Tidbits

This week is a “tidbit dump” of information that I thought was interesting.

– Local governments, municipal and county, employ 14.2M people, about 10% of the workforce.  Local government employs more people than the entire manufacturing sector does.  Less than half of the population of the U.S. works.

– The National Ass’n of Realtors offers assessments of local real estate markets, including employment, occupation mix, mortgage defaults.  Current reports are available by subscription but recent reports are free.

Federal and state governments have large pension and employee costs that are tied to the CPI or inflation rate.  Social Security payments rise with the CPI.  Federal, State and local government employees receive annual cost of living adjustments (COLA) to their pay that is based on the CPI.  The amounts of money involved are staggering.  Retirement benefits will total about $500B this year.  A 1% increase in the CPI is an additional $5B paid under this program alone.

– Doug Short is a retired IT consultant whose web site contains various commentaries on markets and personal economics.  Here is a historical overview and explanation of the Consumer Price Index.  It includes a decade long chart of the percentage rise of the various components of the CPI.  The rather steady rise of the food component over the past 10 years contradicts the Federal Reserve’s assertion that food is a volatile component.  The Fed leaves this supposedly volatile component out of it’s calculation of “core CPI” to get what the Fed considers a more accurate assessment of inflation pressures.  This methodology understates inflation, in my opinion, and contributes to the poor monetary policy that the Fed has adopted in the past 15 years.

– In an interview with former President Bill Clinton after the shooting of Congressperson Gabrielle Giffords :
These words[political invective] fall on the serious and delirious alike, they fall on both those who are connected and unhinged.

– Each year U.S. national parks receive as many visitors as the population of the U.S.

– Should a person nearing retirement take an early Social Security payout or wait? Steve Vernon with CBS Money Watch examines the pros and cons in this article.  The reader comments are as interesting as the article.

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