My goodness, many of you are jumping on David Brooks

You’ll find a lengthy list of criticisms here, read for instance the continuing invective from the usually reasonable Ezra Klein.  Brooks for instance wrote:

…after a lag, average wages are rising sharply. Real average wages rose by 2 percent in 2006, the second fastest rise in 30 years.

This met with many screams, not the least because he did not report the median wage.  Yet the following shows up as reported in Brooks’s own NYT:

The average hourly wage for workers below management level [emphasis added] – everyone from school bus drivers to stockbrokers – rose 2.8 percent from October 2005 to October of this year [2006], after being adjusted for inflation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only a year ago, it was falling by 1.5 percent.

The author on that piece is David Leonhardt (with Jeremy Peters), who is usually accorded significant (and deserved) respect by the left-wing side of the blogosphere.  Yes there are other ways to read the data, and of course that was December, but read that piece and you will see that Brooks is not way out of line.  For instance Leonhardt and Peters report (with caveats):

For now, however, paychecks are growing fatter in nearly every corner of the economy.

A 2007 update shows higher gas prices hurting this trend in real terms; that doesn’t change the fact that labor markets have been doing better than in the recent past.

Brooks makes nine claims (or try this link), and to my eyes eight of them check out directly, based on material I am familiar with and yes I mean the original sources, not journalistic summaries of them.  (I should note it is not easy to estimate the total gains from globalization, and I wouldn’t put much weight on any particular number here; still those gains are likely very large, as Brooks suggests.) 

I am busy recording your podcast requests, and haven’t had time to check out his claim number two:

The second complicating fact is that according to the Congressional Budget Office, earnings for the poorest fifth of Americans are also on the increase. As Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution noted recently in The Washington Post, between 1991 and 2005, “the bottom fifth increased its earnings by 80 percent, compared with around 50 percent for the highest-income group and around 20 percent for each of the other three groups.”

Your opinions on this claim are, of course, welcome in the comments.  But in the meantime the economy — however imperfect — simply isn’t as bad as many bloggers are suggesting.

Comments

I've not understood why bloggers in particular seem to have a more dour of the state of the economy than most participants.

Is this a case of the three blind men and the elephant?

There is definitely a mood in the country which is reflected in a feeling of falling behind by people within certain segments.

On the other hand some people are doing quite well and act accordingly. A good place to see this is in retail. Walmart (average shopper earns about $25K) is struggling while Target (average shopper earns about $40K) just reported good growth. The market for the wealthy is doing even better with record prices being reached for things like fine art.

The problem is that pundits seem to belong to a fairly narrow socioeconomic class. In general they are employed in academia or the media and move in a circle of the intelligentsia and the successful. A few have come from modest circumstances and seem to retain their empathy for the less fortunate. Edwards appears to fall into this class.

If the stats are so unambiguous then why is it that how they are viewed tracks so closely with a person's general views on society. Liberals see a problem, conservatives don't.

If groups can't even agree on the data it seems unlikely that they can engage in fruitful discussions free of name calling and cheap shots.

Oh, come on! Really, this is really easy to explain. All one has to know is which party holds the White House. If it is a Republican, leftist bloggers will tell you economic world is coing to an end, and if it is a Democrat, rightist bloggers will tell you the same thing.

The question isn't whether the statistics Brooks cited were literally correct as stated, but whether it was intellectually dishonest of him to use the statistics in support of the conclusions he was asserting. Cf.: "In August 2005, New Orleans didn't get any rain at all in 20 of the 31 days; clearly, that was a dry month." Even if the 20/31 statistic is literally correct, it is intellectually dishonest to draw the conclusion asserted.

When I check my data base on y/y gains in real average hourly earnings I get a positive 0.6% gain for the year over year number in 2006 and a 1.8% for the December to December number -- a full percentage point under the number Brooks quotes. As of June the y/y increase is 1.2%. So it seems that both Brooks and Leonhardt are in error.

The number that Brooks uses that is really suspect is his statement that globalization raises each household's income by $10,000 a year. I'm sure he has a source for this but to my mind with median household income at $46,326 that means it boost each household income 21% or about the same as the gains over a full decade. That is just outside the realm of possibility.

What happened to the Nordhaus-inspired debate about the meaninglessness of real wages as a measure of wellbeing in view of the history of lighting?

Why are these stats still being treated seriously? If anything, recent studies have suggested that the Boskin Commission's critique of the CPI's bias was an underestimate...

