (none)
      According to yesterday's "poor, pitiful oil guys" article on the front of the business section in the NYTimes, there hasn't been a refinery completed in the US since 1976. There's a lot of token whining in the article about burdensome permit processes, but nothing is mentioned there that's appreciably different than any other federally assisted project would experience (federally assisted = permits, licenses, approvals, funding). Yes, they SHOULD have to consider the effects of these facilities on people, the environment and cultural properties and that will take time.

      Last week, we had Bush offering up old military bases as refinery sites, which works really well for him on a couple of fronts. First, it's easy to dangle this potential employment prize in front of any reluctant congressmen that need to be pulled back into the administration's fold. Lost a base? Have a refinery!

      Second, the military has been rolling back requirements for environmental compliance on their facilities, so a new refinery might get "environmental streamlining" to work to their benefit. Moderately contaminated land that would otherwise need costly clean-ups before disposal could get converted into refinery use with negligible cost.

      Finally, we've got to think of what an uncertain future might hold for our petrochem industry. Whatever will they do after Bush leaves office, if there aren't some tasty treats left over right here at home? Better yet, if your treats will be  jealously guarded by jobs-conscious congressmen up for re-election.

      •  New refineries are not any solution to anything (none)
        except some oilmen who want to buy yachts.

        Why How in Gods name can anyone believe that smirking dork when he says stuff like this? when he says ANYTHING?  George Bush cares about ultrarich people. Especially oily rich people. He could care less about how Joe Naildriver gets to the construction site. Aside from election time, W wants oil and gas prices as high as they can get without setting off a riot or plunging the country into a depression. Is there still some solitary person out there who believes otherwise. Okay, too snarky. sorry. Oil people want to build refineries because it will make THEM money.

        The idea is just more tax breaks and avoidance of environmental regs so these Huns can make more money. This is not about doing a damn thing about production of oil or consumption of gas/oil.
        see Business Week:

        APRIL 28, 2005  
        COMMENTARY
        By John Carey

        Bush Is Blowing Smoke on Energy
        Hitting all the points in a noted GOP pollster's playbook, the President's plan is driven by politics not policy. Worse, it won't cut oil dependency

        There is some argument to be made that we need better refineries to process heavy oil. But that is not what this is about. IMHO.

    •  they're worried about the 4thQ (none)
      The president of OPEC came out and said OPEC was pumping at full bore, that quotas mean nothing any more.  He warned that supply might not meet demand in the 4th quarter.  (Usually when demand is highest, since that's when demand for home heating oil picks up.)  

      That's what caused the big spike today.  They are also worried about summer driving, hurricane season, refinery glitches, more fighting in Iraq...you name it.  Supply is so tight now that even small problems can cause big headaches.  

      Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

      by randym77 on Tue May 10, 2005 at 01:24:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Why Are Real Wages In A Diary.... (4.00)
    ....while the stock market is on the front page?

    If you want a good illustration of what's wrong with the Democratic Party's (and our nation's) political and economic priorities, this'll do nicely.

    "Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups." -- John Kenneth Galbraith

    by GreenSooner on Tue May 10, 2005 at 12:36:20 PM PDT

  •  Brilliant as usual (none)
    Especially for pointing out the role of the Vietnam War in all this.

    As Martin Luther King Jr said, "the promises of the Great Society were shot down on the battlefields of Vietnam." One might even say that the promises of the New Deal itself died in Indochina.

    I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day

    by eugene on Tue May 10, 2005 at 12:40:34 PM PDT

  •  Just curious... (none)
    CNN is reporting that:

    A closer look at the strong April jobs report shows that higher-wage jobs are back -- finally growing a hair faster than lower-paying jobs for just the second time in nearly four years.

    When jobs losses reached their worst point three years ago, high-wage workers were losing their jobs at more than twice the rate of low-wage workers. And even when the labor market started recovering in the fall of 2003, growth in higher-wage jobs lagged well behind lower-paying jobs.

    But since last fall, low-wage job growth has just outstripped high-wage job growth. And in April, high-wage categories posted a 1.9 percent year-over-year gain, edging past the 1.8 percent growth in lower wage jobs.

    Here's the chart they show...

    I agree with everything you're saying. I just wonder what - given the current climate of downsizing and outsourcing and IBM laying of 13,000 more people - could possibly have caused this uptick in the growth of higher wage jobs.

