Tag Archives: economics

Trump vs. Clinton: 10 Ways the Next President Will Impact Your Wallet

roulette wheelMy Comments: New and existing clients are asking me what I think will happen to their money after the election. My gut tells me there will be a correction before long anyway. If Trump is the winner, the correction could be dramatic with chaos in the years ahead. If Clinton is the winner, the correction will be muted. Necessary changes are going to happen; it’s the natural order of things. But I’m ready for less drama and an orderly transition into the future. Trump will try and turn back the clock on many levels, including globalization, and it will be disastrous for lots of reasons.

This comes from Kiplinger, and is with most everything I post, I did not ask their permission. I’m giving you the text of the first two, but if you want the rest of it, then here is a link to their site where I found it all.

http://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/business/T043-S001-clinton-trump-money-issues-affecting-your-wallet/index.html

By Meilan Solly and Douglas Harbrecht | September 2016

The policies that Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump say they’ll bring to the White House could have a dramatic impact on your wallet, your job, your health care and your retirement. Here’s where the two candidates stand on major economic and financial issues, with key differences in their approaches. We also threw in a few campaign quotes that help illustrate their views. Take a look:

Economic Growth and Jobs

Key differences: Trump wants to pull back from worldwide economic engagement in pursuit of tougher trade deals and creating more jobs at home. His approach is similar in many ways to the Brexit vote to pull the United Kingdom out of the European Union. Clinton emphasizes economic development that relies on trade. And she supports more liberal immigration policies, which Trump opposes.

Key Clinton quote: “We need to raise pay, create good paying jobs, and build an economy that works for everyone—not just those at the top.”

Key Trump quote: “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo. As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect. The respect that we deserve. Nobody knows the system better than me. Which is why I alone can fix it.”

Trump’s proposals are a radical departure from 100 years of Republican pro-business, free-market orthodoxy. He wants to force some American companies to bring their foreign manufacturing operations back to the U.S. from China, Mexico, Japan and Southeast Asia. To put Americans to work, he advocates a huge infrastructure rebuilding program at home (more on that later in the slide show), including building a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration. He says he’ll deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants living illegally in the U.S. and place new restrictions on H-1B visas, which allow skilled immigrants to work in the U.S. for up to six years.

Trump supports a federal minimum wage of $10. He wants to declare China a currency manipulator and impose huge tariffs on Chinese and Mexican imports “if they don’t behave.” Such threats concern economists, who worry that they will provoke a trade war and increase the likelihood of a global recession.

Where Trump waves a stick, Clinton favors a carrot approach: She would create tax and economic incentives to entice multinationals to bring jobs back to the U.S. She supports creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., and supports the H-1B program. In accordance with the Democratic Party platform, Clinton would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from $7.25. She says trade has been a “net plus for our economy,” yet she opposes President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement. Economist Chris Farrell worries that neither candidate is embracing retraining and financial support for workers who have lost their jobs to international competition. “Yes, protectionism is wrong. But so is not sharing the bounty from freer trade with those on the losing side of trade liberalization,” Farrell says.

Taxes

Key differences: Clinton’s plan would increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Trump’s would cut taxes across the board — from the lowest-income earners to the top 1%.

Key Clinton quote: “I want to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share, which they have not been doing.”

Key Trump quote: “Middle-income Americans and businesses will experience profound relief, and taxes will be greatly simplified for everyone. I mean everyone. […] Reducing taxes will cause new companies and new jobs to come roaring back into our country.”

Under Clinton’s plan, taxes would change slightly or not at all for the bottom 95% of taxpayers, while the top 1% would see sizable increases. This is because Clinton wants to implement a 4% surcharge tax on income over $5 million, plus the Buffett Rule, which would ensure that individuals who earn more than $1 million annually pay a minimum effective tax rate of 30%. Clinton’s tax plan would also cap the value of itemized deductions at 28% for folks in higher brackets. This limitation would apply to other tax breaks, too, such as the write-off for IRAs and moving expenses. And it would nick some currently tax-free items, such as 401(k) payins, tax exempt interest, and the value of employer-provided medical insurance. Finally, her plan would increase estate taxes, and place higher taxes on multinational corporations.

