Monday, September 29, 2008

Wall Street Wizardy Index

While we wait to see if Republican ideologues in Congress will succeed in plunging us into another Great Depression or the bipartisan bailout bill will set fire to a long run of hyper-inflation, we have a question for the gurus of economics. It may be a mere idle inquiry, but it bugs us.

Our question is inspired by a report from the respected Center on Economic Policy and Research. "The Reagan Question: Are you better off now than you were eight years ago?" economists John Schmitt and Jue Jin Rho ask.

This is from the executive summary, with the part that tickled our curiosity put in boldface print for your convenience:
The unemployment rate, the inflation rate, and the "Misery Index" (the sum of the first two) are all higher in 2008 than they were in 2000. Other indicators that capture employment opportunities, wage growth, growth in family incomes, poverty, health-insurance coverage, personal savings rates, the price of gasoline, and college tuition fees, as well as a range of macroeconomic indicators including GDP growth, the trade deficit, the federal debt, and the net foreign debt, are also all worse in 2008 (or the most recent period available) than they were in 2000.

The two indicators that are better in 2008 than they were in 2000 are the inflation-adjusted level of median family income, which is up only 0.4 percent in seven years, and the productivity of the average worker, which has increased faster in the 2000s than it did in the 1990s.
That's certainly good news about worker productivity, even if it doesn't appear to have staved off the current credit crisis. But that set us to wondering this: Is there an economic index measuring the cumulative productivity of corporate CEOs? Wall Street wizards? Government regulators?

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