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"Revised Down" (The Story of the Obama Economy)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 958 -- America's GDP Figures Generally Revised Downward After The Fact Since 2008-

I've been doing some genealogy research in recent weeks, and as I trace my ancestry back to the 15th Century and earlier, it's incredible just how short many lives were. Indeed, while people often romanticize the past, life was generally "nasty, brutish, and short" (in Hobbesian parlance) until the modern era. People would have smelled. You would have eaten gruel every day, with some occasional (rotten, gamey) meat thrown in on special occasions. Maybe you would get some fresh fruit or vegetables for fleeting periods throughout the year. The water was bad, so you would have sipped on curdled barley wine or ale with the consistency of a warm, cottage cheesey, pulpy smoothie throughout the day so as not to die from cholera. And people still died from cholera. Constantly. Life was nasty. Imagine the worst poverty you have ever seen. That's how essentially everyone on the planet lived hundreds of years ago.

It's not difficult to imagine our descendants hundreds of years from now looking back similarly on 2012 and thinking, "what a miserable existence they lived!" Heck, I look back on photos, films, and facts from the late 1970s and think the same thing-- and that was just 35-ish years ago.

But here's the thing. Life over time got a little bit better, often very slowly and occasionally in fits and starts. Over the past couple hundred years or so, though, our post-Adam Smith world has improved in miraculous ways. And over the past few decades, specifically, rapid economic growth powered by free enterprise has eliminated nearly all of the worst sort of soul-crippling poverty throughout the world (<-- click on that link to get directly to the point, or speed ahead to the 5:56 mark):

If you aren't a video kind of person, here's what Arthur Brooks says:

"Since 1970, the worst poverty in the world (which is to say, the percentage of the population that lives on a dollar a day or less) has declined by 80%. 80%! There's been no achievement like that in human history. Billions of people have been lifted out of poverty. It's the most amazing thing that humanity has ever accomplished."

And here's the thing. While we don't know absolutely everything about what makes growth happen, we do generally know what works. The big stuff is pretty obvious. We also know what doesn't work. We have repressive and poor North Korea versus free and wealthy South Korea. We had repressive and poor East Germany versus free and wealthy West Germany. For many decades, we had a repressive and poor China versus a free and wealthy Hong Kong. We have repressive and failing American states like California and Michigan (once-free and once-wealthy) versus free, wealthy, and growing states like Texas.

We have data galore showing that when economic freedom is your input, higher life expectancy, higher income, higher GDP, lower poverty, better health, cleaner environment, and so forth and so on are your outputs. Most of the graphs look something like this:


So, what's going on these days? Why are we in such a weird rut?

Well, probably because economic freedom has been falling in the United States. And policies have consequences. The consequences of diminished economic freedom (think Dodd-Frank; think Obamacare; think TARP and the stimulus) have been pretty clear.

Today, the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released a slew of new data on the American economy. GDP growth for the second quarter of this year was just 1.5%. One-point-five percent. That's just sad.

Current U.S. GDP, for your reference anchor, is about $15 trillion annually:


Future GDP, if America has 1.5% GDP growth over the next thirty years:


So, yeah, that's at least better than our current wealth. But it's not great. And it's not what America is capable of achieving.

Future GDP, if America has 3.0% GDP growth over the next thirty years:


While 3% sounds exotic these days, America's economy averaged 3.6% growth from 1950 to 2000.

Imagine if we really pushed the pedal to the metal, achieving growth three times what we had in the second quarter of this year. Future GDP, if America has 4.5% GDP growth over the next thirty years:


Or, if you're having trouble relating the boxes to one another, here they are, scaled down proportionally in miniature form:


So we're talking about eliminating trillions of dollars in wealth if we settle into 1.5% as some kind of acceptable growth target. The Reagan recovery ushered in 5.7% annual growth, for example, compared to Obama's overall sickly 2.2% annual growth:


Again, one-point-five percent growth should not be something for Americans to celebrate. We're robbing human civilization itself of great future wealth, innovation, health, life expectancy, comfort, leisure, happiness, and basically everything else that is good in this world. Coolness itself depends on economic growth.

Moreover, while there are sometimes upward revisions (good news), the BEA data have more (and more substantial) downward revisions (bad news) like these:

* For 2008–2011, real GDP increased at an average annual rate of 0.3 percent; in the previously published estimates, real GDP had increased at an average annual rate of 0.4 percent....

*The percent change in real GDP was revised up 0.4 percentage point for 2009, was revised down 0.6 percentage point for 2010, and was revised up 0.1 percentage point for 2011....

