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August 2013 Jobs Report: “Good” News That Isn’t

11:27 am in Economy, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

Well the August Jobs Reports are in, and, as usual, the numbers were not as expected. From Reuters:

Unemployment Report

Unemployment Report

U.S. employers hired fewer workers than expected in August and the jobless rate hit a 4-1/2 year low as Americans gave up the search for work, complicating the Federal Reserve’s decision on whether to scale back its massive monetary stimulus this month.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 169,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, falling short of the 180,000 Wall Street had expected and adding to signs that economic growth may have slowed a bit in the third quarter.

CNN points out that the growth for June and July was revised downwards by 74K jobs but they also highlighted (my bold):

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to 7.3%, but the decline came for the wrong reasons, as 312,000 people dropped out of the labor force. Only 63.2% of Americans now participate in the labor force — meaning they have a job or are looking for one. That’s the lowest rate since August 1978.

Reuters also notes the drop in participation in the workforce in a sidebar article here:

The share of Americans aged 25 to 54 who had jobs or were looking for work dipped to 81 percent in August, the lowest level since 1984, a time when fewer women were in the workforce. In another worrisome sign, the share of these prime-age workers who actually had jobs has stagnated at around 76 percent since early last year, well below its 2003-2007 average of around 79 percent.

Most of the reports in TradMed outlets have also commented on the impact of the (lack of) jobs reports on the Federal Reserve “stimulus” (from McClatchy):

The Fed has been purchasing, at a pace of $85 billion a month, government and mortgage bonds in a bid to drive down lending rates in the economy and force risk taking by investors. They must seek better returns than they have been getting on bonds, thus juicing the stock market and commodities such as crude oil and a range of farm products. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is concluding his term, wants to begin weaning the economy off of this support before his successor takes over.

Of course, this “stimulus” has not really helped the millions of long term un and underemployed, even though a large part of the Federal Reserve “mission” is maximizing employment.

The stock market continues to show its disconnect with most of the economy as it has gone up in response to the jobs report number (via Bloomberg):

U.S. stocks rose to a two-week high as slower-than-forecast jobs growth eased concern about reductions in Federal Reserve stimulus, overshadowing an escalation in tension between America and Russia over Syria.

So, because the Fed may not be able to stop its “stimulus” (read: easy money for the banksters and Wall St), stocks are going up in celebration. Yeah, that makes sense. After all, the casinos always like to show their appreciation for the marks customers.

Bloomberg has an opinion piece up by a Justin Wolfers, who says to concentrate on the revisions. Of course, he also seems to think public sector jobs are not “real” jobs when it comes to the economy:

There is one further detail worth emphasizing. While there were 74,000 jobs revised away this month, more than half were in the public sector, suggesting that we shouldn’t be too hasty in marking down expectations of ongoing private-sector employment growth.

Now, I am one of those who refuses to give up my search for full time employment, preferably in my chosen field of Software Quality Assurance. I am a stubborn SoB and even when I keep receiving discouraging results, I will not fold. I’m sure many people would claim that I am being unrealistic in my desires to find work in my field. But am I any more unrealistic than the CEO of Morgan Stanley who declares:

Read the rest of this entry →

Where has the Federal Reserve been?

2:19 pm in Economy, Government, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

As many folks know, I spend a bit of time each day perusing various news sites. My postings have been light the past few weeks and months as I’ve been working through issues after my sister’s death. More recently in the last week I’ve gotten a small piece of good news in my personal life (and not saying anything further as I try to nurture this news and make it grow – but it’s not a job) as well as further bad news for my extended family, so the roller coaster ride does continue.

But then I go and see a headline like this at NBCNews.com:

Fed ready to help economy ‘fairly soon,’ minutes show

Turns out, the article was from Reuters though their headline wasn’t much better:

Fed looks set to ease fairly soon barring swift rebound

Earth to Fed! Earth to Fed! Where in the holy hell have you been for these past few years?

