Questioning Assumptions on Economic Progress and Policies

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy and Progress has focused on the issue of productivity, both in the current business cycle (he sees its decline as an underreported negative indicator) and longer term.

A post on his blog Beat the Press points to a recent paper of his on productivity and reaches some heretical conclusions, namely, that some of our cherished economic policies may not be delivering the goods:

Spurred by continuing confusion over the extent to which weak wage growth can be blamed on upward redistribution to profits and high end wage earners, I decided to do a quick accounting exercise to lay out the basic numbers. Using total economy productivity (instead of non-farm business sector), and adjust for the gap between gross output and net output, and the difference between inflation rates measured with a consumption deflator and output deflator, it turns out that the slowdown from the 1947-73 period to the post 1973 period is even larger than is generally recognized.

Furthermore, even in the period of the post-1995 acceleration “usable productivity” growth is still a full 1.2 percentage points below the 1947-73 average. It looks like we don’t have very much to show for a quarter century of trade liberalization, deregulation and union busting.

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