After the fiscal-cliff deal, the payroll tax rate – income withheld from our paychecks for social security – went up from 4.2% to 6.2%. For the last two years, American employees were paying a little bit less in social security withholding and the jig was up last week. This rate increase is an effective increase in taxes of about $16 per week (or about $850 per year) for the average American worker.
What does this reduction in income mean for economic growth for 2013? A lot of retailers are concerned that, with less money in their pockets, Americans will spend less. In line with economic theory (taxes increase, demand goes down), many economists forecast that the payroll tax cut will have drag on consumer spending for the year (J.P Morgan expects 0.6% drag on growth, Goldman expects the same drag, Credit Suisse expects consumption spending to move from 2% in Q4 2012 to 1.5% in Q1 2013). We also think the payroll tax cut may have a bit of drag on consumer spending (here and here) in the first half of the year, along with the other changes in tax policy and uncertainty surrounding sequestration and the debt ceiling. Read more
Back in November, I proposed a round of the Treasury Secretary Dating Game and put forth the two most likely candidates: Jack Lew and Erskine Bowles. Well, this week, as expected, Jack Lew landed the job. On Thursday afternoon, President Obama announced that he will replace Timothy Geithner at Treasury. Since the Treasury secretary’s signature appears in the bottom-right corner of U.S. currency, Twitter and the blogosphere grabbed onto Lew’s oddly loopy autograph on Wednesday (it looks kind of like a stretched-out spring). Here’s a bit more about the man behind “the signature.”
Remember when gold used to be a big deal? America adhered to the Gold Standard, and a musician was excited when their album “went gold,” meaning it sold more than a million units. Then, during the 1970s, Nixon abandoned the Gold Standard and gold-status for albums got downgraded to only 500,000 units and platinum-status was given to the million sellers. It’s been downhill for poor gold ever since. And now platinum’s all the rage again with everyone debating the “platinum coin” option for bypassing the debt-ceiling debate in the United States. Read more
You may already know this, but because Santa Claus only works for one night a year, he occupies the rest of his time with detailed statistical analysis. That’s why he keeps detailed lists of all the “naughty” and “nice” children. It is, however, little known that Santa Claus also keeps various sub-lists for his statistical analyses. One of these lists is his Economic Naughty and Nice List. To get on Santa’s Economic Nice List, the subject must be achieving positive results for the economy. Santa’s Economic Naughty List contains those who, through action or inaction, do their economies harm. I happen to have seen a leaked portion of the list (Wikileaks again!) and wanted to share here. Read more
Last week, we put out a 2013 economic outlook. Our take on the U.S. economy is fairly positive…if the U.S. government can avoid the nastiest parts of the fiscal cliff. So let’s say that Republicans and Democrats can come to a solution, and the United States manages to avoid recession in the first half of the year. As the U.S. economy keeps improving in 2013, the unemployment rate should keep dropping, right? It’s dropped from 8.8% last November to its current level of 7.8% in about 12 months.
Well, as we get into 2013, don’t be too worried if that pace seems to stall for a while…at least, don’t worry that the recovery has stalled. Read more