7 Really Important Charts From Obama's Economic Report

President Barack Obama's economic team released a massive 447-page report (link opens PDF) on the economy last week. The introductory text describes what you might expect from such a report: The economy is weak. We'd like it to get better. Here's how we think we'll do it. There isn't much in the way of new ideas or proposals, which is why it hasn't made many headlines.

But there's one truly great part of the report. Alan Krueger, the new chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, is intensely data-driven. It shows in the report, which is peppered with dozens of tables and charts analyzing every corner of the economy. Here are seven that caught my attention.

1. Behind the falling labor participation rate for young workers
The labor force participation rate -- the percentage of the working-age population that has a job -- has been in steep decline lately. And the drop far predates the recession. It's been falling consistently since the late 1990s (although the pace of decline picked up in the past few years).

This is another sign of how weak the jobs market is. But is there something else going on? Fewer young adults are working, but more than ever are enrolled in college. As the labor participation rate for young workers fell during the last decade, the educational enrollment rate went way up:

This isn't necessarily a positive sign. I have several friends who went back to school because they couldn't find work; education was a good alternative to keep them busy. But part of it does reflect a broader trend. Nearly 30% of Americans over age 25 now have a bachelor's degree, up from less than 10% in 1960. As post-secondary school becomes more common, it's only natural that the percentage of young Americans not working will rise.

2. So much worse than the Great Depression
If you thought the recent housing bust was unprecedented, you're right. It was far worse than even the Great Depression:

These figures are in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, so there is some skewing. Housing prices fell hard during the Great Depression, but so did everything else -- wages, commodities, etc. What's been unprecedented about our recent crash is that home prices collapsed while the prices of almost everything else either rose or recovered quickly. The aggregate consumer price index is up about 10% since 2007, yet the S&P Case-Shiller housing index is still down more than 30% from its peak.

3. Education: It pays
Median real income for working-age households has declined over the last decade and risen only moderately over the last several decades. But those numbers quickly change when you break it up by group. Workers with a bachelor's degree or higher have seen their paychecks rise nicely, while those without -- particularly those lacking a high school diploma -- have seen their pay fall hard:

There's a good chance this trend will continue. As economist Justin Wolfers pointed out yesterday, Monster.com recently posted more than 1,000 jobs listings in the Pittsburgh area. Only two didn't require a high-school diploma.

4. It really, really pays
This chart shows the same phenomenon:

The relative benefit of having a college degree has exploded over the past 30 years, mostly as the economy moved from unskilled manufacturing to knowledge-based industries. The rising cost of tuition has offset part of the benefit, but not all of it. The cost of obtaining a college degree has grown slower than the cost of not having one.

5. Remembering the 1990s
This chart is only relevant in stating the obvious: The 1990s were really good, and the 2000s were pretty awful:

Rising health insurance costs explain some of why income growth was so poor last decade. Total compensation growth over the last decade was actually decent, but almost all of it came in the form of employers paying for higher health-insurance premiums. In 1990, employer-provided health insurance made up less than 6% of workers' compensation. By 2000, it was about the same, at 5.9%. Today, it's 8.4% and growing virtually every month.

6. The fine line between job creation and destruction
Last month, Holman Jenkins of The Wall Street Journal wrote something fascinating:

Between 1977 and 2005 ... some 15% of all jobs were destroyed every year, even as total jobs grew by an average of 2% a year. Job creation and destruction are both relentless. ... The small difference between the two is what we call prosperity.

The president's report goes into more detail. Here's how this looks over the past 30 years:

What's interesting is that job destruction never got particularly high during the recession -- it never even breached levels seen in 2002. What was so painful about 2008 and 2009 was not the number of people losing their jobs, but that those who lost jobs couldn't find new ones. In fact, the number of people being separated from their jobs is now near the lowest level of the last decade.

7. Rise of the 1%
This chart speaks for itself:

Stats like these often elicit emotional reactions that fall into one of two groups: Either you think it's a sign of all that's wrong with America or is the propaganda of class warfare.

But try to suspend judgment for a moment. Ask some important questions: Why did the earnings of the top 1% fall so hard, flatline for half a century, and then shoot back to the former high? Was it entrepreneurship? Regulation? Taxes? Wall Street? Something else? The answers aren't clear, but a chart like this shouldn't be ignored. It tells too important a story to be treated as an emotional sound bite, regardless of which side the bias comes down on.

What do you think of these charts? Let me know in the comments section below.

For more like this, check out my new e-book, 50 Years in the Making: The Great Recession and Its Aftermath, on Amazon for your Kindle or iPad. It's short, packed with data, and only costs a few bucks.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Follow him on Twitter @TMFHousel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 5:16 PM, HaMb0 wrote:

    Morgan,

    I always enjoy your articles. Thanks for posting them. I do have a question on point 5. Is this trend the same if you account for the total households around in each period? ie did people with lower incomes simply qualify for more mortgages and shift the proportions of income to owning houses in the 2000s? This may help explain both why the housing market collapsed and why the income/household fell.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 5:29 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    "The answers aren't clear, but a chart like this shouldn't be ignored."

    I would argue that the answers actually are pretty clear, despite frequent attempts to muddy them.

    Declining high-end tax rates, decreasing regulation, reductions in the social safety net, and an increase in the political power of wealth, globalization and free trade increasing the geographic connectivity of the reserve army of labour and consequently depressing wages in the developed world (a net positive in the long run, mind you, to bring global wages into better accord)... these factors all augur for greater income inequality and a concurrent decrease in economic freedom for the majority.