(Reuters) – The Federal Reserve is likely to deliver another round of monetary stimulus “fairly soon” unless the economy improves considerably, minutes released on Wednesday from the U.S. central bank’s August meeting suggested.

While the meeting was held before a recent improvement in economic data, including a stronger-than-expected July reading for U.S. employment, policymakers were pretty categorical about their dissatisfaction with the current outlook.

…snip…

The Fed held policy steady at that gathering, but signaled a renewed readiness to act amid lingering softness in the economy. The minutes showed the central bank is actively considering a “flexible” bond-buying program, which could suggest that no upfront amount will be announced.

Let’s see. The “official” time frame for the Great Recession had a start in December 2007 and ended officially in June 2009. Last June I wrote a blog post where I predicted a double-dip recession. Officially, I was mistaken as the economy has managed to maintain just enough headway to avoid the term “recession.” But also last summer, I wrote a blog post asking Mr Bernanke just where the hell he has been these past few years. I and all the other people in long term un and underemployed situations have the same concerns. We want jobs. The Fed still has a “Mission Statement” that begins with direction for “…pursuit of maximum employment…” So we sit here with the official unemployment rate at 8.3% and the rate of un and underemployeds at 15%. These number still translate to nearly 13 million unemployed and another 10 to 15 million underemployed. And again, these numbers do NOT include new college grads trying to find their first full time jobs in their chosen fields. The numbers do NOT include all the millions who have been forced to become “self-employed, independent contractors. Add these groups into the official numbers and we are probably looking at (as a guesstimate) another 10 to 15 million people. Labor force participation was at 63.7%.

But have no fear! All is not lost. Why just today, one of Willard Mitt Romney’s top economic advisers proclaimed that The Benbernank is doing a smash up job as Fed chair and deserves to remain in the position while the Republican Party has added a plank calling for an annual audit of the Fed. My guess is this is the sop to Ron Paul. And to be honest, I can see this is a good plank. Of course, we still have the Todd Akin Memorial Anti-Abortion Plank Human Life Amendment so some things never change. After all, one of the reasons the Republicans re-took the US House in 2010 was because of the lack of jobs. Yet from the very start, the House concentrated on anti-abortion legislation that included “re-defining rape.”

Todd Akin isn’t an aberration in today’s Republican Party. He is the epitome of today’s Republican Party and Paul Ryan is right there with him. Meanwhile, the denizens of the Beltway wonder what all the fuss is about with jobs and millions of un and underemployed people wonder how they will survive.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor

Economists try to explain why they were wrong on March jobs forecasts

10:49 am in Economy, Jobs by dakine01

Percent Job Losses in Post WWII Recessions, calculatedriskblog.com

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Once again, the economic community is scrambling to find the reasons why they were suprised by the March 2012 jobs report. The monthly report from ADP had private sector jobs at 209K increase for March 2012 which apparently led many economists to predict a similar number for the official report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that was released on Friday.

Oops. Wrong again.

We have been seeing stories such as this from today’s NY Times about the “strong” jobs growth from earlier this year:

Although signs pointed to a strengthening economy earlier this year, the jobs report on Friday came with a message: don’t get ahead of yourself.

The country’s employers added a disappointing 120,000 jobs in March, about half the net gains posted in each of the preceding three months. The unemployment rate, which comes from a separate survey of households rather than employers, slipped to 8.2 percent, from 8.3 percent, as a smaller portion of the population looked for work.

120K jobs is not much more than is necessary to maintain the status quo of population growth (90K is the figure Dean Baker uses) and even 200K, while growing, does not appreciably put a dent in the long term un and underemployment rates. When there are 13M to 14M unemployed and 25M to 30M un and underemployed, 200K jobs is just not going to help all that much.

Surprisingly to me, the Benbernank may have been more realistic than many others (via Bloomberg.) Of course, the article goes on to quote Fed regional presidents as saying that the numbers, no matter how soft, probably won’t cause the Fed to actually, you know, do something to ease the un and underemployment problem. No matter that a primary part of the stated Federal Reserve Mission statement is to pursue “maximum” employment.

