O que é este blog?

Este blog trata basicamente de ideias, se possível inteligentes, para pessoas inteligentes. Ele também se ocupa de ideias aplicadas à política, em especial à política econômica. Ele constitui uma tentativa de manter um pensamento crítico e independente sobre livros, sobre questões culturais em geral, focando numa discussão bem informada sobre temas de relações internacionais e de política externa do Brasil. Para meus livros e ensaios ver o website: www.pralmeida.org.

Mostrando postagens com marcador pobreza. Mostrar todas as postagens
Mostrando postagens com marcador pobreza. Mostrar todas as postagens

segunda-feira, 20 de março de 2017

Uma China sem pobreza em 2020? - Xuio Rios (Observatório da Politica China)

Já fui a muitos seminários oficiais em Brasília, cujo objetivo era o de acabar com a pobreza no Brasil. Ao ritmo atual, a pobreza não acabará em nosso país antes de 2075.
Os chineses prometem fazê-lo dentro de três anos.
Conseguirão?
Duvido, mas eles terão então ultrapassado o PIB per capita do Brasil, o que será uma vergonha para nós, não pela vitória chinesa, mas pelo nosso fracasso.
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

Análisis

Una China sin pobreza

17/03/2017
Xulio Ríos es director del Observatorio de la Política China.

Una China sin pobreza
China se ha planteado como gran objetivo de la agenda política para 2020 la erradicación de la pobreza en el país. Su sola inclusión entre las prioridades es de por sí un elemento a destacar y celebrar. En 1949, cuando triunfó la Revolución, su PIB equivalía al de 1890. Unos 500 millones de personas conformaban una sociedad inmensamente rural, analfabeta y pobre, con el país destrozado por una secuela de guerras, tanto civiles como de agresión. La trayectoria desde entonces a hoy no ha sido ni mucho menos rectilínea; no obstante, especialmente en la fase iniciada a partir de 1978, en este ámbito concreto, el balance es realmente portentoso.
El logro de una sociedad modestamente acomodada, objetivo de larga data planteado por el PCCh, no puede ser alcanzado plenamente en tanto persista una pobreza significativa. En los años transcurridos de reforma y apertura, la explotación de la mano de obra o la intensificación de las desigualdades daban cuenta de una China tan crecientemente rica como insoportablemente injusta. La erradicación de la pobreza no resuelve esas taras pero envía un claro mensaje de otro signo.
En más de una ocasión, buena parte de la sociedad china se ha mostrado poco comprensiva con las acciones de un gobierno que también ha gastado y gasta importantes recursos en la realización de grandes proyectos en el exterior o cuando las grandes giras de las máximas autoridades del país se riegan con promesas de inversiones millonarias a la vez que internamente es tanto lo queda por hacer. Sucumbir a ese contraste no siempre es justo aunque si comprensible cuando el país exhibe la posición 90 en términos de IDH (Índice de Desarrollo Humano).
Aún así, desde el inicio de la reforma en 1978, más de 700 millones de personas han salido de la pobreza en China. A finales de 2015, quedaban 55,75 millones de pobres según fuentes oficiales. El alivio de la pobreza mejoró la vida de 55 millones de chinos entre 2013 y 2016, años de crisis en el mundo, un número mayor que toda la población española. A día de hoy, unos 45  millones de chinos se encuentran en esta situación. Los presupuestos centrales y locales destinaron en 2016 un total de 34.330 millones de dólares a esta finalidad. Unos 8 millones de hogares recibieron micro-créditos para emprender un nuevo rumbo. El estándar actual señala que las zonas peor clasificadas serán las prioritarias.  
A nivel global, China es quien más ha contribuido durante la última década en la lucha contra la pobreza. Con más de 1.300 millones de habitantes, ha sacado de ella a más personas que cualquier otro país del mundo. Son datos incontestables.
Lo que resta es, como siempre, lo más difícil. La estrategia de reducción selectiva de la pobreza implica una gestión más al detalle de los fondos y la disposición de beneficios tangibles. Cuanto más se avance más complejo será pues se requieren actuaciones diversas en materia de infraestructuras (caminos, agua, electricidad…), educación, empleo, salud, vivienda, con proyectos sociales y de desarrollo a la par.
En paralelo a la vigilancia de la reincidencia o el combate a una corrupción especialmente repugnante cuando afecta a la gestión de estos fondos, es importante un manejo adecuado de la reubicación de ciudadanos con escasos recursos que habitan en zonas remotas y de difícil acceso. En esta estrategia, es probablemente la recolocación el aspecto más sensible habida cuenta que puede generar problemas de nuevo tipo relacionados con el desarraigo y la inadaptación.
El traslado de personas de zonas subdesarrolladas a otras desarrolladas (en 2017 se calcula que serán unos 2,43 millones los reubicados) exige un diálogo respetuoso con las comunidades afectadas. En 2016 fueron trasladadas un total de 2,49 millones de personas.
Si China, con todas las garantías exigibles, acredita la consecución de sus objetivos, no solo demostrará que no es imposible acabar con esta lacra sino que le sacará los colores a buena parte del mundo desarrollado.

segunda-feira, 19 de outubro de 2015

Angus Deaton e o estudo da pobreza (e da fuga dela) - André Azevedo Alves (Portugal)

Transcrevendo, por sugestão de um leitor deste blog:

Numa obra de difícil catalogação nos moldes ideológicos, Deaton procura explicar o extraordinário processo de fuga à miséria e pobreza generalizada que se desenvolveu ao longo dos últimos três séculos

