What We’re Reading

Demographics:

Longer term what I worry about is that before COVID arrived, it was clear that we were hitting a steady reduction in growth rate, which had not been fully appreciated by the authorities. And the main reason was the population bust. When I came to America in the sixties, we were having years where you’d have as much as one and a half percent increase in labor force, natural growth.

And now we’re down to 0.2, and within 10 years we’ll be about minus 0.2. Europe is already flat to down. Japan has been down for over 20 years, and South Korea will be down momentarily. And China, incredibly important, will be having declines in the 20 year old’s coming into the workforce pretty soon. So all over the world, you’re having declining growth rates of workforce workers. And then the second part of growth is productivity. And if you look at the data, whether it’s the US or international in the developed world in particular, it’s clear that for 50, 60 years, the productivity level has been wending its way down. From in the sixties, which was pretty much a peak almost 3% a year, and today somewhere in the 1% to 1.5%. So if you have 1% to 1.5% productivity and minus 0.2 growth rate in the workforce, and if you keep up the tendency for everybody to work a little bit less, about 0.2 in the US. We like working here. But still 0.2 is a real drag. You’re going to struggle to do much more than 1%.

Apple operations:

Jobs’s death two years later caused skeptics to predict Apple would stagnate without a steady stream of his inventions; in fact, the real challenge was keeping supply up in China. Operations managers were scrambling to buy enough computer-controlled milling machines and laser cutters. Every millimeter was scrutinized for savings—as were even the seemingly least consequential parts. Three people familiar with the company’s supply chain say there was an Apple employee whose job consisted of negotiating the cost of glue.

Rat race:

It’s wild how many different activities I (you, we, us) juggle on a daily basis. Getting the kids up and dressed. Work. Podcasts. Blogging. Household finances. Spending time with my wife. YouTube Videos. Cooking. Checking in with friends and family. Cleaning the house. Work. Putting the kids to bed. TV/Netflix/sports/movies. Books.

I’m not saying our parents didn’t have plenty going on, but not like this. Right?

I feel mentally stimulated all day. Not a minute is wasted. But wait, are most of these minutes wasted? It feels like the days are quickly turning into years. Slow down, damnit!

And yet, I have no desire to slow down. No interest in unplugging. I love it. Like, I really really love it.

Life:

Life expectancy in the United States dropped a staggering one year during the first half of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic caused its first wave of deaths, health officials are reporting.

Minorities suffered the biggest impact, with Black Americans losing nearly three years and Hispanics, nearly two years, according to preliminary estimates Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is a huge decline,” said Robert Anderson, who oversees the numbers for the CDC. “You have to go back to World War II, the 1940s, to find a decline like this.”

Stimulus:

Spending by consumers who make less than $60,000 a year jumped by more than 20% in the week ended Jan. 10—the week after the U.S. Treasury Department began electronically sending stimulus payments of $600 per adult and $600 per child for individuals with adjusted gross incomes under $75,000—according to the research group Opportunity Insights’ tracker of figures from Affinity Solutions, which collects consumer credit- and debit-card spending data.

Spending by households making above $100,000 by contrast, was broadly flat compared with January 2020 that week.

Have a good weekend, stay safe.


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