    Any links or statistics would be appreciated because, when I look at the trends, I wonder how ANY of us has a job anymore - let alone an apparent INCREASE in wages.

    •  I can see that something missing from (4.00)
      the graph and accompanying text quote, that can be deceptive, is information about how many total high wage jobs were lost during the period of greatest loss of high wage jobs.

      The graph only shows that right now high wage jobs are growing at 1.9% while low wage jobs are growing at 1.8%.

      But what the graph doesn't say, and the text box doesn't say, are the numbers of total past and continuing loss relative to percentage of recovery currently.

      If there were-- for example, purely arbitrary numbers here-- 8 million high wage jobs lost, and only 3 million low wage jobs lost, a 1.9% recovery of high wage jobs does not translate to, as the graph seems to suggest, and as the text implies/fudges, greater numbers of high wage jobs than low wage jobs in the economy currently.  

      Because to represent that would not make a pretty picture in line with CNN/corporate media/white house bootlicking stories about the economy.

      •  I agree. (none)
        You can fudge anything when you look at things in terms of rate when you oughta be looking a actual numbers.

        My question remains, though, how can we even explain a rate increase in this economy? And is it somehow possible for high-wages jobs to ever show sustained growth in this sort of climate?

        Or is CNN simply under orders to give little bits of false hope? As much as I hate Bush, I'd really like to see Americans do better. Myself included, since most of my net worth happens to be in real estate - which is bound to tank sooner or later.

        •  I do believe it's this: (none)
          "Or is CNN simply under orders to give little bits of false hope?"

          Just as it's under marching orders not to do stories or investigate our massive debt and the percentage of foreign ownership of that debt.

        •  up is down, war is peace (none)
          if CEOs give themselves pay raises, what do you think that will do for "high wage" jobs?

          secondly, the latest jobs report continued a trend of very strong hiring in construction, which pays well.

          third, the latest jobs report continued a trend of strong hiring in services industries, with a strong impact in the health care sector.  It is possible that professional health care service workers (RNs) qualify as 'high wage' employees.

          OTOH - Manufacturing jobs, another high-wage sector, fell by something like 6000.  Not a large enough number to have a deep impact in light of construction sector numbers.

          CNN's numbers are smoke and mirrors, as you know.  Real wages are declining while we continue to see increases in productivity: which is to say the anvel tied to our feet is dragging us down while a barrel of concrete is coming down on our heads--labor costs, and thus our buying power, compared to revenues are declining doubly.

          "That's the problem with the American dream. It makes everyone concerned for the day they're gonna be rich." - Jebadiah Bartlet

          by nepolon on Tue May 10, 2005 at 02:13:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  How it is working (4.00)
          Last year a huge corporate tax bill was passed, the biggest single item was repatriation of foreign profits. The rules were changed post hoc to require that more of this money be "invested".

          Another chunk is coming through replacement. Note the current rate of hiring is, basically, the replacement rate of the economy as workers retire and so on.

          In short "the patient lost a lot of blood, but we've stabilized him and he breaths OK so long as no one unplugs him."

          Things aren't that bad right now, not, at any rate, in comparison to where they are going to be later. What is really going to hurt is the next recession, because much of the country is behind where it was in 2000, and has never really gotten back to even.

          Bad is a 1981-1982 type recession, which is in the cards if there is another Republican term, some of them are even planning on it.

      •  Mathematical Pedantry (none)
        Actually, this graph can give you a proportional idea of how many actual jobs were lost.  Compare the area between the yellow line (high wage jobs) and the x-axis (horizontal zero point).  The huge area below the x-axis is jobs lost.  The much smaller area above, to the extreme left and right, is jobs gained.

        I heart Calculus!

        "Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles." --Luke 1:52

        by Scarpia on Tue May 10, 2005 at 02:50:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  What this graph tells us (none)
      is why the technical classes were so unhappy with Bush during 2002-2004, normally high wages jobs hold up better than low wage jobs, and rebound first. Now, everyone is in the same lousy place. This is why there is a good deal less very visible anger, since the upper middle class is louder about being in pain.

      However, low wage earners are now taking it on the chin: their job growth, outside of only a few places like housing, is all generated by inflation. So not only is the food lousy, but the portions are small.

    •  The "strong April jobs report" (none)
      didn't give much lift to consumer confidence.

      From today's release:  
      The IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index edged down 0.2 points, or 0.4%, and settled at a reading of 47.2 in May. It is the lowest reading since IBD/TIPP began tracking consumer confidence in February of 2001.

