Monday, February 10, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Annie Lowrey writes about the affordability crisis which has left most Americans in dire financial straits even as aggregate economic numbers look reasonably strong:
(B)eyond the headline economic numbers, a multifarious and strangely invisible economic crisis metastasized: Let’s call it the Great Affordability Crisis. This crisis involved not just what families earned but the other half of the ledger, too—how they spent their earnings. In one of the best decades the American economy has ever recorded, families were bled dry by landlords, hospital administrators, university bursars, and child-care centers. For millions, a roaring economy felt precarious or downright terrible.

Viewing the economy through a cost-of-living paradigm helps explain why roughly two in five American adults would struggle to come up with $400 in an emergency so many years after the Great Recession ended. It helps explain why one in five adults is unable to pay the current month’s bills in full. It demonstrates why a surprise furnace-repair bill, parking ticket, court fee, or medical expense remains ruinous for so many American families, despite all the wealth this country has generated. Fully one in three households is classified as “financially fragile.”
What is perhaps most frustrating is that the Great Affordability Crisis is amenable to policy solutions—ones most other rich countries adopted decades ago. In other developed economies, child care, early education, and higher education are public goods, and do not require high-interest-rate debts or endless scrambling by exhausted young parents to procure. Other wealthy countries have public-health systems that cover everybody at far lower cost, whether through socialized or private models. And numerous proposals would transform residential construction in this country, including one that just failed in California’s legislature.
- Jordan Yadoo and Noah Buhayar report that the disconnect between wages and housing costs is spreading from the U.S.' largest urban areas across the country. Andrew Longhurst writes about British Columbia's need for far more public assisted living. And CBC News reports that the City of Regina's public posturing about reducing homelessness has led to zero funds being allocated.

- Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez discuss the need for a wealth tax to rein in the distortion of the U.S.' economy and political system by the richest few. And Jereon Kraaijenbrink points out why even some of the .1% are making a public push for a more fair tax system which would result in their contributing more.

- Meanwhile, Christo Aivalis is the latest to highlight how the Libs' "middle class tax cut" in fact does little for the people who most need the federal government's help. Sam Jones reports on the findings of the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights that Spain has left people to struggle in poverty even as its economy has recovered from recession. And Phillip Inman reports on new research into the continuing increases in the number of UK workers living in poverty.

- Finally, Tim Harford is optimistic about the prospects of a dematerialising economy which allows for social progress while limiting the environmental damage done by economic growth.

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