Now, some folks may have noticed (ha!) that I have not been posting too much these last few months. Those who actually know me understand that I’ve had a very good reason for this. However, I have still continued to surf the news sites each day and keep up with various blogs as well. I figure Mr Pierce does such a fine job eviscerating the Zombie-eyed-granny-starver and so many other idiots, that there really isn’t much I can say and definitely can’t improve on. As well, Dean Baker continues to easily refute the gibberish of so many Beltway Village Idiots Pundits and Politicians, so there’s not much need for my rants.
So, I laugh when I see where someone has butt shot himself while thinking of all the “butt calls” I have received from family and friends. And I get a little sad when I see legislators in my home state embarrassing themselves with their diatribes against teaching evolution. (Note: Gravity is still considered a theory as well, maybe some of these folks complaining about teaching evolution “cuz it’s only a theory” should maybe be invited to test that gravitational theory from the top of the capital building – rhetorically speaking of course.)
But then, I wind up reading something that is so incredibly stupid and disingenuous, that I am moved to take a whack at it on my own. Today, I reached this point when I read this idiocy from Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post:
Judging by the political reaction, you’d think that Paul Ryan’s budget takes a meat ax to Medicare and threatens economic havoc for the elderly. Just the opposite is true: The Ryan budget spares older people from almost any change or sacrifice — and that’s the problem. We have (and, to be fair, this is mainly the doing of Democrats and their intellectual apologists) made those 65 and over into a politically protected class, of which nothing is expected and everything is given.
It is impossible to have an honest debate about the budget — and government’s size and role — unless this changes, because aiding the elderly is now the main thing the federal government does. If you remove that, fearing a backlash from the 50 million or so Social Security and Medicare recipients, you condemn yourself to bad choices: (a) you can’t deal with deficits, which may crowd out productive investment and risk a financial crisis; (b) you must dramatically squeeze the rest of government, including the social safety net, defense and research; or (c) you must raise taxes sharply, which may further slow the economy.
Now, I am admittedly not an economist (thank doG) but by my rough count those two paragraphs contain maybe two semi-factual statements and about ten misstatements, mis-directs, and outright lies.
My first response after reading Samuelson’s gibberish was to rush over to Beat The Press and see if Dean Baker had already taken Samuelson to task. Alas, Dean has been otherwise occupied with taking Casey Mulligan of the NY Times Economix blog and the Washington Post to task for their various misstatements and mis-directs. I imagine he can only deal with just so much stoopid and disingenuousness in one day before reaching his fill.
Samuelson proclaims that the Ryan budget “…spares older people from almost any change or sacrifice…” (this seems to be an article of perceived Conventional Wisdom among the Villagers and TradMed if this and this are indicators. But the devil as always is in the details as this from Think Progress explains. I would like to add that the attempt at generational war by proclaiming loudly that “55 and above are exempt from the changes” presupposes that those of us older than 55 have no desire to see these programs available to our younger family and friends. Please note, not everyone has an “I’ve got mine, fuck you!” attitude, m’kay?)
I am going to close this without attacking the rest of Samuelson’s gibberish and try to re-store my blood pressure to a more manageable level. But I would like to say that Samuelson continues to act as if the social safety net spending, Social Security, and Medicare have been stand alone problems these last ten years while ignoring the destruction of the US and world economies by the Banksters and fraudsters on Wall St.
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I’m not going to act like an economist and claim to be “surprised” that folks are spinning various education pieces today. No, I am not at all surprised that it is happening, but I am a little frustrated when I see something like this from today’s (Sunday May 22) NY Times where the headline uses “grassroots” and “Bill Gates” together. The idea of anything funded from the coffers of a billionaire being considered “grass roots” is beyond ludicrous. But then, we are talking about a TradMed that willfully overlooks the funding of folks like the Koch Brothers and Dick Armey to proclaim various astro-turf organizations as “grass roots.”
To be fair, the Times article does point out a few of the problems:
INDIANAPOLIS — A handful of outspoken teachers helped persuade state lawmakers this spring to eliminate seniority-based layoff policies. They testified before the legislature, wrote briefing papers and published an op-ed article in The Indianapolis Star.