    Which, indeed, is what this chart shows.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 5:56 PM, chrisguns521 wrote:

    the last chart is the most disturbing

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 5:59 PM, boogaloog wrote:

    Morgan,

    Love your articles. But Chart 2 is the kind of thing that bothers me. Yes, home prices are way down from their peak. But the peak was WAY higher than it ever should have been. A more useful chart would be something like a comparison of current prices to historical norms. I know housing prices in my area have CRASHED (according to the 24/7 media circus) all the way back to what they were before the bubble. To me, that means they're back where they should be (give or take).

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 6:02 PM, bluedorn wrote:

    Point # 7 chart would be more interesting with the addition of the % of taxes paid by the 1% in it.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 6:21 PM, nonameillinois wrote:

    I think chart showes the rise of good union paying manufacturing jobs.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 6:27 PM, nonameillinois wrote:

    Previous comment was refering to chaet #7.It also shows the decline of these jobs begining in thr 80s.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 7:10 PM, Danyboy7 wrote:

    Bull make money, Bears make money, and Pigs get slaughtered. Good stuff Morgan. I would say (to the last chart; Greed. Not all greed is good. After the depression when profits began to disappear, and people lived off the land they had, or didn't have, America's recovery was slow, meticulous, and EVEN throughout classes because everyone went through the depression together, executive and worker. We do not have that luxury today. Most everyone who went through the great depression, or was affected by it, is either no longer alive, or retired. What we have are the offspring of hard workers who forgot to teach their children the value of honesty, hard work, and money. This chart will HAVE to dip again, and that's sad, but it will benefit Americans in the long run. If you don't learn your lessons from History, and no one teaches you the lessons History has taught them, then History tends to repeat itself. With profits dwindling and cash being saved instead of spent, the top 1% is going to have to dig into their pockets to pay the 99% (or whatever % of Americans are in poverty dips to over the next decade) in order to revive spending and bring back profits.What do you guys think?

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 7:18 PM, Cedarjones wrote:

    Point #7 is indeed interesting. Thomas Sowell pointed out that it's not the same 1% who keep earning all all the money. In fact, there is a lot of churn at the top and very little security. So if our fearless leaders decide to confiscate all of the earnings of the 1% in taxes, consider that as a limit to opportunity. And don't forget the economic growth of the 80's, the Internet bubble of the 90's and the housing bubble of the 2000's all juiced the incomes of the top earners. I'd love to be one of them, at least for a year!

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 7:39 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> Either you think it's a sign of all that's wrong with America or is the propaganda of class warfare. <<<

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 7:45 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    Morgan, where did you go to college, and what was your major? I mean this as a sincere question.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 8:07 PM, CaptainWidget wrote:

    <<I would say (to the last chart; Greed. Not all greed is good.>>

    Yes, that new Greed idea which never existed before 1983. That's the problem.

    And the answer is even simpler. Just outlaw greed. Then we'll be prosperous once again.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 9:21 PM, bobabushka wrote:

    Excellent reading Morgan. Capitalism has become somehow synonymous with Greed. And Greed has been newly defined as a good thing. Greed has been proudly touted as a Pro-American ideal. And yet I believe in our economic system when it's fair. I agree with some of our other Motley Fools: Deregulation is not always good...

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 9:31 PM, CaptainWidget wrote:

    Just curious....how would you go about eliminating greed? And what is fair to you?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 10:07 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> And yet I believe in our economic system when it's fair. <<<

    Life isn't fair. Get used to it.

    Communism doesn't work. Look at North Korea.

    Socialism doesn't work. Look at Greece.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 10:54 PM, RetiredinFL08 wrote:

    I don’t believe it is about any particular ideology or economic system. It is about people. Regardless of the system in place, greed will corrupt the foundations leading to its eventual collapse. There are examples that we can look to for direction and guidance, but they can only apply when we want to see something different.

    Martin Luther King said "The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism." I would add to that .. the evils of socialism, communism and any other ideology. The evil in all of these structures comes from the human component. The need for regulation and checks and balances rests on the need to keep members of society in any system that are bent on greed and the control of society from carrying out their unethical desires.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 10:59 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> The need for regulation and checks and balances rests on the need to keep members of society in any system that are bent on greed and the control of society from carrying out their unethical desires. <<<

    Good luck finding ethical people to "regulate and check". Allow me to repost a great link.....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 11:00 PM, MichaelDSimms wrote:

    Seems almost that you are saying the more educated the population becomes the more unemployment goes up. Wonder if that has to do with Americans, thinking they are actually too smart to do actual work. Intellectuals are scary.

    How many plumbers do you see out of work?

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 11:01 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> Seems almost that you are saying the more educated the population becomes the more unemployment goes up. Wonder if that has to do with Americans, thinking they are actually too smart to do actual work. <<<

    Why work when Obama keeps extending unemployment benefits?

    How many plumbers do you see out of work?

    >>> American plumbers or illegal alien plumbers? <<<<

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 11:08 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    As an American, you have two choices.....

    You can plan wisely, work hard, and succeed in life.

    Or you can feel sorry for yourself and hate rich people.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 11:14 PM, Chontichajim wrote:

    Thank you for digesting 447 pages into some of the more interesting charts. Like a few others I only find #2 a bit out of context since it can be viewed as either positive or negative depending on whether each preceeding upward trend exceeded income growth or not.

    We could only afford our first house in the 1990 California housing dip and bought our second (without selling the first) only after the current drop in housing prices. These corrections are needed or else homeownership will only be for the 1%.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2012, at 11:39 PM, CrowdKnowsBest wrote:

    Great article, my comments for concern lie in the 3rd Graph: "Average Annual Earnings by Worker Education Level". With so many people coming out of College (higher skilled workforce) lower skilled workers will see jobs disappear or take wage cuts. You hit that on the head earlier. But, with so many people graduating college will that not depress wages of ALL workers? Granted there are exceptions based on the industry. The ratio in the next graph will probably continue on its current path, but mostly because unskilled workers are no longer going to be able to earn a decent wage. You add to this fact the graph on job creation and all of a sudden I don't care about the 1% top income earners . I'm worried about how in the world to grab a job in a very competitive job market in a declining/stagnant economy.