It does appear that the consensus being reported is to blame the warm weather from January and February for the lighter number for March. Here’s Dean Baker’s take: Read the rest of this entry →

Bernanke wrings his hands on jobs. Market reacts favorably.

4:43 pm in Economy, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

(photo: Old Sarge/flickr)

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So. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke gave a speech this morning.:

My remarks today will focus on recent and prospective developments in the labor market. We have seen some positive signs on the jobs front recently, including a pickup in monthly payroll gains and a notable decline in the unemployment rate. That is good news. At the same time, some key questions are unresolved. For example, the better jobs numbers seem somewhat out of sync with the overall pace of economic expansion. What explains this apparent discrepancy and what implications does it have for the future course of the labor market and the economy?

Importantly, despite the recent improvement, the job market remains far from normal; for example, the number of people working and total hours worked are still significantly below pre-crisis peaks, while the unemployment rate remains well above what most economists judge to be its long-run sustainable level. Of particular concern is the large number of people who have been unemployed for more than six months. Long-term unemployment is particularly costly to those directly affected, of course. But in addition, because of its negative effects on workers’ skills and attachment to the labor force, long-term unemployment may ultimately reduce the productive capacity of our economy.

Once again, it seems to be a speech that depends on the individual perspective as to the take-away. David Dayen at FDL News titled it “The “Better But Not Good Enough” Economy Conundrum” and it follows a pattern from earlier speeches. Last June, I wrote a post after a Benbernank speech that appeared to be at least four different speeches, depending on the spin. Getting it down to only two spins is a bit better. The problem I have with Bernanke and his speeches is that while he talks about the problems of the long term un and underemployed, he never really seems to get around to doing anything about it, even while “pursuit of maximum employment” is part of the stated Federal Reserve mission.

While it appears that the folks on Wall Street and the various stock exchanges loved Bernanke’s speech, it has been obvious to anyone paying attention that Wall Street and the various stock exchanges don’t really have much of a connection to the real world economies. As Dayen notes in his post: Read the rest of this entry →

Re-arranging the Deck Chairs Is Not a Net Positive

2:14 pm in Economy, Government, Jobs, Media by dakine01

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So here we are. It is the middle of December 2011. The US (and global) economies still suck. The Federal Reserve continues to wring its hands and do pretty much nothing about maximizing employment (which means they are not doing their jobs).

These past few weeks, I’ve seen a number of articles in various news sites about various states offering “tax incentives” to businesses trying to get them to stay where they are or to move to another state. One of the first was when I saw reports in early October that the governor of the state in which I reside claimed that the Chicago Mercantile Exchange could be moving to Florida. Then at the end of November, I noticed that Cincinnati and Ohio had “lost” Chiquita Brands to North Carolina:

Chiquita Brands International Inc. decided to leave Cincinnati for many reasons, but the biggest one is undeniable: Money.

Lured by the promise of big savings, better air service to Europe and Latin America and a more diverse workforce, Chiquita announced Tuesday that it plans to leave Cincinnati, site of its home office of 24 years, for Charlotte, N.C.

North Carolina offered a package of grants and tax incentives potentially worth $22.7 million over 11 years, enticing the relocation of the world’s largest banana seller.

The counter offer from the state of Ohio and Cincinnati to keep the company downtown amounted to $6 million to $6.5 million, Chiquita chairman and CEO Fernando Aguirre told The Enquirer late Tuesday.

A couple of days later, I see where Ohio, having offered a fraction of what North Carolina had offered for Chiquita had turned around and offered Sears hundreds of millions to move from Chicago to Columbus. At the end of the article on the Sears offer, I found this telling little nugget of information:

The largest incentive package in Cincinnati – a 2003 deal worth up to $52 million to keep Convergys Corp. downtown – was hotly debated for months before being approved. The deal kept Convergys downtown, but the company hasn’t grown here, and instead has cut its city workforce from 1,500 to 1,000.

