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Comment Re:Why can't they roll it back? (Score 1) 70

> negative inflation (deflation) is really really bad, because in that situation, the economy grinds to a halt because nobody wants to spend money (because it'll be worth more tomorrow),

This is a fallacy, because most people need to spend most of their income on immediate needs (food, mortgage/rent, utilities, car payments, gasoline, etc.). Therefore the economy will still function. For the people who have surplus income to invest, they already calculate a "real rate of return" by subtracting inflation from the nominal rate of return (i.e. measured in inflating currency). Thus if your stocks went up 2%, but inflation was also 2%, your real return is zero, because you can only buy the same amount of goods and services as the original investment could. If inflation was -2% (deflation) instead of +2%, it doesn't affect the method to calculate of real return, only the value you subtract. The market values of various investments would adjust to yield the same real return they do now. This is no different than what happened in past times when the inflation rate changed from one value to another.

This discussion applies to *mild* deflation, on the order of a few percent per year. Rapid deflation and rapid inflation are both bad. We have an example of the first in India, where they are trying to suddenly withdraw large bills from circulation, disrupting the normal flow of funds. We have an example of the second in Venezuela, which is now probably classed as hyperinflation (>100%/year)

Comment Zuckerberg, really? (Score 2) 88

I don't despise Mark Zuckerberg like many do, but I hardly think he qualifies as a tech leader. Facebook succeeded through luck, timing, hard work and good engineering. That's all laudable, but there wasn't much leadership or vision involved. Bezos' initial idea, an online bookstore, was hardly visionary or leading but subsequent decisions, especially the decision to standardize internal system interfaces that led to the idea, and ability, to create AWS absolutely was visionary. Google should have done that, but didn't have the vision. There's no debating the vision of Elon "Mars or bust in my solar-powered electric car" Musk. Musk has so much vision we'd call him a crackpot, except that he has a tendency to succeed. Steve Jobs was clearly a leader and a visionary with a focus on making technology simple and beautiful.

And there are other leaders around who I'd say are much worthier than Zuckerberg. Larry Page, for example, whose goal for his new startup was to "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful", an insanely ambitious mission which arguably is no longer ambitious enough to describe what Alphabet/Google is doing. Mark Shuttleworth, not so much for Thawte as for Canonical, where his vision hasn't really succeeded in displacing Windows but has gone much further than most of us considered possible. Though a bunch of CEOs probably wouldn't pick him, I'd put Richard Stallman high on the list, too. His vision of the importance of software freedom has been incredibly influential.

I could go on, but the point is... Zuckerberg? Really? For what? I suppose it was visionary to believe that you could build a billion-user interactive system with PHP.

Comment Re: Woosh. (Score 1) 86

Hydrogen, on the other hand, requires dedicated infrastructure to support 100% of fuelling requirements. Not just the stations, but the generation, storage and shipping.

And maybe not such a big deal or practical for trailers travelling the same corridor, but if you miscalculate or there's detours or you run into defective equipment or whatever you're not dead in the water with an EV as long as somebody got a working extension cord. Or even a modified generator if you just need enough juice to limp to the nearest grid connection, seems a few have done that as insurance. Emergency services have also started having charge service instead of tow service if you've run out. With hydrogen that shit had better work all the time, because there's no plan B. I think that alone will put a huge cooler on interest except for very limited niches. You also have a bigger variety of options, like say hotels providing parking with overnight chargers and other locations super fast charging, with hydrogen either you got it or you don't. Which is not to say EVs are without problems... but if we really hit that oil crunch and gas prices doubled-tripled-quadrupled they'd clearly be the ones taking over.

Comment Re:Curing Greed. (Score 1) 408

Thanks for asking. There are lots of different schools of thought on the matter, so I'm just giving my own thoughts on it here, not an overview of every possibility entertained. If you were to strictly-speaking enforce a process of diminishing returns on concentrating wealth, that wouldn't be a free market anymore; keeping wealth from concentrating in a free market requires you find some kind of loophole or process that is enabling that, and then you just stop enabling it.