O Prémio Sveriges Riksbank em memória de Alfred Nobel de 2015 foi atribuído a Angus Deaton, doutorado pela Universidade de Cambridge e Professor há mais de três décadas na Universidade de Princeton. Deaton começou por ser essencialmente um microeconomista centrado na análise do consumo e do rendimento que, gradualmente, alargou o seu campo de investigação a questões de maior abrangência no domínio da economia política institucional e do estudo da pobreza e do desenvolvimento.
A fundamentação do prémio destaca três contributos distintos, mas todos relacionados com a análise do consumo. O primeiro foi o seu trabalho conjunto com John Muellbauer no âmbito da estimação da procura corporizado no “Almost Ideal Demand System” apresentado na American Economic Review em 1980. O segundo foi o seu contributo para a análise da relação entre consumo e rendimento, prosseguindo linhas de investigação avançadas por economistas como Milton Friedman e Franco Modigliani e focando-se em particular na sua avaliação. O terceiro, e porventura mais saliente, foi a sua investigação sobre a pobreza, a comparação de níveis de vida e o desenvolvimento, com amplo suporte empírico em inquéritos aos agregados familiares.
O trabalho de Angus Deaton com vista ao aperfeiçoamento das comparações de níveis de vida tem-se revelado especialmente importante para um melhor entendimento dos diferentes níveis de desenvolvimento assim como da evolução dos mesmos ao longo do tempo. Neste domínio, e em boa parte devido aos seus contributos, a compreensão das semelhanças e diferenças nos padrões de consumo de bens e serviços entre sociedades e no interior de uma mesma sociedade tem assumido uma relevância crescente tanto a nível da investigação como enquanto guia para as políticas públicas.
Muitas das principais ideias de força do trabalho de Angus Deaton ao longo das últimas décadas encontram-se reunidas de forma (relativamente) acessível no livro The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality (Princeton University Press, 2013). Nessa obra, de difícil catalogação nos moldes ideológicos tradicionais mas com numerosos contributos de grande valor, Deaton procura explicar o extraordinário processo de fuga à miséria e pobreza generalizada que se desenvolveu ao longo dos últimos três séculos. Os avanços em termos de crescimento económico e qualidade de vida foram extraordinários e sem precedente na longa história da humanidade, tendo também sido acompanhados do aparecimento de desigualdades sem precedentes entre diferentes partes do mundo.
A abordagem de Angus Deaton aplicada à análise das inovações e dos sucessos (assim como dos insucessos) civilizacionais dos últimos séculos pode ser legitimamente inserida na mesma categoria, em sentido lato, de estudos de economia política institucional com abordagem interdisciplinar desenvolvidos por autores como Mancur Olson, William Easterly ou Elinor Ostrom.
Num tópico particularmente controverso – o da ajuda internacional ao desenvolvimento – Deaton alinha em grande medida com Easterly na crítica enérgica aos efeitos prejudiciais dessa ajuda sobre o desenvolvimento institucional dos países mais pobres. Sem deixar de reconhecer os efeitos positivos de curto prazo que as transferências dos países mais ricos para os mais pobres podem ter em matérias importantes como os cuidados de saúde, Deaton alerta para os graves danos que essas transferências produzem a nível institucional. De facto, ao propiciar o desenvolvimento e perpetuação de estruturas rentistas e de governos opressivos e ineficazes, a ajuda internacional pode constituir-se como um dos principais obstáculos ao desenvolvimento. A respeito destes temas, vale também a pena ler o recente texto de Angus Deaton publicado na Review of Austrian Economics intitulado “On Tyrannical Experts and Expert Tyrants”, motivado precisamente pelo livro The Tyranny of Experts, de William Easterly.
Globalmente considerados, os contributos de Angus Deaton são um exemplo do melhor que a ciência económica contemporânea tem para oferecer, conjugando o individualismo metodológico, uma sólida base conceptual e o trabalho empírico rigoroso e devidamente sustentado.

Professor do Instituto de Estudos Políticos da Universidade Católica Portuguesa

quinta-feira, 16 de abril de 2015

Por que a America do Norte se tornou rica e a America Latina continua pobre? - uma aula virtual Paulo Roberto de Almeida

Vou dar uma aula virtual nesta sexta-feira, dia 17 de abril, as 20hs de Brasília, 19hs da costa leste dos EUA. Não sei precisamente se está aberta a todos os interessados, em todo caso reproduzo a mensagem convite que também recebi:

Quero lhe convidar para participar da nossa primeira Aula ao Vivo, que será gratuita e com muito conteúdo de qualidade.

No dia 17 de abril às 20 horas vamos realizar a nossa primeira Aula ao Vivo com o Professor Paulo Roberto de Almeida sobre Por Que a América Latina é Pobre e a América do Norte Rica?

Faça Seu Cadastro Aqui!

O professor Paulo Roberto é diplomata de carreira desde 1977, Doutor em Ciências Sociais e com pesquisas voltadas para os seguintes temas: relações internacionais, história diplomática do Brasil e desenvolvimento econômico. Eis alguns dos temas da Aula:

- Por que a humanidade foi pobre em boa parte da história?
- A América Latina sempre foi pobre nas condições sociais de vida da população?
- Como a América do Norte acumulou riqueza suficiente para desfrutar de uma vida mais confortável?
- Qual a importância dos fatores culturais, institucionais e educacionais para a pobreza da América Latina?

Venha Participar dessa Aula Tão Importante para a Compreensão da nossa Realidade.
Reserve a Sua Vaga e Participe do Sorteio!

Um grande abraço,

Prof. Cleófas Júnior - UEPB

=============
Nova chamada, recebida em 16/04/2015:

Essa será uma questão analisada na Aula ao Vivo Por Que a América Latina é Pobre e a América do Norte Rica?, junto com o diplomata e doutor Paulo Roberto de Almeida.

Apresento um trecho importante do artigo preparado pelo doutor Paulo Roberto:

“Não deveria haver muita surpresa quando se constata o fato de que a América Latina, a despeito de progressos sociais e econômicos inegáveis nas últimas décadas, permanece bastante pobre, em termos de condições sociais de vida para a maioria de seus habitantes”.


Participe desse momento de reflexão tão importante sobre a nossa história!

Compartilhe com seus amigos a nossa Aula através desse link http://livresdamediocridade.leadlovers.com


Um grande abraço,

Cleófas Júnior


quarta-feira, 25 de março de 2015

Como NAO se tornar capitalista, e continuar pobre - Salmaan A. Khan (Mises)

Max Weber não faria uma análise melhor sobre a ética islâmica e o não desenvolvimento do capitalismo nos países em que a lei vai contra os negócios e a prosperida.
Aliás, já surgiu um Max Weber islâmico?
Gostaria de conhecer.
Falando nisso, parece que tem um Lutero muçulmano, mas não sabemos exatamente quem é.
Para evitar ser morto, por apostasia, ou qualquer outra infração grave à lei religiosa, ele se esconde sob um pseudônimo: Bahis Sed, e seu livro e "The Quran Speaks", ou O Corão Fala.
Quis comprar, mas ainda está muito caro: 36 dólares em sebo (no Abebooks). Vou buscar em biblioteca...
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

Middle Eastern Barriers to an Agile Marketplace
 Salmaan A. Khan
Mises Daily, MARCH 25, 2015

According to economic historian Timur Kuran, “Around roughly the tenth century, the Middle East was an economically advanced region of the world, as measured by standard of living, technology, agricultural productivity, literacy or institutional creativity. Only China might have been more developed.” Today, however, the Middle East is a victim of historical legal impediments that increase time preference among consumers and investors, and which are fraught with failures to restructure Islamic legal code to fit for the numerous changes in the nature of commerce.

Corporate Governance
One of the most critical impediments to Islamic economies has historically been partnership laws. While Europe was building up large corporate enterprises that had hundreds, even thousands of shareholders, businesses in the Islamic world had limited partnerships to no more than six people. The rationale behind this is based on Islamic contract law, whereby if one of the business partners dies, the partner must liquidate the assets of the deceased, and give them to the heirs. However, this did not imply the business must be abolished with the death of a partner, but the added complication — compounded with skewed egalitarian Sharia inheritance laws which stated that two-thirds of any estate are to be distributed amongst relatives, both male and female — made it difficult for companies to achieve economies of scale due to a lack of longevity, specialization, and predictability within companies under Islamic regimes.

