Our declining middle class – an International Monetary Fund perspective

On PBS Newshour last night, a news report on the findings by the International Monetary Fund of the declining middle class in America was discussed. Judy Woodruff interviewed the Managing Director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde. Below is a link to the interview. The IMF findings support the concerns raised by several, which indicate the US middle class has declined from 60% in the 1970s to 50% today, a precipitous drop.

She notes that a vibrant, spending middle class has been a key to the economic success of America, as the wealthy do not spend as much and the people in the lower class have less money to spend. She notes this spread creates polarization which leads to mediocre economic growth. One of the things she notes is the aging demographics and the role they play on our economy.

The U.S. population is aging, like in other economies of the world, and, as a result, the participation of active workers in the economy is declining. Now, we cannot stop the course of time, but what policies can do is encourage people who are not joining the workplace, the job market, to actually do so.

And I would point to a couple of policies. One is support given to women. And, by that, I mean maternity leave policy that would help them face the decision of, do I stay or do I go? Second, child care support, and not just child actually, but the kind of support that would help families look after a child or look after an elderly, because, with aging, we will have to support more parents or grandparents.”

She also mentioned two other policies that would aid in our economy. One is the earned income tax credit. She said there seems to be bipartisan support to do something that would help low-income wage earners. The other is an increase in the minimum wage. This would help those in service jobs at least garner more income which would go directly into spending. I like the fact she reiterated a Ted talk theme by a venture capitalist, that when people consume more, manufacturers have to make more and, as a result, have to hire more. In short, consumers create jobs.

She was also asked about today’s Brexit vote and was hopeful the British citizens would vote to remain in the European Union. Since she has been in her position, I have found her to be a voice of reason about our world’s economy and someone who we should listen to. Her comments above are no exception.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/gloomy-imf-report-on-u-s-economy-cites-dwindling-middle-class-growing-income-equality/

 

The candidate scared of a woman with microphone

I find it amusing that a man running for President, who is touting how tough he will be with our enemies, is running scared. No, Donald Trump is not scared of terrorists, he is scared of Megyn Kelly of Fox News.

He has taken his sand toys out of the sand box and won’t be appearing on the next GOP Debate aired by Fox. The reason is Megyn Kelly who he feels is biased against him. She just might ask him a question he does not like as she did the last time. Or, as reported this morning, he doesn’t want his competition bringing up milestone statements from his history. His previous stances on issues like abortion or healthcare or his several bankruptcies and numerous litigations, might make him uncomfortable.

Truth be told, The Donald does not like anyone asking him questions. His candidacy is built on a foundation of attitude, platitudes and lies, so when someone asks him a legitimate question, he dodges it and then cries foul or calls him or her stupid, disabled, fat or loser. Like he did the other day with one reporter, he may even ask for an apology. Think about that for a second. Or, like he did with Chris Matthews the other evening, he may just continually not answer a specific question on his error of accusing the President of being born non-American.

Everything a voter needs to know about The Donald’s veracity as a candidate is in his history. Coupling that with his very-unpresidential discourse throughout the campaign demeaning most groups and individuals that get in his way, he does not present himself well as a candidate. Plus, he has even taken a shot at his own followers, in essence saying they are so blindly loyal, he could shoot someone and they would still vote for him. I do not care that he wraps himself in a blanket of political incorrectness, yet he has the thinnest of skins and is very litigious. Being political incorrect does not give you license to lie as evidence by a 76% untruthful record per non-partisan fact checkers.

But, back to the debate sand box. If he cannot stand up to questions from anyone, but in particular, a network female reporter who he also insulted for her earlier questions, how will he interact with leaders of other countries, both male and female? How will he react when Angela Merkel or Christine LaGarde disagree with his position? Will he make remarks about their times of the month like he did with Kelly, say how disgusting it is that they go to the bathroom like he did with Hillary Clinton or call them out on their looks like he did with Carly Fiorina.

People are going to vote for whom they see fit. But, this candidate needs to answer a lot more questions. His history and conduct warrant it.

 

Miscellaneous Friday Musings

Happy Friday everyone. If your weekend has started already, make it all you want and need it to be. Here are a few miscellaneous musings for the week that was, in no particular order.

Not that I am a Carly Fiorina fan, but I do give her credit during the GOP debate for her matter-of-fact way in which she dismissed Donald Trump’s remarks about her looks in the Rolling Stone interview. He made his situation worse with a horribly insincere and wincing retort that he thought she had a beautiful face. He missed the point entirely – a woman’s looks are less relevant than her ability to lead others. Yet, he made a similar screw-up earlier when he responded to Rand Paul’s criticism of Trump’s childish comments, by again commenting off-hand about Paul’s looks.