I think that that loophole is rent, including rent on money otherwise known as interest. I'm cutting this really quick here and glossing over a lot (mostly rebuttals to anticipated objections), but basically rents happen when one person has more capital than they (in their own estimation) need for their own use, and someone else has less capital than they (in their own estimation) need for their own use, and the one with more exploits that difference by charging the one with less a permanent fee for the temporary use of the capital, so that when the whole transaction is over, the one with more now has even more, and the one with less now has even less, and (this is the key part) that process then loops over and over and over again, unless by some other means the one with not enough capital manages to get enough capital of their own (a process made all the harder by having to pay to borrow someone else's meanwhile).

In the absence of the ability to rent the capital (lend it at interest), the one with more capital would need, if they wanted to profit from it at all (since they're not using it themselves), to sell their excess capital, and the only buyers would be those without enough already, so the sale would have to be on terms (price and payment schedule) the latter can afford, to satisfy both of their own self-interests. This would still come at the cost of extra labor from the buying party (being all that they have to trade, lacking in capital), and consequently afford the selling party some leisure (lack of labor needed), but that would be a temporary condition until the sale is complete. Afterward, both parties have the amount of capital they (in their own estimation) need for their own use, and can continue about their usual amount of labor, keeping the whole product thereof for themselves.

For illustration consider a toy model economy where the only capital is land, the only labor is farming, and there are only two identical participants, with the same needs and labor capacity. If they both have enough land to farm to meet their own needs, then they can each farm their own land and they are equals. If one has more land than he needs and the other less, and rent is a thing, the first can rent some of his land to the other, which he pays by also farming some of the other guy's land (besides the part he's renting), meaning the other guy can kick back and work less... and this will continue like that indefinitely, one person perpetually indebted to the other, all because one of them started out with more than the other. Meanwhile without rent, the poorer farmer would still need to buy the excess land from the richer farmer, meaning he would still have to do some of the farming for the other farmer in trade for that land, but a finite amount thereof, after which time the price will have been paid, they will have equal amounts of land, and go about farming it with equal amounts of labor to meet their equal needs, neither indebted to the other.

Fortunately, we don't have to ban rent to get rid of it, because rent is not just a voluntary trade of one thing for another, that would be a sale; it's a special kind of contract. If we simply stop enforcing such contracts, consider them invalid the way we consider a contract selling yourself into slavery invalid, then rentals and interest-bearing loans would be, while strictly speaking allowed, economically untenable (inasmuch as I will not be punished for agreeing to be your slave, but as soon as I decide I'm tired of it, tough luck for you, that agreement is not binding). So you're not using any force, and all trades are still free, just certain kinds of contracts are not protected, and so won't be used, and in their absence, actual trades (still free) will have to be used instead, in the process circumventing the problems that arise from rent.

And Marx thought capitalism was an unavoidable byproduct of free markets just because he couldn't see what it was, in addition to the free trade of private property, was really causing it. The problem is not, as Marx thought, that the factory-owners pay the workers less than they in turn sell the product of those workers' labor for; the problem is what causes the workers to be in such a bind that their best option is to agree to such an arrangement instead of telling the factory-owners to go fuck themselves, and that is that the workers have debts to their landlords (and possibly other creditors) to pay. The only difference between capitalism and feudalism is that the lord whose land you live on and the lord whose land you labor on can be different people (and you can pick who they are); you're still laboring upon someone else's capital, and then giving a big chunk of the product of that labor to someone to borrow the capital you need to live and continue laboring. That the someones are different instead of the same doesn't make that much difference to the economics of it.

Comment Re:Curing Greed. (Score 1) 408

i think you're a moron with no knowledge of the history of economics who can't distinguish propertarianism (private property ownership) and voluntarism (freedom to conduct commerce voluntarily) from capitalism (the shaping of a market -- free or not -- by the prior distribution of capital, such that ownership flows to those who already have more of it; first coined by Marx as an unavoidably byproduct of free markets, though I and plenty of others think he's wrong).