Furthermore, families in many areas have tended to be quite large due to the practice of polygamy, so due to many heirs being recipients of the inherited wealth, the business would often just dissolve. As Kuran notes, “Middle Eastern entrepreneurs minimized the risk of premature termination by keeping their partnerships small and ephemeral.” The consequence for Islamic economies has been a long-term game of catch-up once the Industrial Revolution commenced in Europe.

The Legacy of the Waqfs
Some scholars conclude that cultural and religious fatalism has contributed to the inadequacy of Middle Eastern economies, as the idea that "everything is in God’s” hands allows idleness to triumph. But, there is more empirical proof that the underdevelopment of the Middle East today has been heavily affected by the Ottoman Empire’s bureaucratization of special endowments called waqfs.

There were two kinds of waqfs depending on its waqfiyya, or deed, whereby the waqf’s founder would decide what its primary function would be. Either they were charitable waqfs, or family waqfs. Charitable waqfs were established for a social function — for operating a religious center and eventually expanding to take care of the poor, providing health services, schools, libraries, and the overall provision of public goods. Family waqfs, on the other hand, were used to establish property rights for families in need of a safe haven to stash their savings away from the confiscation by the sultan.

Due to the sanctity that waqfs were given, they were theoretically tax exempt. However, according to Murat Cizacka, “Given the authoritarian governments in power, the rulers could expropriate the private property for the sake of the ummah.”

Furthermore, when complications erupted in the case of family waqfs (since charitable waqfs operated under the public radar and its utilization of resources were transparent), they ran into more controversial problems that could not be as easily resolved in court. Moreover, the endowment deeds often were destroyed or damaged by war. Over time, these issues led to more and more expropriation and regulation by the Ottoman government. Meanwhile, Europe was providing similar services through a thriving profit-bearing corporate sector, as well as adopting double-entry bookkeeping and joint-stock companies. According to Kuran, "Westerners had access to commercial banks that could channel capital mobilized from the masses into large-scale productive ventures.”

Essentially, the catalyst of the waqfs’ stagnation was their very strict adherence to religious code. Competition for waqfs from other institutions was not allowed by Sharia Law. Through the legal system, by regulation of the ulama, waqfs attained a monopoly on the provision of public goods, including even the use of school textbooks.

Thus, a correlation can be drawn between the decentralized period of waqfs, in which Islamic countries were at the peak of international trade and prosperity, and the era of centralized control by the Ottoman state which led to a lagging and underdeveloped Middle East economy. As Kuran states, “the waqf was economically inefficient because of its perpetuity, inflexibility, lack of self-governance and absence of separate legal personality.” While once characterized by decentralized and more flexible institutions which brought greater economic prosperity, Middle Eastern economies today look quite different.

In the same way that the Russian people were the victims of totalitarian Russian regimes of the past, the people of the Middle East are today victims of brutal extractive regimes whose main enemies have commonly been their own people. And unfortunately, these regimes can still rely upon restrictive institutions of old to control the marketplace and enrich themselves.

terça-feira, 17 de fevereiro de 2015

Quer acabar com a pobreza? Educacao, emprego e casamento - Brookings

Sem educação, sem qualificação para o mercado de trabalho (e portanto sem emprego),  filhos de mãe solteira, ou famílias fragmentadas são as receitas inversas para a perpetuação (intergeracional) da pobreza. Simples assim.
Ou se pretende manter um exército de assistidos por mais de uma geração, como já está ocorrendo no Brasil, em que jovens que já estavam no Bolsa Família começam a ter filhos também dependentes da assistência pública.
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

Challenges Facing Low-Income Individuals and Families
Thanks for inviting me to testify on the important topic of challenges facing low-income families. It is an honor to testify before the Human Resources Subcommittee. I applaud your purposes and hope that I can help the Subcommittee members understand our current circumstances regarding work, benefits, and poverty by single mothers a little better.
For well over a decade, my Brookings colleague Isabel Sawhill, a Democrat and former member of the Clinton administration, and I have been analyzing data and writing about the factors that influence both poverty rates and economic mobility.[i] We long ago concluded that education, work, and marriage are major keys to reducing poverty and increasing economic opportunity. We also emphasize the role of personal responsibility in all three of these vital components of building a path to the American Dream. But government programs to help low-income American parents escape poverty and build opportunity for themselves and their children are also important.
In today’s hearing, the Subcommittee is taking testimony about marriage and work, two of these three keys to reducing poverty and increasing opportunity. Brad Wilcox from the University of Virginia will discuss the decline of married-couple families, the explosion of births outside marriage, and the consequent increase in the number of the nation’s children being reared by single (and often never-married) mothers. The increase in the proportion of children in female-headed families contributes to substantial increases in poverty by virtue of the fact that poverty rates in female-headed families are four to five times as great as poverty rates in married-couple families.[ii] If the share of the nation’s children in female-headed families continues to increase as it has been doing for four decades, policies to reduce poverty will be fighting an uphill battle because the rising rates of single-parent families will exert strong upward pressure on the poverty rate.[iii] But perhaps of even greater consequence, children reared in single-parent families are more likely to drop out of school, more likely to be arrested, less likely to go to college, more likely to be involved in a nonmarital birth, and more likely to be idle (not in school, not employed) than children from married-couple families.[iv] In this way, a disproportionate number of children from single-parent families carry poverty into the next generation and thereby minimize intergenerational mobility.
So far public and nongovernmental programs have not been able to reverse falling marriage rates or rising nonmarital birth rates, but there is a lot we have done and can do to increase work rates, especially the work rates of low-income mothers. The goal of my testimony today is to explain the government policies that have been adopted in recent decades to increase work rates and subsidize earnings, which in turn have led to substantial declines in poverty.
I make two points and a small number of recommendations. The first point is that the employment of low-income single mothers has increased over the two decades, in large part because of work requirements in federal programs, especially Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The recessions of 2001 and 2007-2009 caused the employment rate of single mothers to fall (as well as nearly every other demographic group), but after both recessions work rates began to rise again.
The second point is that the work-based safety net is an effective way to boost the income of working families with children that would be poor without the work supports. In my view, this combination of work requirements and work supports is the most successful approach the nation has yet developed to fight poverty in single-parent families with children. Here’s the essence of the policy approach: first, encourage or cajole single mothers to work by establishing work requirements in federal welfare programs; second, subsidize the earnings of low-income workers, both to increase their work incentive and to help them escape poverty. The primary work-based safety-net programs are the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Additional Child Tax Credit, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), child care, and Medicaid.


