As we approach the midterm elections, most political coverage I see frames the contest as a struggle between Republicans taking advantage of a bad economy and Democrats trying to scare voters about the G.O.P.’s regressive social agenda. Voters do, indeed, perceive a bad economy. But perceptions don’t necessarily match reality.
In particular, while political reporting generally takes it for granted that the economy is in bad shape, the data tell a different story. Yes, we have troublingly high inflation. But other indicators paint a much more favorable picture. If inflation can be brought down without a severe recession — which seems like a real possibility — future historians will consider economic policy in the face of the pandemic a remarkable success story.
When assessing the state of the economy, what period should we use for comparison? I’ve noted before that Republicans like to compare the current economy with an imaginary version of January 2021, one in which gas was $2 a gallon but less pleasant realities, like sky-high deaths from Covid and deeply depressed employment, are airbrushed from the picture. A much better comparison is with February 2020, just before the pandemic hit with full force.
So how does the current economy compare with the eve of the pandemic?
First, we’ve had a more or less complete recovery in jobs and production. The unemployment rate, at 3.5 percent, is right back where it was before the virus struck. So is the percentage of prime-age adults employed. Gross domestic product is close to what the Congressional Budget Office was projecting prepandemic.
This good news shouldn’t be taken for granted. In the early months of the pandemic, there were many predictions that it would lead to “scarring,” persistent damage to jobs and growth. The sluggish recovery from the 2007-9 recession was still fresh in economists’ memories. So the speed with which we’ve returned to full employment is remarkable, so much so that we might dub it the Great Recovery.
Still, while workers may have jobs again, hasn’t their purchasing power taken a big hit from inflation? The answer may surprise you.
In September, consumer prices were 15 percent higher than they were on the eve of the pandemic. However, average wages were up by 14 percent, almost matching inflation. Wages of nonsupervisory workers, who make up more than 80 percent of the work force, were up 16 percent. So there wasn’t a large hit to real wages overall, although gas and food — which aren’t much affected by policy, but matter a lot to people’s lives — did become less affordable.
Obligatory note: There are other measures of both prices and wages, and if you pick and choose you can make the story look a bit worse or a bit better. More important, some Americans are especially exposed to prices that have gone up a lot. On average, however, there hasn’t been a huge hit to living standards.
But won’t bringing inflation down require an ugly recession? Maybe, and widespread predictions of recession may be taking a toll on public perceptions. But they are predictions, not an established fact — and many economists don’t agree with those predictions. I won’t rehash that ongoing debate here, except to say that there are plausible arguments to the effect that disinflation will be much easier this time than it was after the 1970s.
Despite what I’ve said, however, the public has very negative economic perceptions. Doesn’t that tell us that the economy really is in bad shape?
No, it doesn’t. People know how well they, themselves, are doing. Their views about the national economy, however, can diverge sharply from their personal experience.
A Federal Reserve survey found that in 2021 there was a huge gap between the rising number of people with a positive view of their own finances and the falling number with a positive view of the economy; perceptions about the local economy, which people can see with their own eyes, were somewhere in between. I suspect that when we get results for 2022 they’ll look similar.
To be fair, the resurgence of inflation after decades of quiescence, combined with fears of possible recession, has unnerved many Americans. The point, however, isn’t that the public is wrong to be concerned; it is that negative public views of the economy don’t refute the proposition that the economy is doing well in many though not all dimensions.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Democrats spend their final campaigning days telling voters that the economy is actually just fine. It isn’t.
But Democrats shouldn’t concede that the overall economy is in bad shape, either. Some very good things have happened on their watch, above all a jobs recovery that has exceeded almost everyone’s expectations. And they have every right to point out that while Republicans may denounce inflation, Republicans have no plan whatsoever to reduce it.
No, Britain’s Economy Isn’t On The Rocks.
How bad is Britain’s economy?
It depends on what you read.
For instance, the Atlantic magazine headlined a recent feature “How the U.K. Became One of the Poorest Countries in Western Europe.”
The features continues with the following: “The U.K. is now an object lesson for other countries dealing with a dark triad of deindustrialization, degrowth, and denigration of foreigners.”
In other words, the Atlantic has some pretty brutal thoughts on the U.K.’s economy.
Unfortunately, none of that reflects the reality I have lived and the economic data.
Let’s start with some basics.
