Wisconsin Economic Activity in October

As measured by the Philadelphia Fed coincident index.

Figure 1: Coincident Index for Wisconsin (red), Minnesota (blue), US (black), all in logs, 2020M02=0. Source: Philadelphia Fed, November 25th release, and author’s calculations.

The Wisconsin economy seems to be faltering earlier than some other midwestern states (and is only one of 8 states registering a decline in October). Employment (one of the components of the coincident index) also declined in Wisconsin, as discussed in this post. The index combines:

… four state-level indicators to summarize current economic conditions in a single statistic. The four state-level variables in each coincident index are nonfarm payroll employment, average hours worked in manufacturing by production workers, the unemployment rate, and wage and salary disbursements deflated by the consumer price index (U.S. city average). The trend for each state’s index is set to the trend of its gross domestic product (GDP), so long-term growth in the state’s index matches long-term growth in its GDP.

Perhaps the decline should not be surprising, given the lack of legislative action over the past 7 months, and Republican allied organizations’ moves to impeded executive branch measures.

Wisconsin’s comparative performance is illustrated by this map of the month-on-month annualized growth rate in the index.

Figure 2: Month-on-month annualized growth rate of coincident index for October 2020 (in log terms). “-0.04” means negative 4% m/m annualized growth rate. Darker colors indicate higher growth rates. US growth rate is 0.83%. Source: Philadelphia Fed, November 25th release, and author’s calculations.



56 thoughts on “Wisconsin Economic Activity in October

  1. Moses Herzog

    Menzie, maybe the Badger Institute knows the reason?? (just some perverted humor to make you upchuck some Thanksgiving tryptophan).

  2. ltr


    November 28, 2020

    More Bad News About the Pandemic Recession: Longer Hours
    By Den Baker

    We know that the economy is likely to get worse in the immediate future as the pandemic is spreading out of control in most parts of the country. However, the latest data on average weekly hours indicates we may be facing a longer term issue that has not generally been anticipated.

    In a normal recession we see both a loss of jobs and a reduction in hours for those who managed to keep their jobs. The shortening of hours is a better way for employers to deal with reduced demand for labor, since it keeps workers attached to their jobs. (This is the argument for worksharing as an alternative to unemployment.) However, in this recession we are actually seeing some lengthening of the average workweek, not the usual shortening.

    The chart below compares the change in the average workweek from 2007 to 2009 and from 2019 to 2020. For 2020, I have used the most recent two months’ data (September and October) to just take the period where the economy was operating at a level somewhat close to normal.

    [ https://cepr.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Book2_6679_image001.png ]

    As can be seen, we see a very different picture in the pattern of work hours between the two recessions. The average workweek for all employees fell by 1.5 percent in the Great Recession. By contrast, it increased by 1.2 percent from 2019 to September and October of this year. Some of this was undoubtedly due to composition effects. In the Great Recession, like most recessions, construction and manufacturing were the hardest hit sectors. These sectors have longer average hours than most, so job loss in these sectors will automatically reduce the length of the average workweek.

    To control for this, I have compared the change in average hours in the two recessions for production and non-supervisory workers in several major sectors. *

    * https://cepr.net/more-thought-on-the-post-pandemic-economy/

  3. ltr

    November 28, 2020



    Cases   ( 13,610,357)
    Deaths   ( 272,254)


    Cases   ( 9,390,791)
    Deaths   ( 136,705)


    Cases   ( 2,208,699)
    Deaths   ( 52,127)


    Cases   ( 1,605,172)
    Deaths   ( 58,030)


    Cases   ( 1,090,675)
    Deaths   ( 104,873)


    Cases   ( 1,041,970)
    Deaths   ( 16,377)


    Cases   ( 364,810)
    Deaths   ( 11,976)


    Cases   ( 86,501)
    Deaths   ( 4,634)

  4. ltr

    November 28, 2020

    Coronavirus   (Deaths per million)

    UK   ( 853)
    US   ( 821)
    Mexico   ( 810)
    France   ( 798)

    Canada   ( 316)
    Germany   ( 195)
    India   ( 99)
    China   ( 3)

    Notice the ratios of deaths to coronavirus cases are 9.6%, 3.6% and 2.4% for Mexico, the United Kingdom and France respectively.

  5. ltr


    November 29, 2020

    Chinese mainland reports 11 new COVID-19 cases

    The Chinese mainland on Saturday registered 11 new COVID-19 cases, all from overseas, announced the National Health Commission on Sunday.

