As I read news sites across the toobz and see the occasional cable talking heads populated by the Beltway Village Idiots Pundits, it is often difficult to keep myself from dissolving into a mass of protoplasm due to simple rage.
(Reuters) – The U.S. labor market is finally improving, just when many of the other economic indicators are wavering.
Jobs are considered a lagging indicator. They typically recover many months after the economy comes out of a recession, and this cycle was no exception. So will troubles in Japan, Libya and elsewhere push up U.S. unemployment later this year?
Friday brings the March employment report, and economists polled by Reuters are looking for growth of about 188,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate holding steady at 8.9 percent.
Any bets on how the headlines Friday will include some variant of “economists surprised“? I’m betting right now that the 188K figure will be way high for the entire economy. Of course, since the BLS jobs numbers will be first out this month ahead of the ADP Jobs reports on private sector jobs created for the previous month which appears the first Wednesday of each month, my bet will also be that the ADP report will be more positive than the BLS report so that will get all the good publicity next week and folks will forget the reality of the BLS report.
When the Obama administration awarded $10.4 billion for high-speed rail projects last year, Florida was a big winner, scooping up 20 times as much money as Massachusetts. But now that Florida’s new governor has rejected his state’s $2.4 billion for political reasons, Massachusetts officials are racing to make another pitch to Washington. Read the rest of this entry →
How many times these last few weeks have we heard some politician or pundit say, “Elections have consequences“? Hundreds of times, right? At a minimum. Looking back through that Google search for that phrase, it has been especially prevalent these last few weeks to justify the actions of Scott Walker in Wisconsin in his union busting activities. Even when it has been pointed out that at no time did Scott Walker ever campaign on union busting.
Now I’m not going to go into all the ways the Republicans have worked against this idea from January 2009 through current times. Or how they tended to ignore the idea back when President Clinton was first elected then re-elected. Nor shall I go on about how all the Democrats seem to have themselves forgotten that the elections have consequences as they continually appease the Republican minority in the Senate especially, leaving the House to take the brunt of the voter displeasure during the 2010 mid-terms.
But I guess the Republicans get to pick and choose what parts of elections have the consequences. Here in Florida during the last election, voters passed two anti-gerrymandering state constitutional amendments that would require state level legislative districts and federal congressional districts to be drawn as compactly as possible. Amendment 5 (for state level legislative districts) stated:
Legislative districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required, districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.
Congressional districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required, districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.
And then try to add in the cost of diapers, formula, baby food...(photo: phrenologist via Flickr)
Back in December, I wrote a post “Let’s Play With Some Numbers” based upon a mythical minimum wage worker and what that means in the line of taxes versus expenses. Today, I’d like to offer a similar “what if” based on teacher salaries.
Why you may ask?
Well, mainly because of some of the “ZOMG! Teachers get paid! And they receive benefits” gibberish I’ve seen the last few days concerning the “budget busting unions” and the “highly compensated teachers” of Wisconsin. As a side note, why are the anti-teachers people so adamant on tearing down the teachers and other public sector workers and their benefits? Shouldn’t we be trying to raise things up so that folks in the private sector are once again getting reasonable pay and benefits rather than tearing people down to a lower level? Whatever happened to the desire to see folks from all walks celebrated for their work and paid a living wage?
My reference data is from this state-by-state starting salary for teachers, average, and 10 year percentage increase (looks to be from 2008). This site offers median salaries for various grade levels of teachers but I offer it only for further discussion and will use mainly the first link.
My mythical teacher is going to be a graduate of Wisconsin Stevens Point. This person will be a Wisconsin resident so will receive instate tuition. We’ll pretend that our mythical teacher lived in a dorm for all four years (though I’d guess most juniors and seniors manage to find off campus housing with all of its attendant costs) and used the meal card. So our mythical student has costs of $6,304 per semester (rounding down), $12,608 a year and a minimum four year cost of $50,432. I’ll pretend this student worked and got some help from Mom and Dad and maybe a small scholarship or two but still needed loans for say $30K. I’m sure there are students who financed the whole amount as well as students who had full parental support to students who managed full time jobs as well as full time student loads.
So here we have our mythical Wisconsin Stevens Point graduate starting a career as a teacher with $30K debt and a starting salary of $25,222. We’ll assume our new teacher is getting paid twice a month for nine months so will have a pre-tax bi-weekly income of $1,401 (payday on the 15th and the end of the month). Taxes and such will probably pull that down to roughly $1K take home so we’ll say $2K per month. We’ll put our new teacher in a one bedroom apartment at $400 per month plus utilities which will average another $400 (gas, electric, heat and air conditioning, phone, and cable). I don’t know what the loan periods are for student loans now so we’ll pretend the loan period for the $30K debt is ten years and with interest our mythical teacher will pay back $45K. This works out to be $375 per month for ten years. And yes, that’s for those months when our teacher is not working in the summer. At this point, our teacher has $1,175 of $2K per month for nine months committed without buying any food, clothing, car payments, insurance payments, school supplies or savings to cover the three months with no salary. . . . Read the rest of this entry →
Today, I’d like to offer up a few more examples of how the new governors of Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin are treating workers within their states as they “create” jobs.