Comment Re:Dumbass (Score 1) 286

If Wheat was the problem, the US would be dropping food bags on the populace instead of TONS OF WEAPONS. GUNS DO NOT GROW OR WATER CROPS YOU FUCKING MORON!

Let me get this straight. Your argument is that the crisis must not be driven by a non-political cause because if it were the US would have solved it? Or, to put it another way, your're arguing that the US government is so perfectly effective at always addressing the root causes of problems in a timely manner, that the government's failure to address this one means it's not the root cause?

Dude, you must know a different US government than I do. The one I know occasionally does the right thing at the right time, but it's mostly by accident.

Comment Re:Nope (Score 1) 408

I think this Friedman quote still has relevance though:

Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it's jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.

Does it really serve a purpose if you make it harder than it needs to be? And self-driving cars will be a benefit to everyone else. I can go down to the store and get a liter of milk for next to nothing because of milking robots and other automation, if I had to pay a living wage for someone to pull a cow's teats it would cost a *lot* more. All those stores who transport goods will get cheaper. The money people don't pay on taxis will be spent on other things. Everyone can spend their commute watching TV instead of wasting home time. It'll be more practical to live further from the office. Elderly might get around more and live more fulfilling lives. Large groups of people would have the benefits of a private driver, previously a rare luxury. In ways perhaps even better, since you get total discretion and it's always at your whim 24x7.

Assuming you can still find a job, of course. But we've been pretty inventive about creating new needs and services once we could afford to. The burger flipper might be on the way out, I doubt the chef is. A robot vacuum cleaner isn't scrubbing the bathroom or dusting the furniture. The electric lawn mower doesn't do flower beds or trimming the hedge. The washing machine doesn't pair my socks or iron my shirts. Of course you might say that one day we'll have a "I, Robot" assistant that'll do absolutely everything a human does cheaper and better but that's not in 10 or 50 years. Neither is self-repairing, self-replicating and self-evolving robots that work almost by themselves.

Real wages in the US has been flat for quite some time now, but at the same time you've had a massive influx of cheap labor on the global market depressing wages. You don't get a zillion Chinese or Indian employees working for a pittance anymore, when you look at the whole world workers are getting better paid. If it keeps going up, sooner or later it will return to growth in the US too because US wages are normal wages and not super expensive wages anymore. There is no magic that makes Americans stay far ahead of the pack forever, even though that how it's been in the past with the old world destrroying itself with world wars and an illiterate, primitive third world. There are smart people other places too, when they get the opportunity.

Comment The litmus test (Score 5, Insightful) 103

Does anything on Huff, and WaPo pass?

You know the funniest thing about everyone talking about "fake news"? They make it look like it's only a conservative rag problem. People's memories are so razor short these days, they've already forgotten that The Rolling Stone published literal, fake "news" about a campus rape story, ruined peoples lives, and were sued for 8 (reduced to 3) million dollars.

If people here were half as skeptical as they claim to be, they'd have no respect for conservative AND liberal "journalists." Science demands proof. It doesn't care if the lack-of-data is coming from people you like.

Comment Re:That can't be right (Score 1) 499

Actually, there is sharp growth from 1950 to 1970, after which point it becomes more-flattened. 33% of income spent on food in 1950, 15% in 1980, 13% in 2000. That's cutting it by more than half in 30 years, and then by barely 1/7th in 20 years.

The slower growth occurred when things stopped getting cheaper more-rapidly: growth was rapid in abundance and slow in scarcity.

Comment Re:Average income down, fewer people working (Score 1) 499

TFA is talking about a month-to-month report.

And the OP said:

These are not the hallmarks of a thriving economy. The US economy is in a sickly state, with too many part time jobs with no benefits. We need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. The fact that the numbers look like an improvement is a bit like a doctor telling a patient wife that he's not sick any more. He's dead. The US needs to get healthy before it dies.

Are you telling me the OP's argument here is, "Oh my! The economy was healthy in October, but it is actually sicker in November! This is a crisis of immense magnitude! One month of severe illness is killing the US!" Was this OP's argument made in isolation of any trend leading up to the month of October, 2016?