[i] Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill, Work and Marriage: The Way to End Poverty and Welfare (Washington: Brookings Institution, 2003); Haskins and Sawhill, Creating an Opportunity Society (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2009)
[ii] Ron Haskins, “The Family is Here to Stay,” Future of Children 25, no. 2 (forthcoming); Kaye Hymowitz, Jason S. Carroll, W. Bradford Wilcox, and Kelleen Kaye, Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America (Charlottesville, VA: The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and The Relate Institute, 2013). For an explanation of the central role of family structure in the continuing black-white income gap, see Deirdra Bloome, “Racial Inequality Trends and the Intergenerational Persistence of Income and Family Structure,” American Sociological Review 79 (December 2014): 1196-1225.
[iii] Maria Cancian and Ron Haskins, “Changes in Family Composition: Implications for Income, Poverty, and Public Policy,” ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 654 (2014): 31-47.
[iv] Sara McLanahan, Laura Tach, and Daniel Schneider, “The Causal Effect of Father Absence,” Annual Review of Sociology 29 (2013): 399-427.

domingo, 25 de janeiro de 2015

Sobre a pobreza e a desigualdade - Joao Luiz Mauad


Sobre Pobreza e Desigualdade
25 Jan 2015 04:49 AM

Todo ano é a mesma ladainha.  Às vésperas do Fórum Econômico de Davos, a ONG Oxfam joga na mídia os seus famosos estudos “provando” que a desigualdade de riqueza tem aumentado no mundo e requerendo ações imediatas para frear esse descalabro.  Foi assim no ano passado e não é diferente este ano.  O Globo, em 19/01, por exemplo, reverbera um comunicado da diretora executiva da Oxfam, Winnie Byanyima, no qual se lê que “A escala da desigualdade global está simplesmente excessiva. A diferença entre os ricos e os demais está aumentando em velocidade muito rápida”. Segundo a mesma ONG, a crescente desigualdade estaria restringindo a luta contra a pobreza global.
Queremos realmente viver em um mundo onde um por cento é dono de mais do que o resto de nós juntos? Manter os negócios como de costume para a elite não é uma opção sem custos. O fracasso em lidar com a desigualdade vai atrasar a luta contra a pobreza em décadas. Os pobres são atingidos duas vezes com a desigualdade crescente: eles recebem uma fatia menor do bolo econômico e, porque a extrema desigualdade prejudica o crescimento, há um bolo menor para ser compartilhado”, disse Winnie.
Em seu discurso “State of the Union” perante o Congresso, Mr. Obama seguiu na mesma linha.
Interessante que, no mesmo dia 19, e no mesmo jornal, ficamos sabendo que, entre 1990 e 2014, cerca de 70 milhões de latino-americanos deixaram de ser pobres e passaram a engrossar a fila de uma nova classe média, de acordo com os dados oficiais dos próprios governos desses países.  Segundo informe da CEPAL (uma organização com viés francamente de esquerda), a redução dos índices de pobreza na A.L. foi de 48,7%, em 1990, para cerca de 27%, em 2014.  Apesar disso, segundo a mesma fonte, a América Latina continua sendo o continente mais desigual do planeta.
Como se pode ver, ao contrário do que querem fazer crer os apologistas do igualitarismo, como Oxfam e Obama, pobreza e desigualdade não são duas variáveis positivamente correlacionadas.  Não há sequer comprovação de que elas sejam, de alguma maneira, correlacionadas.  A pobreza pode aumentar, enquanto a desigualdade diminui (Cuba).  A pobreza pode diminuir, enquanto a desigualdade aumenta (China) – a propósito, essa gente deveria perguntar aos chineses se eles se sentem melhor agora ou há 40 anos, quando a igualdade de renda era quase absoluta.
Mas façamos um exercício de aritmética simples. Imaginemos que a renda de João seja de $1.000 por mês e a de Pedro, $5.000.  A desigualdade de renda entre os dois é, obviamente, de $4.000. Suponhamos agora que a renda real dos dois tenha duplicado num período de três anos. Nesse caso, a diferença nominal de renda entre os dois, que era de $4.000, passou a ser de $8.000 (João = $2.000 e Pedro = $10.000).  Embora a renda real de João tenha aumentado na mesma proporção que a de Pedro, a diferença nominal entre ambos aumentou bastante.  Pergunta: a vida de João melhorou ou piorou? Façam as contas: ainda que a renda de João triplicasse e a de Pedro somente duplicasse, a disparidade absoluta de renda – e provavelmente de riqueza – aumentaria.
A simplicidade do exemplo acima não lhe tira o mérito de mostrar quão estéreis são esses relatórios cujo foco principal recai sobre o falso problema das desigualdades, seja de renda ou de riqueza.  Só quem pensa no bem estar de João olhando para os rendimentos de Pedro pode achar que não.
Ao contrário do que pensa e diz a Sra. Winnie, não há um bolo fixo, preexistente, de riquezas que, de alguma forma injusta, escorrem para os bolsos dos ricos, deixando os pobres mais pobres. Nas economias capitalistas, a riqueza é constantemente criada, multiplicada e trocada de forma voluntária.  A desigualdade, portanto, é um efeito. Sua causa é a diferença de produtividade, ou a capacidade de cada um de gerar bens e serviços de valor para os demais.
Graças a esse fenômeno, nos últimos 200 anos houve um aumento exponencial do padrão de bem-estar no mundo e, consequentemente, uma redução espetacular dos níveis de pobreza. Só para se ter uma ideia desse milagre, 85% da população mundial viviam com menos de um dólar por dia (valores de hoje), em 1820, enquanto hoje são 20%. Será que esta verdadeira revolução pode ser atribuída à distribuição de recursos dos ricos para os pobres, ou será que isso se deve ao efeito multiplicador da produtividade capitalista e ao aumento exponencial do bolo de riquezas?
Confiscar as riquezas e a renda do Bill Gates, como gostariam Obama, Winnie Byanyima e Thomas Piketty, entre outros, de fato, reduziria a desigualdade no mundo, mas é muito pouco provável que melhorasse a vida dos pobres.
Muito pelo contrário.  Em economias verdadeiramente capitalistas, onde o governo não interfere escolhendo vencedores e perdedores, a existência de milionários e, consequentemente, de desigualdade, longe de ser algo a lamentar, é altamente benéfica. Em condições de livre mercado, a riqueza pressupõe acúmulo de capital e investimentos em empreendimentos rentáveis, onde os escassos recursos disponíveis são utilizados de forma eficiente na produção de coisas necessárias e desejáveis. Num sistema desse tipo, os ricos criam um monte de valor para um monte de gente, além, é claro, de um monte de empregos.
Portanto, um eventual desaparecimento dos ricos em nada melhoraria a vida dos pobres e eles certamente veriam diminuir as suas chances de conseguir emprego e melhorar a renda.  Onde não há gente rica, não há acumulação de capital.  Sem capitais, o incremento da produtividade do trabalho é deficiente.  Como os mais pobres vivem exclusivamente do próprio trabalho, não é difícil concluir que, quanto mais capitais houver, melhor será para eles.
O resto é chororô de invejosos.

