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Income After Redistribution: 2017 vs. 2018 September 27, 2021

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The Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the 2018 household income distribution last month. This was the first year that Trump’s tax breaks took effect. The CBO looked at the base household income, and then compared it to the income after the redistribution process (taxes, welfare, etc.) took place. The bottom line was:

In 2018, average household income after accounting for means-tested transfers and federal taxes was $37,700 among households in the lowest quintile and $243,900 among households in the highest quintile.

Not as large a differential as I would have thought, since Trump’s eeeevil tax cuts were supposed to preferentially help the rich (according to the Left, at least). In fact the ratio of highest/lowest quintile was 6.4 in 2017 and 6.5 in 2018. Insignificant increase.

Here’s what the income redistribution looks like in chart form (chart from the CBO):

The interesting thing about that chart is the middle quintile, which would be the average Joe. You’d think their impact would be neutral, but no – they’re losing ground just like the top two quintiles.

The situation in 2017 was similar – the middle quintile lost $6900 of income through the redistribution process, while in 2018 they lost $6400.

For all the help the tax breaks were supposed to give, the middle quintile saw its total tax bill change from $10.6K to $9.9K – not an impressive number. The federal income tax actually went down by a third, from $2400 to $1600, but the income tax is only a quarter of the total tax bill, which is dominated by Social Security and Medicaid taxes.

In the end, though, it’s clear that the middle quintile was doing better in 2018 than in 2017. The income (after transfers) in 2017 was $70.2K, while in 2018 it grew to $73.1K. That 4% increase outstripped inflation, giving real wage growth.

Saganic Sagacity (and Prescience) September 20, 2021

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Carl Sagan, writing some 25 years ago:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

At Least I Didn’t Rickroll You September 19, 2021

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Was watching Skiptrace with my daughter the other night (starring Jackie Chan & Johnny Knoxville) – not a particularly great movie, but at one point a drunk Jackie Chan breaks into Rolling in the Deep in a very isolated Mongolian village. Reminded me of Michael’s penchant for posting Rolling in the Deep covers, so Michael, this one’s for you.

Jackie’s contribution isn’t very impressive, but it picks up at the minute mark.

China; A Technological Backwater No Longer September 13, 2021

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I think it was around 10 years ago that I attended a blogger meetup in Denver. Ace was there, as was NiceDeb (Deb Heine) and our own Cathy. Was sipping on a pint with the three of them, minding my own business in my shy and retiring way, when NiceDeb points at me and says (in quite a mocking tone of voice, mind you), “And you! You’re all about China!”

I don’t know if I was all about China, but I was certainly a lot about China. One point I made at that table, having set down my pint to form a hasty defense, was that in my field (heat transfer & fluid flow), technical journals which 10 years prior had 90%+ of the articles written in the US, now had fewer than 50%. And China was now one of the big sources of those articles.

Now the draft of a report commissioned by the Department of Energy confirms what I saw then has continued with a vengeance:

In all cases studied, the analysis of the top 20% of cited literature clearly showed that the U.S. is losing ground to foreign competitors and, in some cases, is already lagging behind (see Figure 1 on page 16). The U.S.’s relative position improves when analyzing top 5% cited literature (see Appendix), but qualitative trend remains similar. In the emerging area of Quantum Information Science, for example, the EU is clearly leading, with China and the U.S. close behind. In other areas studied China is emerging as a worldwide leader. The changes in leadership in these areas correspond to a period of rapid increase in research investment in China and a flattening in the research funding in the U.S., suggesting that investment in key areas has a significant impact on leadership.

What they’re talking about is research in leading areas of Basic Energy Science, which are pretty good areas (table screencapped from the report):

So what’s the point? The point is that China is now leading the EU and the US in many of these cutting-edge technologies, and is pretty much tied if it’s not leading. Given their rapid progress (and penchant for helping themselves to other people’s work) in another 10 years it’s likely that we’ll be trailing them by quite a large margin. And it’s not just these energy areas – Instapundit is constantly pointing out how aggressive China is getting in the Space Race.

The United States has had several things going for it that ensured its position as the world’s superpower. They were:

  • Large economy
  • Dollar standard
  • Technological leadership
  • Foremost military
  • A culture where entrepreneurship can thrive

All of those are being threatened today. Saddled with massive debt, a ridiculously inept educational system, and a corrupted value system which elevates social justice to the pinnacle in society, . . . I don’t see how we turn this around.