In a speech at the Detroit Economic Club on Aug. 8, Trump modified his proposal for overhauling the tax system.He still wants individual rate cuts, but they’re not as deep as in his original plan. Many said his first plan, with four brackets topping out at 25%, was too costly. Now he sees three brackets, maxing out at 33%, the same as the House GOP plan.

He continues to offer up a 15% rate on corporations and pass-throughs, such as partnerships and LLCs, and would extend the rate to sole proprietors. He favors full expensing for new asset purchases such as buildings and equipment. And he wants to do away with the estate and gift tax.

He’s silent on capital gains for now. His prior plan called for rates from 0% to 20%, compared with a 16.5% top rate under the House GOP blueprint. Also, he gives no details about which write-offs will be on the chopping block. He’ll probably keep breaks for home mortgage interest and donations to charity. But most others would have to disappear to help offset the cost of his proposed rate cuts..

Says Roberton Williams of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center: “The Clinton plan is basically stay as you go. You’ve got a basic tax plan in place right now. She has so far proposed no major changes to that structure other than to raise taxes significantly on some high income people. That’s not a very radical change. Trump’s changes are much bigger.”

What All Bubbles Have In Common

My Comments: My brain is tired. Too much political angst, too much monetary crap, not enough positive feedback. And here’s some more monetary crap.

But if you are like me and are not expecting to win the lottery anytime soon, then bubbles become important. And like it or not, they tend to burst and create chaos. Look at this chart and read the article to determine where we are right now. Maybe.

bubbles

Sep. 16, 2016

Summary

  • By far, the main cause of bubbles is excessive monetary liquidity in the financial system.
  • Investors are showing signs of behavior consistent with asset bubbles such as herding, hindsight bias, confirmation bias, anchoring, overconfidence and greater fool.
  • We’re at the final stages of the bubble and the rise in the LIBOR and government bond yields are the first warning signs.

What causes a bubble?

By far, the main cause of bubbles is excessive monetary liquidity in the financial system. Axel Weber, former Deutsche Budesbank President puts it this way: “the past has shown that an overly generous provision of liquidity in global financial markets in connection with a very low level of interest rates promotes the formation of asset price bubbles.” This makes you think about today’s Central Banks’ ultra-loose monetary policy for several years, right?

In fact, when too much liquidity is given to normal citizens, it usually ends up in inflation whereas when that additional liquidity finds its way to the hands of the wealthiest, it usually ends up in bubbles. That is because poor people have a higher propensity to consume than rich people who have a higher propensity to save.

So, an extra buck on a poor guy’s wallet will probably end up in consumption while an extra buck on a rich guy’s bank account will more likely end up in savings. This supports the claim that Central Bank’s monetary policy is not reaching the real economy and is only making the rich (who own assets) even richer.

What about investor’s psychology?

Bubbles also have an emotional component. As Dan Ariely said “humans may be irrational, but they are predictably irrational.” Here are a few common behaviors that lead to the creation of bubbles.

Humans are biologically wired to mimic the actions of the group. While this behavior allows us to quickly absorb and react based on the intelligence of others around us, it also leads to self reinforcing cycles of aggregate behavior. This is called herding and it explains popular investment strategies such as momentum or trend following.

Investors also overestimate their ability to predict the future based on the recent past. This tendency to overemphasize recent performance is called hindsight bias and just like herding is one of the reasons behind the success of momentum and trend following investment strategies.

Both herding and hindsight bias, explain why a growing number of investors use technical analysis alone to make their investment decisions and fewer investors care about fundamental analysis and about the price they pay for a certain asset. This is why, when faced with the warning that valuations are currently at very high levels, many investors say this is not “actionable.” For them, what is “actionable” is 2 moving averages crossing on a chart.

People also tend to seek information that supports their own theories, and usually ignore information that disproves their points of view. This is called confirmation bias and can be found in today’s failed attempts to justify expensive valuations with the fact that stocks earnings yield and dividend yield is higher than government bond yields.