Administrador de Empresas e Diretor do Instituto Liberal
João Luiz Mauad é administrador de empresas formado pela FGV-RJ, profissional liberal (consultor de empresas) e diretor do Instituto Liberal. Escreve para vários periódicos como os jornais O Globo, Zero Hora e Gazeta do Povo.

sexta-feira, 4 de abril de 2014

Aumento de salario minimo causa mais desemprego e mais pobreza - George Reisman (Mises)

Aliás, não só o aumento, mas a própria instituição do salário mínimo exclui dezenas, centenas, milhares, centenas de milhares, talvez milhões, do mercado de trabalho, ou seja, confirmando o que diz o articulista abaixo, do Mises Institute, dos EUA.
Por outro lado, um salário mínimo nacional homogêneo, como existe no Brasil, desprezando as desigualdades regionais e os diferentes componentes de custo de vida em cada uma das regiões não é apenas excludente socialmente, é também estúpido economicamente, pois que tendo de ficar no meio termo entre SP e os confins da Amazônia, sendo inadequado para ambas as regiões, muito pouco para a primeira, muito para a segunda.
Já sabemos, por outro lado, o que ocorre com as taxas reais de desemprego, graças ao artigo de Leandro Roque, mais abaixo. O Brasil deve ser o único país do mundo em que o "desemprego" cai, ao mesmo tempo em que o seguro-desemprego aumenta. Mais uma jabuticaba.
O Brasil é repleto de irracionalidades desse tipo...
Paulo Roberto de Almeida


Mises Institute, on April 4, 2014

An Open letter to Thomas Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor
Dear Secretary Perez:

Raising the minimum wage is a formula for causing unemployment among the least-skilled members of society. The higher wages are, the higher costs of production are. The higher costs of production are, the higher prices are. The higher prices are, the smaller are the quantities of goods and services demanded and the number of workers employed in producing them. These are all propositions of elementary economics that you and the President should well know.
It is true that the wages of the workers who keep their jobs will be higher. They will enjoy the benefit of a government-created monopoly that excludes from the market the competition of those unemployed workers who are willing and able to work for less than what the monopolists receive.
The payment of the monopolists’ higher wages will come at the expense of reduced expenditures for labor and capital goods elsewhere in the economic system, which must result in more unemployment.
Those who are unemployed elsewhere and who are relatively more skilled will displace workers of lesser skill, with the ultimate result of still more unemployment among the least-skilled members of society.
The unemployment directly and indirectly caused by raising the minimum wage will require additional government welfare spending and thus higher taxes and/or greater budget deficits to finance it.
Your and the President’s policy is fundamentally anti-labor and anti-poor people. While it enriches those poor people who are given the status of government-protected monopolists, it impoverishes the rest of the economic system to a greater degree. It does this through the combination both of taking away an amount of wealth equal to the monopolists’ gains, and of causing overall production to be less by an amount corresponding to the additional unemployment it creates. The rise in prices and taxes that results from raising the minimum wage both diminishes the gains of the monopolists and serves to create new and additional poor people, while worsening the poverty of those who become unemployed.
Furthermore, the higher the minimum wage is raised, the worse are the effects on poor people. This is because, on the one hand, the resulting overall unemployment is greater, while, on the other hand, the protection a lower wage provides against competition from higher-paid workers is more and more eroded. At today’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, workers earning that wage are secure against the competition of workers able to earn $8, $9, or $10 per hour. If the minimum wage is increased, as you and the President wish, to $10.10 per hour, and the jobs that presently pay $7.25 had to pay $10.10, then workers who previously would not have considered those jobs because of their ability to earn $8, $9, or $10 per hour will now consider them; many of them will have to consider them, because they will be unemployed. The effect is to expose the workers whose skills do not exceed a level corresponding to $7.25 per hour to the competition of better educated, more-skilled workers presently able to earn wage rates ranging from just above $7.25 to just below $10.10 per hour. The further effect could be that there will simply no longer be room in the economic system for the employment of minimally educated, low-skilled people.
Of course, the minimum-wage has been increased repeatedly over the years since it was first introduced, and there has continued to be at least some significant room for the employment of such workers. What has made this possible is the long periods in which the minimum wage was not increased. Continuous inflation of the money supply and the rise in the volume of spending and thus in wage rates and prices throughout the economic system progressively reduce the extent to which the minimum wage exceeds the wage that would prevail in its absence. The minimum wages of the 1930s and 1940s — 25¢ an hour and 75¢ an hour — long ago became nullities. To reduce and ultimately eliminate the harm done by today’s minimum wage, it needs to be left unchanged.
The standard of living is not raised by arbitrary laws and decrees imposing higher wage rates, but by the rise in the productivity of labor, which increases the supply of goods relative to the supply of labor and thus reduces prices relative to wage rates, and thereby allows prices to rise by less than wages when the quantity of money and volume of spending in the economic system increase.
If raising the standard of living of the average worker is your and the President’s goal, you should abandon your efforts to raise the minimum wage. Instead, you should strive to eliminate all government policies that restrain the rise in the productivity of labor and thus in the buying power of wages.
If your goal is to raise the wages specifically of the lowest-paid workers, you should strive to eliminate everything that limits employment in the better-paid occupations, most notably the forcible imposition of union pay scales, which operate as minimum wages for skilled and semi-skilled workers. In causing unemployment higher up the economic ladder, union scales serve to artificially increase the number of workers who must compete lower down on the economic ladder, including at the very bottom, where wages are lowest. To the extent that occupations higher up could absorb more labor, competitive pressure at the bottom would be reduced and wages there could rise as a result.
Abolishing or at least greatly liberalizing licensing legislation would work in the same way. To the extent that larger numbers of low-skilled workers could work in such lines as driving cabs, giving haircuts, or selling hot dogs from push carts, the effect would also be a reduction in competitive pressure at the bottom of the economic ladder and thus higher wages there.
The principle here is that we need to look to greater economic freedom, not greater government intervention, as the path to economic improvement for everyone, especially the poor.
Sincerely yours,
George Reisman, Ph.D.

sexta-feira, 17 de janeiro de 2014

Pobreza nos Estados Unidos: numeros, apenas numeros, a partir do Censo - The Globalist

America’s 50-Year War on Poverty

Key figures on poverty in the United States, five decades after President Johnson launched his “war.”