To begin with, we have yesterday’s report of Initial Unemployment Claims for last week. After falling to a two-and-a-half year low the week before, yesterday’s report showed an increase once again in the initial claims:
There were 410,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Feb. 12, according to the Labor Department. That was up 25,000 from the week before, and slightly more than the 408,000 claims economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected.
Continuing claims — which include people filing for the second week of benefits or more — rose by 1,000 to 3,911,000 in the week ended Feb. 5, the most recent week available.
Of course, the economists interviewed looked on the sunny side of life because the trend “is still pointing downward.” I’m sure that is bringing a warm feeling to the nearly 15 million unemployed and the 25 to 30 million un and underemployed. Why at the rate things are trending downwards, we might once again reach full employment in, oh, maybe in the year 2525? . . . Read the rest of this entry →
So today (February 16) the current governor of the state in which I reside (there is no ef’fing way I’m going to lay any claim of ownership to this person and call him my governor) decided that he would follow in the footsteps of his fellow first term Republican governors of Ohio, Wisconsin, and New Jersey and reject federal rail funds for Florida (via CNN):
Washington (CNN) – Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected $432 million in highly-touted funding from the Obama administration for an Orlando to Tampa high-speed rail Wednesday. Slamming government for becoming “addicted to spending,” Scott listed three reasons why accepting the federal funds would amount to a “recipe for disaster.”
In a statement, Scott said “I was elected to get Floridians back to work and to change the way government does business in our state.”
He “was elected to get Floridians back to work…” yet cuts a program that would have created a few thousand jobs for Central Florida and a high speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando and eventually Miami. Outgoing Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio called it:
…the worst decision she’s seen a governor make in her 26 years of public service.
“This is such a bad decision on so many different levels. I cannot believe that the governor made this decision,” Iorio said. “This is an example when you have someone who governs from ideology instead of practicality and really looking at what’s best for Floridians in the long run. This is what you get and I don’t know when I’ve been more disappointed and concerned about a decision a governor has made for our state.”
Four of the five candidates running to succeed Iorio in the upcoming municipal elections appeared at a press conference today at the site where Tampa’s high-speed rail station was supposed to be to voice their outrage and to call for Scott to reconsider his move. Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco was not present.
Washington (CNN) – House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday if some federal workers lose jobs because of Republican-proposed spending cuts, “so be it.”
“So be it” just might become as famous a statement of a lack of empathy for the unemployed that this country has ever had.
This morning’s NY Times The Caucus asked if the Republican concern for the jobless ended with the jobs of federal workers:
But there’s one category of jobs that appears exempt from Republican cheering: federal workers.
During his weekly news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Boehner claimed that Mr. Obama had added 200,000 federal workers since he took office (a figure that has been disputed), and shrugged at the idea that Republican efforts to slash government spending would put many of them out of work.
Republicans want the public to know they’re “serious” about “cutting the deficit” but they really don’t want the public to know that their plan would a) cost a million jobs and b) not materially impact the deficit in any serious way.
Unemployment — and not the economy in general — ranked as the most important problem facing Americans for the second month in a row, according to a Gallup poll released Friday.
When asked to name the biggest problem facing the country, Gallup poll found that 35 percent of Americans said “unemployment.”
That’s the highest percentage in more than a quarter century, since October of 1983.
And it is a weak demand for jobs, not the supposed lack of skills of the un and underemployed that is driving things at this point (via Yahoo News):
The sluggish state of the job market over the past year has led many analysts to suggest that the American labor market suffers from a structural malady. The recovering economy has created so few jobs, the argument goes, because 21st-century jobs require a set of skills that jobless workers in many geographical regions don’t possess.
But a new government study appears to undercut that view–finding that the economy’s chronic state of high unemployment stems more from a simple lack of demand in the labor market. And it could bolster the position of those Keynesian-minded economists arguing for continued government efforts to increase demand.
Initial Unemployment Claims for last week were at a 2 1/2 year low. With the deficit hysteria in DC combined with the states struggling and the ideologues who wish to prove that government is incompetent by making sure there are no workers around to do things, that low figure is probably not going to go much lower and stay much lower over the coming weeks and months. And just as we learned that cutting taxes does not raise revenues and magically balance budgets, so we will learn (I know, many of us already know this) that cutting jobs and killing programs will not create more jobs. VooDoo economics indeed.
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