Anchoring consists in investors’ need to have references. So, if a stock trades today at $100, investors will perceive $90 as cheap and $110 as expensive.

People also tend to overestimate their intelligence and capabilities relative to others. For example, a 2006 study showed that 74% of professional fund managers believe they delivered above average performance. This overconfidence grows as the asset prices increase and is usually at its high before the crash. It is just like the story of the turkey whose trust in the farmer grows by the day because the farmer feeds him every day. And when the turkey’s trust in the farmer is greater than ever, that’s when the turkey loses his head.

This year has been all about buying the dips because anytime there were bad news on China (in January), on the US (May jobs report), on Europe (Brexit vote in June) or on disappointing earnings (it has now been 5 consecutive quarters of earnings decline), everyone followed the same reasoning: The ECB will ease further, the BOJ will add stimulus, the Fed won’t hike and/or the BOE will cut interest rates.

But the current selloff is about the Fed raising rates and the BOJ and ECB reducing monetary stimulus. Will anchoring and overconfidence make investors buy this dip?

Finally, there’s the greater fool theory that says rational people will buy into valuations that they don’t necessarily believe, as long as they think there is someone else more foolish who will buy it for an even higher value. Do negative yielding bonds ring a bell here?

In which phase of the bubble are we?

Jean-Paul Rodrigue says every bubble goes through 4 stages: stealth, awareness, mania and blow-off.

The way I see it, the S&P 500  took-off in 2009, went through a bear trap in 2012 and is now somewhere between Delusion and the New Paradigm, if not already at the beginning of the denial.

In Summary

There’s evidence of exceptional amounts of liquidity in the financial system today as investors are showing the behavior we see in the final stages of a bubble.

In fact, there are reasons to believe that Central Bank policy is changing and when that happens, the Bubble will pop. On the one hand, the libor rose to 83 basis points over the summer, the highest since 2009 and surpassing the levels seen at the peak of the European sovereign debt crisis and it seems to have already incorporated a potential 25 basis point rate increase by the Fed. On the other hand, Government bond yields in Germany, Japan and the US have been rising over the summer specially in the longer part of the curve.

The World Leans Ever More On America

USA EconomyMy Comments: I’m really conflicted about what to tell my clients about their investments. On one hand I’m persuaded that a severe correction is coming soon, and on the other, there is something going on that suggests otherwise. Damn, I wish I had a crystal ball.

Stephanie Flanders | July 26, 2016 | The Financial Times

Financial markets are like small children. They find it hard to focus on more than two things at once. That is the conclusion drawn by one of my colleagues after a lifetime of professional investing.

Whether small children can focus on anything at all is a matter for debate. Chocolate, perhaps. But he has a point when it comes to global markets. Investors have been so focused on the Brexit vote and its aftermath that they have missed the big picture, which is that the global economy is still worryingly dependent on US growth and the extreme efforts of central banks.

There was a fear, in the days after the EU referendum, that Britain’s troubles would sink the global recovery. But investors have decided that for stocks and bonds this shock is actually a win-win. Why? Because growth will not be much affected outside the UK, but central banks will keep monetary policy looser than it would otherwise have been, just to be safe. That explains why stock markets are reaching new highs, even in the UK, and long-term interest rates are lower in most countries than they were on June 23.

This time last year, the obsession was China and the mood was rather different. Stock markets, you will remember, fell around the world when the Chinese authorities announced a surprise depreciation of the renminbi against the dollar. The fear was that a deflating Chinese economy would export its falling prices to the rest of the world via a lower exchange rate and take another bite out of growth in emerging markets.

Funnily enough, the Chinese currency has been falling again recently — by 3 per cent against the dollar in the past three months. That is bigger than the fall last summer but no one seems to care at all. It would be nice to believe that this was because the world is in a stronger position to cope with a deflationary China than a year ago. I fear it is because investors simply have not been paying attention.

It is true that this depreciation feels somewhat more controlled. What spooked investors about China last summer was the feeling of chaos — the mixed messages about the renminbi and the frantic moves to prop up the domestic stock market all had a whiff of panic. If the authorities could not achieve a smooth transition for the exchange rate, how were they going to deliver one for the broader economy?