Anybody want to swap the quarter century 1983-2007 just ending (with its two short, mild recessions), for the quarter century that preceded it (with 6 recessions)?

Or, any other quarter century of your choosing?

Rusty,

What if I found a POOR economist from the mid-west (someone who has a degree in economics but happens to make very little money) to say that the economy isn't so bad?

What would you say then?

Steve Miller:
I read your paper, but I have some reservations. First there has been a problem with economists doing research that should be done with the aid of sociologists. A troubled history of opinion sampling has shown how easy it is for questionnaires to go awry. Simple things like the order of questions or whether the question requires a positive or negative response to express a certain opinion can have an effect.

Also the wording can be problematic. Many people will say they are against welfare (or foreign aid) but when the question is reworded in terms of helping the poor they express an opposite sentiment.

I can't judge whether any of these factors are present in your survey, so I'm just raising a general caution. How the sample is collected and even the expectations of the experimenter have also been shown to produce unintended (or perhaps intended) results. Why do "Republican" and "Democratic" pollsters exist? Shouldn't they get the same results?

A quick glance at the intellectual landscape will show that conservative economists and liberal economists view the world differently. I'm not just talking about their ideas of what is to be done, but also their interpretation of current conditions and even their take on what policies in the past caused what results.

Did tax cuts at time X cause a growth in the economy at time Y? There is no consensus. So if the bias isn't related to their social outlook then what is it related to?

I really don't understand it. Most of the blogs I read are financial and technical and have a pretty good mix of political beliefs (libertarianism is over represented but aside from that there's a pretty even divide between left and right). There's even a pretty good spread in ages (from college kids to retirees).

The one thing I've noticed in excess is much higher than average concern about the economy both nationally and on a personal level. I'm not sure if it's due to over representation in the internet bubble or what exactly, but I've found it odd for some time. The odd thing is I haven't noticed an undue pessimism in other outlooks. Sure they're generally cynics, but it's only financially that I notice the width of the divergence.

Also, I'm sure that the more one reads the MSM, the more likely one is to think the economy sucks, simply because it sucks for the MSM. Nearly every big newspaper and many news TV shows are bleeding red ink and having big layoffs, and this can't help but color their reporting on the economy.

Delong, the walking caricature of Smug and Stuid want the editors of the NYT to call Brooks and tell him: “this was too stupid to print†, continuing to write “Helloooo? Anybody in there? If you want to talk about the middle class, you talk about medians rather than averages†

First of all let us note that according to the BLS:

“Median weekly earnings of the nation’s 106.9 million full-time wage and
salary workers were $690 in the second quarter of 2007, the Bureau of Labor
Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. This was 4.7
percent higher than a year earlier compared with a gain of 2.7 percent in
the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) over the same
period.†

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/wkyeng.nr0.htm

So much for that. 2% increase in the median weekly wage.

But just as an illustration, let’s spend 5 minutes exploring the stupidity of Brad Delong, shall we?

The average hourly or weekly wage reported by the BLS (that Brooks presumably used) already excludes the Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein that Delong is ranting about. It mainly consists of the wages of the lower and middle classes. If I remember correctly it only includes about 80% of workers and 53% of the wage sum.

As an example only one out of 20 of this type of worker earn more than 41 dollars per hour, or 80k per year for full time work.

Secondly the median is not a suitable definition of the middle class. The middle household or the median wage earner include too many teenagers, illegal migrant workers, part time students etc.

The M E D I A N income of a Married-couple family in 2005 was 66.070 dollars, or 71.000 for a two earner household. The mean for the later war 88.000

http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032006/hhinc/new01_001.htm

This is a much better representation of an the household than the census definition. Similarly the median income of full time year-round male workers is around 45.000, not quite a lot higher than the 16,50 hourly wage data indicate.

This is not to dispute that the figures could have been higher still with better policy, such as less immigration of unskilled immigrants, as Champion of American Workers Brad Delong is demanding.

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2007/06/ottoviano-peri-.html.

PS. "decline in 2000-2001" =

Decline that STARTED in 2000-2001.

“If you look at the actual data you see that all those gains occurred in the 1990s and that 2000 was the peak year. The real income of the bottom fifth has fallen every years since 2000†

First of all that is not true, the average real income of the bottom fifth went up 2004-2005 (last year reported by US census).

http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/histinc/h03ar.html

Secondly it is not strange that the incomes fell from the 2000 level. That was not a “normal† year, it was the height on an booming, probably overheated economy.