Are you arguing that the above quote is about October 2016 to November 2016, with no prior context, rather than about the long-running state of the economy?

Comment Re:I appreciate using the correct Unemployment met (Score 1) 499

Even looking at take-home pay would blow that argument out of the water. The fact that we can buy more and better things than we could years or decades ago is an increase in real income.

Nobody wants to admit income is actually hard to measure, and that wage income doesn't tell you about buying power because the entire point of technical progress is to make the same things with less labor, and thus to employ the same wage-compensated hours to make more things and more-complex things. It sounds easy when I describe it in terms of wooden chairs versus chairs with cushions, but what happens when we get to talking about cars with fluid couplings versus cars with torsen differentials?

One day, we will have the same cars with self-driving modules in them. Look at Tesla: the self-driving hardware is already in the cars; you pay $2,000 for a software update. Building a car with a self-driving module versus building it without isn't flatly the cost of the module; it's also the cost of labor to make two different assemblies, and logistics to determine how many to supply of each. Those labor and logistics costs are so high in some cases that many cars with a heated seat option actually ship all seats heated, and simply don't install a heating port or connector on the seat itself--that way it gets built the same, and they simply skip a step. How do you gauge how much buying power you've gained now that a car with heated seats or a self-driving software program costs trivially-more than one without, when those things come with all cars and you only pay for the permission to use them?

Comment Re:Average income down, fewer people working (Score 1) 499

Arguing about long-term economic trends like incomes going up or down requires a long-term context. A context of one-month is like trying to describe climate change in terms of August to September.

GP even argued about inflation. How much inflation do you suppose happened--or was even measured--between October and November? For that matter, with holiday sales, wouldn't inflation over a few weeks be negative, if you picked the right weeks?

It's unreasonable to assume an economics discussion about the general state of the US economy is a short-term discussion. Unemployment rate falling segways into larger discussions quite-readily. If the discussion were meant to be in a one-month total context, then OP and GP are just morons; while I don't doubt they're terrible economists, I tend to doubt people are truly that stupid--usually those kinds of absolute retards have some sort of pathological mental illness and exhibit defense mechanisms that look an awful lot like, but are distinct from, schizophrenia.

Comment Re:MODS, GET A GRIP!!! (Score 1) 499

Person A: "Obama fucked everything up."

Person B: "Actually, looking at these numbers... he made things better."

Person C: "Person B is a moron and wrong. He used incorrect numbers."

Person D: "Oh, Person B is wrong. Obama fucked everything up, like Person A said."

You are Person C. You made the type of calculated argument that I would have intentionally developed if I wanted to mislead the reader into dismissing an argument without directly stating anything factually-incorrect. I responded the same way as any other reader: I interpreted your simple "you're wrong because your numbers are wrong" to incorporate "thus your conclusion is wrong"--the way every English language speaker who hasn't redone the analysis themselves would interpret it, because assuming you're not implying my conclusions are incorrect would be ludicrous.

My post is insightful and informative, because it shows that, in fact, Obama improved the economy--albeit a clerical error demonstrates that improvement to a lesser degree than actual. You argued that "every number is wrong or irrelevant" and that I should be modded down, without implying that the conclusions are correct. You either fully-understand that you're trying to convince others that Obama actually made shit worse, or you have zero ability to communicate clearly with other people and are probably considered some kind of weird-ass social failure--and likely don't even understand how awkward people find you.

Comment Re:Had been enjoying your perspective... (Score 1) 499

you omit the fact that others, including post-secondary education and health care costs, have risen sharply relative to inflation.

You mean the part where people are spending more money to buy more and better healthcare? Yes, when you spend $6 to buy 8 gallons of beer instead of $4 to buy 3 gallons of beer, you generally do end up spending more.

Your summary of my argument was partially incorrect; I never said purchasing power has gone down.

You said that Americans aren't earning more money, and that they're producing more. The problem is the United States $47,000 median income in 2005 has become a $52,000 median income in 2015; and Americans are spending similar money on more-complex, more-advanced, more-useful things, as well as on just plain more. That's roughly-equivalent to the movement of the GDP-per-Capita.

