Is U.S. Economic Stagnation Inevitable?

Economic doom through aging, ignorance, inequality, debt and technological stagnation.

Economic Fall Lucian Alexandru Motoc:DreamstimeIn “Is U.S. Economic Growth Over?,” a 2012 working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon argued that the country was in for 25 to 40 years of very slow growth. In particular, Americans in the bottom 99 percent of the U.S. income distribution could expect only 0.2 percent annual increases in their real per capita disposable incomes. This is dramatically lower than the 2 percent annual increase in incomes that occurred in the century before 2007. Gordon attributed this fall-off in growth to six “headwinds” and the slowing pace of technological innovation.

Gordon extends his analysis in a new study, “The Demise of U.S. Economic Growth: Restatment, Rebuttal, and Reflections.” In this paper, also published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Gordon revisits four of his six growth-slowing headwinds: demography, education, inequality, and government debt. (The other two are globalization and energy and environmental concerns.) He also attempts to bolster his argument that technological progress is stagnating.

With regard to demography, Gordon points out that the percentage of the population working has been falling, as have the number of hours per employee. A lower percentage of people engaged in productive work, he argues, cuts projected future growth rate by 0.3 percent, which he duly subtracts from the previous norm of 2 percent.

The second headwind is education. Economic growth over the past century, he writes, was boosted by 0.35 percent annually as the percentage of Americans graduating from high school and college rose. That increase in educational attainment has now stalled. As a consequence, Gordon calculates that future economic growth will be reduced by another 0.2 percent annually.

Gordon’s third headwind is rising inequality. Citing data from the Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, Gordon notes that from 1993 and 2013 the household incomes of the bottom 99 percent grew at a rate of 0.34 per year while the average rate was 0.87 percent. Over that time, the household incomes of the top 1 percent grew at 3.3 percent annually. Since he is focusing on the economic prospects of the bottom 99 percent, Gordon deducts the 0.5 percent difference in income increases.

His fourth headwind is mounting federal, state, and local government debt. Paying back this money will require either substantial tax increases or steep cutbacks in transfer payments—or both. Gordon calculates that this debt overhang will reduce future growth by 0.2 percent annually. All four headwinds together, he concludes, will lower U.S. economic growth for the bottom 99 percent of households to 0.8 percent annually.

To illustrate the dire effects of this slowdown, Gordon calculates that per capita real income of $49,387 in 2007 would rise at a 2 percent rate to $200,273 by 2077. At 0.8 percent annually, average income would rise to only $86,460 by 2077. Gordon then points out that since 2007 that average per capita incomes at a 2 percent growth rate would now be $56,243, and at 0.8 percent at $51,800. Instead, third quarter 2013 per capita income was only $50,022, just $635 dollars higher than it was in 2007, implying an annual growth rate of 0.18 per year since 2007.

As if those figures were not discouraging enough, Gordon then considers the effects of technological innovation on economic growth. Using productivity data from 1891 to 2012, Gordon calculates that the increase in output per hour averaged 2.36 percent until 1972, then dropped to 1.38 percent from then to 1996. The creation of the Internet and the spread of information technologies boosted the annual productivity increase to 2.54 percent between 1996 and 2004, but the figure has since dropped to just 1.33 percent.

Since Gordon expects the pace of innovation to continue to lag, he subtracts -0.6 percent from future growth to arrive at a slack annual growth rate of just 0.2 percent for the disposable household incomes of the bottom 99 percent. If he’s right, that would mean that real per capita incomes of most Americans would average only $56,800 in 2077 in constant dollars, a mere $7,413 more than in 2007.

Must Americans reconcile themselves to such drastically reduced economic prospects? Maybe not. Let’s take a look at some data that challenge Gordon’s gloomy forecast.

Is demography economic destiny? Not necessarily. In a 2012 Journal of Population Economics study, Harvard demographer Klaus Prettner looked at the effects of an aging population on economic growth. He found that the positive impact of longevity increases on per capita output more than balance out the negative influence of lower fertility rates. “Our main conclusion is that currently ongoing demographic changes do not necessarily hamper technological progress and therefore economic prosperity,” Prettner writes. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that the annual growth rates in developed countries such as Japan, Italy, and Germany with aging populations have hovered around 1 percent for the past couple of decades.