When you have steady growth combined with business cycle variations this is exactly what you will see, income below the peak (until we reach the next peak), but above what it was before the expansion.

In addition, you have three factors leading to a likely fall in incomes: unprecedented immigration of low-skilled labourers (note that this will decrease income through the composition effect alone), smaller households sizes and gas taking a 2-3% chunk out of household income. This is most likely a temporary effect, as new output gets out and people switch from oil. But it goes far to explain why income is not rising faster.

Example: When I make crude calculations of the increase of total employee compensations from q1 2004 to q1 2007 I get 2% real increase with urban wage earner CPI, but 4,7% increase for all goods except energy.

I enjoyed Bobos in Paradise.. but David Brook's op-eds are just too hard to read.. because he does plenty of deceptive quoting of statistics.. stuff that is simple to see through.

Go here to see the report on "Earnings" and "Income" for yourself.

So.. there's a little grist for everyone's mills:

Earnings are up more for lowest income households with children than for highest income households with children!!

Oh! Oh! But, Income is up less!! for the lowest income households with children versus the highest income households with children.

Wow, this is great.. everyone can sit around and argue about what's going on. While you're arguing, you can ignore that Real income decreased 10% from 2000 - 2005 for the lowest income families.

Earnings decreased about 15% from 2000 to 2005 for the lowest income families (I had to calculate this myself since I didn't see that data in the report.. I'm just guessing on the 2000 number).

I wonder if they count capital gains as earnings? or even income? The top quintile benefits from stuff like that.

Also, ignore that the report he cites even makes note that (this is a direct quote so you can search it out easily):

But even with the offsetting decline, those low-income households experienced larger percentage increases in earnings between 1991 and 2005, on average, than did households in other segments of the distribution. That increase in earnings is likely to be associated with increases in work-related expenses, such as child care and transportation costs, which are not included here.

Oh.. so they make more money.. but it's offset by transportation and childcare costs? Ah, whatever.. that's not included in the report.. that David Brooks probably did not even read.

I could care less what a bunch of bloggers are blathering about.. but really, David Brooks is just a lazy Op-Ed writer.. he just uses whatever he can to generate words for his columns.

Read the report.. I don't think it really makes it appear that things are looking up for the bottom Quintile.

I'd just like to point out that using percentages for things is yet another way to mislead. A family in the lowest sector who gets,say, a 35% increase in earnings is now making about $4-5000 more.

A person in the top sector who gets, say, only a 10% increase is now making $40-50,000 more.

This is why the degree of inequality has been increasing. A lot of a little is a little. A little of a lot is still a lot.

How about we look out how people actually live instead of uninformative percentages?

I foreigners decided to stop lending money to a country with a massive current account deficit,
a declining currency, and by far the largest foreign net indebtedness ever seen in world history,
well, interest rates will go a whole lot higher than they are now.

How can anybody opine on median wages or average wages or bottom quantile wages, etc. and not make reference to the tidal waves that have impacted family structure in the last 30-40 years? Yes wages have gone up some, but low and medium wage earners have used those resources to escape unsatisfying partners, and expected the taxpayers to cover the externalities. If you compared the incomes of nuclear families over the same period the trend line would be a lot more positive.

John,

The difference between Japan and the US is that the Japanese have a much higher savings rate and own all that debt themselves. The interest payments stay in the country. Needless to say, this is not the case for the US, where there will be a steadily rising outflow of interest payments on that debt. So far, that has not shown up too dramatically on the IBOP, which is part of why most Americans pay no attention to this matter. But the trend is all too unpleasantly clear.

I took a look at the numbers last year for the 5 previous years. There seemed to be a narrowing of the income gap. Inflation was focused on the rich, the poor saw declines in expenses.

I think 2006 was different though, I think the rich made big gains, even over the poor. And I think higher gas prices and food prices are likely to put a big dent in the budgets of the poor. Personal observation: Food costs seem have gone up a lot (though I'm not so sure about the bottom of the market, I shop in very middle to upper-middle class neighborhoods, prices stay more flat at the bottom, I believe). I think gas prices also affect the prices of the goods the poor consume. So I expect things to things to get worse for the poor, especially with the big energy and food costs to come with energy/emissions regulation/policy to come.