Tax incentives are a quick, short-term strategy to boost job numbers, but they don’t always work in the long-term, said Wendy Patton, a former Ohio Department of Development official.

Just last week (December 7), the NY Times had an article on Fortune 500 companies being able to avoid paying any state taxes for years at a time, no matter how profitable they might be:

As states have struggled to balance their budgets by cutting services, laying off workers and raising taxes, a study to be released on Wednesday suggests that many profitable Fortune 500 companies have not been paying as much in state corporate income taxes as the average levied on American companies, with some big firms paying none at all in recent years.

A few companies, including DuPont, reported paying no state corporate income taxes from 2008 to 2010 even as they reported profits, according to the study, which was conducted by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, nonprofit research organizations in Washington that advocate a more progressive tax code. (A spokeswoman for DuPont said that she had not seen the study, but that “DuPont complies with all tax laws and regulations” wherever it operates.)

…snip…

To gauge how much Fortune 500 companies are paying in corporate income taxes, the study looked at the 265 of them that are both profitable and disclose their state tax payments. It found that 68 reported paying no state corporate taxes in at least one year between 2008 and 2010. All together, the study found that the companies reported $1.33 trillion in domestic profits from 2008 to 2010, but paid states only about half of what they would have if they had paid at the average corporate income tax rate of all states — reducing their state taxes by some $42.7 billion.

Today, the NY Times had a related article on the battle between states for corporate business:

As the unemployment crisis grinds on, states are trying to both lure and retain businesses by offering tax breaks, grants, cheap loans — just about anything (short of candy and foot massages) they can think of. But how many jobs do these expensive incentives actually create?

And are the jobs any good?

Economic development programs cost states and cities billions of dollars a year, but many programs require little if any job creation, fewer than half call for wage standards, and fewer than a quarter require the companies to provide health care for their workers, according to a study of program requirements scheduled to be released Wednesday by Good Jobs First, a nonprofit research organization that tracks corporate subsidies. Some merely require companies to invest in plants or new equipment, which could actually enable them to reduce their head counts.

In doing some quick checks of der Google for this post, I noticed that Indiana had also made a play for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Fortunately for the good folks of Indiana, Ohio, and Florida, the Illinois legislature has bowed to the corporate blackmail:

While a tax-break package aimed at keeping Sears Holdings Corp. and Chicago’s financial exchanges from exiting the state cleared the General Assembly on Tuesday, Illinois’ business tax policies will continue to be a hot-button issue in the coming year.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said they expect the parade of companies seeking special relief to continue, creating pressure to further examine how the state taxes business.

At this point in our national economic crisis the image that keeps coming to mind with all of these tax incentives for companies to stay or go is so much re-arranging of the deck chairs. These jobs are not net new jobs for the nation and wind up costing jobs IMNSVHO because of the lost jobs and services in both the losing state and gaining state. The losing state winds up offering larger incentives to try to save jobs and for the folks in the losing state who have lost their jobs, here’s the struggle to make ends meet with unemployment so more bankruptcies and foreclosures. For the gaining states, there are all the costs associated in providing the sweetheart deals to the corporations to get them to move means non-reimbursed expenditures for infra-structure and more wear and tear on existing systems. If the state manages to “save” the jobs by bowing to the blackmail, it is that much less revenue coming in that cannot be recovered. Lose-lose-lose for all but a few folks in corporate management (Bonuses!)

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor

Limited Good Economic News Won’t Last

10:11 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

"Perishable!" by Young Master Sunshine on flickr

"Perishable!" by Young Master Sunshine on flickr

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You might have seen some headlines from yesterday on the weekly report of Initial Unemployment claims about those claims “falling sharply” (Reuters headline phrase):

Applications for unemployment benefits fell by 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 391,000 in the week ending September 24 from an upwardly revised 428,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said on Thursday. 

My first prediction today is that the 391K figure first announced will be revised upwards when next week’s report comes out. My second prediction is whatever good news that can be wrung from this report will have a limited overall effect.

CNN’s report was a bit more circumspect with this:

The recent drop to 391,000 maked the lowest level since the week of April 2, when 385,000 new claims came in. 