It feels different this time because those in charge have a plan, and the currency is supposedly now linked not to the dollar but to a broader basket of currencies known as the China Foreign Exchange Trade System. But anyone who has been watching closely would have noticed that the authorities only follow the new system when it allows the renminbi to fall. When the CFETS was rising against the dollar in the first part of the year, the Chinese currency did not rise with it. The net result is that the renminbi is nearly 6 per cent weaker on a trade-weighted basis than it was at the start of the year.

On the surface, China’s economy does look less scary than it did a year ago. The authorities, though, are using the same tools to support growth that they used in the past — public investment and subsidised credit. Fixed asset investment by state-owned companies grew by more than 20 per cent, year on year, in the past three months.

Big picture: China might be more stable but is no closer to resolving its structural and financial imbalances than it was a year ago, and it is still exporting disinflation to the rest of the world via a weaker exchange rate. US import prices from China fell by 3 per cent in June, the largest monthly drop since 2013.

The US can probably shrug off this imported deflation because domestic prices — and, finally, wages — are picking up as the domestic consumer-led recovery continues. Globally, however, the picture is not nearly as strong. The International Monetary Fund’s forecasts, released last week, show global consumer inflation for advanced countries at just 0.7 per cent in 2016. The central banks in the US and the UK are the only ones in the developed world that are expected to achieve inflation at or above the targeted 2 per cent by 2017.

Those new IMF forecasts are helpful, not because they are likely to be right, but because they let us step back from the day-to-day stories to see how global growth expectations have changed over time. At 3.1 per cent, the new growth forecast for 2016 was only slightly lower than the April number. This was taken as more evidence that the negative effects of Brexit are likely to be centred on the UK. But a year ago the fund was expecting global growth this year to be 3.8 per cent, and growth for the advanced economies to be 2.4 per cent. Now its best guess is for growth of 1.8 per cent in those countries — not just in 2016 but in 2017 as well. The forecast for world trade has also been slashed, yet again. We have now had six consecutive years when world trade has been flat or falling as a share of global gross domestic product.

None of this suggests that the global recovery is about to grind to a halt. It does remind us that the world is expecting an awful lot of the US right now, and an awful lot of its central bank. The US has managed a respectable recovery, despite a deeply needy global economy and an unhelpful rise in the dollar. Investors are betting that this can continue, despite the dysfunctional cacophony coming out of the party conventions. We should all hope they are right. The world does not have a plan B.

The writer is chief market strategist for Europe at JPMorgan Asset Management

The Stock Market Is About To Have A ‘Final Melt Up’

roller coaster2My Comments: Anyone who suggests they know what is likely to happen to the markets in the coming days is probably just hoping they will be right. And that includes me.

A high percentage of significant market downturns have happened in August and September. This article suggests there is an event planned for the end of August that might be the trigger that starts the next one. Obviously we are now in September but the danger level is still high.

My suggestion is to either be in cash, or in a program designed to make money when the markets tump.

Bob Bryan – August 16, 2016

The market has one last run left.

Stocks could get a huge boost as investors worry about missing gains, according to Michael Hartnett, the chief investment strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

According to a note from Hartnett titled “The Final Melt Up,” the shift of investors from defensive stocks (such as industrials and telecoms) to more cyclical companies (retail, tech, and consumer goods) shows that investors’ appetite for risk is growing.

This will create demand for stocks and drive the market upward.

“Likelihood of melt up in risk assets into Jackson Hole growing … likely followed by jump in yields,” he wrote.

The chart below illustrates the rotation that Hartnett is noticing:

Essentially, a melt up by definition is a sudden leap in the market caused by investors rushing in because they fear missing out. It’s not a sign of improved fundamentals.

In other words, these companies and markets may not have higher earnings or be stronger investment opportunities.

Hartnett doesn’t go into the details of the end of the melt up, but the speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen at the Jackson Hole conference at the end of the month appears to be the catalyst that will stop the stampede.