    @crankytexans maybe americans will think we are "too smart to do actual work". A line we won't cross? Maybe I need to be a plumber.

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2012, at 3:34 AM, kyleleeh wrote:

    <<How many plumbers do you see out of work?>>

    Depends on what part of the country you live in. Areas that got hit hard during the housing boom have lots of unemployed plumbers.

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2012, at 8:46 AM, Tomohawk52 wrote:

    I have a question about the chart 4, measuring income for those with high school vs university degrees. I see charts like that one and I wonder why all university degrees are lumped together into the comparison? The reason I ask is that a lot of jobs require a certain degree; there is no way for someone without that degree to participate in that part of the job pool. For example, doctors, lawyers, some engineers, etc.

    But on the other hand, a lot of people have university degrees but have jobs where their co-workers, having the exact same job, may not. For example, bank tellers, store managers, etc. Is there any chart you or anyone else knows of where those people with jobs where a degree is a prerequisite to having a particular job are extracted from the data? I'm thinking that having a university degree for a lot of people is not a particularly good use of their time or their money.

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2012, at 9:29 AM, DividendsBoom wrote:

    Does chart 3 include estimates for non-wage, non-reported incomes. Is the number also only for full-time workers? While in college I was a non-educated part time employee, while in high school I was an even less educated less than part-time employee. Are adjustments made for these?

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2012, at 11:08 AM, ravensmaniac1968 wrote:

    Regarding Chart 7 - Did 401ks become prominent around 1985 or so? I wonder if all of the additional 401k / 403b / Fed Gov TSP retirement plan money that went into wall street resulted in or at least helped fund corporate America? What impact did that have on the top earners?

    I wonder what will happen as the baby boomers stop funding their 401ks etc... and start drawing on them, thus removing money from corporate America.

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2012, at 11:15 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    "You can plan wisely, work hard, and succeed in life. Or you can feel sorry for yourself and hate rich people."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2012, at 12:21 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    DJDynamicNC, it may be a false dilemma, but I am pretty sure that you hate rich people.

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2012, at 12:40 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    Morgan, from which page of the 447-page report did you get the "Rise of the 1%" chart?

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2012, at 1:21 PM, GutArzt wrote:

    It is so clear what caused the 1% people to appear to go higher. It is really an artifact of the war on poverty. We have stopped generating a robust middle class by taxing people who make up that class and paying those who could be in that class if they worked, but they simply do not contribute. Look carefully at the curve, it bottomed out in the late 60's (war on poverty began in 1968) and started climbing rapidly upward in the 70's even in spite of Jimmy Carter. Many enjoyed the 80's, but the 1% people who were creating jobs (leveragin labor) enjoyed it even more. But just think how mathematically the 1% would look if all boats had continued to rise with the economy of the 80's and 90's in the absence of rapid growth in the Federal welfare system pulling cash from job creation and instead creating a permanent uder class. If all had grown at proportional rates, the 1% would not seem out of line. Talk about Slavery After Slavery in the 1865 to 1910 era when the South treated Afircan American's to a new form of slavery. Our Federal government has now created since 1968 Slavery After Slavery, After Slavery. Lacking hope, the pride of being productive, the security of their own career and paycheck, lacking positive recognition, lacking control of their own fate, the welfare recipients are now slaves of Uncle Sugar. And in their hopeless condition they turn to sex, drugs, crime, and murder. The old adage about giving people fish or teaching them how to fish is alive and well. Until we get back to personal reliance and reduced government interference, we will see this process continue until we are fighting in the streets as we are witnessing in Greece. Wake up America.

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2012, at 1:25 PM, GutArzt wrote:

    There is also a very robust noncash economy at work in the USA. Many make a lot more than they pay taxes on. Taxes that are too high cause lots of cheating that cannot be detected.

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2012, at 2:47 PM, superbigwilly wrote:

    So I read this article and what interests me is chart #1 (the decline in labor participation and increase in educational enrollment with time) combined with the outrage du jour, chart #7 (the increased "income inequality.") I wish Chart #1 went back to 1950 to cover the period before and after '79 when the Department of Education was created.

    Seems to me the Feds continue to flood the market with easy money for education, which drives up demand and the cost of college, increases enrollment, and reduces the value of bachelor's degrees (funny to hear Obama smear colleges and universities for jacking up tuition costs. Again, doesn't seem to understand the law of supply and demand). Kids are studying art, anthropology, and gender studies instead of learning a useful trade. They then graduate and find their degrees worthless and go back to school with more easy government money to get a graduate degree further devaluing a college education. More kids in school, less kids working and earning money. Even if the so-called top 1% never see a dime increase in income, the "income inequality" sky-rockets because the bottom 99% are wasting time in school going into debt and earning nothing while to the top 1% continue to produce.

    Notice chart #3 and right about 1979 was when the earnings between a bachelor's degree and lower degrees begins to diverge. Notice the leap upwards in the "inequality gap" around 1979. Coincidence?

    I think the DOEdu should be disbanded and there should be no government scholarships. That's what I took from those charts.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 3:09 AM, tom0s wrote:

    A few things about the last chart:

    According to my Republican father, survey records also show that reported economic well-being and general happiness were highest during the time period when this graph is lowest, and have been decreasing since the 1970s.

    The equilibrium and efficiency seeking market principles that Adam Smith described depend on a market with many players, none too big to influence the market with their actions alone. Thus, any time there are such forces, markets will be distorted, and wealth will go toward that larger player.

