The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

That Great Census News

That metropolitan-area household incomes in 2015 are up five percent is, indeed, good news, but as Stoller points out, men’s income is up 1.5 percent and women’s is up 2.7 percent, so what it means is that more people per household are working.

Household income is still 1.7 percent below the 2007 level.

Income being up indicates that the Fed can now crush wages, however. Let’s see how long this runs, or how long they let it run.

Overall, however, the job market is still trash.

Employment / Population Ratio

Employment / Population Ratio

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  1. V. Arnold

    First let me state that I do not read or watch any CCM from the U.S.; propaganda at best and downright lies at worst.
    I have not received a cost of living raise in almost 3 years on my SS; which is effectively a cut in benefits due to a criminal manipulation of the CPI and the criminal way it is established.
    Having a sister still living in the U.S., I damn sure know what’s going on with the employment market. At 67 yo she cannot retire and often works 2 and sometimes 3 jobs to have a “decent” (snark) life. She has a full time job with the state she lives in, but it’s just not enough.
    So, it’s all I can do to read the bullshit put out by the government and it’s compounded when I listen to the lying SOB president of the U.S. lie to us further.
    I hope Trump get elected; it’ll serve the U.S. citizens right; they deserve him, lock, stock, and barrel.
    Okay, rant over for now; I am soooo pissed…………..

  2. Ché Pasa

    So if I understand correctly, overall incomes are not up over 2007; households have slightly more income because more people are working. At lower wages though and no benefits to speak of. Sounds like the neolib economic policy is playing out as planned.

    Millions of Americans have been forced into poverty during the course of this Endless Recession, and there most of them will stay the rest of their lives. Putting more people to work is all well and good, but since the work pays less and provides fewer benefits (or none at all), poverty continues increasing. That’s the policy implemented since the first days of the Economic Unpleasantness (for the Lesser People).

    Quite as striking is V. Arnold’s point about Social Security. Indeed, every time the SS Board refuses COLA increases in SS, it is effectively a cut, because costs of living for seniors continue to rise, regardless. In other words, just like other ordinary people’s income, seniors’ income from SS is on a declining curve, despite all the hysterics generated by Pete Peterson and his ilk that the old codgers are bleeding the rest of Americans dry. It’s simply not true. More and more seniors are being thrust into poverty just like so many others.

    It’s all due to the policies implemented and maintained by the leaders put in office in service to those who own them. None of this is God’s Will. It is all policy driven by those who benefit from impoverishing the many.

    Changing leaders seems to have no effect on the policies. They remain rigidly adhered to no matter.

    We can vote ourselves silly and nothing happens to improve things for the many — while extraordinary gains for the few are assured. This has been iron law policy for a decade or more; how much longer must we endure?

  3. V. Arnold

    I think most people are bullied by economics and, even more importantly by economists (Krugman being a stellar example of the worst; Nobel prize indeed; even the evil one, Obama got one).
    This is unfortunate; because they give up on their own common sense; a grave mistake.
    In the very late 1980’s, I saw there was something very untoward in the housing market; but it just kept going; against what I deemed to be common sense. Not being in danger of being a home owner, I kept an eye open for many years, decades as it turned out, but I was right; it was all bullshit!
    The lesson I learned was; pay attention to your gut feelings; they are very likely correct.
    Economists are snake oil salesmen, not to be trusted.
    Only trust your own common sense…

  4. V. Arnold

    Ché Pasa
    September 14, 2016

    Thanks for amplifying my post re: SS.
    Until and unless there is a genuine revolution, coming from the streets; I see no solution.
    A return to slavery, now called neo-serfdom, is the eventuality of the U.S. citizens. It’s largely in force as I type this. but little, if any, reaction from the street.
    It must come from the street; voting is a very bad joke; a way to maintain the all important status quo…
    I very much doubt I’ll live to see that happen; at 71 who knows what the future holds; but I have made far farther than I would have ever guessed…we’ll see…

  5. Shh

    As a professional accountant in the US, I have watched with increasing dismay the partnership between the differing constituents of the US government and Wall Street in falsifying economic data to further the rapacious pilfering of the common weal.

    The CPI is bullshit, the labor data is bullshit manipulated into meaninglessness, “results” are reported before being finalized, and “revisions” published without comment months after the fact, so lies about lies compound the lies we’re taught as grade school children about honor, integrity, the Greatness of D’uhmurca, and other nonsense.

    Americans have abrogated their obligations as citizens to defend “the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them” (Declaration of Independence). In that regard, V. Arnold is correct, we deserve whomever gets elected. Trump or Clintoon is an equally bad result, for different reasons. Both demonstrate the necessity of an educated populace engaged in civil discourse to further the aim of the common good. A conversation all but dead in this country.

  6. Ian Welsh

    Yes, I don’t believe the CPI. Trying to decide if I care enough to write an article about it.

  7. Stephen P Ruis

    Of course, the basic statistical fact is that once you have taken a step down or back, you will likely never catch up again. (Note that on the common graph of middle class wages and productivity that the lines keep diverging.) The Plutocrats who planned all of this know this because it works in their favor, once wealth is transfered to their cohort, it is very hard for it to trickle back, without massive concerted effort. Since there are many, many fewer of them than there are of us, it is easier for them to act in concert. The creation of the modern middle class only happened because of the great Depression (which diminished wealth massively) followed by a world war (which diminished the domestic leverage of the wealthy) and a President who was a traitor to his class. How often will a trifecta like that happen?

    Right now “they” have us by the short and curlies as they have all of the wealth, most of the income, and the political and judicial classes firmly in pocket. Until we change the political landscape, we will continue to suffer at the hands of the Party of Greed.