Howard Johnson’s Restaurants – Only 1 left

My Comments: In my youth, Howard Johnson was the standard when it came to motels and places to eat when traveling in the US. They were everywhere. But times change, ideas reach their expiration date, and the  business model falters unless someone brings a new vision to the table. Sometimes it’s impossible to remain relevant and economically viable. Sad to see this icon disappear from the landscape.

By DAVID SHARP – Aug. 23, 2016

BANGOR, Maine (AP) — The closing of one of the last two Howard Johnson restaurants in a couple of weeks will mark the end of its fried clam strips, ice cream and other menu staples that nourished baby boomers and leave the once-proud restaurant chain teetering on the brink of extinction.

The slice of roadside Americana will no longer be served up in Bangor after Sept. 6.

For waitress Kathe Jewett, it’s the only job she’s held since starting work when the restaurant opened in 1966.

“It’s bittersweet, but it’s nothing to be sad about,” the 68-year-old Jewett insisted Tuesday during a break from serving customers. “I’ve been here for 50 years — and it’s time.”

The closing will leave only one Howard Johnson restaurant, in Lake George, New York.

Before falling on hard times, Howard Johnson took restaurant franchises to a new level. The orange-roofed eateries once numbered more than 800, with the New England-based restaurant chain predating the ubiquitous Howard Johnson hotels.

Howard Deering Johnson started the business in 1925, when he inherited a soda fountain outside Boston. That evolved into a chain of restaurants featuring comfort food and 28 flavors of ice cream. The orange roof with a blue spire represented a dependable place for travelers to park the family car, grab a meal and spend the night.

In Bangor, the Howard Johnson Restaurant and Lounge in its heyday was popular with travelers and locals alike, including horror and science fiction author Stephen King. King, who lives in Bangor, said he used to eat there often and enjoyed the patty melts and milkshakes.

Owners David Patel and his wife, Sally Patel, kept their restaurant going for the past four years as business slowed and hours were scaled back to just breakfast and lunch.

“It’s not worth it to keep it open. We tried for four years,” Sally Patel said Tuesday, noting the hotel side of their business remains healthy and will be unaffected by the restaurant closure. “We felt bad to close it.”

Fortunately for HoJo fans, the Lake George restaurant appears to be on solid ground and is open year round.

“We’re doing great,” owner John LaRock said. “We’re going to do some renovations this winter. Spruce it up, keep it going.”

He said it’s a “good feeling” to be keeping the HoJo legacy alive.

“Knowing I have the only one left makes it special,” he said.

There was a tinge of sadness Tuesday as Bangor diners digested the news.

Christopher Leek, of Orrington, learned while celebrating his 49th birthday with his girlfriend and his mother that the restaurant he’s visited since childhood is about to close.

“I’m devastated,” he said. “It’s my favorite breakfast place. It’s a homey place.”

Walter Mann, of New Haven, Connecticut, who started a website dedicated to documenting HoJo’s restaurant history, said he and other HoJo fans still hold out hope that an “orange knight” will step forward to revive the restaurants. If not, he’ll still cherish the memories.

“A lot of people have warm, fuzzy memories of a more innocent time,” he said. “People certainly crave for something like that to bring back the good memories.”

A New Policy Orthodoxy Is Emerging

babel 2My Comments: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or is it the other way around? If your future financial wellbeing depends on guarantees and positive market performance, the more you need to pay attention to these trends. Or at least interact with professionals who do follow and understand them. This is pretty deep stuff so if you are easily bored by economics, it may put you to sleep.

August 24, 2016

Global CIO Commentary by Scott Minerd, Guggenheim Investments

There is a new debate emerging among policymakers in advanced economies. Two Federal Reserve Bank chief executives have taken the position that the natural rate of interest in the United States is much lower than previously assumed (see the chart at the bottom of these comments). These experts suggest the need for a slow pace of increases in short-term rates, with one Fed president projecting only one 25 basis point increase between now and 2019, and the other suggesting negative rates are increasingly possible in the next economic downturn.

