— Alan Krueger, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers
While more work remains to be done, today's employment report provides evidence that the recovery that began in mid-2009 is gaining traction. Today's report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that private sector businesses added 246,000 jobs in February. Total non-farm payroll employment rose by 236,000 jobs last month. The economy has now added private sector jobs every month for three straight years, and a total of 6.35 million jobs have been added over that period.
The household survey showed that the unemployment rate fell from 7.9 percent in January to 7.7 percent in February, the lowest since December 2008. The labor force participation rate edged down 0.1 percentage point to 63.5 percent in February.
You can be sure that over the ensuing weeks, months and years, leading up to the 2016 Presidential Elections, the GOP political pundits and strategist will be agonizing over the root causes of what went so terribly wrong with their presidential campaign. I can save them a lot of time and effort by citing a tag line from a TV show from the early 1970's.
Today, the non-partisan Bureau of Labor Statistics came out with its final monthly job report before this Tuesday's Presidential Election.
As you can see, when Obama took office, we were losing about 800,000 jobs a month. Once the stimulus plan went into effect, job loss slowed down and after a year reversed itself.
Since then, the economy has built a solid record with 32 consecutive months of job growth in the private sector, representing a net increase of 5,400,000 private sector jobs in a little less than three years.
Jerusalem - Deputy United States Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro and Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour Shalom Simhon today signed an agreement that will ease burdens on U.S. companies, especially smaller manufacturers, seeking to export telecommunications products to Israel, while maintaining the United States' high technical standards and facilitating cross-border trade. Under the Mutual Recognition Agreement between the Government of the United States and the Government of Israel for Conformity Assessment of Telecommunications Equipment, Israeli regulatory authorities will now accept tests that recognized U.S. laboratories perform to determine the conformity of telecommunications equipment with Israeli technical requirements, rather than requiring additional testing by Israeli laboratories, before American products can be sold in Israel. The Agreement also allows for the United States and Israel to agree in the future to accept equipment certifications from recognized conformity assessment bodies in the United States and Israel on a mutual basis. The full text of the Agreement is available here.
"This Agreement will save American manufacturers money and time. It will facilitate trade by allowing for product testing and certification only once, in the United States, prior to exporting the product to Israel,"
"You guys are bright enough to look at the numbers. I came in and the jobs had been just falling right off a cliff, I came in and they kept falling for 11 months. And if you are going to suggest to me that somehow the day I got elected, somehow jobs should have immediately turned around, well that would be silly. It takes awhile to get things turned around. We were in a recession, we were losing jobs every month."
The Obama campaign has released this 17-minute documentary by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim's documentary about President Obama's first three years in office and the tough calls he made to get our country back on track. If you recognize the narrator's voice — that's Tom Hanks.
There are a couple of minutes about the auto bailout, since they are probably assuming that they'll be running against Mitt Romney who famously wrote Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.
(NJDC) Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that effectively cut off Iran's central bank from the global economy-an executive order made public one hour ago. In a letter to Congress, Obama explained that the sanctions are necessary "particularly in light of the deceptive practices of the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian banks." According to the AP, Obama "said the problems included the hiding transactions of sanctioned parties, the deficiencies of Iran's anti-money laundering regime and the unacceptably high risk posed to the entire international financial system posed by Iran's activities." NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:
Sunday's actions by President Barack Obama that were made public today, combined with the Administration's record of gathering global partners to help block a nuclear Iran, should end any doubt about the President's singular commitment to ensuring Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. Obama's record is crystal clear; he has done more than any president in history to isolate Iran and encourage Iran's leaders to change course. By dramatically severing Iran's economy completely from the United States, the President has taken another powerful step to safeguard America's and Israel's security alike-even as previous steps are yielding results. We thank President Obama for his leadership on this issue and for his actions yesterday; indeed all supporters of a secure Israel and a strong U.S.-Israel relationship owe him a debt of gratitude.
Prior to the Super Bowl, Obama discussed U.S. cooperation with Israel on thwarting Iran's nuclear program in a pre-Super Bowl interview with NBC's Matt Lauer. Obama told Lauer:
[Israel] like us believe[s] that Iran has to stand down on its nuclear weapons program. And we have mobilized the international community in a way that is unprecedented. And they are feeling the pinch. They are feeling the pressure. But they have not taken the step that they need to diplomatically which is to say we will pursue nuclear power, we will not pursue a nuclear weapon. Until they do, I think Israel rightly is going to be very concerned. And we will as well....
We have closer military intelligence consultation than we ever have. My number one priority continues to be the security of the United States but also the security of Israel and we are gonna make sure that we work in lockstep as we work to try to solve this, hopefully diplomatically.