UK Post-pandemic Growth Shines
First up is inflation-adjusted GDP since the beginning of 2021. In that case, the UK leads the pack of the three largest European economies. It grew 7.4% last year following by 3.6% this year, according to data from the International Monetary Fund.
Contrast that with France which grew 6.8% last year and 2.5% this year, then Germany which limped along at 2.6% in 2021 and 1.5% so far this year.
It shouldn’t take a PhD in mathematics to see that the UK is growing faster than the others over that period. Its not a huge difference in the case of France, but still its not like Britain is a basket case.
UK unemployment is also far lower than either France or Germany. Britain’s jobless rate is a mere 3.6%, according to TradingEconomics. That compares with 5.5% and 7.3% for Germany and France respectively.
Some observers say the UK’s rate is so low because many people have stopped looking for work. Its a fair point, but only at the margin. In other words, its a relatively small issue. People who aren’t looking for work can hardly be unemployed. Second, if the UK rate was adjusted for the lower participation its hard to see the jobless figures jump to the current levels in France or Germany.
Despite claims to the contrary that cutting taxes would send an already-indebted country into economic oblivion, the U.K. could probably afford to borrow bit more cash.
That’s because there’s massive hole in the assertion that Britain is in hock up to its eyeballs, its plainly wrong, especially compared to other rich countries.
In other words, the U.S. (generally considered to be a strong economy,) and France (a bedrock economy of the European Union) are much more in debt than Britain and yet observers seem excited to bash the U.K. like it was going out of fashion.
Germany does have a better debt ratio, but it is also a country that spends proportionately far less on defense than the other comparison countries. That’s something that the world has scrutinized closely since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
However, perhaps the trump card in demonstrating the strength of the UK’s economy is the wave of illegal migration into the country.
Wave may understate the matter.
Its more of a tsunami.
This year so far more than 40,000 people have made the life-threatening journey across the channel from France to England. That’s up from less than 30,000 last year, and under 10,000 in 2020. Many of the people who make that journey get granted refugee status.
When considering this information its important to understand that migrants are leaving a democratic country will at top notch record on human rights and with a strong economy. Its also worth remembering that France has better weather than the U.K., and finer food.
It’s the Economy, Stupid
So why would so many people risk their lives crossing by far the world’s busiest shipping lane at night in a rubber dinghy to get to Britain? People can and do die on that trip with banal regularity.
Maybe they really do like the abundant grey skies, and drizzle that the country has to offer. Perhaps they really like British food in the way a native enjoys them.
But what about this: There’s a chance that the U.K.’s market driven economy is attractive to people in a similar way that America is attractive to migrants of all types.
On top of that, the Atlantic is wrong about Britons not liking foreigners. In fact, the U.K. population embraces people from all over the world.
Charting the Global Economy: OECD Raises Inflation Forecast
(Bloomberg) — Central banks around the world must be steadfast in their inflation fight even though economies will suffer as a result, the OECD said this week.
The organization boosted its 2023 inflation estimates and said it expects price increases the following year will remain above the targets set by many global central banks. While economies will slow because of tighter monetary policies, the OECD didn’t forecast a recession.
Though a survey of US manufacturers showed a fifth month of shrinking activity, another report indicated a healthy increase in business investment. A survey of the euro area businesses indicated that any downturn may not be severe as initially expected.
Meantime, the Bank of China eased reserve requirements for banks to help bolster the world’s second-largest economy.
Here are some of the charts that appeared on Bloomberg this week on the latest developments in the global economy:
The world’s central banks must keep raising interest rates to fight pervasive inflation, even as the global economy sinks into a significant slowdown, according to the OECD. The organization raised inflation projections for next year and said that while the global economy will suffer a “significant growth slowdown,” it’s not forecasting a recession.
This week saw more major rate hikes across the world, with 75 basis-point hikes in Sweden, New Zealand and South Africa and full percentage-point moves in Pakistan and Nigeria. Turkey went the opposite way, cutting rates by 150 basis points.
Business activity contracted for a fifth month in November as demand faltered, while inflationary pressures continued to slowly ease. The S&P Global flash composite purchasing managers’ index slid to the second-lowest level since the immediate aftermath of the pandemic.
Orders placed with US factories for business equipment rebounded in October, suggesting capital spending plans are holding up in the face of higher borrowing costs and broader economic uncertainty. Core capital goods shipments jumped the most since the start of the year, suggesting a solid start to fourth-quarter gross domestic product.
