Dollars and Jens
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The "preliminary" revision of Q2 GDP is out:
4.8% -.2% .9%3.3%
Consumption 1.44  .67  .61 1.24
Inventories .69 -.96 -.02-1.44
Fixed investment-.15 -.97 -.86 -.38
Net Exports2.03.94.773.10
Government Spending.

The headline rate has been revised up 1.4 percentage points, to a rate that corresponds at least to the economy's full potential. Half a point comes from an inventory draw-down that is reckoned as not quite as dramatic as it previously was, but an even bigger chunk comes from an even-more-stunning-than-thought change in the balance of trade. (Cf. last month's report.)

Interestingly, the nominal trade deficit was still up very slightly, presumably because the prices of imports — in particular, one really big import — were significantly higher in the second quarter than the first, while any price change in exports was less dramatic.

Update: Gross Domestic Income, which in principle should be the same as GDP, has been weaker than GDP.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
More Mankiw, on an attempt that was made to address the Fannie and Freddie problem early.

dynamic scoring of the Bush tax cuts
Recent research on President Bush's tax relief in 2001 and 2003 has found that the lower tax rates induced taxpayers to report more taxable income. In particular, the reduction in the top two tax rates induced taxpayers to report more taxable income — an increase in the size of the tax baseā€”to such an extent that this positive behavioral response likely offset roughly 25 percent to 40 percent of the static revenue loss of lowering the top two tax rates. This research illustrates that, while the lower tax rates have not paid for themselves, they do provide important economic benefits and can expand the tax base to such an extent that they cost the federal government substantially less revenue than the casual observer might think.


The Treasury study also separately analyzed the major parts of the 2001 and 2003 tax relief: 1) the lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains, 2) the reduction in the top four tax rates, and 3) the expansion of the child tax credit, the marriage penalty relief, and the new 10 percent tax bracket. The first two parts—the lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains and the reduction in the top four tax rates—comprised those provisions that helped reduce the distorting effects of taxes the most. Meanwhile, the last part—the child tax credit, marriage penalty relief, and the new 10 percent bracket—provided tax relief important to the economy in the near term and helped ensure the distributional balance of the overall package by targeting benefits to lower- and moderate-income taxpayers, but had little effect on economic incentives. Indeed, this part was found to actually detract from economic growth in the long term.

Consider the estimated effects of each of these major parts of the relief on the size of the economy in the long run:

  • Cutting the tax rates on dividends and capital gains was found to increase output in the long run by 0.4 percent, primarily by expanding the capital stock and enhancing labor productivity.
  • Cutting the top four wage tax rates caused even a larger increase, 0.7 percent, primarily by increasing labor supply.
  • The expansion of the child tax credit, marriage penalty relief and new 10 percent bracket were actually found to reduce the size of the economy in the long run by 0.4 percent.

The last set of provisions increases taxpayers' after-tax incomes, but does not have a significant effect on marginal tax rates. These provisions reduce long-run output because labor supply shrinks in response to the higher incomes.

þ Mankiw

Tuesday, August 26, 2008
designing good incentives
How farm workers respond to pay incentives.

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Monday, August 11, 2008
happy anniversary
It was a year ago Saturday that the credit crunch began, not with a whimper but with a bang. I've been spending the past several minutes reading mostly my own writing as it was hitting the fan.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008
income and spending
NIPA came out yesterday, with both spending and income a bit better than expected. Income was positive in nominal terms, though just barely, while spending was up 0.6%, or -0.2% in real terms. Those figures are about 0.2% points higher than the forecasts I saw.
Personal current taxes increased $217.1 billion in June, in contrast to a decrease of $376.2 billion in May. Provisions of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 reduced the level of personal current taxes by $185.0 billion (at an annual rate) in June, $397.5 billion in May, and $15.5 billion in April. The reductions in current personal taxes reflected rebate payments to eligible individual taxpayers (see box below). Disposable personal income (DPI) -- personal income less personal current taxes -- decreased $210.3 billion, or 1.9 percent, in June, in contrast to an increase of $595.4 billion, or 5.7 percent, in May.
Income from employment from March to June climbed fairly smoothly at a 2.8% annual pace, which is just slightly ahead of the 2.6% the Dallas Fed's trimmed-mean PCE inflation rate recorded over that time, but is well under the broader inflation measures.

The NIPA data continue to be more supportive of a recession call than GDP, though the last couple months have been complicated by deliberate fiscal policy. The next report comes out just before Labor Day weekend.

Fed meeting
Rates held at 2.0% with Fisher the only dissent.
Economic activity expanded in the second quarter, partly reflecting growth in consumer spending and exports. However, labor markets have softened further and financial markets remain under considerable stress. Tight credit conditions, the ongoing housing contraction, and elevated energy prices are likely to weigh on economic growth over the next few quarters. Over time, the substantial easing of monetary policy, combined with ongoing measures to foster market liquidity, should help to promote moderate economic growth.

Inflation has been high, spurred by the earlier increases in the prices of energy and some other commodities, and some indicators of inflation expectations have been elevated. The Committee expects inflation to moderate later this year and next year, but the inflation outlook remains highly uncertain.

Although downside risks to growth remain, the upside risks to inflation are also of significant concern to the Committee. The Committee will continue to monitor economic and financial developments and will act as needed to promote sustainable economic growth and price stability.

Friday, August 01, 2008
"paradox of thrift"
The best short essay I've seen in quite a while on consumption, savings, and investment.

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