Disposable Income and GDP Growth

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 25th, 2013

Economics 101

With less Disposable Income there will be less New Economic Activity Created

The key to economic growth is disposable income.  For when we live from paycheck to paycheck economic growth is flat.  It’s when we have disposable income that we can spend money beyond our basic needs.  Such as on a vacation.  A new car.  A television.  New windows, carpeting, appliances, furniture, etc.  Movies, ball games, dinners, the theater, etc.  New clothes, jewelry, shoes, accessories, etc.  Tennis rackets, skis, baseball gloves, hiking boots, fishing gear, etc.  Smart phones, MP3 players, iPads, laptops, etc.  Jet skis, boats, motorcycles, mountain bikes, etc.  Radio-controlled cars/helicopters/planes, Game Boys, Xboxes, Wiis, PlayStations, multiplayer role-playing computer games, etc.

Buying these things creates a lot of economic activity.  But we can’t buy any of these things unless we have disposable income.  So the only way to increase economic activity is to increase disposable income.  Which means there is a direct relationship between GDP and disposable income.

There’s been a lot of talk about real incomes being flat.  Even falling during the Obama presidency.  Which is bad.  For if median incomes are falling people will have less disposable income.  And with less disposable income they will be buying less of all those things that create new economic activity.  The things we enjoy.  That make our lives more fun.  More enjoyable.  And less miserable.  Those things that increase our standard of living.  And the quality of life.  So a flat and falling median income reduces our standard of living.  And our quality of life.  As we live from paycheck to paycheck.  Making barely enough to meet our living expenses.  And sometimes not even making enough for that.  Having to turn to government assistance to make up the difference.

We add Disposable Income and Discounted Government Spending to get the Net Add to GDP

The key to disposable income and GDP growth is jobs.  And the more jobs the better.  So job creation is very important.  Which means we need a business-friendly environment.  With a minimum of costly regulations.  And low taxes.  To encourage employers to hire more people.  So more people have jobs.  Those who do use their income to meet their living expenses.  And use their disposable income to create new economic activity.  The more disposable income they have the more new economic activity they can create.  So what’s the best way to increase their disposable income?  The same way we encourage employers to hire more people.  Low taxes.  We can illustrate this in the following table which is based on assumptions and approximations.

GDP Discounted Required and Average Calculations

The effective tax rate a person pays includes all taxes he or she will pay.  Property tax, sales tax, gas tax, telecommunication tax, liquor tax, cigarette tax, import tariff, dog license tax, fishing license tax, luxury tax, watercraft registration tax, vehicle sales tax, state income tax, federal income tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, capital gains tax, etc.   Median income and living expenses are constants.  We subtract taxes from median income to get net income.  Subtracting living expenses from net income gives us disposable income.  We then calculate these numbers for additional effective tax rates that are multiples of 4%.

We add disposable income and stimulus together to get the net add to GDP.  What we call ‘stimulus’ is a percentage of all those taxes reentering the economy through government spending.  In our example 80% of those taxes find their way back into the economy.  While 20% is lost through waste and inefficiency.  This stimulus can pay for a government worker, a government contractor or a direct government benefit that helps people meet their living expenses.  This redistributed income is money that the income earner would have spent had it not been taxed away.  Instead, someone else will spend it.  But not as efficiently.  As it must first pass through an inefficient government bureaucracy.

Giving People Benefits does not Replace Disposable Income

We extend the table out to an effective tax rate of 52% and graph the results.  We see that as the effective tax rate increases disposable income falls.  As does GDP growth.  Showing that increasing taxation reduces GDP.  That said, average GDP growth has been approximately 3% during the latter half of the 20th Century.  Despite increasing taxation reducing GDP.  So how do we reconcile a falling GDP and a 3% GDP growth?  With aggressive increases in productivity.  And investments in capital equipment.  Allowing business to produce more with less.  Resulting in a rising real GDP growth rate.  As shown in the following graph.

GDP Discounted Required and Average

In order to maintain a 3% growth rate in GDP we need a rising real GDP growth rate (in one America doing very well despite government) to offset the falling discounted GDP growth rate due to falling disposable income (in another America not doing well because of government).  When we add the real and the discounted GDP growth rates together we get the constant 3% of average GDP growth.  Which is why businesses have never been more profitable despite stagnant economic growth during President Obama’s time in office.  They’re doing well because they’re producing more with less by exchanging people for new capital equipment.  Hence the higher profitability along with chronic high unemployment.  With more unemployed workers than available jobs there is a downward pressure on median income.  That combined with higher personal effective taxes has greatly reduced disposable income.  And new economic growth.  Which subtracts a lot away from that real GDP growth.