    A total of 10 new asymptomatic COVID-19 cases were recorded, while 279 asymptomatic patients remain under medical observation. No COVID-19-related deaths were reported on Saturday, and 16 patients were discharged from hospitals.

    As of Saturday, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 86,512, with 4,634 fatalities.

    Chinese mainland new imported cases


    Chinese mainland new asymptomatic cases


    [ There has been no coronavirus death on the Chinese mainland since the beginning of May.  Since the beginning of June there have been 7 limited community clusters of infections, each of which was an immediate focus of mass testing, contact tracing and quarantine, with each outbreak having been contained.  Symptomatic and asymptomatic cases are all contact traced and quarantined.

    Imported coronavirus cases are caught at entry points with required testing and immediate quarantine.  Cold-chain imported food products are also checked.  The flow of imported cases to China is low, but has been persistent.

    There are now 280 active coronavirus cases in all on the Chinese mainland, 8 of which cases are classed as serious or critical. ]

  6. pgl

    Scott Gottlieb on Face the Nation was asked about the disaster known as South Dakota where deaths per capita may surpass 1000 per million. He noted the infection rate may be so high that they could actually reach herd immunity. He also predicted that this do nothing approach of theirs is not going to soften the economic blow as consumers are afraid to shop. In a few months, this state and the stupid policies of their Trumpian governor may make an interesting case study.

    1. noneconomist

      No sweat. They raised the minimum wage. According to JohnH, that trumps pandemic worries any day. Shows great Republican concern for the economy and working men and women.

    2. Ivan

      The estimate is that there are 5-8 times as many infections as there are diagnosed patients. With about 10% of people in North and South Dakota having been diagnosed already, those states are almost certainly at the point where some level of herd immunity will begin to put a brake on the pandemic. They are destined to reach herd immunity the dumb way just about the time when NY reach herd immunity the smart way (via vaccinations).

  7. JohnH

    Wow! When even the NY Times feels the need to start scolding Democrats about their lousy economic message, you know that Democrats have a big problem:

    “Let’s Talk About Higher Wages
    The nation, and the Democratic Party, desperately needs a replacement for the tired story that tax cuts drive economic growth…

    “Democratic politicians have tended to campaign on helping people left behind by economic growth, the difficulties caused by economic growth and the problems that cannot be addressed by economic growth. When Democrats do talk about encouraging economic growth, they often sound like Republicans with a few misgivings — the party of kinder, better tax cuts.

    This is not just a political problem for Democrats; it is an economic problem for the United States.”

    Sadly, it’s probably too late for the octogenarians leading the Democratic party to take this in. The warning signs have been there for years, but ignored. The most egregious example is that voters in Red states have been approving initiatives increasing minimum wages , most recently Florida, while Democrats lost badly. Instead of embracing and leveraging the issue, Democratic candidates just go into a muddle.

    But pgl thinks that this is is such a boring topic. Republicans thank Democrats for their disregard.

    1. pgl

      “But pgl thinks that this is is such a boring topic.”

      Grumpy Grandpa is an idiot. I have written a lot on the role of taxes and economic growth. But of course tax cuts for the rich to shop on Rodeo Drive is not exactly my idea of how to raise wages for American workers. But I see you have been suckered by the latest in tinkle down economics!

    2. pgl

      Me thinks JohnH has Bruce Hall disease – linking to a story that he did not read. But let’s help our new troll moron out:

      “Raising the wages of American workers ought to be the priority of economic policymakers and the measure of economic performance under the Biden administration.”

      Could someone tell our village idiot that Biden wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour? While you are at it – ask this economic know nothing how this is supposed to work:

      “The argument here is that higher wages can stoke the sputtering engine of economic growth.”

      Yea – this oped talked about Henry Ford and efficiency wages. But that is a different concept from the idea that workers have a higher marginal propensity to consume that the rich. But that is not the worst thing in this rather dumb oped – this is:

      “mainstream economists insisted that it was impossible to order up a sustainable increase in wages because compensation levels reflected the unerring judgment of market forces.”

      WTF? First of all – Jack Snow is not a labor economist. Now I have published a couple of papers in labor economist journals and I actually contended there is something called monopsony power. But the idiot who linked to this dumb oped has no clue what that concept even is. The oped tried to explain why this idea is important but do the people at the NYTimes actually think economists have never discussed monopsony power? Come on man!