You asked who's pocketing all this extra money, as if suggesting purchasing power has not gone up.

What people are able to do with the money they earn is irrelevant to the discussion, and only distracts from it.

What people are able to do with the money is practically a description of what money is.

Income comes from your labor-hours. Hours of labor go into producing a good--or many goods. If you and ten people making $10/hr all work to produce two toasters per hour, then we must sell each toaster for $50 to generate enough revenue to pay your base wages. Each of you works 2,000 hours each year, equivalent to 400 toasters. (In practice, we have to also pay payroll taxes, benefits, and operational overhead; and you take home less than your full wage earnings thanks to taxes.)

If I make $20/hr, I can essentially work 1 hour and induce you to work 2.

Productivity increases mean you and five other people making $10/hr work to produce two toasters per hour, and we only have to sell them for $25 each to pay your base wages. Each of you still works 2,000 hours each year, but that equates to 800 toasters. When that magnitude of productivity increase occurs sufficient to average across all the goods and services you buy, you find your same $20,000/year purchasing what $40,000 used to (deflation).

Inflation, of course, just raises prices sufficiently that you make $50,000 instead, toasters cost $60, and you get to complain about toasters being more expensive and talk about how they used to only cost $50.

In other words: the median income doesn't matter; what matters is what that income can purchase. That is the only thing that matters. That's what determines your standard of living--do you live like a West african bush tribe or like a European elite? Well, it depends on if your piles and piles of dollars buys a half a loaf of bread or a frigging jumbo yacht.

They're not earning $75,000

They're earning $52,000, as an average. I'm earning $75,000 and putting $18,000 into long-term savings, leaving $56,000--slightly more than the median. That puts me approximately in the same class, in terms of what I've been working with for finances.

They're begging for jobs that would earn them even half that, but those jobs are disappearing

We've been adding more jobs than labor force since 2010.

January, 2010: 129.802 million employed, 236.858 million labor-age population, 153.484 million labor force. 84.6% employed labor force, 54.80% employed labor age population.

January, 2011: 130.882 million employed, 238.727 million labor-age population, 153.263 million labor force. 85.4% employed labor force, 54.82% employed labor age population.

January, 2012: 133.265 million employed, 242.309 million labor-age population, 154.351 million labor force. 86.3% employed labor force, 55.00% employed labor age population.

January, 2013: 135.266 million employed, 244.757 million labor-age population, 155.666 million labor force. 86.9% employed labor force, 55.27% employed labor age population.

January, 2014: 137.574 million employed, 246.876 million labor-age population, 155.285 million labor force. 88.6% employed labor force, 55.73% employed labor age population.


January, 2015: 140.623 million employed, 249.642 million labor-age population, 157.025 million labor force. 89.6% employed labor force, 56.33% employed labor age population.


January, 2016: 143.314 million employed, 252.528 million labor-age population, 158.335 million labor force. 90.5% employed labor force, 56.75% employed labor age population.

From January 2010 (peak unemployment) to January 2016, we've gone from 84.6% employed labor force to 90.5%. We've moved from 54.80% of all labor-aged Americans (from age 16 up) having jobs to 56.75%.

In the six years since the peak of the recession, we've added 15.670 million to the labor-aged population; we've added 4.851 million to the labor force itself; and we've added 13.512 million jobs. The job add rate has been 86.23% of the labor force growth, while the labor force participation rate has ranged between 64.8% and 62.7%.

That means we added 8.661 million more jobs than labor force between 2010 and 2016.

For reference, when you're adding more jobs than workers, it means jobs aren't disappearing.

They don't want handouts. They just want a good day's salary for a hard day's labor.

False. They want security. They want their lives to be comfortable and safe. A regular job that doesn't destroy them with abusive workplace practices and unsustainably-low salary is a vehicle for that.