      Now the downward trend did moderate from last month where it fell off a cliff -5.6 (-10.6%), still it is reflecting what I hear from friends and neighbors.

    •  High or Low? (none)
      Nowhere in the linked article is there any definition of "high" or "low" wage jobs. Just where do they draw the line?

      For all we know, CNN could have reclassified some low wage jobs as high wage because of the fall in average real wages. Statistics without context are meaningless.

  •  Another reason for the housing bubble (none)
    In a corrupt era, a house is a lower-risk investment than a stock because the quality of the house can be objectively measured and idependently verified. In a time when the quality of financial statements has eroded to the point that major companies, like Enron and Worldcom, implode, real estate is a haven for low-trust investors. Although market fluctuations may alter demand for the house, it is unlikely that one will buy a grossly defective house.

    This investor flight from corporate corruption is an aspect of the the housing bubble that has not received sufficient attention, because the business press wants to keep quiet about the slow death of confidence in the equity markets. When even GE and Warren Buffet are tainted by accounting scandals, we are dealing with a much bigger problem than isolated instances of corruption.

    •  The problem is (none)
      that there is no safety this side of the grave.  If there is a housing bubble currently going on, which will inevitably burst dropping housing prices signifigantly, then people who fled the stock market to invest in homes will get nailed yet again.

      "Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it." --Mark Twain

      by bhurt on Tue May 10, 2005 at 03:10:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is still safer than Enron stock (none)
        The value of Enron stock went to zero. You can still live in a house, even if its value drops sharply.
        •  not necessarily (none)
          Some analysts are predicting that if oil gets really high, the suburban real estate market will crash.  People won't be able to afford to drive to their jobs.  They won't be able to live in their houses and pay their mortgages, and they won't be able to sell for a decent price, because everyone else will be trying to sell, too.

          Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

          by randym77 on Tue May 10, 2005 at 07:43:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Nice (none)
    It's the redneck dot com bubble.

    That's a keeper, so much said in six little words.

    •  James Howard Kunstler... (none)
      had this to say in his 4 April 2005 Clusterfuck Nation entry re: this very same topic:

      But those rising prices at the gasoline pump send a message that is cutting through all the static of American Idol, Fox TV News, and the attempted panderings of vindictive little pricks such as Tom DeLay. Message: our standard of living is headed down. Fast.
            Now, there is every reason to believe that the public will come to misinterpret that message, too, because the whole nation -- including many enviro-progressives, by the way -- have bought into the notion that, whatever else reality offers, we are entitled to a life of easy motoring and Ditech Miracle Mortgages, and an awful lot of people are going to lose their personal revenue streams when that illusion falls away.
           What will remain is a continental-sized angry mob wanting to pole-axe the people who are running the show. Since the Democratic party has ceded its opposition by failing utterly to promote and alternate vision of reality, a new opposition is certain to form out of this mob. Unfortunately, it is in the nature of mobs to think not in terms of policy but of rolling heads.
            The warm part of 2005 is shaping up to be a time when the center no longer holds, or even ceases to exist.

      "But then I viddied that thinking is for the gloopy ones and the oomny ones use, like, inspiration and what Bog sends." -- Alex de Large

      by rgilly on Tue May 10, 2005 at 07:39:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Another big thing to watch (none)
    is what the bankruptcy judge says with United trying to dump it's pension plan.  If this happens, GM and Ford will be the next in line to dump their pensions.  I'm gonna compile some diary on this.  It'll make the S&L Bailout look like a picnic.  Here's to corporate welfare.

    jScoop - a new blog framework, soon to be offering up some cheap hosting.

    by pacified on Tue May 10, 2005 at 12:57:49 PM PDT

    •  Who's the Generation Under Attack Now? (none)
      It would seem to be the half-generation between the New Dealers who have long been retired, and their Boomer children who have not quite yet arrvied at retirement age.

      The EAK Generation (Elvis And Korea)?

      Attention America: IT'S ALL OVER FOR THE BABY BOOMERS!

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Tue May 10, 2005 at 01:56:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Question (none)
     "Making "passenger trucks" part of ANWR" I assume you got the wrong acronym - you mean make them part of CAFE?

    "Never vote for Republicans again -- we lie." --a senior Republican Senator

    by mecki on Tue May 10, 2005 at 12:59:03 PM PDT

  •  "the party of Rent" (none)
    What a frame!!  Excellent!!  

