Showing posts from April 22, 2014

How income inequality can hurt the economy

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[Beware of studies that report changes in the 'average' income: the mean of a highly skewed distribution will be misleadingly high. This article is, again, about killing the good that laid the Golden Egg, aka the gutting of the middle and lower middle class: "Households in the middle quintile earned only $69 more per year, but spent an additional $345, meaning that they increased their spending by 500 percent of their income gain. The next lowest quintile saw income increase by $143, but increased spending by $881—616 percent of their income gain." *RON*]
Rob Garver, CNBC, April 2, 2014

Given that the adjectives most used in describing the economy's recovery from the great recession include "sluggish" and "disappointing" it may come as a surprise to some that average household income in the U.S. is higher, in nominal terms, than it was in 2008.

Not only that, it passed the 2008 average as long ago as 201…

Four charts reveal gigantic climate impact from proposed Kinder Morgan mega-pipeline

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[Important information documenting the extent of the impact of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project. *RON*]
Barry Saxifrage, Vancouver Observer, Apr 22nd, 2014

As the climate crisis intensifies it is getting harder for those who benefit from fossil fuels to shirk any and all responsibility for the climate damage that results. The greater the climate damage the more extreme the measures are becoming to avoid taking any responsibility.

Such is the case with Kinder Morgan's recent push to build a gigantic new Trans Mountain XL (TMX) pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the Pacific Ocean shoreline at the Port of Vancouver.

People concerned about our increasingly dangerous climate say this will enable billions of tonnes of new bitumen to be extracted and burned. They point out -- as my four charts below illustrate -- that the resulting climate impact will be far too huge to safely ignore. They insist that climate pollution of th…

Intelligence Chief Issues Limits on Press Contacts

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[Harper's been doing things this way for years now. It's discouraging, as a Canadian, when you see a regressive US government copying the practices of Stephen Harper. Canada - leader of the Western World in anti-democratic practices! *RON*]

By Charlie Savage, NY Times, April 21, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has barred officials at 17 agencies from speaking to journalists about unclassified intelligence-related topics without permission, according to a newly disclosed directive.

The directive, issued by James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, also requires the agencies’ employees to report any unplanned contact with journalists. Officials who violate the directive may be disciplined or fired, the directive says.

The directive prohibits unauthorized “contact with the media about intelligence-related information, including intelligence sources, methods, activities and judgments,” without regard to whether it is…

Humpback Whale Removed From 'Threatened' Species List

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[A favoured tactic of the Harper government - once they have promised that they will protect the environment while approving pipelines and tankers - is the change the rules for what they are obliged to protect. Then they can always say that they are enforcing the (gutted) law to its fullest extent. *RON*]

Huffington Post, 04/22/2014

The North Pacific humpback whale is no longer protected as a "threatened" species after the Canadian government quietly downgraded its classification earlier this month.

Despite objections from several groups, the Harper government declared the humpback a "species of special concern" under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The whale population off the B.C. coast has increased "significantly" since it was first listed as threatened in 2005, so it is now at a point where it can be reclassified, according to a federal government notice in the Canadian Gazette.

The Most Important Book Ever Is All Wrong

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[The anti-Piketty, pro-inequality backlash has begun. *RON*]

By Clive Crook, Bloomberg View, April 20, 2014

It's hard to think of another book on economics published in the past several decades that's been praised as lavishly as Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the Twenty-First Century." The adulation tells you something, though not mainly about the book's qualities. Its defects, in my view, are greater than its strengths -- but the rapturous reception proves that the book, one way or another, meets a need.

Martin Wolf of the Financial Times calls it "extraordinarily important." Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Review of Books, says it's "truly superb" and "awesome." Branko Milanovic, a noted authority on global income disparities, calls it "one of the watershed books in economic thinking." Even John Cassidy, in a relatively balanced appraisal for the New Yorker, says "Pik…

Everyone In America Should Care About What Chipotle And Netflix Are About To Do

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[Killing the goose that lays the golden egg. *RON*]
Sam Ro , Business Insider, April 22, 2014

Job growth has been weak and wages have gone nowhere since the great recession.

But surprisingly, we've seen corporate profits recover swiftly and surge to record highs.

The labor-market story and the corporate-profit story are very closely related. Simply put, the American consumer has been getting squeezed to line the pockets of corporate America and its investors.

However, we're now seeing more evidence that businesses will attempt to bolster their profits by raising prices on their customers. Chipotle and Netflix recently announced that they would soon be raising the prices of their goods and services.

Up front, most consumers may not even notice the price hikes because they're so small. But their capacity to spend will get squeezed.

And ultimately, without a jump in hiring or wages, this could all backfire on corporate America in the form of …

PMO paid more than $4.1 million to departing employees

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["Do as I say not as I do." The issue is not the pay-outs (though one may question why PMO turnover is by far the largest) but the duplicity involved in complaining about the same practice when done by another party, and continuing to complain about the same practice when it benefits union staff. *RON*]
Jason Fekete, O Canada, April 21, 2014

OTTAWA — The Prime Minister’s Office coughed up $4.1 million in severance and separation pay over the first seven years of Stephen Harper’s tenure for 196 departing PMO employees, according to government documents.

The high turnover rate in the PMO between 2006 and 2013 saw between roughly one-third and one-fifth of staff leave each year, often with both severance and discretionary separation payments.

Approximately $57 million in salary was paid between 2006 and 2013 to staff in the Prime Minister’s Office. The office ranged in size from 82 to 105 employees during that time. The $4.1 million taxpayers…

An Apple a Day, and Other Myths

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[This totally overthrows some high profile research! For one thing it really says something about epidemiological research that relies on self-report. Clearly, when you ask the people who had better health outcomes what they have been eating, they were able to recite what they believe to be the elements of a 'healthy' diet, even when they were not eating this way. It's almost too bad when they report research such as this. One of the strongest effects being reported in health research nowadays is the placebo effect. If you just left people with their delusions intact it's possible that they would have better outcomes than if they were 'corrected' by science! :-) *RON*]

George Johnson, NY Times, April 21, 2014

SAN DIEGO — A trip to almost any bookstore or a cruise around the Internet might leave the impression that avoiding cancer is mostly a matter of watching what you eat. One source after another promotes the protective pow…