Economics, Pethokoukis

The 7 most illuminating economic charts of 2012

A bronze sculpture of the New York Stock Exchange Bull is seen at the Museum of American Finance in New York October 2, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A bronze sculpture of the New York Stock Exchange Bull is seen at the Museum of American Finance in New York October 2, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

From unemployment to debt to inequality, these are my Magnificent Seven economic charts for 2012!

1. The Obama White House’s frightening debt forecast. The president’s own Office of Management and Budget produced this chart showing the long-term fiscal impact of the administration’s 2013 budget plan. When House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan showed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner this chart, Geithner responded, “We’re not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to that long-term problem. What we do know is we don’t like yours.”

 

2.  US labor force participation has collapsed, overstating the health of the job market as measured by the unemployment rate. If the labor force participation rate was at its January 2009 level, the unemployment rate would be a whopping 10.7%. Some of the drop in the LFP is due to demographic reasons, primarily the aging of the US population. But even taking that into account would give you a much higher unemployment rate than the current 7.7%. If you go by the pre-recession CBO forecast of the 2012 LFP rate, the unemployment rate would be 10.4%.

 

3. The number of Americans working as a share of the population, perhaps the broadest measure of the health of the US labor market, remains in a depression. It plunged during the Great Recession and has yet to recover.

 

4. The economy is slowly creating jobs, but the Jobs Gap isn’t closing. The US lost 9 million private sector jobs during the Great Recession. Since job growth resumed, 5 million private sector jobs have been created. But as measured by economist Michael Darda of MKM Partners, the level of private sector jobs remains 13 million below the pre-crisis trend.

Additional Image Credit: AEI (red text)

 

5. Likewise, the Growth Gap — where GDP is today versus its long-term trend line — also isn’t closing. If the recovery had been stronger, putting growth back on its traditional pace, cumulative GDP over the past five years would have been roughly $10.3 trillion higher.

 

 6. Has the US median household income really stagnated over the past 30 years, as many liberals charge? No. This is a table rather than a chart, but it is still illustrative. Economist Richard Burkhauser of Cornell University found that when you properly measure household size and factor in transfer payments and the progressive tax code, real incomes actually rose nearly 40% over the period

 

7. The overly optimistic unemployment forecast of the Obama White House. 2012 was another bad year for perhaps the most infamous economic prediction in US political history. In January 2009, Obama economic advisers Jared Bernstein and Christina Romer said unemployment — as reflected in the chart they created — would not hit 8% if Congress passed the stimulus. Not only did unemployment actually hit 10%, but it is still way above their 2012 estimate of 5.2%.

 

62 thoughts on “The 7 most illuminating economic charts of 2012

    • Here is hoping the scum that re-elected Obama will get it good and hard, and everyone else, the decent folks, will get help minimizing the damage.

      • ModerateGuy, that’s the whole irony of the Obama years. The people who blindly support him are the ones who have been suffering and will suffer even more in the next four years. Black American wealth has been wiped out during his term. Their unemployment, crime rates, drop-out rates, and birth rates have all trended the wrong way under Obama. But they love him… some worship him like a god. Hispanics… highest unemployment, collapsing birth rates, wealth decimation. They love the man! It’s ironic. A pro-business, low-tax Romney would have made the economy soar! As JFK once said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” I wish no one ill and hope that somehow Obama will moderate and become a Bill Clinton overnight, but I doubt it.