1.The poverty rate varies dramatically by race. The poverty rate for black Americans was the highest — at 27.2% — of the four major racial groups tracked by the U.S. Census Bureau.
2.That was nearly double the official poverty rate of 15% for the nation as a whole.
3.The 10.9 million blacks in poverty accounted for almost a quarter of the 46.5 million Americans living in poverty in 2012.
4.The poverty rate for white Americans, at 9.7%, was about three times lower than for black Americans.
5.However, because white Americans constitute such a large percentage of the overall population, they constitute the largest number of Americans living in poverty — 18.9 million.
6.The poverty rate for Hispanic Americans was, at 25.6%, nearly as high as for black Americans.
7.Hispanics comprise the second-largest ethnic group in the United States, and they are also the second-largest group of Americans living in poverty — at 13.6 million.
8.Asian Americans are the smallest of the four major U.S. racial groups. In 2012, the poverty rate for this group was 11.7%.
9.This means that 1.9 million Asian Americans were living in poverty last year, or about 4% of all Americans in poverty.
10.Poverty rates also vary along regional lines. The poverty rate is highest in the South, where 16.5% of people were poor in 2012. This compares to 13.3% in the Midwest, 13.6% in the Northeast, and 15.1% in the West.
11.In 2012, 21.8% of all Americans under the age of 18 were poor, compared to 13.7% of those aged 18 to 64. The poverty rate was lowest among Americans 65 and older — at 9.1%.
12.Spending by the federal government on the major means-tested programs for low-income Americans — including Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) — amounted to $588 billion in 2012.
13.That was $82.5 billion less than the $670.5 budget for defense-related expenditures.

14. While the U.S. government has invested significant sums of money to reduce poverty or to provide the resources that keep many millions from falling into poverty, it is clear that a key weapon in the War on Poverty is job creation.
15.The poverty rate for full-time workers in 2012 was just 3%, while for part-time workers it was 16% — and for those who had no job, it was 33%.
Editor’s note: With a few exceptions, the data in this feature are from the U.S. Census Bureau. They can be found here, in Table 3. People in Poverty by Selected Characteristics: 2011 and 2012.

quinta-feira, 9 de janeiro de 2014

EUA e a guerra contra a pobreza: a pobreza ganhou - Cato Institute, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post


The War on Poverty at 50



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Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson delivered his first State of the Union address, promising an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” Looking at the wreckage since, it’s not hard to conclude that poverty won. Says Cato scholar Michael D. Tanner, “The entire concept behind how we fight poverty is wrong. The vast majority of current programs are focused on making poverty more comfortable – giving poor people more food, better shelter, health care, etc. – rather than giving people the tools that will help them escape poverty.”

OPINION

Robert Rector: How the War on Poverty Was Lost

Fifty years and $20 trillion later, LBJ's goal to help the poor become self-supporting has failed.

Jan. 7, 2014 6:36 p.m. ET

On Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson used his State of the Union address to announce an ambitious government undertaking. "This administration today, here and now," he thundered, "declares unconditional war on poverty in America."

(...)

New tactics for a renewed War on Poverty

By the Washington Post: January 9, 2014

Assessing the outcome of the War on Poverty — announced 50 years ago — has always been complicated by the hopes it initially inspired. After his election in 1964, Lyndon Johnson proclaimed that Americans were living in “the most hopeful times since Christ was born in Bethlehem.” Which raised expectations pretty high — and placed LBJ in the manger. Elsewhere in the same vein, he said, “For the first time in our history, it is possible to conquer poverty.”

The actual result — as in most complex endeavors — is mixed. Programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are woven tightly into the fabric of American life. Both are costly and need serious reform — and represent some of the most admirable, humane moral advances of the 20th century. The War on Poverty’s increase in Social Security benefits dramatically reduced poverty among the elderly, with few unintended social or behavioral consequences. Nutrition programs have fortified generations of children, while encouraging dependence on . . . food.

Other efforts, such as the expansion of Aid to Families with Dependent Children, became political shorthand for unintended social and behavioral consequences, leading a Democratic presidential candidate to promise an end to “welfare as we know it.” For decades, the federal role in improving education for low-income children was a resounding, embarrassing, scandalous failure. Some of LBJ’s ideas, such as Head Start, still seem so promising that we keep trying to get them right, even when social science finds modest results.

Political judgments on the War on Poverty are generally little more than an ideological Rorschach test. But beyond simple pronouncements of failure or success, a few things are clear: The federal government has met some human needs on a vast scale; it also does not know how to conquer poverty. The United States, at all levels of government, spent about $1 trillion on transfer programs last year, while more than 40 million people remain below the poverty line.

If you were making a judgment about the War on Poverty in, say, 1968, it would have seemed an unqualified success. A decline in the poverty rate seemed closely correlated with increasing expenditures. But progress quickly ran into economic and social obstacles that are not addressed by government payments. Advancing technology and globalization began draining the country of decent-paying, lower-skill jobs. Many American educational institutions proved incapable of imparting higher skills — or basic skills, for that matter. At the same time, social trends began undermining family structure and community health. (The tie between single-parent households and poverty is an economic, not a moral, assertion. Poor single parents naturally find it harder to hold full-time jobs and invest in the welfare of their children.)

This is a type of poverty that Johnson could not foresee: a decline in blue-collar jobs, rooted in global trends, requiring workers to gain skills that schools could not reliably impart, leaving whole communities economically depressed and isolated, while many children were deprived of economically stable and supportive two-parent families, leading to dangerously stalled social mobility and creating divisions of class that are inconsistent with the American ideal.

These problems — which reinforce and complicate each other — still require the effort and idealism of the War on Poverty. But the methods will need to be very different. Neither traditional safety-net programs nor economic growth alone is sufficient. A new (and hopefully renamed) War on Poverty would require improvements in labor markets — increasing the skills of workers and the rewards of work, and reaching many who are entirely alienated from the workforce. And it would require encouraging the norm of marriage before childbirth and catalyzing the work of community institutions (including religious nonprofits), which give people the skills and values to succeed in a free economy.

Note that a comprehensive effort would require flexibility on both sides of the ideological spectrum. For liberals, there is a difference between using social mobility as a unifying national goal and employing economic inequality as a political cudgel.

For conservatives, a preference for the work of markets and civil society can’t be used as an excuse for inaction when civil society is beleaguered and overwhelmed (in part) by powerful economic trends. Recent Republican anti-poverty initiatives have been rhetorically promising but substantively thin.

Yet given the seriousness of persistent poverty, any president, or aspiring president, must take the stage that LBJ mounted — and still dominates half a century later.

Read more from Michael Gerson’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook .

Read more about this issue: Dana Milbank: The GOP’s War on the War on Poverty Katrina vanden Heuvel: The impoverished Republican poverty agenda Robert Rector: How Obama has gutted welfare reform


EUA: o ballet da pobreza e da desigualdade - subindo ou baixando?