  8. someofparts

    V Arnold’s sister is living the same life I am. Just turned 67. Count myself lucky to have two stable full-time jobs, one of which is with state government. Lack of money itself literally makes it a huge challenge to figure out how to get out of this place. Of course the loop is that there is no way to make a living wage until I get out.

  9. bruce wilder

    I cannot muster the energy to try to dig into it. The much smaller numbers for men and for women do not seem to me to add up — that’s puzzling. I’d like to see some kind of reconciliation: how much is greater employment per household or greater household size. Something is weird here.

    The release gave headline mention to healthcare and I wonder how much weight was given to putative health care insurance benefits. Maybe, I’m just being paranoid, but counting increases in insured health care costs as increased income to wage earners, who are, in fact, shelling more of their cash income on health care without seeing any actual benefit seems like something the Census Bureau would do without questioning the directive from on high.

  10. Peter*

    There was a post at the Intercept that painted this Census Report as wonderful news and a sure sign the dead economy was on the move again, it was taken down for some reason. All this report verifies, when it is broken down, is that we are in the 9th year of the Great Recession with no change in sight. The fact that home ownership is at a 50 year low just adds to the depressing news and to the realization that this condition may be permanent.

  11. V. Arnold

    For the majority it is permanent; this is what most do not get. And if they did understand; would “they” try and do something about the U.S.’s neo-serfdom?
    As long as the myth of voting exists; nothing will change…

    The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.
    George Carlin

  12. Ché Pasa

    Of course statistics, particularly economic statistics, can be and routinely are manipulated to produce a wide range of results pleasing to their proponents, unpleasant to their antagonists.

    The Census Bureau provides statistical information that’s used as ammunition by “both sides” (there’s actually only one side with contending factions, but that’s another issue for another time.) Tracking down the truth and/or utility of any particular statistic provided by the Census Bureau — even the population count — can be exhausting, so I generally don’t bother unless I have a lot of time on my hands and enjoy the hunt. For the most part I look at what the media features from the statistics as propaganda with only marginal basis in facts, if any at all.

    So. What I’m coming to understand from all of this is that household income “gains” and “reductions” in the poverty rate are phantoms that are based in statistics that show little or no change in either one — or actually show a declining trend in household income for most Americans and an increasing trend in poverty. 

    Since that’s baked into the design of our post-GR economic system and what it’s supposed to be doing — leaving out who is benefiting from the system — I’m sure these results are pleasing to its makers, even more pleasing because they can be touted as Great News! for the masses. Come on and celebrate! right?

    Americans aren’t poor enough yet, aren’t indebted enough yet, aren’t ill enough, suffering enough, or desperate enough yet to please their masters, so the ratchet will shift a notch or two more, all the time while telling the good-for-nothing moochers how much better their lives are now than they were just two years ago — or three or four or more — without reminding them that their well-being is worsening year over year…something they know in their aching, tired bones but which statistical manipulation can easily mask.

  13. V. Arnold

    Ché Pasa
    September 15, 2016

    Your last paragraph is spot on.
    Slaves suffer whatever their masters inflict upon them. History records the cruelty endured by peoples around the world; who would’ve thought USians would put up with treatment like that?
    It’s true; USians have become soft and filled with fear…

  14. Hugh

    Late to the party but I just wanted to agree with Shh that it is all about understanding both the process and the definitions and that these often do not correspond to our out here in the real world experience. I have been analyzing the monthly jobs reports and other labor data for several years and this annual report for the last three or four. You can track down the pdf (2 Megs) through the newsroom at the Census site. (Note: the newsroom url is changing, but still not hard to get to.)

    For my own work, I use the tables in the appendices. It is a pain but doable to transfer these to Excel where I can generate my own graphs.

    To Bruce Wilder, I have not looked specifically at your question re sex, but data on male/female workers can be found in table A-4 (page 41 of the report, 49 of the pdf). I do not remember seeing table info about household size and income.

    So what is income? The report gives a list, but it might be easier to define it as in what it is not:

    “income received (exclusive of certain money receipts such as capital gains) before payments for personal income taxes, social security, union dues, Medicare deductions, etc. Therefore, money income does not reflect the fact that some families receive noncash
    benefits, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance/food stamps, health benefits, subsidized housing, and goods produced and consumed on the farm. In addition, money income does not reflect the fact that noncash benefits are also received by some nonfarm residents, which often take the form of the use of business transportation and facilities, full or partial payments by business for retirement programs, medical and educational expenses, etc.”

    So your income can include earnings, Social Security, rents, dividends, etc., but does not include your food stamps, capital gains, and use of the company’s Lear jet. What this means is that the “real” income of poorer Americans may be a little higher, that of middle class Americans will correspond more nearly to their gross income but is lower than here reported, and that for rich Americans, their income can be much, much higher than reported.

    What is poverty or the “poverty threshold”? Well, mainly it’s a joke, a very mean and heartless joke. If you are a single person “household”, the poverty threshold is defined as:

    Under age 65: $12,331
    Aged 65 and older: $11,367

    I would consider a living income to be $40,000/year with Medicare for All included. But you see how the game is played. A fictitious poverty threshold is created, that corresponds to nothing in reality, and then we get reports like this one that state that the poverty declined by 1.1%. And then the media latch on to this and announce good news, the recovery is at hand –as it has been reported repeatedly in the last 6 years.

  15. Steve H.

    The link that Mike refers to is critical.

    – median household income calculated by using the redesigned questions was 3.2 percent higher than the median income found using the traditional questions.

    That is a quote from the Census page. 5.2-3.2 = 2.0% actual increase in MHI, if the questions had not been reformulated. They changed the instrument and buried the results.

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