      1. Moses Herzog

        @ pgl
        It seems to me you are the one misrepresenting the editorial. They are not holding up Snow as the guiding light of what to do. They are giving Snow as an example of the mainstream view~~~which strikes me as wholly accurate. The editorial never states that economists “have never discussed monopsony power”. The editorial is discussing how MOST Democrat politicians for decades have happily acquiesced to the predominant view of “the unerring judgement of market forces”. The fact that a single anonymous economist on a respected but obscure blog says “Hey everyone, I wrote a couple papers on monopsony power in the past” doesn’t really do much to refute the fact that was the predominant narrative at that time and clear to this day. It might give that economist an inflated sense of self-importance, but it doesn’t refute what the predominant narrative was—-in the economics profession or the political discussion.

        You say Biden wants a $15 minimum wage?? Actions speak louder than copying from your main intra-party competitor’s platform.

        1. Barkley Rosser

          Sorry, Moses, but this is a pile of crap. It was true to a much larger extent ptior to the mid-90s study on minimum wages by Card and Krueger (guy who killed himself) that showed that employment might actually rise with a higher minimum wage. Since then the debate has become to a large extent partisanized among economists, with most leaning GOP continuing to argue against higher min wages on the usual “this will lower employment” argument while now most Dem economists say that this may not happen and one might get a Card=Krueger outcome, especially if the increase remains within limits (ongoing debate if nationwide #15 is within or not).

          And as pgl notes even prior to Card and Krueger plenty of economists were aware that labor market outcomes did not just necessarily reflect some kind of efficient market outcome, with the concept of monopsony power with it applied specifically to labor markets dating back to Joan Robinson in 1933. Sorry, Moses, you do not know what you are talking about on this one, making yourself look almost as stupid and ignorant as JohnH here.

        2. pgl

          The concept of monopsony power in the labor market dates back to the early 1990’s. I wrote one of the papers in this regard. So when I say the NYTimes is out of touch with what economists have written, give me a little respect. And Biden’s economists are well aware that labor markets are not perfect. Now JohnH may not get this but you? Come on man.

          1. Moses Herzog

            @ pgl
            You have gotten and do get my respect as a credentialed economist, and I have done my best not to let my extreme dislike of Barkley Junior “bleed into” our interactions. No one is denying you wrote those papers (including the NYT). This is why I used to assume you were female. The melodrama always has to enter in. We’ll see when Biden has his official economic team chosen where they stand on labor markets and salaries—but for the time being, as gamblers like to say, I’ll “spot” you that one, we’ll take it as a given that Biden’s team sincerely care about that. I think the one not reciprocating respect is you, because the problem being highlighted by NYT and JohnH is not that economists on the left haven’t written or discussed this—the problem is the utter failure in communicating this, and communicating about it vehemently to the broader public. Which I have to say when you get so combative to JohnH for making a legit point that there has been a communication failure (because they couldn’t care less??) by both left leaning economists and Democrat politicians, that you can’t recognize that as pure fact, makes it that much more hard to believe that it bothers you, which at the very least on moralistic grounds, it should.

            You also are very disingenuous when you ask to be given “a little respect” and turn right around and say anyone who disagrees with you (reasonable people do) that of course they couldn’t “get” what the general argument is~~~and on that point, I could see how you and Junior would be brothers in arms. A mutual admiration society between you and Junior where anyone who disagrees doesn’t “get”something must really be a powerful injection to the ego. It also creates disconnect. Which is why when a legit criticism is made about the prevailing narrative offered by economists (YES, credentialed) failing the broader public you take it as a personal attack. It has NOTHING to do with you, or two papers you wrote for a labor journal read by 200 people. It is a COMMUNICATION problem for the Democratic party.

            But then if a person thinks convincing people to their line of argument involves always telling them “if you ever disagree with me you don’t ‘get’ it”, Gee, how would/could I argue with that?? You must be right.

          2. Barkley Rosser


            Your purple tongue is sticking out so far not only are you yourself stepping on it, but dogs are defecating all over it too.

    3. Moses Herzog

      @ JohnH
      Although I don’t always agree with how you are making your argument, as Menzie seems to have told me more than once….. you could make your argument in a more effective way, but I think at rock bottom here you have a legitimate point that I definitely sympathize with and strongly believe should be brought out more.