Poucos dias atrás postei aqui uma matéria falando exatamente o inverso: pobreza aumenta mas desigualdade recua no EUA.
Será que esses economistas não se entendem?
Por outro lado, o muito conservador Wall Street Journal informa, na segunda matéria, abaixo, que os 10% mais ricos, em sua minoria demográfica, pagam muito mais impostos, em volume, do que os 90% restantes, o que pode confirmar a desigualdade distributiva, mas não que os ricos não pagam muito imposto, ou pagam menos que os menos afortunados. 
Paulo Roberto de Almeida 

Desigualdade

EUA conseguiram reduzir pobreza, diz Casa Branca

Relatório divulgado pela Presidência aponta que o porcentual da população americana que vive na pobreza caiu de 25,8% em 1967 para 16% em 2012

O presidente americano Barack Obama
O presidente americano Barack Obama (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
A Casa Branca publicou na noite de terça-feira um relatório informando que os Estados Unidos fizeram progressos da redução de pobreza, mas que ainda têm "muito trabalho a fazer", particularmente na expansão das "oportunidades econômicas". De acordo com o levantamento oficial, o porcentual da população dos EUA que vive na pobreza caiu de 25,8% em 1967 para 16% em 2012. O documento se utiliza de uma medida que leva em conta os créditos fiscais e outros benefícios.
Ainda assim, o relatório apontou que 49,7 milhões de americanos viviam abaixo da linha da pobreza em 2012, incluindo 13,4 milhões de crianças. O relatório da Casa Branca reiterou muitas das recentes declarações do governo do presidente americano, Barack Obama, sobre as disparidades de renda, dizendo que os programas federais são necessários para ajudar as famílias.

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Além disso, o relatório da Casa Branca indicou que as taxas de pobreza podem variar de acordo com a formação educacional. O levantamento apontou que 35,8% dos americanos com idades entre 25 e 64 anos que não conseguiram concluir o ensino médio vivem na pobreza. Entre as pessoas que possuem educação universitária nessa faixa etária, 5,9% vivem na pobreza. Os dados também sinalizaram que negros, hispânicos e imigrantes estavam duas vezes mais propensos a viver na pobreza em relação aos brancos.
O relatório não detalhou novas propostas da Casa Branca para o combate à pobreza. O levantamento apenas reafirmou propostas existentes para o aumento do salário mínimo, a criação de novos programas de formação profissional para desempregados de longa duração e melhorias nas escolas. "A lição mais importante da guerra contra a pobreza é que os programas e as políticas governamentais podem tirar as pessoas da miséria", disse o comunicado da Casa Branca.
Histórico – O programa 'Guerra contra a pobreza' foi inaugurado há exatamente 50 anos, em 8 de janeiro de 1964, pelo estão presidente democrata Lyndon B. Johnson. Por causa da efeméride, a administração democrata de Obama, que luta contra os republicanos para defender seus programas sociais, não quis desperdiçar a ocasião do simbólico aniversário e publicou o relatório de 53 páginas no qual destaca o papel do governo no combate à pobreza.
Johnson anunciou uma luta para acabar com a pobreza nos EUA durante seu primeiro Discurso da União diante do Congresso, que pronunciou dois meses após ter substituído o presidente John F. Kennedy, assassinado em novembro de 1963. O plano de Johnson incluía quinze programas sociais, criados entre 1964 e 1968, que seus sucessores, tanto democratas como republicanos, consolidaram ou reformaram.
Congressistas republicanos apontaram um viés eleitoreiro na divulgação do balanço, acusando Obama de fazer campanha para os democratas – os EUA terão eleições estaduais em novembro. Já para os democratas, Obama reforçou suas iniciativas para reduzir a desigualdade, entre elas o aumento do salário mínimo e a renovação do seguro desemprego. As tentativas atuais da administração democrata para reduzir a desigualdade batem de frente com a ferrenha oposição de vários legisladores republicanos, que lutam para diminuir o gasto público.
Um dos opositores mais convictos dos programas sociais do governo Obama é o senador cubano-americano Marco Rubio, cujo nome está presente na lista de potenciais candidatos à Presidência dos EUA em 2016, pelo Partido Republicano. Rubio dará nesta quarta-feira um discurso no qual são esperadas críticas contundentes às políticas sociais iniciadas por Johnson e continuadas por seus sucessores na Casa Branca há 50 anos.
----------------
BY JAMES FREEMAN AND BRIAN CARNEY
The Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2014

As President Obama returns to his favorite political theme of class envy, the Tax Foundation reports that the top 1% of income earners pay more taxes than the bottom 90%. This helps explain the flaw in liberal measurements of income inequality: their calculations typically omit taxes paid and government benefits received. We think ensuring the ability of the poor to become wealthier should be the goal. But for those who care about income inequality, it turns out that incomes are less evenly distributed in Washington, D.C. than in any of the 50 states or even New York City.

quarta-feira, 8 de janeiro de 2014

EUA: a pobreza aumentou, mas a desigualdade diminuiu - Seria o socialismo obamico?

Parece uma coisa de socialismo real: a pobreza geral aumentou, mas a desigualdade diminuiu. Será que a postura meio pró-cubana do Obama anda influenciando as políticas econômicas?
Just kidding...
A vida é assim mesmo: complicada. Mas a gente sempre encontra uma explicação para ambos os fenômenos. Pode não satisfazer gregos e goianos -- os primeiros certamente não -- mas tudo pode ser confirmado, ou desmentido, ou contornado, pelos próximos estudos, ou pelas próximas políticas, conservadoras, provavelmente...
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

JAN. 7, 2014. 
DYNAMICS OF ECONOMIC WELL-BEING: 
POVERTY, 2009-2011. 
CENSUS BUREAU REPORTS ALMOST ONE IN THREE AMERICANS WERE POOR AT LEAST TWO MONTHS FROM 2009 TO 2011