    "Strength and wisdom are not opposing values" - Bill Clinton.

    by RAST on Tue May 10, 2005 at 01:00:51 PM PDT

  •  I agree. (none)
    You can fudge anything when you look at things in terms of rate when you oughta be looking a actual numbers.

    My question remains, though, how can we even explain a rate increase in this economy? And is it somehow possible for high-wages jobs to ever show sustained growth in this sort of climate?

    Or is CNN simply under orders to give little bits of false hope? As much as I hate Bush, I'd really like to see Americans do better. Myself included, since most of my net worth happens to be in real estate - which is bound to tank sooner or later.

  •  There is no change on the horizon (none)
    Actually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, our economy has established a clear trend towards low-paid jobs in internally-oriented service sectors. Just take a look at my recent diary.
    •  Hate to say it... (none)
      There are too Americans attending college.  This wouldn't be a problem if we had true globalization (capital is free to move, but not labor)because our talented college grads could move overseas to fill gaps in the global managerial class (oh wait we only speak English...).

      Working hard everyday to make our nation's capitol just a bit more country and a lot more Democratic.

      by TX Dem in DC on Tue May 10, 2005 at 01:32:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This bit is false (none)
    One reason energy seems so cheap, is that very little energy infrastructure has been added - the last refinery in America came online in 1976. It is amazing how cheap things are if there is no capital expenditure cost.

    First, the refiners spent a fortune upgrading refineries for cleaner fuels (desulfurizing mogas, reducing benzene levels, Ultra low sulfur diesel).

    Second, refiners have been expanding in place by increasing capacity of existing refineries in the US.  

    Recent crude runs in the US are at 15.5 MMBD see
    http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/twip/twip_crude.html#inputs

    Thats well up from the 80's (11-13 MMBD IIRC).

    Meanwhile new refineries have been built all over Asia from Korea to China to Thailand to Indonesia to 4-5 in India.  Not to mention several huge ones in Kuwait and Saudi.  Expansions in Venz to export to us also.

    Energy is cheap on a historical basis because OPEC (Saudi) wanted it that way. Crude oil pricing has been mostly artificial since 1972 based on OPECs control of supply.  That day is passing as demand strains even their ability to produce.

    •  I don't know where you get your numbers (4.00)
      but where I get mine, they don't come seasoned.

      I swear you are a troll HiD.  The number of times I have seen you challenge folks facts with partially supported or just wrong facts.

      "That's the problem with the American dream. It makes everyone concerned for the day they're gonna be rich." - Jebadiah Bartlet

      by nepolon on Tue May 10, 2005 at 02:26:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What specifically are you troubled by? (none)
        You put up a graph of total oil usage to rebut a contention that oil refiners spent money on refineries from 1980-2000???  Gee.

        I designed refineries for big oil from 1980 to 87 then traded oil for a living for another 10 years.  Have a bit of personal knowledge about what was going on in the refining biz.

        Maybe that doesn't fit with hard left conspiracy theories, but I prefer a reality based discussion.

        •  drip drip drip (none)
          I was hoping you might take a subtle hint.  

          Consuption has increased 100% in the US in that same time period. Your increase in refinery output is a drop in the barrel by comparison.  

          You try to take issue with the fact that no new refineries became available to American markets over a period of 25 years by pointing to an 18% increase in output while ignoring consumption.

          Garbage statistics.

          "That's the problem with the American dream. It makes everyone concerned for the day they're gonna be rich." - Jebadiah Bartlet

          by nepolon on Wed May 11, 2005 at 01:30:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I was hoping you could read (none)
            The original point I contested was that oil prices are "cheap" because "oil industry hasn't invested".

            It's just plain wrong.  The US refining industry spent billions adding capacity in existing large refineries and to enable these refineries to produce 500 ppm sulfur diesel (down from 3000 ppm or 0.3% which was the spec in 1980) and 30 ppm S gasoline down from (IIRC 200 ppm).  Refinery runs are up from 10-11 to 15 even while the small crap refineries were closed.  Must be magic.

            And your "logic" ignores the fact that the Venz built 4 enormous export refineries targeting our market.  Ditto the Norwegians at Mongstadt.  Their econs were based on "free" crude and a need to generate jobs.  Who'd compete with that?.