Cruz Says “Get a Job” ==> Libs Freak September 8, 2021

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Ted Cruz aroused the ire of the libs when he responded to an ABC tweet thusly:

The Left predictably dug in with responses criticizing his lack of empathy, and claiming that there weren’t enough jobs to go around. I don’t have an opinion about his empathy, but we can certainly have a gander at that second claim.

Are there really not enough jobs to go around?

The Hill tells us:

Over seven million people across the U.S. will lose their unemployment benefits beginning on Monday as pandemic safety nets expire.

The emergency federal jobless benefits are set to end on Labor Day, while another three million people will lose their additional $300 boost to state unemployment benefits, barring government intervention.

Got it. 7 million lose federal benefits, while another 3 million lose state benefits. That totals to a convenient 10 million unfortunates (the number is convenient, not the unfortunates).

So what’s the job sitch? The Bureau of Economic Analysis’s job report (released today) sez:

The number of job openings increased to a series high of 10.9 million on the last business day of July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

Hunh. Obviously there’s a problem comparing jobs at the end of July to people in September, but it’s all we’ve got to work with. And it tells us that Cruz was right – there are 9% more job available than people losing their benefits.

Here’s another way to look at it. The BEA makes a handy-dandy chart that tells us how many people are unemployed vs. how many jobs are available. As you can see from their chart, as of July there was less than 1 person available per job. A little dated, but at least it compares July to July.

I’d say that Cruz was spot on. Not that he was claiming that getting a job was the answer for everybody – his tweet simply said that ABC was wrong when they said that the benefit-losers had no other options.

Maybe that’s a little subtle for the liberal media.

Checking in on Manufacturing Jobs September 8, 2021

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Haven’t done one of these in a while, but I was wondering how manufacturing jobs are faring, given COVID and the new administration. The good news is that the rebound is continuing, the bad news is that we’ve got a ways to go:

It’ll be interesting to see how the fate of manufacturers unfolds over the next year or two.

Green Energy vs. Reality September 7, 2021

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Amid all the administration-caused economic, immigration, and foreign policy crises that currently confront us, people with no sense of perspective keep yelling about the “emergency” that is climate change. So one might ask, what’s the problem here? Why don’t we just use that green energy stuff and solve the problem? One quick Green New Deal and we can move on!

Well, here’s why:

US_ElectricityGeneration1990-2019

This is a graph of electricity generation from 1990 – 2019 (sorry for the tiny font – blame the IEA). See that little purple band just above wind? That’s solar power. And that little dark purple stripe on top of solar? That’s geothermal.

Compare those small percentages to coal (blue on top), natural gas (green), nuclear (orange), and hydroelectric (whatever that color is just below nuclear).

So, while it’s clear that solar and wind electricity generation grew a lot over the 15 years from 2004 to 2019, it’s just as clear that despite all the hullabaloo and government money, they’re nowhere near ready to take over from the traditional sources of electricity, particularly by 2030 as the Green New Deal demands.

Right now the green sources of energy supply about 10% of our electricity needs, and, as we saw in Texas earlier this year, there are some weaknesses in those technologies which require smarter infrastructure to resolve.

I’m all for alternative, cleaner, sources of energy, but I’m not for unrealistic hype, wasteful & premature subsidies, and irresponsible economic disruption.

Which is where Al Gore, Jeb Bush, AOC et al., are headed.

COVID-19 Response Cage Match: Biden vs. Trump September 5, 2021

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Back on July 7, 2020, in a brief interval between lids, candidate Biden said:

Today, the trajectory of COVID-19 in America is headed in the wrong direction. In some parts of the country, the test positivity rate is climbing, hospitalizations are sky-rocketing, and testing sites are overwhelmed.

He claimed that he, and only he, had a master plan to beat COVID, and that Trump’s efforts were a “fiasco.”

So let’s compare how he and Trump have done (all data downloaded from CDC website):

Well, well, well. Despite having complete foreknowledge about the virus, despite having 400 million doses of 3 newly-developed vaccines already purchased and being distributed, despite getting to enjoy already-declining case and death rates, . . .

. . . the virus has erupted on Biden’s watch.

The Trump administration was faced with a completely new virus, against which there were no vaccines or treatments. Biden has had the advantage of all the prior experience, but now, 4 months after the appearance of the Delta variant, it has exploded, without any response by Biden and his crew. In fact, what did he just say this past Friday (9/3/2021)?

Biden said he plans to lay out steps next week for his administration to take to try to further stimulate the economy. More needs to be done to encourage people to get vaccinated against Covid, he said.

Oh. Next week. No particular hurry, then.