Beyond the childish remarks and labeling, what will eventually bring Trump crashing down is his history of trying to screw people over and his inability to explain a detailed answer to any questions. The only truth that Trump knows is he exploits others for gain and when they no longer are of service, casts them aside and leaves the problems for someone else. By the way, most companies do not file for bankruptcy and they especially do not do it four times. He also uses his bravado to mask a lack of awareness of issues and resolutions. “I will be an unbelievable President on this issue.” OK, show us.

The refugee crisis is a mess and all countries need to lend a hand. Some countries are choosing to close up shop. These folks are in need, but there are so many that the burden of help and eventually welcoming to their new homes has to be spread around. There are some Middle East counties that have exhausted all resources to help, even with financial support. There are others who could pick up some slack. But, the reasons they are leaving have to be dealt with and that is hard. I am hopeful that productive discussions can emerge from the larger powers to determine some path forward as it is a conundrum, yet it cannot continue.

Pope Francis, the most respected leader on the planet today, is coming to America. He brings his important and on-point message that we must focus on our global poverty and climate change problems. He correctly notes the latter affects everyone, but especially the poor who tend to live in areas that are more susceptible to environmental concerns. I wrote a post recently about all the issues being related. These two issues are exacerbated by global corruption in leadership, even in America, and the maltreatment and undervaluing of women. We must treat women better for their own sake, but also for the sake of commerce, innovation and leadership.

I mention this last point in that it is not unusual to find women in important roles in the world. Angela Merkel, the prime minister of Germany is one of the strongest and most respected leaders on the planet. Christine LaGarde is the managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Janet Yellin is the Chairperson of the US Federal Reserve. Park Geun-hye is the current president of South Korea. And, the US has had many notable female Secretaries of State such as Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton. It also took a bipartisan group of female senators to end a government shutdown led by Ted Cruz in 2013, who threatens to do it again. Note to Cruz, give it a rest.

I hope we listen more to this Pope and the voices of women in leadership positions. We have many issues in the world, yet we need to talk about them more in a reasonable way. We men tend to compete more in the game of politics, meaning I must win and you must lose. Yet, in that kind of game, we all end up losing. Watching this debate the other night was evidence of that as the real problems of America and the planet were not discussed much at all. And, that is a problem for us all.

A Path Appears – Women and Children need our help

Our friend Debra (see link below) has written a review of the much-needed book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn called “Half the Sky.” This is one of the toughest reads you will ever take on as it discusses how women are maltreated around the globe. In addition to how awful it is to the women and children who are subject to this maltreatment including rape, sex slavery, genital mutilation, fistula due to births before the body is able, and domestic violence, it discusses the economic detriment to those communities. The book is based on the Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky, so if you treat them poorly, you are devaluing your economy, competing with one arm tied behind your back in a world that will leave you behind.

https://debrabooks.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/who-cares-about-poor-women/

Kristof and WuDunn have followed up their first book with one called “A Path Appears,” which expands on these issues, but discusses how we can make a difference. We can find a path forward to help women, children and communities in need and how it will do the giver as much good as the receiver. Attached is a New York Times review which provides a review and summary of the book. I have yet to read this book, but have seen the two authors interviewed on PBS Newshour as they discuss how each of us can play a role in helping others.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/books/review/a-path-appears-by-nicholas-kristof-and-sheryl-wudunn.html?_r=0

An additional book worth reading on this subject is penned by former President Jimmy Carter called “A Call to Action.” It leverages further the work of Kristof and WuDunn, but brings the arguments home to America as well as speaking to the global problem. While we are only beginning to give notoriety to sexual abuse in the US military and on our college campuses after long ignoring the problems, while we are finally highlighting the impact and prevalence of domestic violence toward women that occurs in our society, we are still largely unaware that we have a non-inconsequential sex trafficking industry within America. We have sex slaves being brought in from other countries in addition to the women stolen from within our own communities.

I have read Carter’s book as well and find his arguments and anecdotes compelling. It is also a difficult, but must read. Carter has been one of the best ex-Presidents we have ever had. He has done more good for humanitarian causes and his voice is a powerful one and full of substance. We should heed his, Kristof and WuDunn’s messages and begin to better address the maltreatment of women.

Our world needs stronger positioning of women. We see the wonderful examples with Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, Christine LaGarde, Director of the International Monetary Fund, and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Prime Minister of Denmark, to name only a few, but need more. When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, while not the first female, she was the most widely known ambassador of the US and made a huge difference to the issue of helping women.

But, we cannot wait on more women to get in power. We all need to see the wisdom of treating women and children fairly and as we would want to be treated. We all need to see that if we devalue women, we are limiting idea creation, market opportunities and good governance in our country and communities. We all need to see that treating a human being like property is not in keeping with the overarching messages of religious texts or answering well the Christian question of WWJD? What would Jesus do? He would treat women like he would want to be treated.