      This is in essence the same argument I’ve been making about Hillary 2016 running around claiming she co-authored NAFTA~~Hillary refusing to visit Michigan, Wisconsin, union labor concentrated states and many other dumb moves Democrat “leaders” make. Shutting out people like Susan Rice who presents a strong image of military strength from the Democrat perspective (I guess some people here don’t like black women who actually have a sharp mind and don’t just hang out the “I’m the poor little minority girl riding the segregated bus” marketing sign while they permanently imprison blacks on minor violations). When she wears the “right” cosmetics, projecting lighter skin tones….. and turns on the wind machine for her hair the Democrats really love Copmala Harris’s version of “diversity” though, when it’s non-threatening to their real closet hidden views. They like the Massachusetts senator whose exterior looks mirror Stepford wife of 1979 telling them she’s “Native American”. They lap that up like a 3-weeks starved dog. But no non-diplomatic sharp elbows allowed from Susan Rice, as that exhibits an independent mind capable of thinking for itself, which makes the white Democrats feel threatened and , uh, “awkward” when your skin is dark and you’re not using skin whitener enough for their “diversity”. Be sure not to mention Pelosi’shorrid “leadership” though (showing on national TV what premium boutique products she eats during an economic downturn), or some blogger/contributor from FemaleNoSpeak blog will label you a sexist every time they are losing the logic based part of the argument..

      1. pgl

        Did you like the claim that Florida’s conservative (Red State) voters went progressive on the minimum wage? Never mind Florida does have pockets of liberal voters but notice JohnH refuses to provide a source for what happened. So here goes:

        Florida Voters Approve $15 Minimum Wage | Jackson Lewis

        Under the new mandate, Florida’s minimum wage rate (currently, $8.56) will increase to $10 an hour in September 2021. The minimum wage then will increase by $1 each year until it reaches $15 an hour in 2026. The minimum wage rate applies to all public and private sector employers, regardless of size or number of employees.
        Employers must use the following hourly minimum wage schedule for non-tipped employees:
        • Through December 31, 2020 – $8.56
        • January 1, 2021 – $8.65
        • September 30, 2021 – $10.00
        • September 30, 2022 – $11.00
        • September 30, 2023 – $12.00
        • September 30, 2024 – $13.00
        • September 30, 2025 – $14.00
        • September 30, 2026 – $15.00

        It is going to take 6 years to get there? I’d love someone to plot the implications for the real minimum wage. But if President Biden has his way – the Federal minimum wage will be $15 an hour before 2026. Of course a troll like JohnH cannot be bothered to mention that.

        1. Moses Herzog

          @ pgl
          Did I like the claim that Florida’s conservative (Red State) voters went progressive on the minimum wage? I’ll tell you what I like: I like JohnH’s topics for discussion much better than Kudlow’s,, Kevin Hassett’s and “Princeton”Kopits’ topics for discussion. I like JohnH’s core arguments better than Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn silently endorsing American based Nazis while standing 6 feet to donald trump’s right. And….. I think the issues JohnH is skirting near here, make for much healthier dialogue, healthier for public policy and healthier for my personal blood pressure.

          1. pgl

            JohnH sets a higher standard than Princeton Stevie pooh? And I’m taller than a midget. It still does not mean I get to play center for my Brooklyn Nets.

        2. JohnH

          Sounds like pgl would have preferred that Florida voters reject the minimum wage increase. Yep, our favorite “progressive growth liberal,” is really a true, blue conservative.

          As for Biden’s minimum wage plan, who knows what that will look like? Lots have states have taken several years to get to $15, and I seriously doubt that anybody would dare double the minimum wage in one fell swoop.

      2. JohnH

        Sure, you can quibble with many things in the NYT editorial…but why won’t the commenters here address the core issue I raised?

        “When even the NY Times feels the need to start scolding Democrats about their lousy economic message, you know that Democrats have a big problem.”

        As I pointed out in the last thread, Pew polls in both 2016 and 2020 both showed that voters trust Republicans to manage the economy better than Democrats. Yet the octogenarians setting Democrats’ policy seem oblivious to that fundamental issue, as do most of the commenters here.