Energy is the one resource that is common to all goods, its costs greatly impact the poor. Prices of goods bought by the middle and uppper, I think, have more to do with supply of money/disposable income and marketing.

I would really like to see the stats for my home state, Michigan. From what I've seen, a lot of the country IS doing better. But parts of the midwest, not so much. This is just from observation, not from any kind of numbers.

Tino,

I actually decided to re-read the Brooks article and discern what he was trying to say in it.

He states the neopopulist story line as this:

"C.E.O.’s are seeing their incomes skyrocket while the middle class gets squeezed. The tides of globalization work against average Americans while most of the benefits go to the top 1 percent."

Then he states:

"This story is not entirely wrong, but it is incredibly simple-minded. To believe it, you have to suppress a whole string of complicating facts."

Okay, so that's our setup.. and then he goes down his list of complicating facts.

In the first fact, he's using average wages instead of median wages. On top of that, he discussing this great big 2% increase that was preceded by a significant decline from 2000. You would expect the data to "snap back".. I don't see how this is a "complicating fact". You may want to ignore 2000 as a statistical blip.. but the big decrease made this big increase from 2005 to 2006 more likely. Call me when we have 3 years of exceptional wage growth.

The second fact is the one I addressed earlier. It's funny that he is discussing the bottom quintile in an Op-Ed supposedly about "average Americans". In fact, the middle quintile experienced the slowest Income and Earnings growth for all groups in the study he cites. Make of that what you will.

Mainly, David Brooks is mixing "Earnings", "Income" and "Wages" all up in one big pot.

He's discussing the lowest quintile in an Op-Ed about "average Americans"..

He somehow thinks the existence of hedge fund managers who are richer than CEOs is a "complicating fact". By stating this reality, he is showing how money is concentrating into the hands of an even smaller group. Is he oblivious to this contradiction?

I'm only here to discuss whether or not David Brooks is a disingenuous doofus who cherry picks data and mixes it at will.

I don't think any of us will ever agree on what is "really" happening to the economy.. and we will certainly not get any illuminating help from David Brooks.

"the average earnings of BLS production workers really is much closer to the median earnings of a middle class guy than the median."

The second median refers to the median of the BLS production worker wage. That data already has the top fifth of workers and probably almost the top third of all income earners cut away.

Tino,

1. "...pointing out that the poor are doing better than 1990 is reasonable."

I guess in his own sloppy way.. he really meant that "It's not so true that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer." But, he should start with that statement instead of, "The tides of globalization work against average Americans while most of the benefits go to the top 1 percent." In the data he is referencing the "average American" (let the arguing begin over who that might be) appears to have seen the smallest increase in their Income and Earnings of all quintiles. (I define "average" as the middle quintile).

2. "Yes! If the stagnation of middle class income was due to short term fluctuations we would. If it were due to long term structural decline (globalisation, loss of magical invisible power structure etc.) we should not. Can’t have it both ways."

Exactly, if Mr. Brooks wants to discuss long-term structural progress, he should stick to the 10 to 16 year time scales. He can't just grab the data for real wage growth for 2006 (which coincidentally happens to be the most recent year) and act like a 2% real increase in average wages is significant. It's a single point.. there is no trend. Though, I grant that it is better than another decrease.

3. ...the lower and middle classes have been doing BETTER in income data than wage data...

I won't bother checking that.. but, I repeat, looking at the 1991-2005 data for Income, the middle quintile has seen the smallest increase among all quintiles. How does that suggest that the bulk of the rewards are not going somewhere else? By default, I would have to guess that the "bulk" of the rewards go to the rich.. that's sort of the definition of the rich.. the people who get most of the money.

I mean, if you have two people in the world. One has $1 and the other has $1000. Globalization comes along and plops $500.50 on the ground. The $1-person gets $0.5 and the $1000-person gets $500. They each saw a 50% increase in the $ they have. So.. I guess the $1 person got a proportionate share, but I'll leave it to the pedants to decide if that means the $1000-person didn't get the "bulk" of that $500.5

4. Is Mr. Brooks "disingenuous"? Well, I guess it depends on if you think he read the report ("Changes in the Economic Resources of
Low-Income Households with Children") that he cited data from.

If he did, I think that implies he is being falsely naive by ignoring the "Income" data for the lowest quintile and for ignoring that the top quintile reaped the largest total and percentage gain of all quintiles. I believe that he just grabbed the part that favorably reflected the sentiment he wished to convey. This is strange since it's not even literally in line with the statement he began with in the Op-Ed. He says he's discussing "average Americans" versus the richest outliers.. but then he starts comparing the poorest and compares them to the richest.