What about education? Two trends may get the U.S. educational system out of its stall: competition and technology. There is evidence that charter schools and other forms of school choice are improving educational results and even future incomes. And while it isn’t clear yet what effect new information technologies will have, educators are exploring how they can be deployed to enhance learning both in schools and in non-traditional settings.

Does inequality slow growth? A lot of economists believe that it does, but there is not complete agreement on this issue. It’s notable that Japan, Germany, and Italy all have greater income equality than the United States, yet their average economic growth rates since 1990 have been significantly lower.

Will the government debt overhang slow growth? Yes, and likely by more than Gordon estimates.

Finally, is America stuck in a permanent technology slump? Gordon has been arguing this case for more than 10 years. His central claim is that the sustained increases in productivity prior to 1972 were fueled by the advent and elaboration of three general purpose technologies—electricity, internal combustion engines, and wireless communication. We have now topped out since industry and households have been thoroughly electrified and there are now 800 automobiles for every 1,000 Americans and 2.5 televisions per household. Gordon argues that there is no similar suite of general purpose technologies in the offing to fuel future economic growth.

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  • Weygand||

    For some reason I have AC/DC's Rock and Roll Stagnation stuck in my head now

  • MrSaturdayNightSpecial||

    Bon Scott or Brian Johnson?

  • AlmightyJB||

    I thought it was Stag Nation. Not stagnation.

  • MrSaturdayNightSpecial||

    "Paying back this money will either require substantial tax increases or cutbacks in transfer payments-or both."

    Or, STOP SPENDING SO MUCH MONEY.

  • R C Dean||

    STOP SPENDING SO MUCH MONEY.

    You mean, by cutting back transfer welfare payments?

  • MrSaturdayNightSpecial||

    Military. Government pensions/benefits. Pork project. Reasearch. Theres alot of money the government could not spend that I wouldnt consider "welfare".

  • SusanM||

    Whether they're wearing Carhartt or Armani, there's plenty of people on the Free Shit train.

  • Libertarius||

    The guys wearing Carhartt work for a living, bitch.

  • SusanM||

    Plenty of Armani types work for a living - doesn't make them too proud to hit up Uncle Sugar.

  • sarcasmic||

    Interesting how government created barriers to economic activity, such as licenses and fees and regulations, weren't even taken into account.

    As far as inequality goes, what if everyone's wealth was to double? Inequality would double Everyone, including the poor, would have twice as much wealth as they did before. Even homeless people with nothing but the clothes on their back would now have a second set of clothing. How is that a bad thing?

    On the subject of government debt there was no mention of inflating it away.

  • SusanM||

    Not to get too pedantic here ut if you doubled everyone's wealth wouldn't inequality remain the same?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    No, Bill Gates would now have $130 billion more than me, when he now has only $65 billion more than me.

  • UnCivilServant||

    But he might still only have a million times as much as you.

  • sarcasmic||

    The difference would double.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Inequality is measured in ratios, not absolute values.

    If both sides of a ratio are multiplied by the same value, the ratio remains constant.

    Thus, doubling all wealth has zero effect on inequality of wealth.

  • Rasilio||

    "Inequality is measured in ratios, not absolute values."

    Incorrect, inequalities are measured in whatever method and using whichever baseline best advances the progressive who is talking about them's agenda

  • sarcasmic||

    Incorrect, inequalities are measured in whatever method and using whichever baseline best advances the progressive who is talking about them's agenda

    That makes more sense.

  • ||

    ^^This. Differences in wealth are all that matter to the progtards. The point that doubling everyone's wealth doubles the differences in wealth, further reinforces their stupidity.

  • sarcasmic||

    Inequality is measured in ratios, not absolute values.

    Learn something new every day.

  • PD Quig||

    "Inequality is measured in ratios, not absolute values."

    That's just about the most obtuse, impractical, and ridiculous thing I've read in a while. It points out how ludicrous the whole subject is. If everybody became billionaires, who would give a shit if some folks were quadrillionaires. I mean really: could that way of viewing the world be any more pinched and asinine?

  • sarcasmic||

    As long as poverty is defined as the bottom quintile, there will always be a bottom quintile of people living in poverty.

  • sarcasmic||

    No.

  • GregMax||

    If you have 2 and I have 10, the gap is 8. But if you double them 4 to 20, the gap is 16.

  • UnCivilServant||

    But it is still 5:1

  • GregMax||

    yes, i guess it depends on what the idiots are calling a "gap".