    4. pgl

      I can guarantee you that JohnH has no idea what the economics literature says about that Henry Ford experiment and efficiency wages even though Lawrence Summers co-authored this paper back in 1986:
      w2101.pdf (nber.org)
      “Economists understand well how a perfectly competitive labor market without information problems would function. Flexible wages would clear labor markets and eliminate involuntary unemployment. The wages of workers of a given productivity would be equalized and would not depend on age, race, sex or location of employment. Wage differentials for workers with the same productivity could not persist because employers would hire only the low wage workers, creating excess supply of high wage workers. Yet wage determination does not seem to work this way in practice. Involuntary unemployment is observed frequently, and it has proven extremely difficult to account for the extent of age-, race-, sex-, firm size-, and industry related wage differentials by pointing to differences in productivity or to relative disainenities in the work itself. This is not just an artifact of union activity: even in labor markets where labor is unorganized, involuntary unemployment and wage differentials appear pervasive. These realities have led to the development of efficiency wage theories along lines recently surveyed by Stiglitz (1984) and Katz (1986). These theories have in common the implication that over some range a firm can increase its profits by raising the wage it pays its workers to some level above the market-clearing one. A variety of mechanisms, turning on the role wage increases might play in eliciting effort, reducing turnover, attracting better workers, and in improving morale, have been suggested to explain why profits might be an increasing function of wages. Some such mechanism must be central to any neoclassical explanation of these facts. So long as we assume that firms maximize profits, the only way to explain why firms do not lower their wages in the face of excess supply of labor is to postulate that it would lower their profits to do so. This tautological argument in support of efficiency wage theories is not especially satisfying in several respects. First, it rests on the demonstration of wage differentials which cannot be explained by differences in ability. Since individual productivity cannot be observed directly, such an inference is inherently problematic. Second, it provides no indication of which efficiency wage theory explains the payment of supra-competitive wages and therefore gives no explanation of why firms fail to lower their wages in the face of an excess supply of labor.1 Third, as an argument by elimination, it does not provide any direct support for efficiency wage theories as opposed to some as yet unspecified alternative line of explanation for wage differentials. For all these reasons, one would like to see more direct tests of particular efficiency wage theories or, more generally, of alternative explanations for wage differentials.”

      Oh my – Summers (who JohnH attacks constantly) is telling us that the Jack Snow perfect markets theory of labor markets does not fit the real world at all.

      Efficiency wages has empirical support but notice something – this has NOTHING to do with that differential marginal propensity to consume story.

      Like I said – the people who wrote that NYTimes oped do not have a clue. But to be fair – JohnH never has a clue either.

    5. 2slugbaits

      JohnH When Democrats do talk about encouraging economic growth, they often sound like Republicans with a few misgivings — the party of kinder, better tax cuts.

      I’m sorry, but this line from the NYT is pure BS. Who are those Democrats that talk about tax cuts being the engine of economic growth? C’mon…name names. I don’t know about you, but when I hear Democrats talk about economic growth it’s usually connected to infrastructure spending and more money for higher education; i.e., projects that work on the productivity side of things. And when Democrats do talk about tax cuts, it’s almost always offered as a way to stimulate weak aggregate demand.

      As to the efficiency wage, let me give you a very intuitive interpretation of the efficiency wage. If a business only pays its nonskilled workers the value of their marginal product in a purely competitive labor market, then every worker would have an incentive to shirk because being fired would not carry any costs. That worker would simply walk across the street and get the same miserable wage he was getting before. But some employers would like to get a little extra effort out of their employees, so they pay a little more than the prevailing market wage. That effectively raises the cost to the worker of shirking because he won’t be able to get that same wage across the street. That slightly higher wage is called the efficiency wage. But notice that the efficiency wage only works if there are other firms that only pay the market clearing wage.

      I would expect a Biden Administration to include Jason Furman, and he has written quite a lot on monopsony powers in the labor market. Maybe the NYTs editorial board should have read some of Furman’s papers before blathering on about economists being chained to the 19th century dogma of labor economics that you might find at intellectual sewers like Heritage or Cato or Club for Growth.

      I get the impression that you’re just sore that Bernie lost the Democratic nomination. Now on a personal level I like Bernie and his wife. They’re quite charming. And Bernie is very sincere. But Bernie is no economist and quite frankly isn’t very good at getting legislation through Congress. And his executive skills leave a lot to be desired. I’m fine with “Bernie the Gadfly” but I wouldn’t take his economic plan too seriously.

      1. pgl

        Most of that oped was BS. Nice effort trying to explain efficiency wages. I provided a paper on this co-authored by Lawrence Summers but since it was written in terms of plainly stated economics, it will go WAY over JohnH’s little brain.

      2. pgl

        “But Bernie is no economist”

        Well Biden is not either. But at least Biden will listen to some very good economists. My problem with Bernie is that he ignored even progressive economists like Max Sawicky preferring to listen to that MMT chic.

    6. noneconomist

      Really, JohnH? When California approved a plan (c.2017-2018) to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2022, the wailing and gnashing of teeth by Republicans was deafening. Downfall of civilization—certainly of bidness and industry— fer shure.
      In fact the leaders in raising minimum wage have been Blue states (see West Coast states with higher than minimum wage).
      Looking at “low tax” Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming, minimum wages there are still pegged at federal minimum: $7.50. And you shouldn’t need me to tell you that real estate there is booming (see median sales of homes in metro Boise and metro Salt Lake).
      BTW, your argument for emphasis on the economy seems more rooted in short term deceit ( tell ‘em hat they want to hear) rather than in long term reality.
      Strange, since you’ve emphasized the moral (as well as political) failings) of Democrats in meeting economic challenges. Couple that with your assertion Republicans have no or little interest in the welfare of their own donor class and being interested solely in helping distressed workers put food on the table makes your arguments that much weaker.
      Not to mention illogical.

