Wednesday, December 31, 2014

USA's 2014 Report Card: Good work, could do better

     The United States leads the world in production of websites, prisoners, sunflower seeds and pricy health care.
     Chicago, I was surprised to learn, is the third largest urban area in the world, with a population of 6.8 million, right behind New York and Tokyo. Not a conventional way of viewing the city, but well, we’ll get to that.
     All of this learned from pawing through a fascinating thin volume, “Pocket World in Figures: 2015 Edition” which The Economist magazine sent as Christmas thanks for ponying up the big bucks and subscribing (worse, I bought two subscriptions, one for me, one for my son at college in California. He insisted).
     New Year’s Eve being upon us, rather than rehash stories that weren’t that interesting to begin with, but did occur during the past 12 months, I thought we could join hands and graze through this little book. So let’s take a moment to see our city and nation as they appear, not close up to our jaundiced eyes but from afar, to those taking in the whole big blue marble at one glance.
     The news, statistically, is surprisingly good. The United States is the biggest economy in the world by far: $16 trillion, almost exactly twice that of second-place China. We export 20 percent more than China, second only to the European Union. But we do have to borrow a lot to keep going: $440 billion deficit, more than the next six nations: the United Kingdom, India, Australia, Canada, France and Brazil — combined. Though it could be worse: Our government debt is equal to our nation’s gross domestic product for 2013; in Japan, it’s more than twice the GDP...
     To continue reading, click here.


  1. I don't know how things actually get measured, but as to China's economy here is Joseph Stiglitz

  2. Pages and pages of analysis by top flight sports writers fall short of your "I've-fallen-and-can't-get-up" picture of the Bears' season.


  3. The Economist figures are ridiculous. DuPage County still has a lot of farmland, as do Will, Lake & McHenry Counties & Lake County, Indiana.
    All of their populations have to be added in to get to 10 million people.
    Mexico City has well over 20 million people & no rural land.
    The same for Shanghai.
    There's no rural land around London, unless they're counting the greenbelt around the city. I'll bet there are at least ten additional cities in China that have more than 10 million in their metro area & zero rural land. I read there are now dozens of cities in China that each have over a million people in them.

    As Mark twain said: There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies & statistics.
    This is yet another idiotic "statistic" dreamed up by an editor to far too much time on their hands, just to get it written about as clickbait for their site.

    1. good point, clark st.

    2. Chicago placing third in this category seems like a head-scratcher to me, as well. “A continuously built up urban development that has no rural land” is not really something to make one proud, regardless, and the amount of time it takes to get out of the metropolitan area and into "the country" is one of the things I dislike about our fair-to-middling city.

  4. Actually, the figure is 6.8 million -- I bobbled it. Fixed now. The USA isn't the only one who could do better.

  5. If GDP was a good measure of the economy then "happy days" arrived years ago - the economy has been in technical "recovery" for years. But it's not a good measure. Slavery grows GDP. A machine that replaces three workers grows GDP. You always have to look at household income to see how that wealth is being distributed. Salaries have been stagnant - the modest good news is that recently that measure has ticked-up, but not at the same pace, and we're deep into the recovery economic cycle.

    As for immigration, Mr. Steinberg again does his Tea Party immitation. Regardless of what some of the best economists of our eras (the ones who got the Great Recession correct) say, in his view there are no losers with illegal immigration, only winners, saving us all from turning into, gasp!, Japan. As I've written before, not only is Japan far from as dire as Mr. Steinberg makes out, it's irrelevant - the question isn't whether we'll have NO immigration (a la Japan) but whether we'll have lots of skilled immigrants (like Canada and Australia). And in Japan, individual income has been rising despite the slow overall economy thanks to increased automation and other savings, so even there the situation is muddled (and most countries would happily trade for Japan's economic situation)

    Mr. Steinberg's better statement of the economy came several months ago, when he made a flip comment about a bank teller he feared he may hvae got fired with, IIRC, a less than stellar customer review he gave via an automatic phone survey. He asked what's going to happen to them when automation takes their job. "Baristas or warehouse workers, I suppose." In 2015, I hope he writes more columns exploring that. A few weeks after he wrote that line, the New York Times did an article about warehouses using robots instead of workers. Maybe there's a barista shortage I'm unaware of.

    Last and saddest of all, when people talk about the economy they rarely include the African-American dimension. November had the most postive job numbers in recent memory, but African-American unemployment ticked up. THen there was this INCREDIBLY depressing article about how African-American COLLEGE GRADUATES inability to find jobs.

    Money quote: "this is very different than the past." Indeed. Broadly speaking with respect to the economy, THAT'S the story of 2014, and one being ignored.

  6. Mr. S, Don't believe figures from China. They have more prisoners but certainly aren't going to state the truth in that type of govt.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Let's say China has as many prisoners as the U.S. or even a few more. We're still imprisoning people (mostly minorities) at an incredible rate, for amazingly long sentences, and at an appalling cost. As has been said many times, we'd be better off handing out $100 bills to those accused of crime rather than spending thousands and thousands of dollars a year to keep them in a place where they can enhance their criminal skills and grow fat and strong on the taxpayers' dime.

  7. I'm off topic, but only a day behind. Yesterday you posted that it meant a lot to you that we take the time to read. Fact is, it means a lot, an awful lot, to us that you take the time to write and, more importantly, to do so with such wit and insight.
    EGD deserves more than mere clicks. Forgive me if I've missed it, but I don't recall ever seeing any info about advertising on EGD. Perhaps you've been reticent so as not to appear crass, or to prevent anyone from thinking that you have a commercial motive for writing. We all know that's not so (and that you've proven as false Dr. Johnson's dictum about writing for money).
    So put the info out there (I remember the good advice I got long ago as a young lawyer when I'd expressed discomfort about charging friends for services rendered. The advice -- "Bill your friends. Your enemies won't pay you.")
    So thank you, Neil, and a happy and healthy new year, every goddamn day.

  8. Hey Neil, long time reader, follower and admirer of your work. First time reading your blog. You can't give it up anytime soon there is too much happening in the urban community we share we need your daily perspective. Your papers website has gotten so bad I can't find your daily colums. Now I have your blog. Best Christmas present of 2014. Keep up the good work.

  9. The notion of joining hands and contemplating the contents of the Economist's little book to celebrate the New Year is a fresh -- and welcome --departure, particularly since an interdigital rendition of Auld Lang Syne can't be accomplished on the internet. My Scottish-born spouse deplores that custom in any event since most non-Scotts tend to mispronounce Syne. However, she does sometimes recite another contribution by Robbie Burns, a toast that seems appropriate to the limited and discriminating readership of Every Goddamn Day.

    "Here's tae us
    Wha's like us.
    Damn few.
    And the're a deid.
    Mair's the pity.

    Happy New Year
    Tom Evans

  10. The Economist 2015 Pocket World in Figures doesn't list Chicago as the 3rd most populous metro with 6.8 million people. It lists it as the 3rd largest in land area at 6800 square kilometers. It's only listed as the 31st most populous metro at the top of the same page.



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