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Interesting how government created barriers to economic activity, such as licenses and fees and regulations, weren't even taken into account.

    Well, of course not. That would suggest that the decline in productivity might not be inevitable, which is what Gordon seems out to show. And this winds up crucial, as said inevitability is necessary to drive various redistributive schemes.

  • PD Quig||

    The Saez inequality study has been thoroughly debunked. Your point is spot on: if I make $100K per year and get a 3% raise, somebody making $25K per year needs a 12% raise just to keep our "income inequality" constant. Like the distance between galaxies in an expanding universe, it is a mathematical identity that income inequality will always grow.

    But progressives don't do math.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's quite simple, really. The U.S. economy has a parasite. It's had one for a long time, but the parasite is now so big that the economy can no longer shrug off its effects.

  • UnCivilServant||

    +1 Liver Fluke

  • Auric Demonocles||

    It's those damn racist Rethuglicans with their unprecedented War on Womenz, isn't it?

  • Drake||

    Shrug off its effects?

    The U.S. economy can no longer move due the weight of the parasite. Its laying facedown and breathing its last breath.

    The mindless parasite still thinks everything is great.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I mostly agree, though it does show how truly amazing the U.S. economy has been that it's endured so much while still remaining huge and posting at least some growth.

    No credit to the parasite for the host not dying, though.

  • GregMax||

    I'm visualizing the Mayor in Nightmare Before Christmas - fat and dripping crawlers everywhere he stepped. Put an Uncle Sam mask on him and you have the Federal government.

  • waffles||

    C'mon Ron! You're killing the economy with your pessimism. Clap harder!

  • Rasilio||

    Oh no Krugsterbelle is dying she needs your help

    {Audience of innocent little Keynesians}

    I do believe in Multipliers I do, I do!
    I do believe in Multipliers I do, I do!
    I do believe in Multipliers I do, I do!

  • UnCivilServant||

    My Econ 101 Professor was a Keynesian. I just couldn't see how she could possibly believe it when she spouted the line "Government doesn't have to worry about deficits". It tripped my bullshit meter right away.

  • Restoras||

    It's inevitable when you adopt wholesale non-growth policies. The current tax code, regulatory regime, the ACA, and exoansion of any and all things government create stagnation. Otherwise economies can contunie to grow and can grow fast with the combination of population growth and technical advances. Remove population growth and you can still have enough growth to advance the living standard with just technical innovation.

  • prolefeed||

    I think this is too pessimistic. Implement a libetarian form of governance, with a little or no formal government, and we'd have explosive, ongoing economic growth that would result in a society that made the current situation seem to be almost North Korean-ish in poverty by comparison.

  • prolefeed||

    Or what Pro Lib said upthread, more succinctly.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    I think regulation is the primary force inhibiting growth. Every little law/regulation/rule is additive throughout the economy and creates barriers to entry.

    It's easy to grow an economy. You simply make it easy to do business.

  • R C Dean||

    The economy pretty much has stagnated in a lot of ways over the past good while. Depending on how you measure it, either since the most recent meltdown, or even further back.

    I would say, yeah, we're trapped in this stagnating economy so long as the cause of stagnation - the Total State - exists.

  • larry hammond||

    If government (all levels) could just take a 12 month stupidity break, actually just pay the fuckers to stay home, the economy would probably start growing at 5% immediately. If you could get them to just trim the existing stupidity a little we could sustain that growth. But they will just keep "doubling down" on bad policy until the biggest, most diverse and vibrant economy ever created completely ceases to function at all. Nothing says equality like equal misery, except for TOP MEN of course.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    As long as we are ruled by Malthusian luddites, stagnation is assured.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Well, if long term stock market performance is any indicator of growth (and I would argue it is), yeah, we are pretty much stagnated.

    50+ year S&P

    100+ year DOW

  • Rasilio||

    It would be interesting to see those charts adjusted for inflation

  • CampingInYourPark||

    They're adjusted for something aren't they? A 40 point jump in the 70's looks the same as a 400 point jump in the 2000's.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    It's a log chart.

    But just look at the percentages. The S&P has has increased 22% since its peak in 98. 22% in 15 years. Annualized that's 1.33% a year for 15 years. Compare that to the preceding 15 years...

    Yeah, I'm cherry picking a bit, but there hasn't been any real net gains for a decade and a half.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Isn't 1998 also near the high water mark of the Dot Com Bubble?