      1. Moses Herzog

        JohnH is discussing national level politics, not just what happens in state legislatures. There used to be something called “stumping”. It has to do with building up public support for things before you attempt passing the legislation. Republicans are masters of it. Pelosi is better at shopping for ice cream or stammering for words, and then talking in snobbish tones when she slobbers on herself and they ask for better articulation.

        This is why President Obama failed on mortgage cramdowns in 2008-2009. Instead of going out and stumping for mortgage cramdowns he would do TV interviews where when the topic of mortgage cramdowns for the working class of America ever came up Barack said “Uh, yeah, I guess that would be nice……. Kind of?? Well….. not really. I was joking….. sort of. No, I forgot the TBTF banks and Timmy Geithner just told me it would ruin ‘contract law’ at which point brings on the Apocalypse. Geithner tells me if we do cramdowns and ‘ruin’ ‘contract law’, it will bring on the Beast with seven heads and ten horns. I can’t stump for that. I have to go play basketball with Arne Duncan now ok??? Bye.”

        If Democrats aren’t going to be there to “swing the F’ing baseball bat” for the working man, why would a working man go out of his way to vote for them when guys like donald trump promise them the moon?? ANSWER: THEY WON’T There’ll be ANOTHER donald trump if Democrats don’t get rid of these grannies slobbering on themselves. And some of you people (I’m afraid this includes Menzie) are gonna have to learn thisthe hard way. Your choice.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Moses Herzog: I suspect I’ve been supporting Trade Adjustment Assistance, SNAP, unions, banking regulation, minimum wage as long as you have, if not longer, and in writing. Just because I don’t agree with you on the tactics (and share your assessment on who is senile) doesn’t mean we’re not supporting the working person.

          1. Moses Herzog

            @ Menzie
            That’s all a fair statement. I don’t doubt for a second all of those things you said are true, including you putting way more of your own blood sweat and tears in public service and higher education to help the working man than I have. But at this point, and based on Biden’s long tenure in “public service” I think I know pretty closely what we’re getting here. It’s a guy who is even less apt to swing the bat for the working man than Obama was~~~and by my own (yes, largely subjective) measurements that’s a “low bar” or a low standard (Obama’s failure on cramdowns etc). Should I trot out the video I’ve put up about 5 times where Biden with a straight face says he thinks Dick Cheney is “a decent man”. I’ve got a newsflash here for you that may not exactly “go viral”: Any man who will sit in front of a large audience and tell you he thinks “Dick Cheney is a decent man” is neither the man you’re looking for, or the man who will save you from the next donald trump archetype. And you can start the countdown on that archetype running for the presidency right now. They strike when they see the iron is hot.

            And let’s remember the NYT editorial that started this whole debate, I still don’t see what they wrote that was off the mark. Democrats, even if we assume they are well intentioned (a large assumption to swallow) and as eager to help the working man as McConnell is eager to bring tax breaks for the wealthy, it’s pretty hard to deny they haven’t done well in communicating what their best alternative is to “we’re going to lower your taxes”. And Democrats have had about 40 years to figure it out, with seemingly only one president who halfway figured it out (the proper messaging and coinciding action). You may have been semi-familiar with him.

          2. Moses Herzog

            @ Menzie
            I’ll add just for extra measure here, I used to ask myself “Who was the better President— Obama, or Clinton??”. You know the answer I gave myself after a decent amount of thought?? I think on personal level Obama is the better man, better human being (I don’t think Obama would screw around on his wife like it was the weekly obligation of taking out the trash). But who was the better President?? Clinton wouldn’t have gone out playing pick up basketball with Arne Duncan when he knew he could get his butt out there and stump for mortgage cramdowns~~~and if it could be done Clinton would gave gotten it DONE. There’s the difference as “Commander in Chief” between those two.

          3. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Moses Herzog: Clinton had a congress that would work with him, as opposed to Mitch McConnell who dedicated himself to saying no to every Obama measure. Remember, McConnell didn’t allow a single yes vote on the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. You think Obama stumping for Nobel Laureate Peter Diamond would’ve shifted enough sentiment among the Tea Party to move them to allow a vote? Seriously?