* For 2008–2011, the average annual rate of growth of real disposable personal income was revised down 0.1 percentage point, from 0.2 percent to 0.1 percent....

* The percent change in real gross domestic income (GDI) was revised up 0.1 percentage point for 2009, was revised down 0.5 percentage point for 2010, and was revised down 0.2 percentage point for 2011.

* National income was revised down for all 3 years: 0.1 percent for 2009, 0.2 percent for 2010, and 0.5 percent for 2011.

* Corporate profits was revised down for all 3 years: 1.4 percent for 2009, 5.4 percent for 2010, and 6.0 percent for 2011.

Why does it seem that, under this President, the bad news typically happens "unexpectedly" and the good news-- we later come to learn-- is typically not as good as was reported initially? It's a very real phenomenon with very real political consequences.

Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has twice revised down the "good" parts of Obamacare and revised up the bad parts

Today, the CBO believes that Obamacare will spend more money, raise more tax revenue, and reduce the deficit less than the agency thought in 2010.

Spending projections for 2013-2019 have increased by $124 billion.

In 2010, the CBO estimated that Obamacare’s spending on new programs would amount to $929 billion from 2013-2019, and a ten-year cost of $944 billion. Those figures increased to $956 billion and $1,442 billion respectively in 2011, and $1,053 billion and $1,856 billion in 2012.

Avik Roy has the full breakdown of the CBO revisions, which are startling, over at Forbes.


And kind of a big deal.

We know the Obama economy isn't good. We can feel it in our very guts. We can see it in the data. But when this is all said and done, when all of the downward revisions are finalized, it will likely be even worse than we realize today. That's frightening to think about.

And in many ways, the downward revisions of the Obama economy are emblematic of the downward revisions even his most ardent supporters have been forced to make regarding expectations of his entire presidency. Obama came into office promising post-partisan, post-racial hope and change. He came into office promising to fix not just the economy and provide jobs but to heal the oceans. His supporters were promising a hip 21st-century Camelot. This man won the Nobel Peace Prize immediately after taking office not for anything he had actually done but for that which he might do.

As Americans head into the final 100 days or so of the seemingly endless 2012 political season, they'll have to ask themselves not just whether Barack Obama has delivered on his promises but whether he could have ever delivered on those promises when his solutions run counter to every single thing we know about job creation and economic growth. Americans will look at the facts, yes...
(like these):


... but they'll more likely search their hearts, and one can only hope that they conclude what is and has been abundantly clear to some of us for quite some time. America cannot live up to its potential-- America cannot truly recover economically-- until Barack Obama is not the President of the United States. Sure, it will take a lot more than just that to get things back on track, but if Barack Obama wins this November, the long-term outlook for America's future must inevitably be revised down.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Texas Economy Outperforming National Economy.

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Posted by Will Franklin · 27 July 2012 04:15 PM · Comments (0)

Visualizing Texas' Job Dominance Since Before The Recession

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 957 -- Jobs in Texas, California, And Elsewhere-

This week, Texas was named by CNBC as America's Top State For Business 2012:

In six years of CNBC's reports, Texas has earned top honors three times and second place three times. There is a blueprint for America's economic renewal, and it is to be found in Texas.

While California cities continue careering wildly down the road of insolvency and bankruptcy, and Chicago's public schools just had their bond rating downgraded, this week has been a good week for Texas, with XCOR announcing it is establishing its new commercial spaceflight research and development headquarters in Midland.

More broadly, Texas continues to outperform the rest of the nation in job growth. This post is an attempt to tell that story visually, using the latest data.

BizJournals.com posted tables showing total net job growth or lack thereof for all the states from May 2007 to May 2012, and it was no surprise that Texas was the big winner yet again:


That's all the job-positive states. All nine of them plus Washington, DC. That's it. The rest of the states are job-negative since pre-recession May 2007. And Texas dominates, as you can see.

You'll probably want to click on these and open up bigger versions, because there's a lot of cool data to witness here.

The "Almost-PAC-MAN" is what I call this one:


Texas has added 60% of the nation's net new jobs among job-positive states, since May of 2007. Other ways to think of that number: Texas is where three out of every five new jobs have been created.

Texas has added more new jobs than all other states combined, with room to spare.

This next one is a jobs histogram I put together using some IBM data visualization software. The further right you go, the more jobs were added. The further left, the more jobs were lost. The blocks are all the same size, and the stacks of blocks indicate that the most common status for a state was to barely lose jobs since May 2007. Texas is a clear outlier when you visualize the data this way:


California is on the far left, at the other end of the spectrum. You can see how only 9 states plus Washington, DC are net positive since May 2007. 41 states are still net negative, relative to pre-recession job levels.