        • What you fail to realize is the suffering people in Obama’s first term is from the Bush era. We know that it takes years for measures to take policies to take effect that are implemented today. Obama took measures to stop the economic crash, and republicans have fought him every step of the way. Gridlock cause by congress cause the down grade in our credit rating, and it says so in the S&P report. They failed to pass his jobs bill act he toured the country “pass this jobs bill” Then they added tax cuts to it so the Dems wouldn’t pass it either. hen point a finger at it saying it didn’t pass. It was the added tax cuts that was a non starter.
          You have bought into the lies and bull crap from the far right, and call your self moderate? I call bull sh*t on your name. You do not have the facts, and are promoting lies. Republicans have fought Obama’s every effort to create jobs and then claim he had no plan. And that was a bold face lie, because he toured the country pushing his plan, and at the election put his plan in writing.
          They continue to fight his plan even though there was a national vote in favor of his plan, rejecting the republicans plan. Republicans claim since they got re-elected they also have a mandate, but they was elected by the losing 47%. The national majority rejects it. PERDIOD. This gridlock in congress is total crap, because they won’t even pass the things they both agree on. Right now there trying to cut social secutiry when those people payed into it all there lives, and they live on a tight budget. Cutting it will only add to the bad economy, and is also a non starter. But they know dems won’t go for it, and so they focus on it instead of passing what they can agree on. They act like it has to be an all or nothing deal, instead of a 2-3 or 4 part plan, and tackle issues one at a time. They keep pushing for a bundled plan addressing everything as if 1 bill will solve all problems. Fact is they need to do it in steps and republicans refuse to do it. They are trying to create a total economic collapse so they can point a finger at Obama and say they was right. It’s all just a bunch of crap, and you are a total idiot.
          By the way, I have never in my life been a registered democrat, I was republican now turned independent.

  1. The problem is that there are too many voters who are not aware of these glaring facts which indicate the folly of the Obama-Dem policies. Because of them, we’re doomed to continue down this reckless, socialist path until the collapse comes. What happens after that? We’ll see.

      • re: ” The voters were aware, they just didn’t care”

        that doesn’t explain it either as they turned out in far higher numbers than the GOP thought they would.

        sooner or later the GOP has to reconcile the realities here.

        so far, they continue their delusional habits.

        • Free stuff. What is delusional is continuing to spend more money than you take in. Raising tax rates is not going to solve the problem. Plus contrary to what some politicians say, SS and M-Care and M-Caid are not fiscally viable in the near future if we do nothing.

          • Free stuff. What is delusional is continuing to spend more money than you take in. Raising tax rates is not going to solve the problem. Plus contrary to what some politicians say, SS and M-Care and M-Caid are not fiscally viable in the near future if we do nothing.

            the fact that the GOP voted for the free stuff PLUS they voted for MORE DOD, WAR, National Defense stuff than was generated by the tax cuts .

            The GOP had a big role in the spending and now they disavow it.

  2. Game over. It is not possible to pay off $16 trillion in debt especially when you are spending $1 trillion more then you take in every year. When you borrow money just to pay interest on your debt you are simply on a glide path to the crash. This is FDR’S legacy.
    “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money. ”
    Alexis de Tocqueville

  3. Yes, I believe that is the Stimulus, and the $410 billion budget increase for the last half of FY 2009, which is not $820 + billion for subsequent fiscal years, and maybe Helicopter Ben’s QEs 1 and 2.

  4. When I send stuff like this to my liberal friends, I get variations on “I CAN’T SEE YOU, I CAN’T HEAR YOU,” etc. Or more blaming of W and the “intransigent” Republicans in Congress. It’s like being on the Titanic with Captain O on the bridge. Chief Engineer Ben is throwing tons of money into the boilers. Where’s the lifeboat?

      • ” Game over. It is not possible to pay off $16 trillion in debt especially when you are spending $1 trillion more then you take in every year. ”

        huh? you have a debt. you owe it. Since when do we walk away from debts that we owe?

          • over time, if you get rid of the deficit, you can pay it off and that’s were we need to be headed. Future growth can help but we’ll need both taxes and growth to deal with it

            What I don’t understand if that the GOP helped to created this debt and now they say it’s too big to deal with.

            to which all I can say is WTF? why should we be listening to the GOP if they go haywire under Bush then blame Obama and refuse to take responsibility for the debt they helped create?

          • “why should we be listening to the GOP if they go haywire under Bush then blame Obama and refuse to take responsibility for the debt they helped create?”

            Why should we listen to Democrats who went all haywire under Bush and then when Obama was elected continued going haywire when Obama added more to the debt in four years than the evil Bush did in 8?

        • “” Game over. It is not possible to pay off $16 trillion in debt especially when you are spending $1 trillion more then you take in every year. ”

          huh? you have a debt. you owe it. Since when do we walk away from debts that we owe?”

          Well, we could just print more money, which would have a disastrous effect on the world economy. So ya, we can pay no matter what.

          But short of global destabilization, we will have a hard time paying off that debt, especially because, as the poster said, we are running a deficit over $1t a year.

          Our debt payments are quickly becoming one of our largest expenditures. More than NASA and more than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at their peak.