Euro-area businesses see tentative signs that the region’s economic slump may be easing as record inflation cools and expectations for future production improve. A gauge measuring activity in manufacturing and services unexpectedly rose in November, according to S&P Global.
Sweden’s home-price decline accelerated in October, as the Nordic country gripped by the most severe housing slump in three decades shows what may lie ahead for many other developed economies.
For the second time this year, China’s central bank cut the amount of cash lenders must hold in reserve, ramping up support for an economy racked by surging Covid cases and a continued property downturn. The People’s Bank of China reduced the reserve requirement ratio for most banks by 25 basis points.
Signs are growing in China that local government debt burdens are becoming unsustainable. China’s 31 provincial governments have a stockpile of outstanding bonds that’s close to the Ministry of Finance’s risk threshold of 120% of income. A major cause of the financial squeeze is the property crisis.
Australia has spent big to attract swathes of Indian tourists to its shores, signed a free-trade deal with post-Brexit Britain and uncovered new Middle East markets during its 30-month trade rift with China. Still, outside iron ore and other key commodities, there’s been substantial pain for exporters.
Chile is set to lead the world into a steep interest rate-cutting cycle next year as inflation slows and its economy goes from boom to bust, according to swap markets. Traders are forecasting more than 5 percentage points in cuts in the next 12 months after a surprise inflation print last month and as the economy teeters on the edge of recession.
Shipments of boats, vehicles and computer parts are leading Mexico’s export boom, showing growing US demand for industrial products from its southern neighbor. The export of boats produced in Mexico increased 266% in September compared to a year ago, the fastest-growing item among Mexican exports worth more than $100 million.
–With assistance from Maya Averbuch, Sebastian Boyd, Valentina Fuentes, Sybilla Gross, William Horobin, John Liu, Yujing Liu, Swati Pandey, Reade Pickert, Jana Randow, Niclas Rolander, Zoe Schneeweiss and Ben Westcott.
Canada’s Best Credit Cards for 2023
Choosing the best credit card in Canada can get confusing. Not only are there so many options, but everyone has different goals, desires, and credit histories – all of which come into play when choosing a credit card. For example, parents with a large family would likely benefit from a credit card that has great cash-back rewards on groceries and gas while a digital nomad might enjoy points and comprehensive insurance from a card that rewards travel purchases.
However, rewards aren’t the only thing to consider. You should also take into account the annual percentage rate (APR), annual fee, and welcome bonuses. To help you decide which is Canada’s best credit card for 2023, we’ve broken them down by category and included all the important details.
Best Credit Cards in Canada 2023
No matter your financial situation or goals, there is a credit card out there for you. Here’s a breakdown of Canada’s best credit cards in 2023:
Best Cash Back Credit Card
- Welcome bonus: $200
- Annual fee: $120 after the first year
- Regular APR: 20.99% – 24.99% (variable)
This card gives you 10% cash back on $2,500 in purchases over the first four billing cycles. Additionally, you can earn 4% cash back on groceries and gas, 2% cash back on dining, transportation, and recurring bills, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Best Travel Credit Card
- Welcome bonus: 2,500 Membership Rewards points
- Annual fee: $155.88 ($12.99 per month)
- Regular APR: 20.99%
You can earn 2 American Express Membership Rewards per dollar spent on travel or gas, and 3 points per dollar on travel bookings made through the Amex Travel Portal. This card also comes with travel insurance coverage and a $100 USD hotel credit.
Best Business Credit Card
- Welcome bonus: 60,000 Aeroplan Points
- Annual fee: $120 (rebated in the first year)
- Regular APR: 19.99%
This is the best credit card in Canada for anyone that travels for business. This card offers annual earnings of $456.68 when you book Air Canada and $430.63 in value when you book other any travel, including non-Air Canada flights, cruise lines, rental car companies, and tour companies. You can also benefit from a Buddy Pass to anywhere Air Canada flies in North America, including Hawaii and Mexico.
Best Credit Card for Bad Credit
- Welcome bonus: None
- Annual fee: None
- Regular APR: None
This card is almost a credit/debit card hybrid, and an excellent option for anyone with bad or no credit. The card is loaded with money from your bank account or a direct deposit paycheque. It can be used as a debit card for free, or you can request to open a line of credit to work on building or repairing your credit. If you choose to open a line of credit, there is a $10 per month fee.
These are only a few of the best credit cards in Canada for 2023. Give them a try next year and see if your choice helps improve your financial situation!
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