What’s needed is a mandatory course on ethics and the limits of knowledge.
– By Noah Smith. Bloomberg View. https://bloom.bg/2vue79V
Economics remains one of the most popular majors for college students. Most econ students, of course, don’t go on to become professional economists; instead, they fill the ranks of the U.S.’s vast pper-middle-class of business managers and professionals.
The models they learn in their college classes inform the way they think about the world, even if they don’t end up using them for quantitative purposes after final exams are over.
– By Robert U. Ayres
For several weeks, the guys and gals at CNBC and Bloomberg News, and their guests, have been talking about the coming tax reform (cut) legislation that the Republicans finally seem to have in their grasp. Well, maybe not exactly reform, maybe not revenue-neutral, but at least tax cuts for the corporations that give them campaign money. All the cheerleaders, both in Congress and the White House, assert confidently that faster growth will pay for the cost of the tax cut, even though virtually all economists (including me) say that it won’t.
With straight faces, the salesmen for the Trump tax cut have promised a miracle: increased corporate profits, a surge of investment in CAPX, more and better jobs with higher pay, all to be paid for by accelerated economic growth. In fact, the all-white, all male finance committees of both Houses of Congress, with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Chief Economic Advisor Hassett say that the US will grow at 3% p.a. or more for the next ten years – no recessions – and that the tax cuts will actually generate a profit for the government of $300 billion in that time. Sadly (and no irony intended) this combination of goodies is a pipe dream. In the next few paragraphs I will explain why, and why Trump and the Republicans are selling snake oil to the suckers. What is surprising is how many financial professionals are buying it.
Robert Ayres and Michael Olenick, INSEAD
INSEAD WORKING PAPER
We advanced the null hypothesis that stock buybacks will have a positive impact on the market value of a business over a five-year horizon. We find that there is a negligible chance for this to be true (with a two tail heteroscedastic p=.000023).
We find that the more capital a business invests in buying its own stock, expressed as a ratio of capital invested in buybacks to current market capitalization, the less likely that company is to experience long-term growth in overall market value.
Our findings, for US firms worth more than $100 million, suggest that long-term investors, such as pension funds, should be wary of investing businesses that have engaged in significant cumulative stock repurchases (i.e. 50% or more of current market cap.)
We find that excessive buybacks in the past decades are a significant cause of secular stagnation, inasmuch as they effectively reduce corporate R&D while contributing, instead, to an asset bubble that creates no value.
From an article in Evonomics by Didier Jacobs,special advisor to the president at Oxfam America. Full text at http://evonomics.com/extreme-inequality-not-driven-merit-wealth/. Based on an interview by Sam Pizzigati, veteran labor journalist and Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow
Defenders of our deeply unequal global economic order had to put in a bit of overtime last month. They had to explain away the latest evidence — from the global charity Oxfam — on how concentrated our world’s wealth has become. A challenging task.
Back in 2010, Oxfam’s new stats show, the world’s 62 richest billionaires collectively held $1.1 trillion in wealth, far less than the $2.6 trillion that then belonged to humanity’s least affluent half.
Now the numbers have reversed. The world’s top 62 billionaires last year held $1.76 trillion in wealth, the bottom half of the world only $1.75 trillion.
Jacobs: Put simply, economists define rent as the difference between what people are paid and what they would have to be paid to do the work anyway. In other words, a rent is excess income, income that does not generate any effort. So if your farmland happens to be more fertile than surrounding farmland, you get more production out of it for the same effort, and that extra income you get is a rent. Rent-seeking entails getting hold of wealth produced by others. Lobbying government to obtain a subsidy is an example.
A Dangerous Crack in Economic Theory:
Why growth is slow and world trade is not always win-win.
As Larry Summers and many other economists have lamented (and even Donald Trump has said in several campaign speeches), it is true that the global recovery from the financial collapse of 2008 has been extraordinarily slow. Explanations vary widely. My own explanation up to now has focused on the shift from growth based on the exploitation of natural resources (especially oil and gas) to growth based on ICT technologies incubated in Silicon Valley but employing very few people. Another explanation centers on the working class reaction (in the US) to globalization and “free trade deals” favoring the export of manufacturing jobs to low wage countries.
A related explanation centers on the rise of the financial industry, along with its preference for moving money into the creation of asset bubbles rather than investment in small businesses in the “real” economy. A cousin of this explanation is that the money available for investment by the richest few is increasingly devoted to increasing the power of money in the political process. There is probably some truth in each of them.
The end of the era of increasing debt, with near zero interest rates is coming very soon. When it does, the cost of those deficits will explode, and the pressures for a major revolution in economics, capitalism and democracy, will also explode.