September 30, 2019 — As long as the German economy was doing well, as it was during the recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis, there existed a coherent rationale for German fiscal austerity. The national commitment to budget discipline was enshrined in the 2009 “debt brake,” which limits the federal structural deficit to 0.35% of GDP, and by the 2011 “schwarze Null” (that is, “black zero”) policy of fully balancing the budget. Indeed Angela Merkel’s government proudly achieved a balanced budget in 2012 and surpluses in 2014-18.
Sept. 10, 2019 — Median real household income is the most useful single measure of the extent to which the typical American family has shared in GDP gains. The latest annual number, released today by the Census Bureau, confirms the answer that many had suspected: the typical family has not experienced a statistically significant rise in income. The gains have, rather, gone to those at the top of the income distribution. Median household income did rise during 1993-2000 (during the boom of the Clinton years) and again during 2012-2017 (as the recovery from the global financial crisis started to spread more widely). But its level last year was statistically the same as in 2017 (despite respectable growth in total national income). It was also virtually the same as in 2000, indicating that median income has been essentially flat since the turn of the century.
August 12, 2019 –The US-China trade war heated up in the first week of August. On August 1, Donald Trump abruptly announced plans to impose a 10 % tariff on the remaining $300 billion of imports from China that he had not already hit with earlier tariffs. The Chinese authorities then allowed their currency, the renminbi (RMB), to fall in value below the highly visible line of 7.0 RMB/$. The US Administration promptly reacted on August 5 by naming China a “currency manipulator” — the first time any country had been given that designation in 25 years. Pundits declared a currency war, while investors responded by immediately sending stock markets down.