Recently, U.K. gilts briefly joined the growing number of sovereign bonds that trade at negative yields. Investors should take note. Capital flows from regions of the world with slow growth and negative rates will continue to exert downward pressure on the term structure of the U.S. interest rates. As I have said before, it would be imprudent for investors to rule out the possibility of negative rates in the United States.

As the world’s major economies are mired with record low bond yields, practically non-existent inflationary pressure, and lackluster economic growth, policymakers cannot continue to simply do more of the same old thing hoping that even lower rates and more quantitative easing alone will reach the desired employment and inflation targets. After years of economic malaise in the wake of the financial crisis, the time has come to recognize that the current policy paradigm is nearing the limit of its effectiveness and perhaps already has exceeded it. I have written before of the unintended consequences of negative interest rates. One example is the unexpected strength of the yen after the Bank of Japan moved to negative overnight rates. The message is clear – the current monetary policy regime cannot succeed alone and aggressive fiscal policy must be added into the global policy mix. The chorus of monetary voices demanding fiscal action is growing.

Both of the aforementioned Federal Reserve Bank Presidents, James Bullard of St. Louis and John Williams of San Francisco, have evolved their views on the intractability of the current economic situation. Bullard believes that the best we can do in this environment is to assume that the current state of real output, employment, and inflation will continue over the next few years. He admits that over time economic regimes change, but “the best that we can do today is to forecast that the current regime will persist and set policy appropriately for this regime.” For him, the current “regime” means just one 25 basis point move between now and 2019. In the meantime, Bullard has stopped submitting longer-run forecasts to the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) Summary of Economic Projections, almost in protest.

While Bullard may prescribe additional policy measures in the future, John Williams of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco wants to become proactive now. He is one of the world’s leading experts on the natural rate of interest, or the real short-term interest rate that would be neither expansionary nor contractionary if the economy were operating near its potential. Williams believes the natural rate of is currently very low and will likely stay that way for some time. The real natural rate, according to Williams, was in the 2.5 to 3.5 percent range for major economies for most of the 1990s, but it now hovers around zero for the United States and below zero in the euro area and Japan. He notes that the decline in the natural rate owes to a number of secular factors, including changes in the global supply and demand for funds, shifting demographics, slower trend productivity growth, and a general global savings glut.

“The critical implication of a lower natural rate of interest,” says Williams in a recent essay, “is that conventional monetary policy has less room to stimulate the economy during an economic downturn, owing to a lower bound on how low interest rates can go.”

To address the problem, Williams has suggested a new orthodoxy for monetary and fiscal policy solutions. This new orthodoxy would expand unconventional monetary policy tools, including asset purchases and negative rates; create monetary policy frameworks that target either higher inflation rates or nominal GDP growth; increase long-term growth potential through targeted and scaled capital spending on infrastructure, education, and research; and make fiscal policy more countercyclical, including through changes to tax policy and federal grants to states.

Numerous indications suggest that this new combined monetary and fiscal policy strategy may be on the horizon. In the United States, both presidential candidates are touting programs that feature significant infrastructure spending in 2017 and beyond. In Japan, policymakers are announcing fiscal stimulus while simultaneously flirting with the use of helicopter money*. More broadly, a lower natural rate implies a slower baseline path of rate increases in coming years and a greater likelihood that a broader array of unconventional tools will be needed during the next recession. I fully expect elements of this new policy orthodoxy will be implemented, over time, here in the United States, as well as in Europe and Japan. The reality is that as low as rates are around the world, we now have leading regional Fed presidents updating their outlooks suggesting that the natural rate of interest is much lower than expected. Investors need to accept that ultra low short- and long-term rates will likely be with us through the rest of this decade and possibly beyond. We live at a time where the unthinkable has become common.

Many policies implemented since the financial crisis would have been perceived as highly unorthodox or impossible to maintain just a decade ago. Clearly policy makers are beginning to shift the direction of future policy. This will be a major topic at the upcoming Jackson Hole Symposium where Fed Chair Janet Yellen will make a seminal speech. The outcome of this discussion will set the policy stage for years to come and impact the future direction for markets in the coming decades. Policies implemented in the near-term may be thought extreme by market participants today, but they will likely become commonplace in the emerging policy orthodoxy of tomorrow.