            Also, since Europe chose to tax mogas up to $5/bbl (smart) they had a drop in consumption similar to our own. (check out the dip in our consumption on your graph from 1980 to 85 ).  That left them with big surplus refining capacity in the Italian islands, the UK and ARA.  It would have been suicidal economically to build big new refineries in the US while these guys could (and did) dump mogas into the market keeping the mogas crack down to $3 bucks.  

            The majors really struggled to make a buck in refining lead to a bunch being closed/sold for a song.  Many of my friends were laid off or moved on to greener pastures.

            Your own data should be interpreted as the reason we refine a smaller share of our mogas/other transportation needs is other places chose to build refineries and dump into our market.

            Of course, you could go back to writing the 3rd graders version of the Motley fool.

            •  signifying nothing (none)
              You go on to twist the original quote from it's context:

              Oil is exactly at that point - regardless of when oil peaks, it has already plateaued in our current structure. To get more oil means building out more infrastructure, if that would even work at all. One reason energy seems so cheap, is that very little energy infrastructure has been added - the last refinery in America came online in 1976. It is amazing how cheap things are if there is no capital expenditure cost.

              [emphisis mine]

              you paraphrase this as

                  oil prices are "cheap" because "oil industry hasn't invested".

              "very little energy infrastructure has been added" somehow became "hasn't invested."  Am I the only one who sees a difference here?

              Investments in producing cleaner fuels does nothing for adding energy infrastructure directly.  They address the environmental impacts of energy consumption.  Not a nickle of that investment means anything to energy infrastructure.  

              Your latest argument is in total agreement with the original point:  international competition discouraged increases in domestic refining capacity.  Someone else bore the cost of building the foreign refineries, and the excess capacity they proferred kept energy costs low.  America never had to bear the indirect costs of those refineries, hence cheap gas.

              So now demand has spiked, capping the existing capacity.  Prices have blown up, and the only solution is to lower demand or increase production.  Nothing you said refutes any of that.

              You insistance that a 18% increase in capacity is meaningful is puzzling, hence I introduced the other side you ignored: demand.  It really is meaningless to talk about any increases in capacity without citing increases in demand.

              The fact is, your friends lost their jobs to pump up profit numbers, not because the industry was struggling:  capital expenditures for XOM from 2002-2004 total $35.5B.  In that same period, they generated $54.3B in net profit.  Doesn't sound like that much of a struggle to survive to me.

              graph of stock value of XOM from 1970 to present

              Now, back to my speculation: you are not really a troll, and I know it, but it looks like it sometimes because you are seeing demons and lashing out.  Your need to demean me here and elsewhere only supports that.  

              "That's the problem with the American dream. It makes everyone concerned for the day they're gonna be rich." - Jebadiah Bartlet

              by nepolon on Wed May 11, 2005 at 07:48:36 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Is that a mote in my eye? (none)
                Now, back to my speculation: you are not really a troll, and I know it, but it looks like it sometimes because you are seeing demons and lashing out.  Your need to demean me here and elsewhere only supports that

                had you just said "you are full of shit" I'd have laughed and debated in good fun.  But calling me a troll and implying bad faith was below the belt.  I gave you 2 chances to play nice and then thought you might need a bit of your own medicine.  Apols for sinking to that level.

                I don't see demons, only folks who can't understand that the oil biz is mostly amoral and a little stupid. When it comes to pollution, they suck ass.  But for the rest, they're just regular businss folk who concentrate on their own paychecks for the most part.

                They do what they can (given the basic mendacity and stupidity of management) to max profits for the next 12 months.  Assuming that they should have built out infrastructure to head off a supply pinch based on projections ignores the past.  They did it in spades from 1976-85 and got their asses handed to them on ROI as a result.  Chevron had 5 mega projects on the books when I joined (in that era).  1 in refining (a Billion $$ spent in Mississippi) and 4 in exploration/production.  All looked like shit for a decade or went belly up.

                You also seem to see a forest and refuse to accept there are trees within it.  Yes, Exxon made a ton of money over that period.  Very little of it was made in domestic refining.  They gave away one of their biggest refineries -- Bayway NJ--just to dump the capital off their books.  Chevron/Gulf sold/closed their Cincinnati, El Paso, Port Arthur and Perth Amboy refineries.  Shell bought Union's refinery in LA and rationalized their own. Overall ROIs were horrible and Wall Street didn't reward the integrated refiners as much as the top deck's bonus expectations required.