People have short memories. They forget the late-1800s protests and demands across the United States to reduce working hours from 10-16 hours per day, 6 days per week. They forget people working 80-100 hours every week, demanding 12 hour days from 6am to 6pm, 6 days per week, with 2 hours for meals (the 60-hour work week). They forget people then marching with the demand of 8-8-8, the mantra of 8 hours work, 8 hours leisure, 8 hours sleep, five days per week. They forget the arguments battered around in weeks or days or hours prior to now about being worked too much, being called off-hours, and so forth, while they waste their employer's time arguing about it on Slashdot.

I've even argued for 28-32 hour work weeks, as a potential opportunity from implementing my Universal Social Security. 3.5-day work weeks would be excellent.

People don't want a good hard day's labor; they want lives. The fact is society is built on productivity, which means you can't build it on hand-outs; if you could magic everything into existence, it would be ethically-wrong to make people work at all. Labor is an incidental need for a functional society--something people like Karl Marx have tried to fantasize away, but that's not happening any time soon, regardless of what people scream about automation on their off days.

There are many reasons for why that's unobtainable, though one of them is that consumers like you and me have demanded with our dollars that prices for goods and services get cheaper, which have driven many of these production jobs overseas to cheaper labor markers.

That's not a bad thing, in the long run. If we paid workers more than $18/hr to make men and boys's cotton trousers in America, then we would net-lose American jobs in total; if we paid them less, we would net-gain those jobs. America's labor force would eventually adjust (in about 5 years) to erase either the loss or the gain; meanwhile, at $21/hr (General Motors factory line worker wage) we'd face $50/pair for pants (reference: $14.97), while at $8.25/hr minimum wage we could get the price down to $25/pair--as you observed, the cheaper labor yields the cheaper price.

Notice that the $21/hr workers will be able to buy a pair of pants with 2.4 hours of labor, if they don't have to pay any form of taxes; while the $8.25/hr workers will be able to buy that same pair with 3.03 hours of labor. Fewer, more-wealthy laborers at $21/hr; more, poorer laborers at $8.25/hr. With trade importing MBCT from China, we're looking at the $8.25/hr laborer expending 1.81 hours of labor for a pair of pants.

Try not to fail economics when arguing economics.

No "hot tubs and hookers", as you put it. I don't actually recall complaining in my post that I'm spending all my money and wishing I had more.

You made the argument that, somehow, we're not getting any richer, even though we're getting more-productive. I pointed out that that's categorically bullshit: every American at every level* has experienced a steady, continuous increase in purchasing power year after year, thanks to both trade and technical progress. By arguing that this hasn't happening, you're ignoring every increase in purchasing power--every improvement in your standard of living and your ability to buy more and better things--and complaining that we don't have more. That is, taken out to its logical conclusion, a trend that eventually ends in being richer than Warren Buffet and still complaining that all this extra productivity has left you poor with nothing to show for all this supposed growth and some other (ridiculously-rich) guy (who owns three or four vacation moons) rich.

*(Conceptual-Americans, anyway. I'm sure some poor people became middle-class, and some middle-classers had bad luck and became poor; the point is that a certain distribution of standards of living exists, and that the Americans in these relative standards of living are experiencing higher standards of living and thus greater wealth than those classes experienced years and decades ago. Someone will eventually try to prove me wrong by reasoning that a homeless dude must have gotten a job somewhere, and that a respectable working man must have lost his job and become homeless, and so "every American" can't possibly be better off; you don't spend 10 years on Slashdot and Reddit without that happening a thousand times.)

This is the same kind of bullshit my parents argue about how everything was cheaper and more-affordable in the 1960s--when their parents made $4,700/year and spent $2,100/year on food. How spending nearly half their income on food was "more-affordable" is beyond me, but I suspect it has something to do with "candy bars were a nickel instead of $1.86". People are ludicrous.

I was enjoying your perspective and your argument, up to the insult at the end. Too bad you had to discredit yourself with it.

You discredited yourself by being wrong. You continue to discredit yourself by demonstrating an inability to think for yourself, arguing that I must be wrong because some well-respected agency said something different--not that you understand any of it, but somebody else said it, so you can't see how I could validly disagree.

Do you even understand where those numbers come from? Here's one for you: why don't businesses count expenses as income, and how does that affect GDP?

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