Still, economists cautioned against getting too excited about the better number. It’s just one week of data, and according to a government spokesman, seasonal adjustments could have impacted the calculation.

…snip… Read the rest of this entry →

Mr Bernanke, Just What the Hell Are You Waiting For?

9:35 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

Ben Bernanke, Vampire Chairman

Ben Bernanke, Vampire Chairman by DonkeyHotey

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Yesterday (Wednesday July 13), Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke was once again before Congress, testifying on the economy. Buried way down in the Reuters coverage of the hearing was this little nugget:

After recovering from the steepest recession in generations beginning in the summer of 2009, the U.S. economy has lost momentum in recent months. Gross domestic product expanded just 1.9 percent in the first three months of the year, and the second quarter does not look to have been much better. 

Bernanke held to the view that recent weakness was due in part to temporary factors like energy costs and the effects on global industry from Japan’s earthquake and tsunami.

But he acknowledged the labor market remains weaker than the Fed would like.

The labor market also remains weaker than the 14M unemployed and the 25M – 30M un and underemployed would like as well. While part of the stated Fed mission is “pursuit of maximum employment,” the actions of the Fed over these last few years seem to have been more along the lines of “we’ll pretend to do something and maybe the miracle will occur.” As far as Bernanke’s “…view that recent weakness was due in part to temporary factors…,” as I’ve stated before, there are always “temporary factors” that are going to have an effect on life. It is part of life and should be part of his work to be anticipating and dealing with those “temporary factors” as they occur rather than using them as an excuse.
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Unfortunately, Another Correct Prediction

6:59 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

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Ho hum. Here we are once again. The weekly report of Initial Unemployment Claims is out, jobless claims for last week are up “more than expected,” the figures from last week’s report have been revised upwards again, economists are surprised and water is wet. Via Reuters:

New claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, a government report showed on Thursday, suggesting little improvement in the labor market this month after employment stumbled in May.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits climbed 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 429,000, the Labor Department said. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 420,000.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims to edge up to 415,000 from a previously reported count of 414,000.

For what it’s worth, I called last week that the numbers would most likely be revised upwards to 420K:

Just as they did last week, the reporter just brushes right on by how the figures for the week before had been revised upwards. Last week it was reported as 427K now revised up to 430K – the week before it had originally been reported as 422K but then revised up to 426K. I would not be surprised if next week’s report revised this week’s numbers upwards again, closer to the original figure from the economists of 420K.

At least this week, the reporter actually manages to provide last week’s original numbers as well as the revised numbers. While the economists actually were (belatedly) correct with the numbers last week, I do not think we will see a revision downwards from 429K to 415K when the numbers are reported next week.
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Officially, It Will Be a Double-Dip

9:21 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

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When I was a kid, I used to love double-dips. I’d go to the doctor and afterwards, we’d stop by the drug store soda fountain for my free ice cream. Summers, there would be all the ice cream suppers at the churches with fresh home made ice cream and cake. Double-dips of chocolate ice cream and cake!

Unfortunately however, today’s double-dip will be a recession. Yes, there it is; I’m predicting that we will officially fall back into a recession in the very near future even though for the 25M to 30M long term un and underemployed, we’ve never, ever left the recession that began officially back in December ’07 and ended officially in June ’09. I do so very much hope that I am wrong on this but will even go so far as to act like an economist and claim to be surprised if I am wrong.

What makes me think this will happen? Well, to start with, too many folks like The Benbernank in his speech last Tuesday in Atlanta and the presidents of the Philadelphia and New York Federal Reserve Banks all saying the economy will improve in the second half of 2011. In addition, Bloomberg has a survey of economists claiming this as well:

After growing at a 2.3 percent annual pace this quarter, the world’s largest economy will expand at a 3.2 percent rate from July through December, according to the median forecast of 67 economists polled from June 1 to June 8.