The natural rate of interest is the real federal funds target rate that would be neither expansionary nor contractionary if the economy were operating near its potential. A model estimate of the natural rate—developed by Thomas Laubach and John Williams, currently President of the San Francisco Fed—has fallen sharply since the crisis and stands only slightly above zero. A lower natural rate implies less need for policy to tighten and a greater likelihood that policy measures now considered unconventional will be employed in future cycles.

WHY IT MATTERS: Income Inequality

Peasant-Wedding-Bruegel-the-ElderMy Comments: I’ve argued frequently that if income inequality is not addressed, our children and grandchildren will be rioting in the streets of America. I’ve also argued that the recent rioting in Louisiana, and elsewhere, ostensibly because of racial issues, is as much caused by economic disparity as it is racial disparity.

At the extreme, in the Middle East, the rise of ISIS is as much an economic issue as it is a religious issue. If there are no jobs for young men and women to aspire to and become the economic foundation of a family, one is left with strapping on a suicide vest and causing chaos.

We better hope the next round of elected leaders in Washington and elsewhere pay attention to this problem.

By Josh Boak – August 18, 2016 –

WASHINGTON (AP) — THE ISSUE: The rich keep getting richer while more Americans are getting left behind financially.

Income inequality has surged near levels last seen before the Great Depression. The average income for the top 1 percent of households climbed 7.7 percent last year to $1.36 million, according to tax data tracked by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley. That privileged sliver of the population saw pay climb at almost twice the rate of income growth for the other 99 percent, whose pay averaged a humble $48,768.

But why care how much the wealthy are making? What counts the most to any family is how much that family is bringing in. And that goes to the heart of the income-inequality debate: Most Americans still have yet to recover from the Great Recession, even though that downturn ended seven years ago. The average income for the 99 percent is still lower than it was back in 1998 after adjusting for inflation.

Meanwhile, incomes for the executives, bankers, hedge fund managers, entertainers and doctors who make up the top 1 percent have steadily improved. These one-percenters account for roughly 22 percent of all personal income, more than double the post-World War II era level of roughly 10 percent. One reason the income disparity is troubling for the nation is that it’s thinning out the ranks of the middle class.
___
WHERE THEY STAND
Hillary Clinton has highlighted inequality in multiple speeches, with her positions evolving somewhat over the past year. Bernie Sanders held her feet to the fire on that subject in the primaries. Clinton hopes to redirect more money to the middle class and impoverished. Clinton would raise taxes on the wealthy, increase the federal minimum wage, boost infrastructure spending, provide universal pre-K and offer the prospect of tuition-free college.

Donald Trump offers a blunter message about a hollowed-out middle class and a system “rigged” against average Americans. Still, he has yet to emphasize income inequality in the campaign. To bring back the factory jobs long associated with the rise of the middle class, Trump has promised new trade deals and infrastructure spending. But Trump has also proposed a tax plan that would allow the wealthiest Americans to keep more of their earnings.

WHY IT MATTERS
President Barack Obama has called rising inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” And experts warn that it may be slowing overall economic growth. Greater inequality has created a festering distrust of government and of corporate leaders whose promises of better times ahead never fully materialized.

The result has been a backlash against globalization that many Americans feel tilted the economy against them. For the top 1 percent, the ability to move money overseas and reach markets worldwide concentrated pay for “superstars,” according to economists. At the same time, factory workers now compete with 3 billion people in China, India, Eastern Europe and elsewhere who weren’t working for multinational corporations 20 years ago. Many now make products for Apple, Intel, General Motors and others at low wages. This has depressed middle-class pay. These trends have contributed to a “hollowed out” labor market in the United States, with more jobs at the higher and lower ends of the pay scale and fewer in the middle.

Social factors have amplified the trend as well. Single-parent families are more likely to be poor than other families and less likely to ascend the income ladder. Finally, men and women with college degrees and high pay are more likely to marry each other and amplify income gaps.