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 31.6 percent of Americans were in poverty for at least two months from 2009 to 2011, a 4.5 percentage point increase over the prerecession period of 2005 to 2007. Poverty was a temporary state for most people; however, 3.5 percent of Americans were in poverty for the entire three-year period. The report, Dynamics of Economic Well-Being: Poverty, 2009-2011, traces a sample of U.S. residents through the Survey of Income and Program Participation — statistics are presented by various demographic and socio-economic characteristics, and statistical comparisons are made to data collected from 2005 to 2007. "When people see poverty statistics, they often think these are people who were poor during an entire period," said Ashley Edwards, a poverty analyst with the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division. "This survey allows us to investigate how individuals moved into and out of poverty during and immediately following the most recent recession, while making comparisons to the earlier three-year period immediately leading into the recession." According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the last recession spanned from December 2007 to June 2009. Poverty was a persistent condition for many; among the 37.6 million people who were poor at the start of the period — January and February 2009 — 26.4 percent remained poor throughout the next 34 months. However, many people escaped poverty: 12.6 million, or 35.4 percent, who were poor in 2009 were not in poverty in 2011. As some moved out of poverty, others moved into it. About 13.5 million people, or 5.4 percent, who were not in poverty in 2009 slipped into poverty by 2011. Other highlights from the report include:
•The percent of individuals experiencing a poverty spell lasting at least two months increased from 27.1 percent over the period of 2005 to 2007 to 31.6 percent from 2009 to 2011. Chronic poverty rates (poor all 36 months) also increased, from 3.0 percent over the prerecession period to 3.5 percent from 2009 to 2011.
•For those who were in poverty for two or more consecutive months from 2009 to 2011, the median length of a poverty spell was 6.6 months, up from 5.7 months over the period from 2005 to 2007.
•Approximately 44.0 percent of poverty spells occurring from 2009 to 2011 ended within four months, while 15.2 percent lasted more than 24 months.
•While 35.4 percent of individuals who were in poverty in 2009 managed to escape poverty in 2011, approximately half (49.5 percent) continued to have income below 150 percent of their poverty threshold.
•People 65 and older had lower annual poverty rates than children or working-age adults, but once the elderly entered poverty their median spell durations of 8.3 months were longer than both children and working-age adults.
•People in families with a female head of household had longer median poverty spell lengths than those in married-couple families (8.4 and 5.6 months, respectively).
•Hispanics were more likely than blacks to enter poverty over the course of 2009 to 2011, but also more likely than blacks to exit poverty. Hispanics also had shorter median spell durations, 6.5 months, while the median duration for blacks was 8.5 months.


Income Growth and Income Inequality: The Facts May Surprise You

Last month the Congressional Budget Office published new estimates of the distribution of federal tax burdens. CBO analysts assembled updated information on Americans’ incomes to calculate household tax burdens between 1979 and 2010. They also predicted 2013 tax burdens based on projections of income combined with a careful reading of current tax law.
Some crucial findings of the new study may come as a surprise, especially to people who believe incomes of the poor and middle class have stagnated since the turn of the century while incomes at the top have soared. The CBO’s latest numbers show the opposite is true. Since 2000 pre-tax and after-tax incomes have improved among Americans in the bottom 90% of the income distribution. Among Americans in the top 1% of the distribution, real incomes sank (see Chart 1).
To be sure, the pre- and post-tax incomes of the top 1% improved in 2010 compared with 2009 while incomes in the bottom 90% of households remained essentially flat. Thus, almost all the net income gains in 2010 went to people at the very top. 2010 was the first year of the current recovery, and a disproportionate share of income gain in the early recovery was concentrated on the well-to-do. Income reports published by the IRS suggest this trend continued in 2011 and 2012, when the most affluent taxpayers continued to enjoy big income gains. The flip side is that Americans at the top of the distribution also saw the biggest percentage losses in their incomes during the Great Recession. CBO’s new numbers show that households in the top income percentile saw their before- and after-tax incomes shrink more than one-third between 2007 and 2009. Middle-income Americans experienced pre-tax income losses of 4.5% and after-tax income losses of just 1.4%. In the bottom one-fifth of U.S. households, after-tax incomes actually edged up during the recession.
The market incomes of Americans up and down the income distribution were badly hurt by the Great Recession. (Market income consists of wages and other labor compensation, business income of the self-employed, interest, dividends, capital gains, rent payments to individuals, and private pension payments.) Many households are a long way from recovering the market income losses they suffered in the recession. As it happens, households at the top of the income distribution are among families in this situation. Even accounting for the robust pre-tax gains they enjoyed in 2010-2012, IRS data suggest the top 1% of households had lower pre-tax incomes in 2012 than they did in 2007… or in 2000.
The tax system and government transfers shelter American households from part of the market income losses they suffer in a recession. Unemployment benefits replace some of the wages lost as a result of a layoff. Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare replace part of the compensation lost by older and disabled workers when they are forced to leave the work force in a weak job market. The progressive income tax reduces households’ tax liabilities more than proportionately when Americans experience a drop in their wages or business income. The stimulus measures adopted in the Great Recession boosted the income protection provided by the government. In percentage terms, government protection against recession-fueled income losses was much more effective in 2008-2010 for low- and moderate-income families than it was for those in the top 1%.
Over longer time horizons and measured over full business cycles the latest CBO numbers confirm that the income gains of the top 1% have been considerably faster than those enjoyed by middle-income Americans. For example, between 1979 and 2010 the after-tax real incomes of the top 1% tripled. Households in the middle three-fifths of the income distribution saw their after-tax incomes grow only about 40% (see Chart 2). What the CBO statistics do not show, however, is that middle- and low-income families have failed to share in the nation’s long-term prosperity. Over the past one-, two-, and three-decade periods, both middle class and poor households have experienced noticeable gains in living standards. Their gains are slower than those experienced by middle-income families in the earlier post-war era, but the gains are well above zero.
One reason that many observers miss these income gains is that the nation’s most widely cited income statistics do not show them. A commonly used indicator of middle class income is the Census Bureau’s estimate of median household money income. Measured in constant dollars, median household income reached a peak in 1999 and fell 9% in the years thereafter. The main problem with this income measure is that it only reflects households’ before-tax cash incomes. It fails to account for changing tax burdens and the impact of income sources that do not take the form of cash. This means, for example, that tax cuts in 2001-2003 and 2008-2012 are missed in the Census statistics. Even worse, the Census Bureau measure ignores income received as in-kind benefits and health insurance coverage from employers and the government. By ignoring in-kind benefits as well as sizeable tax cuts in the recession, the Census Bureau’s money income measure seriously overstated the income losses that middle-income families suffered in the recession. Under the CBO’s most comprehensive measure of income—total after-tax and after-transfer income—the median household income fell less than 1% between 2007 and 2010. Under the Census Bureau money income definition, median household income fell almost 7% (see Chart 3).
The new CBO income statistics show the growing importance of these items. In 1980, in-kind benefits and employer and government spending on health insurance accounted for just 6% of the after-tax incomes of households in the middle one-fifth of the distribution. By 2010 these in-kind income sources represented 17% of middle class households’ after-tax income (see Chart 4). The income items missed by the Census Bureau are increasing faster than the income items included in its money income measure.
The broadest and most accurate measures of household income are published by the CBO. CBO’s newest estimates confirm the long-term trend toward greater inequality, driven mainly by turbo-charged gains in market income at the very top of the distribution. The market incomes of the top 1% are extraordinarily cyclical, however. They soar in economic expansions and plunge in recessions. Income changes since 2007 fit this pattern. What many observers miss, however, is the success of the nation’s tax and transfer systems in protecting low- and middle-income Americans against the full effects of a depressed economy. As a result of these programs, the spendable incomes of poor and middle class families have been better insulated against recession-driven losses than the incomes of Americans in the top 1%. As the CBO statistics demonstrate, incomes in the middle and at the bottom of the distribution have fared better since 2000 than incomes at the very top.
Senior Fellow, Economic Studies
The John C. and Nancy D. Whitehead Chair