                Domestic refining sucked up huge capital costs both for clean fuels and usually an attendant increase in capacity.   They dumped older, smaller refineries and replaced them with extra capacity in bigger, newer ones.  Which is why we had economic crude run capacity of 10-11 MMDB with 400+ refineries in 1982 and 15.5 MMDB with 150 now.  Most of those refineries were dead as soon as crude went from $4 to $12.  Terrible energy efficiency and just too small to justify improvements.

                Sure, we didn't have to bear the capital costs of all those foreign refineries.  Until now, when your demand has reached a point that there is little slack in the system built over that period.  That doesn't mean oilcos and oil producing nations didn't invest the money, just that they built it with poor timing.  Hence the argument that energy seems cheap because there was no investment is just wrong.  It was cheap because:

                1. Saudi held crude prices down to re-kindle demand and stave off more of item 2.
                2.  Oilcos and oil producing countries made a string of poor decisions (with 20-20 hindsight) on adding very expensive oil producing capacity (North Sea e.g.) and all those uneconomic export refineries.  Once the capital was spent (wasted as far as a return goes), they had to operate them to get some cash flow.  

                So even with a North Sea platform that needed $15/bbl to make a return, you produced in a $11 market as production cost was below that.  Same for the Mobil Yanbu refinery, Shell at Jubail, 3 biggies in Kuwait, ad nauseum.

                That was my point, obviously very poorly communicated.

                 

                •  we continue (none)
                  to agree on details.

                  Sure, we didn't have to bear the capital costs of all those foreign refineries.  Until now, when your demand has reached a point that there is little slack in the system built over that period.  That doesn't mean oilcos and oil producing nations didn't invest the money, just that they built it with poor timing.

                  As you said, excess capacity was created in the late 70s.  Investment in new refineries dropped off.  Without the continuing cost of building new refining capacity, operation costs were lower than they would have been if unneeded refineries were built.  

                  No one is saying that Big Oil should have continued to blindly invest capital in refineries through the 80s.  The fact is that they didn't, and it lowered operation costs.

                  You do make a good point about why more capacity was not added in America, but this by itself does not make Stirling wrong.  He is not assigning motive or blame, merely reviewing the fact that world refining capacity has been reached.  Again, returning to the source:

                  You:
                  Hence the argument that energy seems cheap because there was no investment is just wrong.

                  Stirling:
                  One reason energy seems so cheap, is that very little energy infrastructure has been added - the last refinery in America came online in 1976.

                  He never claimed that this reasoning provided the single input to energy costs.  He never claimed that no investment of any kind occured.  I see you arguing against something that was never said.  This was the foundation for my comment about demons.  

                  Your first comment said Stirling was wrong.  I have yet to see how.  It is well understood that crude prices were kept low by the Saudis, but you have not demonstrated that this is an exclusive force in pricing--it may be possible but I havn't seen it.  Your argument is not fully supported because you do not demonstrate that by reduced infrastructure costs did not factor into the low price of fuel through the last 20 years.  Further you have not pointed to a new refinery in America since 76.  In sum, I remain unconvinced that what Stirling actually said is wrong.

                  I'm not entirely happy with the way this exchange is going and I am seriously questioning the value of digging further.  I have limited time for Kos already.  

                  finally:

                  had you just said "you are full of shit" I'd have laughed and debated in good fun.  But calling me a troll and implying bad faith was below the belt.  I gave you 2 chances to play nice and then thought you might need a bit of your own medicine.  Apols for sinking to that level.

                  Touche.

                  And now we get to recreate the classic "who created whom drama."  Your "Motley Fool" comment was not the first time you have derided me and others in comments.  I had a bad taste in my mouth, and did not state myself well.

                  That origional comment was badly worded, and I attempted to correct that in my latest reply when I realized I had communicated my origional comment badly.  Mea Culpa.  

                  You have since made a valuable addendum about the supply market, and corrected me on my sloppy estimate of a "doubling" of demand--on second glance it looks more like a 50% increase.  We have each put our knives away.  Let's both cash our reality checks and move on?

                  "That's the problem with the American dream. It makes everyone concerned for the day they're gonna be rich." - Jebadiah Bartlet

                  by nepolon on Thu May 12, 2005 at 04:56:44 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Last try at clarifying my position (none)
                    left it alone for 3 days to let things cool off.

                    Stirling:
                    One reason energy seems so cheap, is that very little energy infrastructure has been added - the last refinery in America came online in 1976.