    The "dilemma of the state" is that without government, there can be no accumulation of wealth beyond what an individual can physically defend, but with government, the government itself can be used by some to steal wealth from others.

    To me this chart shows the wealth disparity paralleling the concentration of economic power. In the low post-war decades, there were fewer entities large enough to sway the market with their actions, and so it worked more efficiently, and found better equilibrium. The 1980s saw a dramatic shift to larger, more monopolistic, and less regulated corporations that were able to distort the market to their own gain, and to use the government as a tool for their own theft.

    We, as a people and a country, must take our government back from the wealthy, powerful interests that have hijacked it, and use it not to redistribute wealth, but to level the playing field for all, and prevent the concentration of power that enables market distortion. Contrary to popular opinion, government policy generally redistributes wealth, subtly and insidiously, to the wealthy. The postwar decades were a brief exception.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 9:24 AM, solarfool314 wrote:

    I think that part of the reason for the shape of graph # 7 is a combination of paying for WW2 and the fear of communism.

    Remove the fear of a communist movement in this country and there's no longer any reason for the rich and powerful to moderate their avarice.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 9:56 AM, dave3940 wrote:

    As I read your article I was mindful of a couple of things;

    -our monetary system changed in the 60's when Nixon severed the last link to the gold standard, so, currency valuations post 60's create somewhat of a different playing field.

    -I have been a technical recruiter for high tech for almost 10 years and was a contractor before then (so keenly aware of job market prices) and I find that pay rates have been stagnant since at least 1999. If anything they have dropped since then.

    By combining these two points, it would seem to me that the 1% are entrepreneurial having enhanced access to the growing money supply while job workers are working under a cap. So regardless of your education, if you aren’t taking advantage of capitalism, then you are working under a disadvantage.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 11:02 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    "DJDynamicNC, it may be a false dilemma, but I am pretty sure that you hate rich people."

    I don't hate them any more than they hate me. I recognize that our interests do not align, and I act accordingly.

    Rational self-interest, if you will.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 11:03 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @tom0s, dave3940 and Solarfool - agreed on all counts. Great comments.

    I suspect the rich are becoming newly fearful of a socialist movement in this country, and they should be.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 11:21 AM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> We, as a people and a country, must take our government back from the wealthy, powerful interests that have hijacked it, and use it not to redistribute wealth, but to level the playing field for all, and prevent the concentration of power that enables market distortion. Contrary to popular opinion, government policy generally redistributes wealth, subtly and insidiously, to the wealthy. The postwar decades were a brief exception. <<<

    Wow. Is this page one of the Communist Manifesto? Leveling the playing field is the same thing as redistributing wealth. Explain to me how taxing the rich and not taxing the poor redistributes wealth to the rich? The poorest half of Americans pay zero federal income tax.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 11:24 AM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> By combining these two points, it would seem to me that the 1% are entrepreneurial having enhanced access to the growing money supply while job workers are working under a cap. So regardless of your education, if you aren’t taking advantage of capitalism, then you are working under a disadvantage. <<<

    This is America. Nobody forces people to be "job workers". Anyone can become rich with a good plan and hard work. I don't feel sorry for people who choose low paying jobs and hate rich people.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 11:26 AM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> I don't hate them any more than they hate me.<<<<

    If that's true, then apparently, rich people do hate you.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 11:28 AM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> @tom0s, dave3940 and Solarfool - agreed on all counts. Great comments. I suspect the rich are becoming newly @tom0s, dave3940 and Solarfool - agreed on all counts. Great comments. <<<

    I'm not rich, and I am fearful of a socialist movement in this country, and I should be. At least you admit to be socialist.

    I have never seen so many radical leftists in comments section of a MF article before.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 11:30 AM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    I am still waiting for the source of chart #7.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 12:00 PM, slpmn wrote:

    Cranky Texan - You and others are confusing proponents of free markets with socialist/communists. The call for a "level playing field" is not a call for communism or socialism. It is a recognition that the system as it currently exists is scewed towards enriching those already at the top and perpetuating the status quo.

    Right wing propaganda says we live in a capitalist/free market nation with liberty and justice for all. Reality is, we live in a semi-crony-capitalist system in which a few scoop up 90% of the wealth, and the rest fight for scraps leftover in the public markets.

    Those who truly relish competition, which is what capitalism is all about, always look for the level playing field because that's where they can shine. If you have your eyes open and have been an investor for more than a couple of years, it's pretty plain to see our system is, if not broken, then pretty messed up.

    Propagandists would have you believe the people fed up with the status quo are largely lazy, neavou hippies looking for a handout. Really, it's a mix of all kinds, including many successful wealthy people who just value fairness and opportunity for others. Not so long ago, those were considered core American values.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 12:12 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    slpmn, If you were president, how would you implement a "level playing field"?

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 12:18 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    --> "This is America. Nobody forces people to be "job workers"."<--

    You know, other than needing to eat.

    -->" Anyone can become rich with a good plan and hard work. I don't feel sorry for people who choose low paying jobs and hate rich people." <--

    Sure, anybody CAN become rich. It's just that some people start life on third base and then lecture the resto f us about the need to hit a home run.

    You're absolutely right about me being a socialist, though. I'm quite proud to openly believe that ethical outcomes are more important than efficient ones. I am quite happy to admit that I think people are more important than profits.

    And you're quite right to feel that we're going to change the world.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 12:24 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> You know, other than needing to eat. <<<

    You misunderstood my comment, but now that you mention it, you do not need a job in order to eat. More people are on food stamps today than ever in history.

    >>> Sure, anybody CAN become rich. It's just that some people start life on third base and then lecture the resto f us about the need to hit a home run. <<<

    You are a cry baby. EVERY American has the opportunity to get college loans and get a degree and become rich. This isn't a communist country (yet).