They described themselves simply as local teachers who favored school reform — one sympathetic state representative, Mary Ann Sullivan, said, “They seemed like genuine, real people versus the teachers’ union lobbyists.” They were, but they were also recruits in a national organization, Teach Plus, financed significantly by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
There are times that I begin to despair a bit about all the crap going on all over. I can’t do anything about earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear disasters (all in one) but I can address some of the reporting I’ve seen in the TradMed the last couple of days.
Apparently the Beltway Village Idiots Pundits are anxious to stop writing all those bummer articles about the un and underemployed and the destruction of the global economy. I guess it’s just too Debbie Downer for them. So they’ve started the “Everything’s Getting Better” articles. The NY Times and Floyd Norris started with this headline:
Crisis Is Over, but Where’s the Fix?
Of course, without anything being fixed, it’s rather difficult for the “crisis” to be over. And to be fair, Norris does address some of this in the article:
When the financial system began to crumble more than three years ago, the world rushed to rescue it. Country after country went deeply into debt to keep banks afloat and prevent a deep recession from turning into something worse.
But the world has changed since then. The economic recovery in most developed countries is stuttering at best, and governments are struggling with their own finances. It is time for remorse and second-guessing.
A surprising citadel of that second-guessing is at the International Monetary Fund, where researchers this week concluded that the rescues “only treated the symptoms of the global financial meltdown.”
The researchers, Stijn Claessens and Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, warned that “a rare opportunity is being thrown away to tackle the underlying causes. Without restructuring financial institutions’ balance sheets and their operations, as well as their assets — loans to over-indebted households and enterprises — the economic recovery will suffer, and the seeds will be sown for the next crisis.”
In retrospect, it is clear that the bailouts came with too little pain for those responsible. Bondholders who financed banks that failed largely escaped pain. That was true even in Ireland, where the bailout would have led to a default of government debt had Europe not stepped in. It is still not clear how Ireland will pay its national debt, but the bank bondholders did fine.
Norris goes on to point out that one of the problems is the lack of accountability. Imagine that?
The economy has been growing for 18 months after the longest recession since the Great Depression – but public opinion has yet to fully reflect what economists generally agree are incipient signs of hope. One truism of presidential politics that actually happens to be true is that voters’ perception of the economy trumps just about any other issue, so Obama, acutely aware of both the need to present a successful economic record and the dangers of prematurely declaring victory, is treading very, very carefully.
Yet despite several quarters of real — if uninspiring — growth, the pessimism remains deep. A Bloomberg National Poll conducted in early March found that more than a third of Americans continue to believe that the U.S. is in a recession, more than a year after it ended, and 63 percent of Americans say the nation is on the “wrong track.”
Structural unemployment – unemployment stemming from a mismatch of workers’ skills and job requirements – has been cited in mainstream media as the main cause of current, high unemployment. Data from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), however, suggest that structural unemployment is not what is ailing the economy. The graph below draws on data from the NFIB’s monthly survey from December 2007 (the official start of the recession) to January 2011. Each month, the NFIB asks its sample of small businesses to state the single most important problem facing their business today. Since the recession began, respondents overwhelmingly have cited “poor sales,” suggesting that today’s unemployment is primarily due to a lack of demand. “Quality of labor,” the factor most consistent with structural unemployment, barely made the list.
Why the shortage? Many of the people who were laid off from factory jobs and are looking for work don’t have the specialized skills companies are looking for, manufacturing execs say. And they’re not eager to acquire them, because, having been laid off from one manufacturing job, they’re convinced that the whole sector is on the decline. So they don’t want to spend time retraining for jobs that they fear could soon be shipped overseas.
Some say those fears are misplaced, arguing that skilled manufacturing jobs are difficult to outsource. But the numbers tell a different story. As we’ve reported, middle-wage, middle-skill jobs — a category that includes both skilled manufacturing jobs and white-collar clerical work — are shrinking rapidly as a percentage of total U.S. jobs, thanks to the effects of offshoring and mechanization. So it may make sense for a worker to decide against spending a year retraining himself to learn these skills.
My bold. Today’s (Saturday, March 11) Hartford Courant had three articles that reflect the reality of things today.