Oh.. here's a funny point I noticed. He states:

"the value of top U.S. companies has increased 500 percent (in last 25 years)... The compensation for the C.E.O.’s of those companies has also increased 500 percent."

Now, do you think it is coincidental that he did not associate that increase in value with the increase in wages for the employees of those companies? I don't know if this is true, but I'd guess that the wages of the employees have increased much, much less than that.

Unless the workers are making 500% more, as well, then they are not getting their "fair" share (yes, one would have to have another big argument of what is fair). Or, if you prefer, the CEOs are probably getting the bulk of the gains.

Now, I'm not referencing data.. so I won't hold that up as some fancy "gotcha".. but I bet it'd pass muster in the world of David Brooks.

5. "Once we reach a level of the business cycle comparable to 1999 (hopefully no overheated 2000-style bubble will hit us this time) you can compare middle class earnings to the 1999 level. Than you call us."

I'm not really interested in 1999. I just meant that, you need a few years in a row of good increases to show a trend. David Brooks pointed to this lonely data point as meaningful. I'm saying that it will become meaningful if we have three years of increases. Two consecutive years would be good too.

Do you think I'm being unfair to David Brooks? Do you think the things I'm pointing out are unreasonable or unimportant details?

Eli:

When people refer to average Americans or the middle class they are not talking about the median guy alone. The terms in this context clearly refers to everyone except the rich and high income professionals.

You don’t honestly think people are concerned that median earners are falling behind the poor?

Anyway the gains to the average guy is not the same as the income increase of the middle quintile. More than two thirds of the people in the mid quintiles in 1990 are not there 10 years later.

“By default, I would have to guess that the "bulk" of the rewards go to the rich.. that's sort of the definition of the rich.. the people who get most of the money.†

No, that is certainly not the definition. The definition is the people that have a lot of money. Their relative position can go up or down.

Your definition is by the way absurd. If the average joe goes from being a construction worker to starting his own business and making it big you will complain that the rich are gaining on the expense of the middle class?!?

In the long run the rich have seen their relative position improve, but there is certainly no determinism or axiomic relation here. The rich lost more than others during the years around and immediately after the war.

I don’t dispute for one second that the educated elite for the last 30 years or so have seen faster gains than working class Americans. However it is not true that low income or working class middle class Americans are becoming POORER, which the media and the left keep claiming. (for example running feature on CNN “The War on the Middle Class†).

The 2% wage increase matters, if it is a part of the expected trend, with wages starting to climb due to a tighter labour market. If wages do not go up the coming 3 years I will gladly agree there is cause for concern about the general trends being bad for the middle class.

I already stated that we sort of have two consecutive years of wage increase, if you correct for the oil hike. Of course in terms of living standards people are not better off, but it does show that the markets are “working† as they are supposed to in theory.

A CEO directly affects the value of a firm much more than any one worker. It’s not necessary that larger firms lead to higher CEO wages, but certainly a reasonable explanation (see Muphy et al, economics of superstars. Bigger markets increase the rents the top select guys can earn).

Caring too much about CEO wages is a sign of an unhealthy mind in regards to policy and economic well being. There are very few CEO:s of large companies. The combined income of all the CEO:s of Americas largest companies is 0,04% of national income.

Ps.

If you want something meaningful from this debate, let me point out one problem. People seem to assume that the lack of wage increase for the average workers in the data is proof in itself of the money going to the rich.
Afterall, we have Gdp growth, but wages are not going up, so they must be going to the rich.
I am not so sure. I am not an expert on these data, but it really seems even if you look at the higher percentiles wages are not going up by as much as you would expect. Management, professional, and related only had 0,3% faster wage growth than all civilian earners the last year.

So where is the money going? Self employers income? The capital share is higher, but the effect is far to small to account for this. Investments? Only up a little.

Benefits are a large part, they have gone up much faster than wages the last years. Look at page 5 here

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/eci.pdf

Is it a measurement issue, where the money really is going all to the superrich, but they cap the income? Don’t think it’s an issue with the bls data. Data problems do exist. Same thing with various measures of consumption, where there are 1-2 trillion missing from one survey to the other. This is why I don’t give much attention to people who use the production worker per hour wage as some sort of measure of well being.

I am sure someone has answered this issue in some paper, but have not seen it.