Giving people benefits does not replace disposable income.  For government assistance helps people meet basic living expenses.  While having a job offers the ability to earn disposable income.  Which is key for new economic growth.  If we bring the effective tax rate down the discounted GDP growth graph will flatten out.  As this happens the gains in productivity would remain.  Leaving real GDP growth unchanged.  With real GDP growth unchanged and discounted GDP growth decreasing the average annual GDP growth would therefore increase.  And approach real GDP growth.  With double digit GDP growth tax revenues would soar even at lower effective tax rates.  Requiring less borrowing.  Which would give us smaller deficits.  While reducing the growth in the federal debt.  Perhaps even reducing the debt.  Solving all of our financial problems.  By simply cutting taxes.  And the spending those taxes fund.

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LESSONS LEARNED #41: “The want of unearned money is the root of most evil.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 26th, 2010

Money is a Temporary Storage of Wealth that Makes Trade Efficient

People don’t want money.  They want what money can buy.  A dump truck full of money is useless when there is nothing to buy with it.  For money is nothing more than a temporary storage of wealth.

We make or do creative things.  Things or services that people want.  There is a world full of people making goods or providing services other people want.  Some people make cellular phones.  Some people make microwave ovens.  Others provide landscaping services.  And these are the things we want.  Not money.

Money is a tool.  We use it to make trading with each other easier.  People who make cellular phones don’t need to find someone who makes microwave ovens to trade with.  Instead, they receive money for the cellular phones they make.  And the microwave oven makers receive money for the microwaves they make.  Then the cellular phone makers and microwave oven makers can take that money and trade it for what they want.

Our Human Capital Determines the Size of our Paycheck

We call the skills we accrue over time that lets us make or do things that other people want ‘human capital’.  People that have human capital have jobs.  Employers hire them because they have valuable human capital. 

Some people have so much human capital that they start a business.  They’re very good at bringing together an idea, people and resources to make valuable things or services that other people want to buy.

People with human capital are traders.  Just like in ancient Mesopotamia.  Nothing has changed.  Except that we trade more efficiently these days because of money.

It’s Easier to Steal Money than Televisions and Mansions

Not everyone traded.  Some people stole.  Some fought.  When peoples came into contact with each other, they often fought each other.  And the winner took the spoils.

Not much has changed today.  There are people who still steal.  And they are peoples who still conquer.  The only difference really is the efficiency of some theft.  Again, this is due to money.  It is more difficult to steal a 42″ plasma television than it is to steal $750 (which they can use to buy a 42″ plasma television). 

Likewise, it is more difficult for a politician to steal a million dollar mansion than it is to steal money.  Either as bribes from some special interest.  Or from taxpayers.

Unearned – Evil; Earned – Good

Those who steal typically have little human capital.  But because they still want those nice things they steal money.  The problem with theft, though, is that stolen money is transitory.  If you have human capital, you get a recurring paycheck.  Once you spend stolen money, it’s gone.  And you have to steal again.

This want of unearned money is the root of most evil.

People who earn their money with their human capital improve the lives of others.  The more they buy, the more others sell.  And the more jobs these others create.  And these jobs allow other people to use their human capital to buy other things.  Or even make charitable donations.

This want of earned money is the root of most good.

Rockefeller and Carnegie Made and Gave Away Fortunes

John D. Rockefeller made a fortune with Standard Oil.  He was ruthlessly efficient.  No one could refine, transport and sell petroleum products cheaper than he could.  People benefitted from affordable petroleum products.  And after he retired, he gave away vast portions of his wealth to charitable causes.

Andrew Carnegie made a fortune from steel.  Like Rockefeller, he was efficient.  No one could produce quality steel at a lower price than he could.  His steel built the skyscrapers and railroads of America.  He made a fortune.  And gave most of it away to charitable causes.

Most of the politicians that make it to Washington leave Washington as millionaires.  They sell themselves to special interests.  Raise our taxes so they can buy political favor.  And their policies are notorious for the unintended consequences that destroy (e.g., Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) destroyed black families). 

High Taxes and Lottery Tickets Punish the Poor

The federal government has created such an entitlement mentality that some people can’t survive without government assistance.  To fund their destructive policies, they’ve raised taxes on the wealthy.  And impoverished the poor.

With taxes so high, charitable contributions have declined.  Sin taxes (on cigarettes and liquor) have hit the poor especially hard (as they have less disposable income).  Which makes the poor more dependent on government.

But the ultimate insult to the poor has got to be the lottery.  The government entices the poor with illusions of getting rich quick.  And this want of unearned money causes the poor to spend large chunks of their small paychecks or government benefits (that they can’t afford) on lotto tickets.  Hoping to win the big one.  With some of the worse odds in the history of gambling.  (People have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than winning the lotto.  And few people believe that they will ever be hit by lightning.  But they’ll keep buying those lotto tickets.)

But whether a thief, a politician or the poor, the end result is the same.  The want of unearned money makes people make bad choices.  And people suffer because of those choices.

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