The next visualization is a jobs treemap:


The larger the boxes, the larger the state. Orange boxes indicate job-positive states, while blue boxes indicate job-negative states. The bluer the box, the better (or, least bad). The lighter the box, the worse the raw job losses were. What this demonstrates is that nearly all of the job gains have come from small states, with the exceptions of New York and-- to a greater extent-- Texas.

And looking at just the job-positive states shows us this:


The size of the boxes on this one indicate not the size of the state but the size of the raw jobs gains since May 2007. You can see, again, that Texas added more than half of the total new jobs since 2007 among these net positive states. The darker the orange, the more jobs.

You can view this treemap interactively at IBM's Many Eyes data visualization website, as well.

You can also view this map over there:


What's fascinating about all of this economic and job domination is that liberals, progressives, socialists, Democrats, the establishment media, and other members of the left only rarely acknowledge Texas' economic prowess, and even then only with what they believe to be crippling caveats [such as: "Texas took a bunch of stimulus money!" when in fact Texas is actually a net donor state and received the second lowest stimulus funds per capita of all the states] [or: "it's all just government jobs!" when in reality, Texas' job domination is even more impressive than the overall number, when you isolate private-sector job gains or look at private sector wage growth. Moreover, Texas has actually shed government jobs over the past couple of years.]

Here's a recycled (from some months back now) visual of that one:


[And, no, Krugman, it's not all or even mostly minimum wage jobs].

There was also the misguided and easily debunked meme regarding all of the Texas jobs going to illegal aliens that floated around last year in the Republican primary (I had a caucuser in Iowa tell me, absolutely, it was true). Whichever way you slice it, Texas is the unequivocal winner on jobs and the economy.

Indeed, despite the overwhelming data superiority Texas has over its critics, far too many still go out of their way to sneer and reflexively suggest that, sure, Texas may be sort of okay if you narrowly look at trivial things like jobs and prosperity and access to the American Dream, but it's still horrible in just about every other way imaginable.

For a good example of what happens when your typical California leftist tries to talk trash about Texas, see what Josh Treviño and David Cabrales did to this poor Steve Olson fellow:

Olson, my man, you should have stuck with climate and scenery arguments, because California will win those. The ones you rehashed from the left's dozen-year-old (at least) anti-Texas playbook just don't stand up to any sort of serious scrutiny.

The enmity from smug coastal liberals toward Texas is really just laziness for some but borders on paranoid obsession for some, like New York Times columnist Gail Collins. But you expect that from an elitist pseudo-intellectual from New York. Hating on the rubes in flyover country probably written into the New York City Constitution. But if you thought Texas media were any less ridiculous, think again.

Indeed, looking at news coverage in Texas this week, there was abundant coverage of a dubious "study" from the Federal Government claiming that Texas has America's worst health care (a laughable claim that's really going to take another post entirely to properly debunk), while there was scant coverage of the CNBC best-for-business award.

Yes, "if it bleeds, it leads," but I have noticed something anecdotally in recent years about Texas' media versus local media in other states. In most states, the local press will cover every list or ranking highlighting local achievements and awards. In Texas, we are at or near the top of basically every positive economic list, but the local press often completely ignore the positive ones but dwell on the negative ones.

Indeed, a quick news search yields this, this, this, this, this, this, and this story in major Texas media outlets about the ridiculous "study" from the Obama team in Washington. Yet, among those same local media sources, this was the only article on the "best business" ranking (a ranking which came from a source without a political axe to grind, unlike the Federal Government's "report" bashing Texas for not fully buying into its unsustainable Ponzi scheme). Maybe there have been more pieces published in Texas media sources on the CNBC victory since I searched, but that was it as of the writing of this post. Just the one. Compared to plenty of the bogus health care doom and gloom. And I could find no mention of this fact in any media account of Texas' health care system:

The data show that, in the decade from 2002 to 2012, the Texas population went from 21,779,893 to 26,403,743 – a 21% increase – and the number of Texas physicians rose by 15,611 – a 44% increase. This absolute change led to an increase of 30 physicians per 100,000 population (19% increase).

Not important? Or just inconvenient to the left's narrative?

Another recent award not covered by the Texas media: Texas winning the Gold Shovel for economic development. Or what about Thumbtack.com's ginormous survey of actual small business owners, who rated Texas as the most friendly state for business? Not a peep. Or, how's about some stories about Texas ranking at the top for commercial real estate development? It appeared in the Business Journals family of media, but nothing showed in Texas' major newspapers and television networks. Or what about Chief Executive magazine ranking Texas as the number one business climate in 2012, for the eighth straight year? Or how about four Texas cities cracking the latest top twenty performing metros list from the center-left Brookings Institute. Not a single one of these recent stories was even really covered, let alone harped on, by Texas' establishment media. Not a one.

