October 26, 2019 — This is a good time to gauge the rankings of the dollar and its rivals as major international currencies. The Bank for International Settlements came out in September with its triennial survey of turnover in the world’s foreign exchange markets. The IMF’s statistics on central bank holdings of foreign exchange reserves have gotten much more reliable lately, because China has joined in on reporting its holdings to the IMF (as Eswar Prasad explains). And SWIFT offers every month its numbers on use of major currencies in international payments.
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.