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June 11, 2014

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Posted: 11 Jun 2014 12:06 AM PDT

'Jobs Openings Increase Sharply to 4.5 Million'

Posted: 10 Jun 2014 12:57 PM PDT

Bill McBride, aka Calculated Risk:

BLS: Jobs Openings increase sharply to 4.5 million in April: From the BLS: Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary ...

Jobs openings increased in April to 4.455 million from 4.166 million in March.   

The number of job openings ... are up 17% year-over-year compared to April 2013.

Quits are up 11% year-over-year. These are voluntary separations. ...
It is a good sign that job openings are over 4 million for the third consecutive month, and that quits are increasing.

But it's still too soon for policymakers to declare victory. Well, monetary policymakers anyway. Fiscal policymakers turned their backs on the unemployed long ago.

'The Rich Have Advantages That Money Cannot Buy'

Posted: 10 Jun 2014 08:40 AM PDT

Larry Summers says:

The rich have advantages that money cannot buy, by Lawrence Summers: ... There is every reason to believe that taxes can be reformed to eliminate loopholes for the wealthy and become more progressive, while also promoting a more efficient allocation of investment. In areas ranging from local zoning laws to intellectual property protection, from financial regulation to energy subsidies, public policy now bestows great fortunes on those whose primary skill is working the political system rather than producing great products and services. There is a compelling case for policy measures to reduce profits from such rent-seeking activities as a number of economists, notably Dean Baker and the late Mancur Olson, have emphasised.
At the same time, unless one regards envy as a virtue, the primary reason for concern about inequality is that lower- and middle-income workers have too little – not that the rich have too much.
So in judging policies relating to inequality, the criterion should be what their impact will be on the middle class and the poor. ...
It is vital to remember, however, that important aspects of inequality are unlikely to be transformed just by limited income redistribution. Consider two fundamental components of life – health and the ability to provide opportunity for children.

He goes on to explain the vast difference between the rich and the poor in the areas of health and education, and I have no problem at all with his call to reduce inequality in these areas.

The question I have is whether we should not be worried "that the rich have too much." As he notes earlier, "public policy now bestows great fortunes on those whose primary skill is working the political system rather than producing great products and services." Those "great fortunes" give the ultra-wealthy the influence they need to capture the political system, and as the fortunes grow larger and larger it becomes harder and harder to change the system to eliminate this rent-seeking behavior (so I don't think "there is every reason to believe" that the system can be reformed). When this happens, when income flows to the top because they have captured the system -- income that could (and in my view should) be going elsewhere -- I think it's worth asking if they have "too much."

'The Four Lessons of Happynomics'

Posted: 10 Jun 2014 05:14 AM PDT

Tim Harford:

The four lessons of happynomics, by Tim Harford: The discipline of happynomics (or to give it an academically respectable title, "the economics of subjective well-being") is booming. Respected economists have joined the field, from Lord Layard in the UK to White House appointees such as Alan Krueger and Betsey Stevenson. Several have been charmed in by Daniel Kahneman, a widely admired psychologist with a Nobel Memorial Prize in economics.
Happiness is surely important, but the case for letting economists loose on the subject is less clear. So are happyconomists discovering things that will put a song in your heart and a smile on your face? Perhaps. After reading a stack of books about the economics of happiness, and seeking advice from some of the researchers involved, allow me to present four tips for happiness from the dismal science. ...

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