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Fuck I misread the chart.

    22% increase over 13 years 2000-present. Annualized is 1.54%. Still shit.

    Yes 2000 was the peak of the Dot Com bubble and the point the chart levels off.

  • Rasilio||

    Not near, it was the high water mark. The Bubble burst during 99

  • OneOut||

    The most recent increase in the stock index is definitely due to growth.

    But it's been the growth in the money supply that has resulted in the index rise.

    It is not due to growth of supporting demand for the goods and services of the companies, but the demand for a place to park some money.

  • Rasilio||

    "The second headwind is education. Economic growth over the past century, he writes, was boosted by 0.35 percent annually as the percentage of Americans graduating from high school and college rose. That increase in educational attainment has now stalled."

    BAH are all economists this dumb.

    They look at the average wages of college educated and non college educated people and think that if they gave everyone a college education that it would lead to greater economic growth?

    It just doesn't work that way. Education only provides economic growth the the extent that it imparts new valuable skills to the educated AND that those exact skills are then put to us filling previously unmet needs. Outside of a very tiny fraction of STEM jobs the only reason college educations provide for greater earnings is that a college education is used as a proxy measurement and a default arbitrary test of whether one is worthy of higher wage management positions. The marginal value of a college education for a Human Resources manager or Purchasing Agent or Client Relationship Manager is tiny at best and much more likely to be negative once you consider that very few people in those positions actually got degrees in those fields.

    It is very very likely that our societies obsession with college education has been a net drag on our economy since at least the mid 90's and possibly since the 70's

  • Sidd Finch||

    Most of academia believes in the (nearly) 100% human capital theory of education, for obvious reasons.

  • John||

    You are right. That is some first rate stupid going on there.

    America's growth rate was fueled by the increases in productivity of its workers. College was just one means to that. But it is not the only one and the fact that more people go to college now will not prevent productivity from growing.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    BAH are all economists this dumb.

    Generally speaking, yes.

  • GregMax||

    Agreed. If they "deemed" everyone a degreed medical doctor the economy would only get better to the extent that it provides a market need for medical doctors. The baristas would be wearing white coats and scowls, but not much else would change.

  • OldMexican||

    Does inequality slow growth? A lot of economists believe that it does, but there is not complete agreement on this issue.


    A lot of economists wouldn't know basic economics if it hit them in the face. Income inequality can be the result of 2 things, one good and one not so good: (1) increased productivity or (b) an increase in the money supply.

    Where it is true that the increase in the money supply will result in the creation of millionaires in the finance and government sector without much production while at the same time reduce the purchasing power of wages and income for middle class and poor workers, the other side of the coin is that having income inequality, in general, means that the productive efforts of individuals are being quickly rewarded by the market, which signals that the economy IS growing and that more and better products are being brought to market. Economists on the left pretend that income inequality is an economic problem that must be address but, in reality, they are doing nothing more than moralizing.

  • OldMexican||

    "... addressed ..."

  • John||

    Since the central planners have fucked everything up, this will be the new spin. They won't ever admit the truth that they are the problem. The story will be "economic stagnation is just the best we can expect now". Those of us old enough and sentient enough to remember it will recognize this as exactly what happened in the late 1970s, the last time the Keynesian central planners ran the country in the ground.

    We can only hope that like they did in 1980 the American public will not accept this bullshit and elect another Reagan and kick these slime balls out of power. These people were totally discredited and disgraced in the 1970s. But they learned nothing and they and their retarded intellectual children returned in the 00s to make the exact same mistakes.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    "Think how much worse the economy would have been if we didn't have those regulations!"

  • John||

    It is just bad luck.

    My god did Heinlein have these people pegged.

  • ||

    Didnt Jugears tell us not long ago that we have had a run of 'bad luck'?

    Talk about a lack of self awareness.........

  • John||

    Sort of like how every piece of bad economic news is "unexpected". The media's use of that term has long since become comical.

  • OneOut||

    Yes.

    I remember that every time a Democrat talking head would exclaim that there were "green shoots" showing in the economy a few weeks later the excuse for poor performance numbers was always blamed on some "other".

    The tsunami, poor numbers out of the EU, oil prices rising.

    It was always "unexpected" and out of the administrations control.