          Every dollar we have to give to creditors is a dollar we can’t spend on national defense or preventing old people from being thrown off cliffs.

  5. Well, well. The lefty commies are crashing the economy for their own take over. Just like Stalin, Obama is building up the infrastructure for future generations. Its amazing how farsighted those Kenyans are to plant a guy on our shores in the 1960s. And a muslim too! Have you seen Obama’s daughters? Now that is some serious fundamentalism going on. I wonder why George Bush was part of the liberal conspiracy? Why would a Texan greatly increase spending and cut taxes and regulations just to set up the antichrist? Maybe George is also Kenyan…but maybe not. HMMMM…they are all in this together.

  6. Ah, the best part of the article is the large bull; unfortunately, the picture is presented from the front when most of the author’s reasoning emerges elsewhere from the bull. The graphs show what happens when the economy has a near-death experience and one political party obstructs and filibusters any meaningful mainstream economic response.

    • I would help your assertion tremendously if you could support it with facts rather than tried-and-true far left talking points that, frankly, waste page space. You could try answering the following questions for starters:

      - Which charts you believe are “bull”, and why (as Philip Aaronson does below…at least he makes a case)

      - How is this crisis different than the “near-death” experience at that of the S&L financial crisis of the 1980′s; specifically the deltas in labor force participation rate and public debt as a percent of GDP

      - What specific mainstream economic responses did one political party obstruct that you believe would’ve helped in this situation?

      - Was 2 years of single-party control of Congress and the White House insufficient time to pass “meaningful mainstream economic responses”, or were the responses passed insufficient or ineffective?

  7. These graphs are meaningless rather then revealing. For example, with regard to graph #5, the trend line is fitted to the growth of the economy during the unsustainable housing bubble of the first decade of this century which led to the crash. Is Mr Pethokoukis saying that this was the ‘normal’ growth rate we should now be striving for? Growth during this period was a lie, since it was based mainly on people borrowing money they couldn’t afford to pay back. It was a huge expansion of private debt in the guise of economic growth.

    The really bad news in these graphs is that even with this huge increase in private debt and the Bush cut in taxes which simultaneously began expand the public debt, growth from 2001 to 2009 was almost nonexistent as shown in graph 4. And during the 5-10 years before that growth was largely driven by another bubble, the tech boom.

    The truth revealed by graphs 4 and 5 is that the growth rate of the American economy for many years before the crash, which was driven by debt and financial fiddles, was no better than what it has been for the last 3 years.

    • So if the decade of growth from 2000-2010 was “a lie” (I don’t disagree with this assertion, btw) because it was driven by deficit spending (both on the part of individuals and government), then how do you reconcile:

      A) The even larger deficit spending of the past 4 years with minimal economic growth
      B) That additional gov’t spending will lead to a “sustained” recover as opposed to a bubble recovery ala 2000-2009?

  8. Obama is destroying our nation, yet 50.8% of the American people voted for the Government dole over jobs and growth. The charts don’t lie, and the nation won’t survive 4 more years. Future historians will mark the day Obama took the oath of office as the start of the Decline and Fall of the United States of America. And the majority of American voters knowingly voted for it!

    • “the nation won’t survive 4 more years.”

      Yes, it will survive. The politicians will raise taxes and cut spending just enough to keep the economy’s nose above water. They won’t repair the damage. They won’t stop contributing to the damage. But they will slow the rate of new damage enough to keep limping along.

      In short politicians will do what they do best: push the crisis off to some indeterminate point in the future.

  9. People who blame Obama are idiots. They dont realize its the republicans who did the real damage. Everything that Obama did that was bad for this country was a conservative Idea that he fought against. Right now hes fighting against it hard and thats why there’s a fiscal cliff. Idiots..

    • Specifics would really help you out here. What were the “bad ideas that he fought against?” Is he still fighting against them, or did he embrace them in an attempt to be centrist? Was the stimulus a good idea, or bad idea (Republican idea or Democrat idea)? Are tax hikes/cuts good ideas or bad ideas? What is he fighting against “hard”?

    • Scotty,

      As everyone knows, the economy crashed because the housing bubble popped.

      Who’s idea was it to pressure banks into giving home loans to people that were bad credit risks? Liberals. Who threatened to sue them if they didn’t cave into their demands? Liberals. Who did it claiming that home ownership is a “right?” Liberals.