                    He never claimed that this reasoning provided the single input to energy costs.  He never claimed that no investment of any kind occured.  I see you arguing against something that was never said.  This was the foundation for my comment about demons.  

                    I think Stirling is wrong because the oil market was in glut from 1981 until now.  More investment would have lowered prices rather than increasing them.   Any investment in energy infrastructure would have merely increased supply in a market with a surplus already.  

              •  Further (none)
                You also appear to interpret your first graph incorrectly.  Or are 5 years ahead of your time.

                overall demand in 1980 was 19 MMBD.  Trans fuels about 10 MMBD.  At the black vertical line, which I am assuming is the end of real data and the start of projections, overall demand is 20 MMBD and trans fuels about 13.

                Consuption has increased 100% in the US in that same time period. Your increase in refinery output is a drop in the barrel by comparison.
                 

                There is no doubling of transportation demand shown.  Nor any significant increase in overall demand. US summer mogas demand was 8 mmbd in 1990 and only about 10ish now.  I see about 30% increase in trans demand and 5% overall.  the increase in trans demand is similar in size to the increase in crude runs in the US..

                It may be coming, but with a price shock, maybe not.  You should have seen the similar graphs that justified all those f---ed up projects back in 1980.  Crude demand worldwide up to 150 MMBD by 2000.  US mogas demand over 20 MMBD....  Just toilet paper as it turned out.

                Up until that black line (2002??), crude prices never spent any time over $24ish (excepting Gulf War I August--Jan) which was less than half of the 1985 peak correcting for inflation.  As long as OPEC had spare capacity with production cost under $5, who in their right mind would invest in a mega project?

  •  Voodoo Economics (none)
    GHWB (Bush Senior) coined the Phrase "Voodoo Economics" during the 1980 primary when referring to Reagan's "Supply Side Economics" or "Trickle Down Economics."  Too bad it didn't trickle.  Ultimately he was right, just don't tell his son.

    Happy little moron, lucky little man. I wish I was a moron, my God, perhaps I am! -- Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Tue May 10, 2005 at 01:46:21 PM PDT

  •  It's all about how the profits are distributed (4.00)
    Excellent!

    Until we can exert pressure on government to legislate a more equal allocation of the spoils (profit) between capital (stock buy-backs, dividends, cash and CEO pay and labor (minimum wage, benefit and defined benefit increases), very little will change on the income side of the equation, which is becoming more and more stratified ...

    Until we exert pressure on government to legislate a more equal distribution of wealth throughh progressive taxation of earned and unearned income, estates and corporate profits, very little will chaneg on the wealth side of the equation, which is becoming more and more concentrated.

    Good work!

    rok for dean  

  •  Can someone please explain (none)
    the widely held economic assumption that wages grow faster than prices, and will continue to do so over the next 50 years or so?

    This assumption undelies all discussion on bush's "progressive indexing" social security proposal. And every newspaper article that discusses progressive indexing states this assumption as established fact.

    And yet:

    Inflation rose 3.1 per cent in the year to March but salaries climbed just 2.4 per cent

    And don't all long-term indicators (increased competition from low-wage countries, weaker unions, etc.) point in the direction of slower wage growth?

    •  historically they have (none)
      Historically wages have gone up more than inflation, especially now that the official inflation number is being rigged.

      Just shows how bad wage growth is if it can't keep up.

      •  But (none)
        maybe these trends don't predict the future.
        I've read elsewhere that average wages have been flat relative to inflation over the last 30 years.

        I'm not sure how these averages are calculated - if it's lumping me in with bill gates, then  there might be an increase in the average while most people are falling behind relative to inflation.

        Maybe the postwar period (1945-1970)was an aberration - no significant foreign competition and strong unions - and that skews the numbers. Maybe what we're seing now is more like what we can expect in the future.

    •  The answer is efficiency (none)
      real efficiency- the amount of goods and services produced per hour of labor, has been steadly growing, at something north of 2% a year.  That means if 40 hours of labor last year made 100 widgets (on average), this year we're making 102 widgets.  This allows real wages to increase without driving inflation.