    But truly it was always just another excuse trying to deflect blame for their lack of economic expertise. I specifically remember a Sunday talking head saying that "we were so close to turning the corner" and that if we would all just consider the corner already turned that then the corner would be turned and nirvana would have been reached in a progressive economy.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Thankfully no Prophet yet.

  • sarcasmic||

    Campaign finance reform has made sure no one like Reagan will ever be elected again.

  • John||

    Sad but possibly true. Although, I think people's preferences get through no matter what, provided we are strong enough.

    The deeper problem is our craven and retarded media will do everything it can to ensure another Reagan won't get elected. They have less power today than the did then. But they make up for it by being ten times worse than they even were then.

  • sarcasmic||

  • John||

    Oh yes. The contribution limits just ensure that only professional political cronies have the fund raising connections to run a campaign. Everyone else is fucked if they are not rich enough to just fund it themselves, and if the SCOTUS would let them they would ban personal expenditure too.

    This is also why our political class is increasingly populated by idiot sons of other politicians. Being a politician has become a guild that only those born into or incredibly craven can join.

    And we wonder why our government is so bad.

  • Drake||

    I still blame the Republican Party establishment. HW Bush wasted no time undoing everything Reagan did, and the party never nominated another fiscal conservative.

  • John||

    Bush didn't undo everything Reagan did by a long shot. If you want to blame Republicans, blame those in Congress who went along with Democrats to break the bank spending in return for tax cuts.

  • Calidissident||

    How was Reagan fiscally conservative? I'm talking actual results, not talk

  • OneOut||

    I believe that Cruz is going to pleasantly surprise some non progressive minded people in his political life.

    I know someone who has known him for 15 years and says that he is the real deal.

    He cares nothing about being approved of by the elite and wants to do the right thing for the productive people and for this country which he seems as one and the same.

    Cruz may not be Prex in 2016 but he will be Prex one day. The sooner the better I say. The longer it takes just means more heavy lifting.

  • ||

    I had someone tell me, about two weeks ago, that Jimmeh was one of the best presidents we ever had.

  • John||

    Well, compared to Obama he was Coolidge. But he has a horrible President whose response to the failure of central planning was to blame the American people for their unrealistic expectations. America just wasn't worthy of their top men in Carter's view. Whatever the good things he did, I will always despise that man for having the nerve to blame his and his party's failures on the public.

  • ||

    Whenever I see that moron's face it makes me think of the Chinese flag flying over the Panama Canal.

  • GregMax||

    Yes, it is.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    It is very very likely that our societies obsession with college education has been a net drag on our economy since at least the mid 90's and possibly since the 70's

    That's crazy. Just look at all the fabulous new student athletic training facilities health spas built in the past twenty years.

  • John||

    Inputs Brooks, inputs. I mean look at how much we spend and how big the inputs. How could there not be corresponding outputs? If throwing money that the problem doesn't solve it, then it just can't be solved and people are going to have to learn to live with less.

    What kind of a tea bagging nihlist are you not to understand that?

  • OneOut||

    A news article in Texas today is about a $60 million dollar HIGH SCHOOL football stadium was shut down because many cracks have been found in the concrete.

    A 60 MILLION DOLLAR HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL STADIUM.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Well, what do you want? Just a field of grass and some bleachers for FOOTBALL?

  • HenryC||

    Income inequality is a result, not a cause.

  • John||

    And it is also a entirely subjective term. What is "inequality"? It is pretty much whatever someone wants to say it is and whatever the definition, it says nothing about overall or even average wealth.

  • Comrade Donkey Punch||

    "Gordon’s third headwind is rising inequality. Citing data from the Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, Gordon notes that from 1993 and 2013 the household incomes of the bottom 99 percent grew at a rate of 0.34 per year while the average rate was 0.87 percent. Over that time, the household incomes of the top 1 percent grew at 3.3 percent annually. Since he is focusing on the economic prospects of the bottom 99 percent, Gordon deducts the 0.5 percent difference in income increases."

    If he really is focused on the economic prospects of the bottom 99% why the hell doesn't he factor in wealth increase from innovations? Using that same timeframe of roughly 20 years look at the purchasing power that people in the bottom 99% have now.

    Today’s iPhones have the same capabilities (and more!) than 13 distinct electronics gadgets, worth more than $3,000, found in a 1991 Radio Shack ad.
    ...
    Considering only memory, processing, and broadband communications power, duplicating the iPhone back in 1991 would have (very roughly) cost: $1.44 million + $620,000 + $1.5 million = $3.56 million.

    http://www.techpolicydaily.com.....Ewb5U.dpuf

    Also, as pointed out in the article, Bill Gates wouldn't have been able to buy one since we lacked the technology then.

