After abandoning the gold standard in the early 1970s, productivity declined significantly.
Following World War II — from 1947 to 1973 — productivity expanded at a strong 2.8 percent annual rate. However, from 1973 through 1979, this rate plummeted to 1.2 percent, and since 1973, it has only grown 1.8 percent on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Once the gold standard was removed, credit and money creation was more readily attainable. These funds were used for short-term consumption — thereby increasing inflation — and purchases of financial instruments that tended toward equity extraction and transfer, rather than wealth creation.
Long-term direct investment in labor and capital fell. In essence, creative innovation was stifled, leading to lower productivity.
Lost productivity was the key driver of stagnant economic mobility and huge disparities in wealth and income, and all were intensified by the increased concentration of political power and the associated loss in opportunity and meritocracy.
Economic mobility has remained essentially flat since the 1970s, according to Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard, Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Nicolas Turner of the Treasury Department's Office of Tax Analysis. Advanced nations, such as Canada and Denmark, have experienced better results.
Their data suggest that children born into the poorest families, on average, tend to be 30 percentiles lower in the income distribution than those from the wealthiest families, a gap that has remained relatively stable during the past 40 years — with lower mobility associated with the Southeastern states and higher mobility in the Mountain and Western regions.
They estimate the probability of moving from the lowest fifth to highest quintile in the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas range from a low of 4.4 percent in Charlotte, N.C., to a high of 12.9 percent in San Jose, Calif. They suggest greater mobility tends to be a function of less segregation, less income inequality, better schools, greater social capital and more stable families.
Seventy percent of children raised in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution will remain below average in their adult years, notes The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Median household income would have risen by $39,000, from $52,000 to $91,000, if the rate of productivity remained at the 1947-73 average and income inequality remained constant — a 75 percent increase, according to the 2015 Economic Report of the President, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve Bank.
A monetary system predicated on a partial backing of the currency with tangible assets, such as gold, silver or virtual currency, that are freely traded in the global marketplace would help ensure that the expansion of money is linked to a productive use of resources and permit a viable medium of exchange — one that preserves purchasing power and is less susceptible to market disruptions by centralized bureaucrats political decision making.
It's time to revamp our monetary system
and return to an asset-backed currency model.
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