Friday, September 28, 2012

Sales tax collections in the US

An astonishingly exponential growth trend is evident in this FRED chart:

Not really that suprising when you consider the path of total retail trade:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Unconventional analysis of health care costs

Fatties and smokers save the NHS money
Written by Tim Worstall  Saturday 9 April 2011

We're told, endlessly, that smoking must be even more highly taxed because smokers cost the NHS oodles of money. Further, that salt, fats, junk food, should all be taxed because fatties cost the NHS lots of money.

This is nonsense, nonsense on stilts.
 There are good reasons to suggest to people that perhaps they shouldn't smoke: it's not particularly good for them after all. But having suggested, having checked that they are aware of the trade off they are making, that's as far as we should perhaps go. Taxing smokes highly because demand is relatively insensitive to price is also fine: we do have to get tax revenues from somewhere...

But to argue that either hamburgers or tabs lead to costs to the NHS is simply wrong:
The researchers found that from age 20 to 56, obese people racked up the most expensive health costs. But because both the smokers and the obese people died sooner than the healthy group, it cost less to treat them in the long run.
On average, healthy people lived 84 years. Smokers lived about 77 years and obese people lived about 80 years. Smokers and obese people tended to have more heart disease than the healthy people.
Cancer incidence, except for lung cancer, was the same in all three groups. Obese people had the most diabetes, and healthy people had the most strokes. Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about $417,000, from age 20 on.
The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, about $326,000.
 ...when you add in the costs of the state pensions that those who die young don't get, smoking and gorging save the government vast sums of money.
 There are perfectly good arguments to use in persuading people to not smoke or to eat well. "Wouldn't you like to live longer?" is a useful one for example. But if the answer that comes back is "No, I'd prefer to have a cigar right after this triple scoop sundae" then that's just up to the individual and how they wish to chart their course through this vale of tears we call life.
Lying to everyone about the costs of health care just doesn't help at all. So could various people please stop doing it?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Falling average earnings for college graduates

The Atlantic: The Graph That Should Accompany Every Article About Millennials and Economics

Real earnings for young grads with a college degree have now declined for six straight years. "Real average earnings for young grads have fallen by over 15% since 2000, or by about $10,000 in constant 2011 dollars," PPI reports.

This is a serious employment problem, and demonstrates a dis-incentive to earning a college degree.  It also reinforces the argument that there is no shortage of qualified applicants for most jobs in the US.

US population growth 2011 by state

Notice that a few states grew significantly between 2010 and 2011, while most grew by small amounts.  Growth is concentrated, which means that growth management must be different depending on the actual amount of growth that is taking place state by state.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fake labor shortages redux

This appeared at one of my favorite blogs:

Illusion of Prosperity: Quote of the Day

"Most restaurateurs know there are simply not enough qualified applicants for the positions they need to fill."

The fake labor shortage meme appears again.  The qualifications for restaurant jobs are minimal; how can anyone say there aren't qualified applicants with a straight face?

Here's another example:

Shortage of Qualified Employees Poses Big Challenge |

"Despite all the talk of high unemployment rates, business owners say that finding qualified employees is one of their biggest challenges.  Those were the findings of the 2011 HireRight Employment Screening Benchmarking Report, which indicated that 49 percent of respondents listed finding and retaining qualified employees as a top business challenge. That's the same number that named cost-cutting as their biggest challenge."

And one more example:

Skilled Workers In Demand As Companies Face Talent Shortages

"May 29 (Reuters) - The United States and other large economies cannot find enough skilled workers, engineers and other in-demand employees, according to an annual study on talent shortages.
The study, by staffing services giant ManpowerGroup, found 34 percent of employers around the world report trouble filling jobs because of a lack of available talent. "

If there really were shortages, wages would be going up and unemployment would be going down.

Instead we have sixty four consecutive weeks in which initial unemployment claims have been revised up from the first estimate.

 I think the meme is used as an excuse to justify offshoring of jobs. If corporations can point to news sources/studies showing a shortage, they can justify offshoring by claiming a lack of qualified applicants domestically.
A Google search using the search terms "not enough qualified applicants" 2012 turns up roughly 33,000 results.  This concept is being systematically propagated, and is harmful to people considering college and career choices.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Foreign treasury holdings

Japan and China are converging, while the rest remain relatively stable.  The enormity of Japanese and Chinese holdings relative to the others is striking

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Coding with javascript and node.js

Easiest hello world ever:

console.log("Hello world!");

Super simple web page:

  <head><title>simple page</title></head>
    <h1 id="header">This is JavaScript</h1>
    <script type="text/javascript">
      document.body.appendChild(document.createTextNode('Hello World!'));
      var h1 = document.getElementById("header"); // holds a reference to the <h1> tag
      h1 = document.getElementsByTagName("h1")[0]; // accessing the same <h1> element
    <noscript>Your browser either does not support JavaScript, or has JavaScript turned off.</noscript>

Just save it in a file(call it "test.htm") and open the file; it pops up a browser window with a couple of messages. office application suite allows for JavaScript as one of its scripting languages.

Google Apps Script in Google Spreadsheets and Google Sites allows users to create custom formulas, automate repetitive tasks and also interact with other Google products such as Gmail.

Web applications within Firefox can be debugged using the Firebug add-on...Firefox also has a simpler built-in Error Console, which logs and evaluates JavaScript. It also logs CSS errors and warnings.

This page is good:

Node acts as the javascript interpreter and you run programs like this:

node testgrab.js

which runs the script testgrab.js.

Inventories building up

Inventories are rising, which means future production will have to be cut back; as there is no sign of a source of increased consumer spending in the near future.

(chart borrowed from MaxedOutMama)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Corporate profits high

Here's one exponential trend that seems to be holding up:

There are a couple of big hiccups in the trend, but it appears that one could find a trend line to fit.

Here is the fitted trend line:

R squared of 97.6 is pretty good.

Russia should be given normal trade status by the US

The New York Times reports that Clinton Tells Russia That Sanctions Will Soon End; stating:

"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged Saturday that the United States would soon lift cold-war-era trade sanctions on Russia, but she did not address human rights legislation in Congress that has so far stalled passage, infuriated the Kremlin and become an unexpected issue in the American presidential race."

China has had normal trade status with the US for many years in spite of human rights and other issues. It is absurd that Russia does not have the same status already.

Total US employment little changed after 12 years

As the chart below shows; total non farm payrolls are roughly in the same range now as back in 2000.
The peak in payrolls just prior to the crash was a credit-driven anomaly.  It's hard to see what will drive improvement in employment anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Real wage growth

This doesn't reflect health insurance benefits; which would add significantly to total real compensation.  It offsets much of the stagnance seen in this chart, as health care costs have increased significantly faster than the inflation rate.