    BTW, how the fuck do you format? Can you format using Chrome?

  • Rasilio||

    You have to type the html tags in yourself.

    Alternatively if you use Chrome someone made a plug in specifically for this site called Reasonable, I believe that has buttons to automatically insert some of the tags for you

  • Comrade Donkey Punch||

    Thank you!

  • concerned cynic||

    I agree with you that the phenomenal technological advances of recent decades make it very difficult to compare the standard of living now with that of 1990 and before.
    The first desktop computer I ever saw was a Trash-80 in a Radio Shack store in downtown Chicago. It ran VisiCalc, clunkily. The saleswoman could answer none of my questions. The year was 1978. At that time, cellphones, CDs, DVDs, laser printers, and graphical displays/printers were all unknown. I spent a lot of time in those days, hand entering data into a DEC-20 minicomputer.

  • Mainer2||

    I feel a malaise.

  • OneOut||

    lol

  • Leah Findlater||

    These affiliations and resources put the other two are globalization and energy and environmental concerns faculty at the heart of field-based data collection, including surveys, field experiments, and field-based lab experiments required.
    Dissertation Assistance UK

  • PaulW||

    Technology isn't lagging, the regulatory process can't keep up with it, and that is what is slowing down our economy.

    We have a real problem with putting technological advances into production.

    Think of where we would be if, for example, the FDA wasn't so incredibly onerous.

  • xsnake||

    "Stagnation?" Well, there's certainly six years of profoundly solid foundation on which to base the premise.

  • Derick Branson||

    There is only one way to increase disposable income of general population and that is through infusing money directly to the beneficiaries (that is the target audience) rather than routing it through the corporates. In case of the later process, the entire positive effect of money infusion in the economy is not transferred to the target audience. Rather large chunk of the money is utilized unproductively by the corporates and top managers through hefty salaries and perks. Therefore, 'dig up hole and fill it up' is need of the hour for expansion of market, on one hand, which then will be followed by increase of private investment to match increased excess demand.

  • TPL||

    I don't buy it. This country passes innumerable bad economic policies, has the government meddle and micromanage the economy down to minutiae levels, does for a couple decades, then we all wring our hands about economic stagnation? What else *would* you expect, under the circumstances??

  • concerned cynic||

    Fiscal policy: the USA needs to rationalise its tax system, and collect more tax from firms. The poorest 40% of households should pay no net tax to the Federal govt. SS benefits should be fully taxable, period. At present, only 40% of SS benefits are taxable. Disability will be insolvent any year now; Medicare will be insolvent before 2030.

    Education: public education is a major problem in the English speaking countries. Teachers are trained to make pupils feel good; learning is optional. I have children in public schools.

    Aging population: a growing fraction of white collar workers will work until 70, possibly at reduced wages. Blue collar workers unable to work past 62-64, and having to accept reduced old age pensions, will be a growing problem.

    Technology: I decline to make that call. I do believe that cheap renewable energy will emerge. We will also discover myriad ways to economise on electricity. Finally, battery powered cars recharged off the grid cheaply at night, in as little as a half hour, should be the norm within 50-100 years.

    Inequality: it is not evident that inequality per se is harmful. Poverty is harmful per se. About 20% of USA households have embarrassingly low incomes. I propose to pay all legal residents of the USA $101/week, regardless of circumstances. This would largely mitigate poverty. For the comfortable, this amount would replace the standard deductions, personal exemptions and child tax credits. Hence no poverty trap.

  • concerned cynic||

    Growth rate of annual real per capita disposable personal income.
    The first number is the mean, the second is the standard deviation divided by the mean.

    1929-49: 1.5% 4.8
    This very volatile period includes the Depression, WWII, and the substantial decline, 1945-49.

    1949-73: 2.9% 0.6
    The quarter century with the highest sustained economic growth on record, throughout the industrial world.

    1973-2007: 1.9% 0.8
    The party's over. But this was no era of stagnation; IT and cellphones took off.

    2007-13: 0.4% 2.3
    These numbers clearly explain why our time is an unhappy one. Average growth could slow to about 1%. But a coefficient of variation 1.5 is a sad prospect.

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