    >>> You're absolutely right about me being a socialist, though. <<<

    Kudos for your honesty. As a socialist, do you approve of Housel's article?

    >>> I am quite happy to admit that I think people are more important than profits. <<<

    Do you profit from your job?

    >>> And you're quite right to feel that we're going to change the world. <<<

    If you are trying to scare me, you are succeeding.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 12:29 PM, JimiJZ wrote:

    Chart 7 to me tells me that significant wealth is generated by some game changing product or event that could where many people could benefit from it and acquire wealth. At the turn of the 1900 the industrial age was in full bloom and went global and was not regionalize. The Auto became available to the masses on an international scale and many industrialist as well as the many companies that were created to meet demand generated a significant amount of wealth for their owners and employees. The same thing happened in the 80s when the PC finally came of age and went global. Cell phones shortly followed and many many software, hardware, support, and distributions companyies and their employees many a mint. The bottomline is that politics never has nor ever will creates anything but trouble for the wealth curve. The market must weed out artificial parameters to stay in balance or the math blows up (bathtub). The wealth curve will flatten and come back into balance to some degree until next next game changer comes and it will again start moving up. Ingenuity and risk taking by people always changes the game not political parties.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 12:33 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> >>> And you're quite right to feel that we're going to change the world. <<<

    You might enjoy this then....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtGrp5MbzAI

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 12:53 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    "Socialism doesn't work because people like to own stuff."

    -Frank Zappa

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 1:00 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    DJDynamicNC, Housel just tweeted your home run quote.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 1:01 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    By the way, I did not start life on third base.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 1:23 PM, slpmn wrote:

    "slpmn, If you were president, how would you implement a "level playing field"?"

    Oh, I'd do lot's of good stuff. What would you do?

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 1:25 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>>Oh, I'd do lot's of good stuff. <<<

    What kind of good stuff would you do?

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 2:06 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    --> "You misunderstood my comment, but now that you mention it, you do not need a job in order to eat. More people are on food stamps today than ever in history." <--

    Indeed. Almost 46 million Americans make use of food stamps. some other interesting numbers:

    - Average benefit is $133 a month.

    - 49% of those who receive food stamp benefits are children.

    - 15% of all participants are elderly

    - 20% of all participants are non-elderly disabled

    - Average gross income for foodstamp households is $776 monthly - about right for a minimum wage, retail job.

    - 4 job applicants exist for every 1 currently reported job opening, meaning if every single position available in America were filled tomorrow, 3 people for each opening would still be unemployed (which, presumably, would require them to take up farming in your ideal country).

    --> "You are a cry baby. EVERY American has the opportunity to get college loans and get a degree and become rich. This isn't a communist country (yet)." <--

    Spoken like somebody who has never had to work three minimum wage jobs just to get by. Is it POSSIBLE to struggle through three jobs, go through the scholarship and loan process (assuming you still have decent credit), attend school, eventually get a degree, and become rich? Sure, technically. If you do everything perfectly. If you don't get sick before you can get a job with health insurance. If you don't bobble your credit when you're 18 years old. If you don't overwhelm yourself with stress. Your solution is to just expect perfection from people and then moralize when they turn out to be human. My solution is to provide, you know, solutions.

    Oh, and I think you've mistaken "cry baby" with "somebody who fights back."

    -->"Kudos for your honesty. As a socialist, do you approve of Housel's article?"<--

    As a socialist, I approve of empirical evidence being used to improve outcomes. As a socialist, I approve of compassion, intelligence, puppies and the colour green (should I have said red? Damn stereotypes). Have I ruined all of those things for you now?

    Morgan's article is a presentation of facts. Admittedly, facts have a well-known liberal bias, but whether I approve or disapprove of them does not impact their veracity.

    --> "Do you profit from your job?" <--

    I earn money from a variety of revenue streams. At no time do I earn money from enterprises I view as unethical. In other words, I put people before profit, as I just said. I feel you're trying to set up another false dilemma, so let me just stop you now.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 2:29 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> 4 job applicants exist for every 1 currently reported job opening<<<

    It might help to deport illegal aliens.

    >>> Spoken like somebody who has never had to work three minimum wage jobs just to get by. <<<

    I didn't work during college. I saved for college when I was in the military. And I got college loans which I paid back after college. 4 years in the military is harder than 3 minimum wage jobs.

    >>> assuming you still have decent credit <<<

    Most college loan recipients did not have a credit history.

    >>> If you don't get sick before you can get a job with health insurance <<<

    Then buy health insurance.

    >>> If you don't bobble your credit when you're 18 years old <<<

    That's like saying if you don't commit a crime when you're 18 years old. It is not my fault that you have a bad credit rating. It is YOUR fault.

    >>> Your solution is to just expect perfection from people and then moralize when they turn out to be human.<<<

    I hate to break this to you, but rich people are imperfect and human.

    >>> Oh, and I think you've mistaken "cry baby" with "somebody who fights back." <<<

    Whom are you fighting?

    >>> Morgan's article is a presentation of facts. Admittedly, facts have a well-known liberal bias, but whether I approve or disapprove of them does not impact their veracity. <<<

    Just making a point that you, a self-admitted socialist, approves of Housel's articles.