      From 2001 through 2006, the average federal deficit was $160B ($250B if you factor in war spending). Liberals called this outrageous. So what happened when they took the House and Senate? Bam!!! Annual deficits of $440B ($530B with war spending). What happened when the got the White House too? $1.6T (2009), $1.4T (2010), $1.5T (2011), $1.3T (2012).

      By the way, I wonder if the Senate will get around to passing a budget in the next four years. They didn’t seem too interested in it during the last four.

      • “As everyone knows, the economy crashed because the housing bubble popped.”

        But that is only part of the story. The real estate bubble was fueled by easy money policies at the Fed (which hasn’t seemed to have learned much) and it was accelerated by the greed of Wall Street bankers who devised ever more clever financial products tailored to make cow pies look like apple pies. And of course none of this could have happened without the handiwork of Gramm-Leach-Bliley all of whom are, ahem, Republicans.

        So find yourself a wider brush. There is plenty enough tar to cover a range of ideologues.

    • “Right now hes fighting against it hard and thats why there’s a fiscal cliff. Idiots..”

      The fiscal cliff isn’t letting sequestration happen. The fiscal cliff is failing to cut our deficits more than sequestration would.

      Obama is pushing for increased spending, no net cuts, and additional taxes to what are already taking place with Obamacare.

      Any agreement that does less to lower our deficits than sequestration, is going over the fiscal cliff.

      • Obama is pushing for increased spending, no net cuts, and additional taxes to what are already taking place with Obamacare.

        Any agreement that does less to lower our deficits than sequestration, is going over the fiscal cliff.

        do you have a link to the last proposal from the GOP that balances the budget and starts to buy down the debt with cuts only?

        remember – Obama cannot spend a penny without both the Senate and the House agreeing to a budget.

        Where is the budget proposal that balances the budget with only cuts?

  10. If the U.S. government were a household that makes $100,000.00 per year.
    - It would have a credit card balance of $680,000.00
    - It would add $52,000.00 to the balance every year.

  11. What I really like is how everyone pretends that the cluster-F*** under bush never happened. Almost all those graphs just sort of pretend that the period from Jan 2008 to Jan 2009 were just not there. Try re-drawing that 1990-2007 trend line to end in 2009. Quite a difference huh? But you would prefer to pretend in your faith based reality. Still have not learned from the last election that faith based reality is imaginary. You guys are as bad as the liberals are with their gun control fantasies.

    Then they — well for the most part YOU actually — scream because Obama was not able to fix the worst disaster in 70 years in just four years. All the while, fighting a congress whose number one priority was not fixing the disaster that they causes, but whose number one priority was to make him a one term president, and whose idea of compromise was “roll over and die bitch”.

    • “What I really like is how everyone pretends that the CF under Bush never happened”

      But don’t you understand that your position is just as ridiculous? This crisis didn’t just appear from whole cloth under Bush because he fought two wars largely off budget. The structural problem has been building for decades.

      Think of it in simple terms. A family, a business, a nation can reasonably borrow long term money for capital investments: homes, factories, interstate highways. But none of these entities can borrow long term money to pay operating expenses … at least they can’t do it for long.

      If we as a nation want to pay pensions to everyone over a certain age and give them healthcare too and extend both to the disabled and to surviving spouses that is fine. Levy taxes and pay for it. But to send grandma to the doctor and a check to grandpa and buy a new wheelchair for the paraplegic next door – and charge those to your nine-year-old’s credit card is ethically reprehensible.

      • What I don’t get is why most people don’t even seem to understand the problem. It’s not that complicated.

        1. The reality is that the fiscal crisis is entirely driven by the Big 3 entitlement programs. Whether those programs are “good” or “bad” is irrelevant; they are unaffordable with our current trajectory. This is simple math.

        2. The gap is so large that raising revenues by themselves can’t close the gap.

        3. Given #1 and #2, cuts to these programs must happen. Whether they are done in an organized way to minimize the pain involved or via a slash and burn approach when the money runs out is entirely up to the voters.

        • you might make that argument with the deficit but you’d have to include National Defense as we spend as much as National Defense as we take in – in taxes

          So the “fix” would have to zero the 3 entitlements and that’s simply not a real solution.

          and then you have the 16 trillion debt that needs to be paid down – how would you do that?

          the numbers for a cut-entitlements-only do not add up.