Links to the articles are embedded in the titles but there we have it. UTC is laying off workers and moving the jobs elsewhere. They are doing it because they can (profitable but want more profits) and they reward the CEO with $24M in compensation to oversee these cuts and outsourcing. And the CEO likes to brag about it (from prepared remarks delivered in Mumbai to NASSCOM):
Today, we have almost 5,000 employees in India. Our Otis factory in Bangalore has produced more than 30,000 elevators since the 1990s. Our Carrier factory in Gurgaon produces 200,000 air conditioning systems per year. In addition, Pratt & Whitney engines power the aircraft of many Indian airlines, including Air India, Kingfisher, and Indigo – as well as more than 225 turboprop aircraft, business jets and helicopters in India.
From our perspective, this is really just the beginning of our relationship with India. Before talking about some of the big macro forces that will shape the global economy over the next decade, I’d like to share just a little data that highlights the size of the opportunities in both the infrastructure and aerospace markets. Last year, UTC’s sales in India were $500M. We expect this to grow to $2.5B by 2015. I’m confident in this level of growth based, in part, on the current per-capita consumption rates. As countries like India become more urban, consumption levels for air conditioners, security systems and air travel will increase toward the levels seen in more mature markets.
But surely there are folks in the US working to see US workers employed, building things useful to all citizens, right? Just today there were two more articles on Republican governors attempting to justify killing rail projects within their states. First up is John Kasich in Ohio refusing to put up $52M for a project estimated to cost $128M for streetcars in Cincinnati:
Gov. John Kasich said he can’t justify spending $52 million in state money for Cincinnati’s streetcar – the new governor’s most emphatic statement on what Cincinnati leaders consider a major economic development project.
Without the state money, the project could be up to $30 million short of the $128 million needed to build a streetcar route from Downtown’s central riverfront to the Uptown communities near the University of Cincinnati. The city could seek that money from Washington or other sources, say backers.
The federal government had agreed to pay $2.4 billion of its estimated $2.6 billion in construction costs, railroad companies were vying to build and operate it, and state transportation planners had even dummied up proposed timetables: Train 7092 would depart Tampa at 8:10 a.m. and arrive in Orlando at 9:04 a.m.
The fast train was sought, and won, by Florida’s former Republican governor, Charlie Crist. But it was killed last month by his successor, Rick Scott, who joined several other Republican governors in spurning federally financed train projects over fears that their states could be on the hook for future costs. The final nail in its coffin came last week when a Florida court ruled that the new governor could not be forced to accept the federal money and start building it.
Of course, buried w-a-y down in the Times article is this little nugget that negates the article’s premise (and Scott’s justification for canceling):
Last month, Mr. Scott decided to scuttle the project after reading a report by the Reason Foundation that questioned its ridership estimates. The foundation is a prominent libertarian policy research organization that employs several respected transportation analysts, but it gets some of its funding from donors with ties to the oil industry, including foundations related to Koch Industries, which owns oil refineries.
“The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers, and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits,” Mr. Scott said.
But a state-sponsored ridership study, which was released this week, concluded that the proposed line would actually have been a money-maker from the start.
Regardless of the complaints that Tampa and Orlando are too close together and as cities are “virtually unnavigable without cars,” the line would have been a money maker. It would have eventually been extended south to Miami as well.
So here we sit. Private industry destroys jobs because they can. Governors destroy jobs because of ideology even though those jobs could eventually help people get around cities and states without buying gas, contributing to pollution and auto gridlock. Saving gasoline that has spiked in price once again, chewing up more financial resources that the long term un and underemployed could use on things like, oh food or medical care.
Let’s let the Village Idiots Pundits declare Victory Recovery and move on so they can cover such news as Newt Gingrich’s Patriotic Affairs.
In the last few days since the release of the official employment number for January, there have been a variety of jobs related articles I’ve found as I surf through various news sites and the articles have been all over the map in conclusions. Some of the articles have even recognized that things really aren’t getting better for the long term un and under employed while others keep trying to provide more spin at things getting better.
Saturday’s (Feb 4, 2011) NY Times had Floyd Norris attempting to reconcile the weak job creation numbers withe the drop in the official Unemployment Rate. His conclusion shows just how ef’fed up the numbers are:
Over all, from January 1979 through March 2010, the first estimate was off — either higher or lower — from the final figure by a median of 74,000 jobs. If that holds true now, there is a 50 percent chance that the final number for January will be somewhere between a loss of 38,000 and a gain of 110,000. And there is an equal chance that it will be outside that range.