    >>> In other words, I put people before profit, as I just said. <<<

    If you go to the movies, go to restaurants, and go on vacations, then you are using your PROFITS. That means YOU profit. Which makes you a "greedy" hypocrite.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 2:36 PM, MaximDagamov wrote:

    Socialists and communists are not the same thing. Socialists have personal property, including land, home, businesses, stocks, etc. Communists vest all ownership in the government. One of the most socialist countries in the world is Finland. Finland has one of the highest rates of educational achievement in the world. There are more and less efficient governments - which may explain why Greece is such a mess right now. Finland has a very high tax rate, but in return, a very stable economy, an excellent education system, and generally very happy people, despite being dark much of the winter. Here we have some good education, some good medical care, some good work opportunities -- but they are not as open to all as all might wish. Until all children have access to good education -- and not all do, just visit your local reservation sometime, or your local depressed urban area, or your local depressed rural area -- and all children are able to read and reason and think for themselves and know their country's history when they graduate, if they graduate, that openness is limited to some. But every year it's the same battle - schools are asked to do more with less, and taxes must never, ever rise. So the schools often can't provide a good education to all students. Furthermore, we think of America as being made up of small businesses; and in rank numbers, most businesses in America are small -- but they don't have the power. That belongs to the big businesses, who can pay for election campaigns, and wine-and-dine members of Congress. I agree, some businesses are too big to fail, which just heightens the inherent inefficiency of the market system we espouse. The income gap is growing. Yes, I would regulate the behavior of corporations. I would be concerned about concentrating financial, economic, and political power into fewer and fewer hands. (BTW, the name on this posting is that of my CAT, not me, and I am not a communist, but I might be a socialist, and, perhaps more accurately, a progressive Christian.)

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 2:41 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    --> "DJDynamicNC, Housel just tweeted your home run quote." <--

    That's quite an honour!

    -->"You might enjoy this then...."<--

    I'm afraid I can't view videos. Care to summarize?

    It's interesting how it's only "redistributing wealth" when it goes from top to bottom. When you set up a system to encourage the flow of wealth from bottom to top, suddenly that's just free markets and is sacred.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 2:41 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> but I might be a socialist <<<

    That makes two self-admitted socialists on this thread. Shall we go for three?

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 2:43 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> It's interesting how it's only "redistributing wealth" when it goes from top to bottom. When you set up a system to encourage the flow of wealth from bottom to top, suddenly that's just free markets and is sacred. <<<

    Are you logically challenged? How can wealth go from bottom to top if wealth is something that only rich people have?

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 3:16 PM, rdwicker wrote:

    CrankyTexan, It's amazing that a self made man, with plenty of dough to spend and be happy has so much free time to sit on this site and try and profess your intelligence. you are clearly too set in your ways to explore other view points. I typically take time every friday to catch up on the Fool's schwag for the week - and always read Morgan's articles. you are ALWAYS on here and ALWAYS on here a lot - typically hating. we should all, including myself, and i'm not right now, be more positive. our political system is broken because too many of us try and prove that what we believe is the ONLY way. period.

    there are too many uber rich folks that ARE greedy - my opinion.

    i'm not a socialist, and have ben an entrepreneur all my life - owner of my 3rd business - and you don't speak for me. i feel like the playing field is far from level an, to date, i've always done great- but the system does seem broken.

    oh well, it's almost beer 30 and i'm gonna go spin the economic wheel and have some brews, go to dinner with my dad and forget about the mess for a while. have a great weekend all you fools - including you Cranky!

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 3:19 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    --->"It might help to deport illegal aliens."<---

    That's really the best you can do?

    --->" 4 years in the military is harder than 3 minimum wage jobs." <---

    I absolutely disagree, and I speak as a veteran myself. But it's irrelevant. I never said it was impossible to succeed against the odds. I simply pose the question of whether or not it is in society's best interests to maintain such difficult odds for so many people.

    ---> "Most college loan recipients did not have a credit history." <---

    This is made possible by government loan guarantees, which you also wish to remove.

    ---> "Then buy health insurance." <---

    Hey, watch out there. You're dripping privilege everywhere.

    ---> "It is not my fault that you have a bad credit rating. It is YOUR fault." <---

    Is spending a lifetime punishing people for mistakes made when they are 18 in the best interests of society? Is it effective at generating the best economic outcomes?

    If you are going to conflate economics with ethics, at least admit that that's what you're doing. There's nothing wrong with it, but be honest.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 3:23 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    "it's almost beer 30"

    At first, I read this as meaning you were on your 30th beer, and was in awe of your remarkable communication skills. :lol:

    Still a very good comment!

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 3:27 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> there are too many uber rich folks that ARE greedy - my opinion. <<<

    If rich people are greedy, then you are too. You go to work to PROFIT.

    >>>. i feel like the playing field is far from level an, to date, i've always done great- but the system does seem broken. <<<

    EVERY American is part of the worldwide 1%. A typical "poor" American eats everyday, has a roof over his head, has a TV, has a cell phone, has access to food stamps, and welfare checks. If you want to see true poverty, look at other nations. As for the "home run" analogy, EVERY American is already on third base. Some people make it to home base while others CHOOSE not to. I have zero sympathy for people who were born in the USA, land of amazing opportunity, and fail to make the right decisions in life.

    >>> oh well, it's almost beer 30 and i'm gonna go spin the economic wheel and have some brews, go to dinner with my dad and forget about the mess for a while. <<<<

    Don't forget how lucky you are to have enough PROFITS to buy 30 beers and go out to dinner.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 3:33 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> That's really the best you can do? <<<

    If you want decreae unemployment, that's what we need to do.

    --->" 4 years in the military is harder than 3 minimum wage jobs." <---

    >>>. I simply pose the question of whether or not it is in society's best interests to maintain such difficult odds for so many people. <<<

    Oh boo hoo. Life is hard. Quit whining and improve your life. Or as we say in the military, suck it up and drive on.

    >>>This is made possible by government loan guarantees, which you also wish to remove. <<<

    At least you admit it is not hard to get a college loan.

    >>> Hey, watch out there. You're dripping privilege everywhere. <<<

    Bull crap. I buy health insurance that is not attached to my job. And it costs me $150 a month. That's cheaper than cigarettes. EVERYONE can afford health insurance if they stop blowing their money on stupid purchases.