      "Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it." --Mark Twain

      by bhurt on Tue May 10, 2005 at 03:17:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, assuming (none)
        that the benefits of increased productivity get shared with the workers. But isn't the share of national income going to wages (as opposed to corporate profits and stock dividends) going down?
        •  Yep. (none)
          The problem is that way lies unemployement and deflation.  If we can now make 102 widgets per time period where we used to make only 100 widgets, but we're still only paying our workers so that they can buy 100 widgets and not 102 widgets, then there'll only be demand for 100 widgets  Which means we only need 98 employees, not 100.  So we lay off two- but then that means there's now only demand for 98 widgets, not 100 or 102.  Time to lay off another 2 employees...

          The only reason we haven't hit this yet is that the employees are borrowing the money to buy the extra 2 widgets- allowing employeement to remain more or less constant (Bush is finally managing to dig his way out of the job debt he made- we're only 22,000 jobs short of what we had 1 March 2001).  But obviously this can't continue forever- and when it does, the chickens will come home to roost forever.

          Increasing efficiency, handled correctly, can be a win for everyone.  It's not like the corporations can't win as well.  By allowing wages to rise at the same rate as efficiency, their labor cost per widget remains the same, as well as all other costs, so they make the same profit per widget- but now they're selling 102 widgets where they used to be selling 100 widgets.  Hey: profits just went up.  The problem is that the economy is not being handled correctly- the corporations aren't just taking their share, they're taking the worker's share as well.  Which makes it look like their profits are going up even faster, for a short period of time- but it's steering us towards the rocks.

          "Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it." --Mark Twain

          by bhurt on Wed May 11, 2005 at 07:53:52 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Nice one, had a poetic flow .. (none)
  •  Hey (none)
    what happened to the comments from the person who was questioning the premise that wages "plunged" by citing the increase in health care expenditures?
    I wanted to reply to that one; now I come back an hour later and its gone like it never existed.
    WTF?
    •  if you mean daisycolorado (none)
      Her post got massively troll-rated.  You can still see it if you're a "trusted user," but it's now invisible to everyone else.

      Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

      by randym77 on Tue May 10, 2005 at 07:36:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I guess only trusted users (none)
        can be trusted with the truth.

        I feel like I just experienced a little but of Orwells Animal Farm, some pigs are just more equal than others.

      •  troll-rate this (none)
        That's just plain wrong. What are we afraid of?
        •  the ratings system (none)
          Some people use it to express their agreement or disagreement what is said in the post, which isn't really what the ratings system is for.  

          Others may view abrasive posts as an undesirable distraction or obstruction to real dialog, and want them to go away for that reason.  

          You can always write your own diary.  They can't shut you up then.  :)

          Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

          by randym77 on Tue May 10, 2005 at 09:37:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Oh Stirling (none)
    You are such a genius. You are brilliant and you walk on water. You are the sun and the moon to all of us lowly uneducated unwashed masses.

    We should impeach Bush and make you the grand master of all that goes before us.

    /snark off

    If you can't stand the heat Stirling, don't post diaries that you can't defend.

    This is my last post. I once thought that the democratic party was full of people who wanted to be egaged in intellectual debate. All I have found are a bunch of sychopaths who want to believe that the world is coming to an end.

    Good bye losers.

    •  I hate Democratic Underground ... (none)
      ... but that didn't deter me from being either a Dem or a progressive.

      For a short while, I belonged to a private board filled with some of the most nixious so-called Democrats I've ever had the misfortune of meeting up with.

      That didn't deter me from being either a Dem or a progressive.

      I wasn't crazy about Kerry. But that didn't stop me, either.

      IOW, my belief in progressive values goes pretty deep. I'm not a blowin' in the wind progressive or Dem.

      Your statement that Dems are all "sychopaths" and your underlying implication that this thread and Kos in general are to blame for your perhaps leaving the party are disingenuous, at best.

  •  One more thing Daisy (none)
    there has indeed been plenty of scandal in bush administration officials manipulating and pressuring data in many important agencies-

    dept of energy

    dept of interior

    dept of commerce

    social security administration officals were complaing about being told exactly what to write in report in spite of facts

    quite literally hundreds of scientists have been quite loudly  been complaining about the bush administation's junk science in EPA and dismissing data that contradicts its own claims

    surely you are familiar with this.

  •  pursuant to our recent discussion (none)
    http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20050511005 628&newsLang=en

    U.S. Small Business Administration Refuses to Release Report, Appeals Decision to Ninth Circuit to the ASBL; SBA Withholds Public Document, Fails to Fight Fraud in Awarding of Government Contracts

  •  that's strange (none)
    .

    I just called the Dallas ABC affiliate and they told me that labor figures come in later Fridays.

    we can't both be right

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