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Old 12-11-2013, 11:04 AM  
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The Most Important Economic Stories of 2013—in 42 Graphs

Not going to post them all, but I'll pick out a few. Worth taking 20-30 minutes to read through it.


Maybe it's just me, but the last few years are getting tough to tell apart. Imagine a quiz question:

Name that year where we threw obstacles in the recovery's way, but kept growing slowly; where Europe avoided both a disaster and a solution to its mess; and where China kept growing over 7 percent, but didn't rebalance its economy like it said it wants.

You'd be right to guess 2013. You'd also be right to guess 2012, 2011, or 2010.

So, to remind ourselves what did change in the last 12 months, we asked our favorite economists, journalists, and think-tankers for their favorite charts of the year. The stock market went on a tear, the labor market didn't, and Wall Street and Main Street came to terms with a New Normal. Without further ado, here are 37,000 words worth of charts to tell the most important stories of 2013.


Binyamin Appelbaum, New York Times: Wage stagnation may be our most important economic problem. Wages are supposed to rise with productivity. As workers produce more, it stands to reason that they will be paid more. But as you can see above, wages have lagged productivity since the 1970s

Derek Thompson, The Atlantic: The story of the year was the labor market vs. the stock market. It was a meh year for the former. It was a banner year for the latter. And that made it a banner year for the top 10 percent of the country, which holds about 80 percent of all stock market wealth.

Heather Boushey, economist, Center for Equitable Growth: Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty's data charting the fall and rise of income shares of top earners are well known at this point. The past thirty years have seen the incomes of those at the top explode and the top 1 percent received 95 percent of the income gains from 2009 to 2012. With top earners now receiving as much as that group did during the Roaring Twenties, this chart is a reminder of just how inequitable our income distribution has become.

Jordan Weissmann, The Atlantic: You have to admit, there is something a bit crazed about America's minimum wage policy. Every so many moons, Congress battles over whether it's time for a hike. Eventually, Democrats win out. Then we let inflation eat away at its dollar value until liberals decide to pick up the issue again, as they have this year. And so you get the blue line below, the real value of the minimum wage zig-zagging, mostly downward, since 1968. Whether or not we end up raising the minimum wage, wouldn't it make sense to at least index it to the cost of living? After all, if we're going to have a minimum wage at all, shouldn't it remain the minimum?

Heidi Moore, The Guardian: Here's why I love this chart: it nails the issue with the inequality at the center of our economy right now. Corporate profits are our only consistently rising metric of economic success. Everything else that matters is bumping along the bottom. Job openings have only modest gains, and nowhere near what we had before the crash. Personal income is stagnant. Unemployment is still absurdly high. That leads to the policy question: is it our goal as a country to fuel only corporate profits? Or do we have some other responsibility to the citizenry?

Mina Kimes, investigative reporter, Bloomberg: The top line in this chart shows no sign of abating (especially as shareholders continue to rally behind highly paid executives), but the bottom one has incited a movement. Over the last year, fast food workers across the country have organized a series of one-day strikes, drawing attention to a significant problem: Many Americans who work don't make a living wage. [Graph via EPI]

Brad DeLong, Center for Equitable Growth and professor at the University of California-Berkeley: As Jared Bernstein has written, "I've always thought the key test of the claim that lots of people were abusing the DI rolls when they could be working is the extent to which the DI rolls are countercyclical, meaning they go up when the economy goes down. What Kathy finds is applications [do line] up roughly with unemployment. But awards less so [unless you] squint."

Evan Soltas, Washington Post, Bloomberg View: This map from Raj Chetty's recent work shows which regions have better and worse intergenerational mobility (lighter is better and darker is worse). As I've said before, I know intergenerational inequality is a very uncomfortable subject for Americans. But we need to talk about it more. Only when we recognize that the Dream is largely hollow can we begin to do something about it. Progressive taxation is no substitute for real policies to address it.

Noah Smith, The Atlantic, Noahpinion, & professor at Stony Brook: No one is still quite sure why the Republican party shut down the government, or decided to play chicken once again with the debt ceiling. But this much is certain: The world believed the GOP was serious. Spiking Treasury yields on October 7th and 8th mean that the investing public thought there was a real chance that the Republicans would force the U.S. into a technical sovereign default. For the first time in living memory, U.S. debt carried a substantial risk premium. And here's the really scary thing: If the GOP did this kind of thing in 2011 and again in 2013, what's to stop them from doing it again, and again, and again?
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