    >>> Is spending a lifetime punishing people for mistakes made when they are 18 in the best interests of society? <<<

    Exaggerate much? You can clean up your credit rating in 10 years. I doubt you will though. When you borrow money, you are promising to pay the money back on time. YOU broke your promise.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 3:41 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    -->"If you want decreae unemployment, that's what we need to do."<--

    That is actually unlikely to be true, but even if it were, you're ignoring the fact that we have had much lower unemployment while experiencing much higher illegal immigration rates. Care to explain? (I'm sure you do)

    -->" Oh boo hoo. Life is hard. Quit whining and improve your life. Or as we say in the military, suck it up and drive on." <--

    My life has never been better and I've earned every drop. None of this is anything that is likely to directly benefit me, although I recognize that I do indirectly benefit from a more stable and equitable society. You seem to keep assuming that I'm just whining about my lot in life. Perhaps you are simply unable to understand my ability to care about the hardships that other people go through?

    ---> "At least you admit it is not hard to get a college loan." <---

    And at least you admit that government plays a role in improving social outcomes.

    ---> "And it costs me $150 a month." <---

    Bully for you. I am sure this may come as a shock to you, but other people may be born with less optimal health conditions. They may not have the resources to locate decent health insurance. They may have a variety of factors preventing them from obtaining it at such a rate. You are able to beat the odds. That in no way negates my point, and that fact that your position continues to boil down to "well I got mine so screw them for not measuring up" speaks volumes.

    --> "You can clean up your credit rating in 10 years. I doubt you will though." <--

    You refuse to answer the question. Is this really generating the optimal outcomes for society?

    Have you never forgiven a friend for screwing up? Have you never screwed up yourself, and been forgiven?

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 3:50 PM, Pyridoxine wrote:

    Chart 7 is interesting, but is also designed to present data in an inflammatory way. The more relevant criterion is "how does income inequality affect me", or "how would a reduction in income inequality affect me"? IRS statistics provide one answer: if the government took 100% of the income of those making $1M and above and redistributed it to the 141M people on nonfarm payrolls, each worker would be $3,900 richer. That indicates that the loss of low-skill high-wage jobs is due almost entirely to productivity gains (greater availability of technology and foreign labor), not to the 1% taking more for themselves. Whether or not you believe the rich pay their "fair" share of taxes, the fact is that no matter how much more they pay, up to everything they've got, the 99% are not going to derive much benefit from soaking them.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 3:58 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> you're ignoring the fact that we have had much lower unemployment while experiencing much higher illegal immigration rates. Care to explain? (I'm sure you do) <<<<

    The past does not change the fact that deporting illegal aliens today would definitely decrease the 9% unemployment rate.

    -->" Oh boo hoo. Life is hard. Quit whining and improve your life. Or as we say in the military, suck it up and drive on." <--

    >>> Perhaps you are simply unable to understand my ability to care about the hardships that other people go through? <<<

    Spending money on stupid purchases instead of buying health insurance and saving for retirement is not a hardship. It is stupidity.

    >>> And at least you admit that government plays a role in improving social outcomes. <<<

    Government is not required for student loans. There's something called banks.

    ---> "And it costs me $150 a month." <---

    >>> Bully for you. I am sure this may come as a shock to you, but other people may be born with less optimal health conditions. <<<

    That's what responsible parents are for.

    >>> You refuse to answer the question. Is this really generating the optimal outcomes for society? <<<

    Absolutely. Preventing deadbeats from getting new loans is VERY helpful to society.

    >>> Have you never forgiven a friend for screwing up? Have you never screwed up yourself, and been forgiven? <<<<

    Sure. But your definition of forgiving someone is forcing other taxpayers to give them money.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 4:02 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    DJDynamicNC, if were to loan me $10,000, and I refused to pay you back, would you loan me even more money?

    I can't wait to read your answer.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 4:09 PM, golfcrackerjack wrote:

    I'm not in the top 1% of earners, but chart 7 means little absent context. IOW, during each of the periods, how does median household wealth stack up? This is important, because those afflicted with class envy may get their wish of hammering "the rich" only to find that having the wealthy more poor makes the former more poor as well.

    If we were chimps in a colony, this might improve comity (there are data to show this, btw). I'd like to think we're not chimps, but maybe we really are.

    Or maybe what America really needs another world war that we somehow win without incurring any damage to our own infrastructure while destroying industry across the rest of the developed world. We had a war like this in the 1940s and that may explain why America had, for the only time in history anywhere anytime, a well-paid middle class (1950-70) who could learn their jobs in a half-an-hour on a unionized assembly line in Flint or Cleveland. Could it be that the "good old days" were a fluke?

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 4:32 PM, Pyridoxine wrote:

    DJ: "have you never screwed up, and been forgiven?" Of course most people have, and most people would agree that forgiveness is a virtue. But you're being dishonest if you refuse to admit that there's a difference between forgiveness and enabling. Automatic, institutionalized, unconditional forgiveness is not a virtue, it is a complete lack of accountability. And the greater the cost of cleaning up after a screw-up, the less forgiveness society can afford. In the case of a hard ceiling on resources (such as the number of livers available for transplant per year), forgiveness is impossible - every unreformed alcoholic that gets a liver deprives a more responsible person of their life. For soft resources like money, is 99 weeks of unemployment benefits compassion, or is it enabling? The real cost isn't the job seeker who doesn't get serious until benefits run out, it is the exploding cost of unemployment insurance premiums to employers, who as a result don't hire other employees.