          4. Moses Herzog

            @ Menzie
            President Obama could have made the effort to tour different states to build up support for the mortgage cramdowns. Would President Obama have succeeded?? We’ll never know because he was just “too exceptional and distinctive” to get his butt out there and try. There was no Covid-19 back then. Was his spinal bone too old to ride on Air Force 1 and Marine 1??

            I could ask you another question, which is arguably unrelated to Obama’s biggest failure, IMO sitting on his hands on the cramdowns) but leave it an open question: If Bill Clinton, as sorry as he was in the personal morality dept., had been in the exact same situation, do you think Clinton would have stumped and toured different cities to show them he was at least making the effort and fighting for the working man on mortgage cramdowns, or gone to play basketball games with his Secretary of Education??

          5. JohnH

            Moses makes an excellent point. Obama had an opportunity to use his bully pulpit for regular teaching moments, and perhaps he might have actually convinced voters that he was fighting hard for working Americans. Heck, if he had tried hard enough, he might even have succeeded in putting enough pressure on Republicans to change the outcome…just like the great orators FDR and TR did.

            Instead, he never appeared to hear workers’ concerns. Worse, he pushed yet more corporate-friendly trade agreements with no really enforceable labor, consumer, or environmental clauses.

            Obama’s benign neglect of workers helped pave the way for Trump by convincing lots of them that they had no home in the Democratic Party.

          6. Barkley Rosser

            More ignoratnt silly nonsense from Moses.

            I and many others supported something being done on mortgage cramdowns. Unfortunately it turned out, probably yiou either did not know or have forgotten, these were extremely unpopular, even among Dems, and I am talking the public, not the politicians. Somehow lots of people who have mortgages and are paying them have little to no sympathy for those not paying them, even when the reason those not paying them is economic hardship like losing a job.

            It would have been a stupid and ridiculous waste of time for Obama to do what you claim he should have, Moron Moses. He had enough trouble barely getting the ACA through Congress as it was, without wasting his scarce political capital on a clearly hopeless effort to change public opinion on that matter.

            Both you and JohnH are seriously deluded about what certain publicity campaigns could have achieved, making both of you look totally silly, although JohnH with his support for third parties is well beyond ridiculous.

        2. JohnH

          Moses: You nailed it. IMO Obama’s refusal to use use his golden tongue and his bully pulpit to build public support was his greatest failing. But Obama would not have thought it a failing. He was always more of a Bush 41 Republican than a Democrat. And today’s Democratic elites are more like Reagan than most Democratic true believers would care to admit.

          Looking at the Democratic leadership from that perspective explains a lot, such as why DCCC sponsored candidates would prefer to lose elections rather than embrace popular minimum wage initiatives.

          1. Barkley Rosser

            The appointees to the CEA, especially Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein, are strongly for raising the minimum wage. You are simply disconnected from the facts here, JohnH.

          2. JohnH

            I’m glad that some progressives have a seat at the table. Their influence is yet TBD.

            Is their role to affect policy or just to to get the Bernie wing off Biden’s back?

          3. JohnH

            “ Joe Biden Promises Rich Donors He Won’t ‘Demonize’ The Wealthy If Elected President: “No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change,” the former vice president said at a New York fundraiser on Tuesday.”

            What does this say about Biden’s commitment to raise the minimum wage? Wouldn’t it be the donor class whose incomes would be adversely affected?

          4. noneconomist

            When voters in Idaho and Utah (where minimum wage is still $7.50) passed Medicaid expansion initiatives, who was opposed? If you said Republican legislatures in each state, congratulations, you were paying attention. Then.
            Minimum wage in Calif. is scheduled to go to $15 in 2022. When that law was passed, there were few Republicans publicly in favor because, well, it would destroy the state. What were those crazed Democrats thinking? Such a law will surely end business as we know it.
            Of course, it did not. It took a pandemic to do that. With, sorry to say, more than a few low wage workers contributing to the problem because “God, tyranny, liberty, Trump” was at stake. And, as it’s turned out, their jobs too.

    7. JohnH

      Robert Reich explained theDemocrats’ problem back in 2024… not that the the obtuse septuagenarians in charge ever noticed:

      “The midterm elections should have been about jobs and wages, and how to reform a system where nearly all the gains go to the top.

      It was an opportunity for Democrats to shine. Instead, they hid.

      Consider that in four “red” states — South Dakota, Arkansas, Alaska, and Nebraska — the same voters who sent Republicans to the Senate voted by wide margins to raise their state’s minimum wage.

      Democratic candidates in these states barely mentioned the minimum wage.”