None of that reduces the importance of jobs data, particularly in the months after a recession ends. But it does serve as a reminder that the first attempt at estimating employment is far from authoritative.
During the recession, the pain in the job market was initially caused by a surge in layoffs. More recently, layoffs have returned to their recession levels before the recession, and the problem instead has become a reluctance to hire workers (including, of course, the millions laid off during the recession). This can be seen in the disappointing trends in job openings and new hires.
In July 2009, right after the recession officially ended, the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings peaked at 6.3. It has fallen since, to about 4.7 in both November and December of 2010. That’s better, of course, but it’s still historically high and doesn’t provide much hope that the labor market can quickly absorb the nation’s millions of idle workers.
As a companion to the above, the Labor Department reported that in December the number of job openings fell (via Reuters) though the spin is that it is getting better because there weren’t quite as many lay-offs:
U.S. job openings slipped in December, a government report showed on Tuesday, but a decline in layoffs supported views of a gradual labor market recovery.
Job openings, a measure of labor demand, eased 139,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.1 million, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.
The job openings rate — a gauge of how many jobs were still open at the end of the month — fell to 2.3 percent from 2.4 percent in November. Job openings have risen about 31 percent from their record low in July 2009.
The Boston Globe had an article on Saturday Feb 5 about firms in the Boston area using lay-offs as a means to boost stock prices and make themselves less appealing as take over targets. Once again, one of the most salient points is at the end of the article:
It is difficult to know whether such companies would have cut workers if they weren’t under outside pressure. Even after being sold, companies are often forced to make cuts. Anheuser-Busch, for example, was sold before its executives carried through on the cost cuts, but InBev wound up eliminating 1,400 US workers after the deal.
Outside observers said it is usually impossible to tell whether takeover candidates are making sound business moves or inadvertently sabotaging their future business in a panicked effort to bolster shares and fight off a takeover.
The U.S. manufacturing sector is roaring back after the worst recession in generations. So why aren’t factory jobs coming back as quickly?
One big reason: Business executives like Drew Greenblatt, owner of Baltimore-based Marlin Steel Wire Products, have figured out how to make more widgets with the same number of workers. To do so, he’s had to upgrade the skills — and wages — of his employees. But his profits are bigger than ever.
President Obama urged American businesses on Monday to “get in the game” by letting loose trillions of dollars being held in reserves, saying that they can help create a “virtuous cycle” of more sales, higher demand and greater profits that will put people back to work and turn around the sluggish economy.
“If there is a reason you don’t believe that this is the time to get off the sidelines — to hire and invest — I want to know about it. I want to fix it,” Mr. Obama said in a speech to business leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Federal Reserve should seriously consider pulling back on its $600 billion stimulus program given stronger growth and a brighter jobs picture, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker said on Tuesday.
Despite a report last week showing only 36,000 jobs were created in January, Lacker said other measures were pointing to a firmer economic recovery and better employment prospects.
Fortunately, the BenBernank, while not doing much, at least seems to recognize that doing as Mr Lacker recommends might not be a good idea:
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke made clear in remarks last week he does not consider progress on jobs sufficient to declare victory and begin withdrawing monetary support.
Despite record levels of long-term unemployment, some states are choosing to walk away from a total of almost $1 billion in federal jobless benefits, according to a new report (pdf).
The 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, better known as the stimulus law, extends unemployment benefits to the fast-growing number of Americans who have been without work for six months or more. In addition to helping the jobless, the federal funds offer a much-needed economic stimulus for states.
So apparently these states must believe that a miracle will occur.
The recession and its aftermath have been brutal for jobseekers, not just because there are so many of them but also because it is taking them so long — an average of nearly nine months — to find new work.
As the economy starts slowly to add jobs again, many of those who are finding a job again say the psychological relief of returning to work is as important as the paycheck.
All that any of the long term un and under employed (including myself) have asked is for a modicum of support while searching for a position in our fields and the opportunity to be a productive member of the work force. Is that so much to ask?
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