    And regarding redistribution, Cranky is right - there is no redistribution from bottom to top. If the government is taking from Peter and giving to Paul, it's stupid to claim that giving a little less to Paul is somehow "taking" from him.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2012, at 11:47 PM, plowhandle wrote:

    pyrodoxine, cranky texan and cohorts don't see any problem with texas imposing a tax on oil extracted from texas--this is a tax on everyone using the oil. Nor do they have a problem with states passing laws directing ins companies to raise all homeowners' premiums in order to lower wealthy oceanside homeowners' premiums (North Carolina) or with a state guaranteeing coverage of oceanside and near oceanside property with tax dollars of all state citizens (Florida). These are illustrations of how states can and do take dollars from the poor and middle class and give to the wealthy.

    You are probably having a knee-jerk thought that i envy or hate the wealthy. This would be untrue since i am part of the wealthy.

    One of the very few things that i hate is the abuse of power.

    plowhandle

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2012, at 12:09 AM, kyleleeh wrote:

    <<It's interesting how it's only "redistributing wealth" when it goes from top to bottom. When you set up a system to encourage the flow of wealth from bottom to top, suddenly that's just free markets and is sacred.>>

    Well said DJ

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2012, at 12:14 AM, CaptainWidget wrote:

    Free markets don't encourage upward transferrance of wealth. History has been crystal clear on this.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2012, at 12:25 AM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    >>> pyrodoxine, cranky texan and cohorts don't see any problem with texas imposing a tax on oil extracted from texas--this is a tax on everyone using the oil. Nor do they have a problem with states passing laws directing ins companies to raise all homeowners' premiums in order to lower wealthy oceanside homeowners' premiums (North Carolina) or with a state guaranteeing coverage of oceanside and near oceanside property with tax dollars of all state citizens (Florida). These are illustrations of how states can and do take dollars from the poor and middle class and give to the wealthy. <<<

    You're lying. I am against most taxes.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2012, at 12:39 AM, utahchris wrote:

    The last chart has a misleading Y axis. Tufte wouldn't appreciate it.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2012, at 4:12 PM, donvesco100 wrote:

    Bear in mind the desired end of the charts included in the voluminous Presidential sales pitch is to sell the Presidents agenda.

    Anyone who believes the Presidents intention is to improve the lot of the middle class at the expense of his wealthy donors needs to place their hands firmly on hips, and pull their head out of their......

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2012, at 6:26 PM, FoolyOut wrote:

    "I wasn't born on 3rd base"

    Who cares? Why does everything come back to you? It's about what's fair for all w/o infringing on the whole of society, not 'w/o infringing on CrankyTexan'. A society is just that, social

    You seem to argue that someone not having responsible parents is their fault and too bad for them, life isn't fair for YOU either, not every law of this land must run through you first. Get over it and stop crying, we have social programs to benefit society at large, not just CrankyTexan.

    "We have 2 admitted socialists, wanna try for 3"

    Again: who cares? Welcome to America, where anyone can have any belief they choose and it's their right: just ask the religious.....oh, ask Scientologists! At least the Socialists believe in real things. The government has to keep their eyes on national business of all types and can only rely on fact, and what works. Good thing we have a pres who actually has intelligence of his own.

    "Deporting illegals would lower the unemployment rate"

    Ummm...have you read the numbers on that? Helloooo...already happening since Obama, go to the ICE website. Oh, wait, they're government, kenyan, socialist nazis, we can't trust them, LOL.

    I suspect that deportations of illegals who are criminals is driving it, but it's still politically risky for him to do.....yet, he does it b/c it's good for the whole of society, not just for CrankyTexan. But, of course, that fact doesn't fit your narrative, so you'll ignore it.

    Peace.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2012, at 6:34 PM, FoolyOut wrote:

    I must point out also, that a person who's against most taxes is also against a government and therefore is an anarchist. While that is wonderful in some of my favorite punk songs, it's isn't very good in practice. (And don't even start with the 'private army/security can run the military' and 'private this' and 'private that', NO. Absolutely not, we're not having a cleptocracy like the russians.)

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2012, at 11:07 PM, barryhau wrote:

    Really? You actually trust a 400+ page report from the Obama Administration, you kidding me!

  • Report this Comment On February 26, 2012, at 12:13 AM, esotericevets wrote:

    One argues with a fool at the risk of onlookers to the argument not being able to discern who is the fool. No offense intended, especially to this crowd of professed fools. There are all manner of possible perspectives and perceived truths. I believe that the U.S. is viewed by much of the rest of the world as one of the greatest problems in the world. It is seen as a dangerous giant whose hazardous tendencies need to be dealt with. Some would try to let the U.S. consume itself in an autoimmune like response to relatively trivial threats. Others from outside accommodate the debilitation through trade practices. From within, the country is sapped by schemers of all income levels who extract their wealth without providing commensurate service. I believe that these charts are a reflection of the decay of this country as seen through metrics. I also believe that each American should consider whether this is true and devote himself to making this country decent. To any non American reading this, I would suggest that you consider giving us the benefit of the doubt and see if we will move on and do great things for the world in the future.

  • Report this Comment On February 26, 2012, at 2:28 PM, bahkadypak wrote:

    Last chart is the most interesting. I wonder if it is possible to create similar chart for the previous century (if the data is available). I suspect the shape will be the same: high within and slightly after (due to some phase shift) the period of concentration of Schumpeter's fundamental innovations and low during the period when newly acquired knowledge and skills are broadly distributed and the density of innovations is relatively lower.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2012, at 11:19 PM, 1sweet1 wrote:

    I've followed the whole thread, altho it's taken me a couple of days. Things deteriorated for a while there with the name calling (or labeling).

    It seems to me that the difference between the rich and the rest is the easy access to capital. That's not very easy for most of the 99%, and dictates whether you can be an entrepreneur or a worker.

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