      1. noneconomist

        Take a look in the West at states that have expanded minimum wage and those that have not. Take a look at the old Confederacy and the states that adhere only to federal standards, that have NO state minimums. Then tell me Republicans are leading he fight to put food on the tables of low income workers.
        The same could be said of those recalcitrant states that have refused to expand Medicaid. They’re many of the states who are petitioning to end the ACA. But you’re accepting the deceit involved in Republicans coming up with a swell plan while protecting those with pre-existing conditions?
        Hallucinate much, do you?
        Your main premise seems to be: Democrats need to learn to lie like Republicans to better trick voters? And that you’re simply a straight shooter, a third party guy who’s had it with Democrats refusal to see the light because they bow to a donor class?

        1. JohnH

          Say what? It’s no news at all to point out that Republicans oppose minimum wage increases. But what most commenters have fail to realize is that lots and lots of Democrats, hand-picked and funded by Pelosi’s DCCC, refuse to support increased minimum wage increase. Judging by the experience of several states that increased minimum wages by initiative while DCCC candidates lost, it appears that they preferred to lose rather than support higher minimum wages.

          1. noneconomist

            What do Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas have in common? Plenty of EV for Trump and minimum wage of $7.25. Add in Wyoming ($5.15!) and you have heavily Republican dominated states where worker concern is ,well, minimal at best.
            Numerous states in the old Confederacy don’t even have state minimums. That’s because Democrats have failed to advance them?
            What do western states (California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, Hawaii, Arizona) have in common? Higher minimum wages and plenty of EV for Biden.
            If we understand Republicans oppose minimum wage increases (as well as Medicaid expansion and a desire to dismantle Obamacare), what exactly is your point?

          2. JohnH

            No economist: what do Alaska, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Arkansas have in common?

            They are all bright red states where minimum wage initiatives passed Democrats lost. Presumably Pelosi’s DCCC selected the losers, funded them, and coached them to not embrace the popular minimum wage initiative.

            Florida, where min wage initiative passed with 60%, followed the same script.

          3. noneconomist

            So, In those “bright red states” JohnH, how much help came from Republican governors and legislatures and much can we expect in the future? Which senators will be on board to help working folks?
            Which states were not solid Trump wins, even with increasing the minimum wage? You think the rubes buying the Republican line: God,guns, saving little babies,et. al.—are potential Democrat or third party voters because they voted to increase the minimum wage? And for once help raise some standards of living?
            BTW, Trump was over 60% in two of those states and near 60 in the other two!
            How dense are you? How clueless?
            I know.Very.

      2. pgl

        “Robert Reich explained the Democrats’ problem back in 2024”.

        I guess you think Reich has invented the time machine. Try reading your own BS before hitting the post button. Damn!

        1. JohnH

          Democrats’ problem is the same as it was in 2014–min wage initiative passes; Democrats hide; Democrats lose.

          But pgl the true blue Republican is happy that Democrats lost….

          1. noneconomist

            So Democratically contolled legislatures that have passed minimum wage increases post 2014 were hiding while doing so?
            California will have a $15 minimum by 2022, Florida by 2026 and you’re pointing skyward, dropping to a knee and shouting “All glory to Florida”? While Republicans —your current heroes because of their “concern” for the economy—consider such increases economic suicide?
            And you’re upset with brain dead Democrats.
            Truly, how dense are you?

  8. ltr


    November 29, 2020

    New York Times Wants to Talk About Higher Wages, but Doesn’t Want to Talk About the Real Reasons Wages are Low
    By Dean Baker

    It’s good to see the New York Times making the case for higher wages in an editorial. * Unfortunately, they get much of the story confused.

    First off, the essence of the case is that higher wages will lead to more consumption, which will spur growth. This is true, but higher pay is not the only way to generate more demand. We also get more demand with larger budget deficits, lower interest rates, and a smaller trade deficit.

    But that is the less important problem with the piece. The bigger problem is the assertion that the failure of pay to keep pace with productivity growth over the last four decades is due to higher profits.

    “Wages are influenced by a tug of war between employers and workers, and employers have been winning. One clear piece of evidence is the yawning divergence between productivity growth and wage growth since roughly 1970. Productivity has more than doubled; wages have lagged far behind.”

    In fact, a rising profit share only explains about 10 percent of the gap between productivity growth and the median wage since 1979. The overwhelming majority of the gap is explained by rising high end wages….

    * https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/28/opinion/wages-economic-growth.html

    1. pgl

      Good to see a smart progressive economist like Dean Baker ripping this really stupid NYTimes oped. Heart in the right place I guess but their heads must be vacuous.

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