Rising exports, stable fuel prices, record levels of cash in company coffers and easier lending rules will be enough to overcome the damage done by one-time events like poor weather and the disaster in Japan, economists said. Nonetheless, the current slackening means Federal Reserve policy makers will wait even longer to raise interest rates next year, the survey shows.

The reality is, the corporations have been holding those record levels of cash for over a year now (via WSJ). They have used the money to buy back stocks or to invest in equipment (NY Times). Another reality is there are always “one-time events.” This year it is earthquakes/tsunamis/nuclear melt-downs in Japan and tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri combined with floods along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and wildfires in Texas and Arizona. This past winter, it was record blizzards. Later this summer it will be hurricanes in some areas and droughts in others. All “one-time events.”

BlackRock Investment Management CEO Laurence Fink is predicting that the US economy will lag the global economy for the next five to ten years. CNN says it will be because of household debt. My guess is that it won’t be helped by the Japanese economy contracting 3.5% in the first quarter, Australia adding fewer jobs than predicted (economists surprised!), Spain making unilateral moves (via NY Times) that go against the wishes of businesses and labor that no one thinks will work.

Nouriel Roubini is predicting that the Chinese economy will have a “hard landing” in 2013. (Side note: I had to laugh at Roubini’s wiki page):

In 2008, Fortune magazine wrote, “In 2005 Roubini said home prices were riding a speculative wave that would soon sink the economy. Back then the professor was called a Cassandra. Now he’s a sage”.[1]

I find it interesting that if you check the link at the footnote on the Roubini wiki page and scroll through the “8 who saw the financial crisis coming and the 8 who didn’t,” the “8 who didn’t…” are the ones still being quoted all the time. So much for Roubini becoming a “sage” instead of a Cassandra.

As always, we are not helped when we see Dana Milbank proclaiming that Austan Goolsbee leaving means President Obama is losing a “voice of reason.” That is the same Goolsbee who just last week was bragging about 1M private sector jobs having been created while ignoring the hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs lost.

Nor are we helped when the President goes on his weekly radio address and announces (via AFP):

“Now, government is not — and should not be — the main engine of job-creation in this country. That’s the role of the private sector, ” the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

“But one thing government can do is partner with the private sector to make sure that every worker has the necessary skills for the jobs they?re applying for,” Obama added.

As I noted in this post from Thursday, Dean Baker has already written the rebuttal to the “necessary skills” argument.

Reuters noted in their article on the weekly address that:

President Barack Obama, seeking to ease voters’ concerns about his handling of the U.S. economy, said on Saturday a meeting with his jobs council next week would focus on possible further steps to boost hiring in the short term.

That would be the “Jobs Council” of Outsourcers and Masters of the Universe.

Just think, now Reuters has a headline that starting tomorrow (Monday June 13), they will offer a column from Larry Summers on the “jobs crisis.”

I keep wondering how The Onion manages to write their stuff with all the competition from reality.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy

Just How Many Speeches Did Ben Bernanke Give Yesterday?

6:46 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a speech yesterday (Tuesday, June 7) to the International Monetary Conference in Atlanta, GA. Only one speech. Yet looking around the Toobz at the various headlines at news sites on this speech, it must have been an all things to all people speech as I’ve found at least four different perspectives presented, some of them directly contradictory.

The most prevalent theme appears to be The Benbernank as cheerleader (links embedded in titles):

Then there are the deficit hawk headline writers:

AP via USA Today: Bernanke: We ‘urgently’ need to fix the debt problem (with the same AP article as MSNBC)

NY Times: Fed Wants Priority Put On Deficit

The almost cheerleader:

And finally, the seemingly contradictory:

So taken all together, it seems that things are bad but getting better except where they aren’t; everything is going to be just fine; we need a stimulus except where we don’t; and except for that pesky jobs thing, it’s all good.

Meanwhile, in today’s ‘water is wet’ articles, Jamie Dimon whines to the Benbernank about the new banking rules:

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon asked Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke whether regulators have gone too far by reining in the U.S. banking system and are slowing economic growth.
Read the rest of this entry →