A Real-Time Account of Free Markets Eradicating Poverty

factoriesA few months ago we had a post, along with a video animation, on how free markets wipe out poverty and boost the overall standard of living. Lest one is inclined to think that it’s “just a theory”, read this recent account (“China: A Billion Strong but Short on Workers”, WSJ, 5/1/13) that puts that notion to rest. It’s yet more proof that free markets aren’t an ideology, but rather the natural order of things when government gets out of the way.

Following are excerpts from the above-mentioned account:

“Ms. Cui is contributing to China’s tightest labor market in years, putting upward pressure on wages that already are rising in the double digits annually.”

“The average monthly income for migrant workers rose 12.1% from a year earlier.”

“Creating jobs in hair salons and insurance companies, instead of in steel mills and soccer-ball factories, helps fuel growth in the world’s second-largest economy.”

“When the bra maker set up a factory in southeastern China’s Jiangxi province more than a decade ago, hundreds of people lined up outside looking for work. Today, the manufacturer for Wonderbra and Elle Macpherson Intimates struggles to find enough workers to operate its production lines at full capacity.”

“For years Top Form competed for labor with factories moving inland to take advantage of lower costs.”


Predictions: Did it Happen?

Jump back three years ago, October 8, 2008, on the eve of Barack Obama’s election to president. An article in the American Spectator by Peter Ferrara reviewed a newly released book by Steve Moore, Art Laffer and Peter Tanous, titled The End of Prosperity.

Writes Ferrara,

The book explains in full detail the economic disaster that will befall America if it takes a sharp left turn to neo-socialism under the leadership of the far left President Barack Obama, the ultraleft Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with 60 liberal Democrat Senators, and their pal the ultraliberal Howard Dean heading the Democrat party.

He continues,

One of the insights of the book is that a major factor already tanking the stock market and leading foreign capital to flee America is the threat of the economic policies promised by Obama. Obama proposes increases in every major federal tax, on savers, investors, employers, small business, big business, and anyone who would start a business. Obama also promises to add additional federal spending of almost $1.5 trillion over the next four years ….That would be on top of all the spending increases already scheduled for our exploding entitlements and other programs. Obama also promises a massive increase in regulatory controls….These retrograde economic would ultimately produce a deep, long term decline in America’s standard of living, particularly for the middle class and working people. America would actually fall behind countries around the world.

Ferrara indicated that what happened under President Carter was a precursor to what was to happen under Obama:

The poverty rate actually started increasing in 1978 during the Carter years, eventually climbing by an astounding 33%, from 11.4% to 15.2%. A fall in real median family income that began in 1978 snowballed to a decline of almost 10% by 1982. Average real family income for the lowest income 20% declined by 14.2%. Indeed, during the Carter years (1977 to 1980), real income declined for every quintile, from the lowest 20% to the highest 20%.

So, three years later, here in October 2011, were the predictions of Ferrara, Moore, Laffer, and Tanous correct?

If you were an Obama supporter, you would have laughed off their predictions as being absurd. But how wrong you would have been. Their predictions were excruciatingly on target. As discussed three posts below, the poverty rate is the highest it’s been since 1993. And average real family income has declined to levels not seen in 15 years.

Seems, though, that the authors were a bit off on their prediction that Obama would add additional federal spending of almost $1.5 trillion over the next four years. It turns out that Obama has added at least $3 trillion in additional federal spending in three years. (The amount by which our national debt has shot up during that time.)

Ferrara’s article was presciently titled: Prepare for the Worst.

The Obama-Pelosi-Reid episode is proof positive if you let big-government policies flourish, the consequences are tragic. We need new leadership. Fast.

Obama Nation: Lower Living Standards, Rising Poverty

The Dow ended down almost 400 points today. But that’s not the real measure of prosperity or how the U.S. economy is doing. The real measure is per-capita income – i.e. income per person or the quantity and quality of goods and services per person. That’s what separates us from third-world countries. Our per-capita income of course is a lot higher, and over the decades it has increased faster. It’s also what separates us from Europe. Western Europe’s average per-capita income is equivalent to that of our lowest-income state (Mississippi). Europe’s per-capita income used to be equal or higher than ours, 40 years ago. But their welfare state has taken its toll – slower economic growth over the decades since, which really adds up.

But the welfare state is really taking hold here in the U.S., especially under Obama who has raised government’s share of the GDP from about 20 percent to 25 percent, and who has added more to our national debt in two-and-a-half years than George Bush did in eight years (which was bad enough as it was).

And it shows: our per-capita income here in 2011 has fallen to 1996 levels. That’s scary – usually per-capita income rises over time. It may fall during recessions, but then during the rapid economic growth that usually follows recessions, per-capita income spikes up.

In this Obama economy, however, post-recession growth is anemic. It was less than 1 percent at last count, which is slower than population growth, meaning there are fewer and fewer goods and services per person. Normally after deep recessions, growth is in the neighborhood of 5 to 8 percent. But when it comes to the economy, Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing (assuming he genuinely wants to help the economy, in contrast to many hard leftists who want to see growth come to a halt).

What more evidence do we need to show that big government solutions don’t work? They only make our standard of living decline. The main driver of rising per-capita income isn’t government, but the people outside of government who are producing the goods and services. It’s government’s job to make sure there are good ground rules. But too often, they go overboard on the rules, and coerce too much out of the private sector.

Another frightening bit of news: the percentage of Americans living below the poverty level is the highest since 1993.

What more evidence to we need to show that poverty is alleviated by private-sector-driven economic growth, and not clumsy government programs? It’s the latter that exacerbate poverty.

If government programs were the main alleviators of poverty, then practically all third world countries would now be first world, given that most of them have socialist governments. But they’re third world precisely because of their bloated governments. It takes months or years to just get permission to open a business in many of those countries.

So poverty in America reaches an all-time high, even though Barack Obama was expected by the economically naive to bring it to an all-time low.

Hopefully the Obama experience will squeeze that naïveté out of some of them.

Yes, the main cause of poverty is a shortage of goods and services in society. That’s what separates us from a third world country like Haiti. Yet now, goods and services per person are decreasing. Of course we’ll never become like Haiti (except perhaps in certain pockets like Democrat-controlled inner cities), but our standard of living will be a lot lower than what it could have been, had we had fewer economically illiterate people running our country.