Tino,

I was wrong. Foreign ownership of the national debt is only 2.2 trillion out of 4.9 trillion, a mere 44% or so, less than a majority,
but a percentage that is steadily rising. And, no, I am not at all interested in "paying it off" anymore than I am interested in
"paying off" the debt in general. The issue is the future outflow of interest payments, which will steadily rise. The cancer is
that both the debt and the interest payments are rising with no end in sight. It is not a sustainable situation, even if you
think it is not a problem.

Actually there is little evidence at all that cutting taxes on savings does jack bananas to help the savings rate. Reagan
cut them, and the savings rate went down. Also, social security is not broke and will not be broke. The projections that
have it running out of money are based on very pessimistic growth projections. It will probably run a surplus forever. That
is what the "low cost" scenario of the social security administration shows, and so far the economy has done better than that
low cost scenario. Of course there is a danger the economy may slow down. But if it does so, the stock market will not do
all that well either.

It was not just Reagan. Bush has cut taxes for all kinds of savings, but the savings rate has almost never been lower in this
country. More of the same does not exactly look like it will do much.

Steve-o's point is the best one I've seen. Moreso than perhaps any society on earth, there's opportunity to be had in the USA -- why else do people want to get in so badly that they'll do almost anything to get here. There are incredible opportunities to be had for those who want them, want to work and are willing to invest their time and effort -- and avoid the trap of having to have the latest/newest car/TV/phone/ electronic gagdet, etc.

No, we are not a perfect society. We never will be. We're still too obsessed with sex and with money/material possessions, and we need to turn over large segments of what (at the federal level) is becoming a professional governing class (think: term limits). But if you're willing to make the effort, to get ahead, this is the country to be in.

It seems that savings rate is being used as a proxy for disposable income, and it really shouldn't. I'm a student making less than $20K/year, but do max out my Roth every year. The bit that I stash in a savings account is factored into the official savings rate computation, but the 20% of my income going into my target retirement fund isn't. Same thing for anyone maxing out their 401k -- it doesn't matter that you're putting away $15.5K/year, your savings rate is zero unless you're putting money into a CD/MM/savings account. People can have loads of disposable income, yet unless they're putting it into relatively low-yielding account types, they're "poor" and not really "saving." Go figure.

People continue to talk about the bottom 20% and top 20% of the population as if those are static groups. They are not.

Nearly every college senior can be considered poor based on yearly earnings one year and not poor the very next. All that is likely to have happened was that senior took a full-time job instead of waiting tables. And many seniors who retire from jobs to pursue their lifelong dream of running a ceramics shop in Boca go from rich to poor in one year. The dynamism of the economy, the creative destruction if you will, is more important imho than claims about aggregate earnings of some quintile or another.

And the public opinion polls that show so many people worrying are also generally misleading. Most people think they are doing well while they're worried about the macro-economy generally. One must make a value-laden judgment about which of those two responses is the more important. However, to note the general pessimism of the MSM is to point to one of the potential explanations for the divide between why people fell themselves to be doing better whilst they're worried about what might happen to their neighbors.

All in all, I would like to reissue the challenge offered above:

In which other 27 (or 25 as offered above) year period (the period from Reagan's election until now) would any of you be willing to live if not the present period?

Many incorrect comments on U.S. government debt and foreign ownership. Here's a post with solid facts about this:

National debt chart:
http://www.optimist123.com/optimist/2007/03/updated_pie_cha.html

As of April, Total of U.S. government debt owned by other U.S. government entities: 44%

Total U.S. government debt owned by foreign entities: 26%

U.S. government debt (as % of GDP) is moderate compared to most other industrialized countries.

"Moreso than perhaps any society on earth, there's opportunity to be had in the USA"

Absolutely! Look at the CEO's of our largest corporations.

Lee Scott, WalMart CEO, hardly rose from privilege: his father ran a gas station in Baxter Springs, KS. To pay tuition at a state college, Scott worked full time making tire molds.

Ken Lewis, CEO at Bank of America, was raised by a single mother in rural Mississippi and Georgia. He entered the banking profession a credit analyst in 1969.

Martin Sullivan, AIG CEO, was the son of a Ford Motor Company plant worker who couldn’t afford to send him to college. He learned the insurance business from the ground floor, starting as an account clerk for AIG in 1971, when he was only 17.

Thousands of other highly paid executives and business owners rose from humble beginnings.

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