          • About 60% of our budget goes to SS, Medicare, and Medicaid. Just over 20% goes to defense. As percentages of what we spend, those groups seem about right. Some people might argue that entitlements be a lesser % but by how much?

            What should happen is defense, SS, Medicare, and Medicaid retain their percentage of the overall budget but the overall budget should be $1.4t less in total. That means cuts for everyone.

            Adding in some tax increases might mean only $1t needs to be cut but $400b or more in tax increases per year is going to fall on more than just the wealthy.

            And its all moot because they are not talking about cutting more than maybe $100b a year while also increasing spending by over $100b a year. Its a farce. We are screwed.

        • @Steve
          You’re right. Most people don’t understand and that seems to include majorities of politicians on both sides of the aisle.

          1. The big three entitlements are certainly major drivers. But they aren’t going to go away. We may be able to modify them and change eligibility ages but they are here to stay.

          2. Well, actually raising revenues can close the gap (you can do the math; it is doable but it isn’t pretty) though I would be the last person to suggest that approach. In fact most serious people – even a few politicians – seem to understand that entitlement reform AND new revenues will be needed to right the ship.

          3. There won’t be slash and burn – at least not anytime soon. The aging Boomers have the votes to see that doesn’t happen. If I was a Gen Y-er, I’d be p|ssed because grandma and grandpa are eating at Morton’s and I’m gonna get stuck with the bill.

          • “Well, actually raising revenues can close the gap (you can do the math; it is doable but it isn’t pretty)”

            We can’t raise $1.4t a year in taxes.

          • About 60% of our budget goes to SS, Medicare, and Medicaid. Just over 20% goes to defense. As percentages of what we spend, those groups seem about right. Some people might argue that entitlements be a lesser % but by how much?

            first off, you need to subtract out the SS/MedA because they are self-funded and not part of the budget or budget deficit. Look at this chart: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Federal_Receipts_-_FY_2007.png

            What should happen is defense, SS, Medicare, and Medicaid retain their percentage of the overall budget but the overall budget should be $1.4t less in total. That means cuts for everyone.

            for National Defense (as opposed to DOD alone), we spend about what we take in – in taxes total.

            Adding in some tax increases might mean only $1t needs to be cut but $400b or more in tax increases per year is going to fall on more than just the wealthy.

            And its all moot because they are not talking about cutting more than maybe $100b a year while also increasing spending by over $100b a year. Its a farce. We are screwed.

            we are in deep doo doo but we are not screwed unless we become irresponsible. We have significant debt but worse we have about a trillion in annual deficit – which is – if you subtract out the FICA/SS/Med A – about 45% National Defense, 45% entitlements and 10% other govt.

          • re: ” We can’t raise $1.4t a year in taxes”

            probably not but what would Clinton era rates produce?

    • Ok spending under Bush was bad so how exactly does that justify Obama’s even worse spending?

      At the height of the wars there were costing about $200b a year. Our deficits in Obama’s first term averaged around $1.4t. That is enough to fight an addition 7 Iraq AND Afghanistan wars a year.

      ” All the while, fighting a congress whose number one priority was not fixing the disaster that they causes, but whose number one priority was to make him a one term president, and whose idea of compromise was “roll over and die bitch”.”

      Every president has to deal with an opposition. But the Republicans didn’t take over the House until 2011. And you make it sound like Obama had any intention of working with the other party or compromising. If you think Obama is working for cooperation and compromise by telling people to shut up because “I won”, you need to seriously re-evaluate your moral ethos.

  12. I don’t even feel like I’m living on the same planet with Obama and his supporters. I think that republican government is well and truly dead, and if secession was a viable option somewhere, I’d be in favor of it. Unfortunately, they don’t want to go their own way and let me go mine – they want to force me to live in (and finance) their utopia.

    Seriously, I just don’t know what to do or think at this point.

    • Well, that is because you are not. The top issues for Republicans and conservatives in the election were not the same issues that Obama voters thought was important.

      Instead of an election based on performance, the economy, the debt, and handling of foreign policy, the Democrats voted based on birth control, the fight against racism, and big bird.

      Not surprising that Obama shifted the conversation but it was surprising that the media literally became a wing of his campaign.

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