You also don't often see anything like these paragraphs by Michael Barone in Texas media:

If you draw a triangle whose points are Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, enclosing Austin, you've just drawn a map of the economic and jobs engine of North America.

Texas prospers not just because of oil and gas, but thanks to a diversified and sophisticated economy. It has attracted large numbers of both immigrants and domestic migrants for a quarter century. One in 12 Americans lives there.

America is getting to look a lot more like Texas, and that's one trend that I hope continues.

Sure, there are a few decent Texas journalists out there, and a lot of this bias is not necessarily conscious or intentional in any sort of vast conspiratorial sense, but it's still an industry-wide bias nevertheless.

If it's not health care they're complaining about, it's usually education.

While it's true that Texas is way too hot for about 6-- okay, 7-- months out of the year, and we don't really have mountains (for skiing, at least), Texas' education system is actually demonstrably superior to California's or Wisconsin's or the nation's as a whole, a fact that simply doesn't fit the left's narrative (again, this topic is worthy of a comprehensive post of its own).

Moreover, on criminal justice, Texas is leading the way on reducing both violent and property crimes:

Nationally, the property crime rate fell 0.8 percent in 2011, but in Texas the drop was about 10 times as great, falling 8.3 percent. FBI statistics released by the Texas Department of Public Safety also show that Texas’ violent crime rate fell 9.3 percent, compared to a 4.0 percent drop nationally.

Texas' slightly libertarian brand of conservatism truly is proving that ideas matter, and good policy ideas will produce good outcomes. Oh, hey, and look, Texas sales tax revenues just keep unexpectedly outpacing estimates (up 15.2% for the latest month, the 27th straight month of gains).

Indeed, even according to the Illinois Comptroller's Office, Texas is the least "broke" state in the nation, budgetarily-speaking.

And ultimately, people are responding by voting with their feet. Just look at this list of America's fastest growing cities. Texas completely dominates:


These numbers are why Texas gets four additional Electoral College votes this year and four new Congressmen beginning in January, far more than any other state. In fact, many blue and bluish states are losing seats and Electors.


And as folks move to Texas from other states in droves, the Lone Star State has one of the nation's lowest mortgage foreclosure rates and ranks among the lowest in the nation for seriously delinquent mortgages (and by far the absolute best among large states). Due to the diverse economic opportunity found in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and elsewhere, Texas is also America's number one destination for foreign refugees from countries like Burma, Bhutan, and Iraq.

Former Libertarian Party Vice Presidential nominee Wayne Allyn Root adds:

Texas has zero state income tax, zero capital gains taxes, and zero death taxes. It is a “right to work” state where employees may choose to join a union, but are never forced to. It is pro business and anti-lawyer (discouraging class action lawsuits and the first state to pass a “Loser Pays” law). Texas is also tight-fisted with welfare and entitlement benefits- unlike New York and California. The result of this limited government attitude is people with high incomes, assets, and ambition are moving into Texas, while those who lack work ethic, and feel entitled to handouts are moving out. Good riddance.

But the most important attribute of Texas is that its constitution limits the time that politicians can meet. The Texas Legislature is limited to meeting only 4 months every other year. That pretty much explains everything. Texas and my state of Nevada have no state income taxes and the fastest growing populations in America…not in spite of, but because the politicians aren't allowed to sit in their seats all year long thinking of new ways to re-distribute income, impede business, and destroy jobs.

Let’s look at the remarkable results of favoring hard working job-creators over entitlement addicts, and business owners over lawyers. Texas now has more Fortune 500 headquarters than New York. It tied for the highest state economic growth in America over the past 50 years, while displacing New York as the second largest state economy. The annual Texas economy has passed $1 trillion, accounting for 8.3% of the entire U.S. economy. In the last three years one third of all jobs in America were created in Texas, and in the past decade, more jobs were created in Texas than in the other 49 states COMBINED.

Heck, even the Texas State Fair, which has been privately run since its founding in 1886, is one of the few state fairs in the country that isn't struggling financially.

And so forth and so on.

Ideas matter. It's time to stop pretending like there is some mystery to growing the economy. It's pretty obvious what we need to do and not do. While it's debatable whether every single minor facet of the Texas model is transferable to the rest of the nation, the big stuff (tax policy, debt, spending, budgeting, etc.) is absolutely something Washington could and should emulate.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Texas Job Domination 2002-2012.

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Posted by Will Franklin · 12 July 2012 08:50 AM · Comments (0)