America’s economic growth slows to 0.7%

THE news that America’s GDP growth slowed to 0.7% on an annualised basis in the first quarter of 2017 is no real surprise, for two reasons. First, although consumer and small business confidence have soared since Donald Trump won the presidential election, most measures of actual economic activity have failed to display the same vim (see article). Second, it is often the case that growth sags in the first quarter of the year, despite recent efforts by statisticians to purge the economic data of seasonality. Since 2010, excluding today’s release, first-quarter GDP growth has averaged just 1.1%, compared with 2.5% at other times in the year. Judged against that benchmark, the latest data are only a little disappointing.

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America’s economic growth slows to 0.7%

THE news that America’s GDP growth slowed to 0.7% on an annualised basis in the first quarter of 2017 is no real surprise, for two reasons. First, although consumer and small business confidence have soared since Donald Trump won the presidential election, most measures of actual economic activity have failed to display the same vim (see article). Second, it is often the case that growth sags in the first quarter of the year, despite recent efforts by statisticians to purge the economic data of seasonality. Since 2010, excluding today’s release, first-quarter GDP growth has averaged just 1.1%, compared with 2.5% at other times in the year. Judged against that benchmark, the latest data are only a little disappointing.

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Reducing rates for “pass-through” businesses will be tough to justify

THERE are two main reasons for a country to paw around in its tax code: to create more economic growth, or to repair a structural deficit. Any politician who wishes to quietly give money to friends or kill a troublesome programme will supply one of them. He will either say “businesses need tax certainty to grow” (meaning: “certainty that they will like the tax code”), or “we don’t have the money”. So as the Trump administration releases its tax plan on April 26th, there are only two questions to ask: whether it will speed up America’s current economic recovery, and whether it will begin to fill in the country’s long-term deficits. If the early leaks from the White House are any guide, it will do neither.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House wants to reduce the top tax rate on pass-through businesses to 15%. “Pass through” means the business itself has no…Continue reading

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America has a retirement problem, not a saving problem

HOUSE Resolution 67, which Donald Trump signed last week, rolls back a rule that the Labor Department finalised late last year, which would have made it easier for cities and counties to run retirement savings plans for citizens who couldn’t get them through work. It is an odd choice for Republicans to kill plans that would encourage private, voluntary, tax-deferred saving, which they tend to approve of. But a trade group for investment funds opposes the city-run retirement plans. The Democrats on Capitol Hill, beset with other problems, are not picking a fight. 

They should. The resolution itself is nothing more than a kick in the shins for the three cities, all run by Democrats, that had considered setting up plans—New York, Philadelphia and Seattle. But it points to a larger problem, which neither party has confronted. The United States has a retirement crisis, which it is treating like a savings crisis. They are not the same thing. 

In traditional macroeconomics, all saving serves the same purpose: investment in the capital stock, or new machines to make stuff. Workers either spend from their paychecks on rent and food, or put money away in bonds, shares or savings…Continue reading

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Podcast: The robot era is dawning

As robots grow more nimble, humans look increasingly vulnerable. Are the machines poised  to take over? Also: now that Article 50 has been triggered, is Ireland’s economy set to be damaged by Brexit? And despite Japan’s workforce growing by more than two million, wage gains aren’t enough to hit an inflation target of 2%. Why is this? Philip Coggan sits in for Simon Long.

 

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