... Our goal is to resolve this issue diplomatically... We're not going to take any options off the table though. ... Our preferred solution here is diplomatic; we're going to keep pushing on that front, but we're not going to take any options off the table. And I've been very clear that we're going to do everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and creating an arms race-a nuclear arms race-in a volatile region.
Obama said during a segment that aired this morning on NBC's Today Show:
I think we have a very good estimate of when they could potentially achieve breakout capacity ... Do we know all of the dynamics inside of Iran? Absolutely not. ... Iran itself is a lot more divided now than it was. Knowing who is making decisions at any given time inside of Iran is tough. We do have a pretty good read on what is happening with the nuclear program.
Obama also reiterated that all options remain on the table for stopping Iran:
We have done extensive planning over the last several years over our various options in the Gulf. We are prepared to exercise these options should the need arise. But my goal is to resolve this diplomatically mainly because the only way over the long term we can ensure doesn't get a nuclear weapon is by getting them to understand it's not in their interest.
Click here or on the video box below to watch the full interview from this morning.
There are some truths so hard to face, so ugly and so at odds with how we imagine the world should be, that nobody can accept them. Here's one: It is obvious that a class system has arrived in America -- a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility. But nobody wants to admit: If your daddy was rich, you're gonna stay rich, and if your daddy was poor, you're gonna stay poor. Every instinct in the American gut, every institution, every national symbol, runs on the idea that anybody can make it; the only limits are your own limits. Which is an amazing idea, a gift to the world -- just no longer true. Culturally, and in their daily lives, Americans continue to glide through a ghostly land of opportunity they can't bear to tell themselves isn't real. It's the most dangerous lie the country tells itself,
-- by Ariela Fleisig Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) wrote in Politico this week that while President Barack Obama continues to present bipartisan suggestions to improve the nation's economy, the "dysfunctional and hyperpartisan" Republican Party offers only obstructionist rhetoric and failed policies.
Wasserman Schultz praised the administration's "bold steps" to combat the ailing economy, including plans to make mortgage refinancing easier for homeowners and new measures to help students pay their tuition, and wrote:
The President has been clear: These actions are not a replacement for the American Jobs Act. Congress must take action to alleviate the constant pressure middle-class families are feeling and work together to create jobs and grow the economy. The stakes are too high and the consequences too dire if Congress continues to do nothing.
If we break down the numbers and look at the four early states, we can see the impact the American Jobs Act will have on small-business owners and the middle class. The American Jobs Act is a mix of tax breaks for middle-class families and small businesses and targeted aid to help keep teachers in the classroom and police and firefighters on the beat and to get construction workers on the job rebuilding our bridges and roads.
She specifically criticized Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his complete disregard for the average American's financial stability:
Indeed, while the president is focused on saving homeowners thousands of dollars each year by helping them refinance their mortgages, Mitt Romney went to Nevada and told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that we should not 'try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.' He went on to say that it would be better to have families lose their homes so investors could swoop in, buy foreclosed homes and turn a profit, literally leaving the average American homeowner out in the cold....
What is Romney's prescription for curing this ailment? He wants to kick those same people who have been suffering out of their homes, allow bankers and investors to make a quick buck and then rewrite the laws to allow bankers to write their own rules. Romney doesn't just want to return to the same policies that brought our economy to its knees; he wants to double down on them.
But he doesn't just stack the deck against hard-working American homeowners; he also undermines America's middle class through tax policy. His tax plan slashes taxes for the wealthiest and corporations but does nothing to help middle-class families. In a telling moment at a Republican debate just a couple of weeks ago, he called payroll tax cuts in the American Jobs Act 'little Band-Aids.'
While the Republicans may be getting more attention in the early states right now, there's no denying that voters will face a very stark choice next year. Obama continues working to find sensible solutions to get more Americans back to work and to rebuild the economy through a strong middle class. Meanwhile, Republicans continue advocating tax breaks for the wealthiest and corporations while shifting more burdens onto seniors and the middle class.
Americans can't wait. They need action now to get the economy moving again. The president continues to work hard to turn the economy around. Republicans need to get off the sidelines and join him and stop rooting for the economy's failure in order to win an election.
Click here to read Wasserman Schultz's full piece.
Well, well...did you watch the speeches last night? PURE Kabuki theater. Obama did a nice job of explaining how we came to this point, but his train left the rails when he was presenting the "solution" without mentioning that there were no increases to revenues. Boehner lied when he said there was bipartisan support for cut, cap and balance. Oh hell, he lied about everything except his name.
These two speeches were designed out of desperation. It's pretty obvious that the votes don't exist in either chamber to pass anything. Sadly, the Rethuglicans decimated the Gephardt Rule, which worked well for decades: it basically allowed for automatic-ish raises to the debt ceiling. Obama won't invoke the 14th. So all that's left is for the president to go on television and ask people who didn't even vote to figure out who their reps are and call them. Even that was a little half-baked: you'd think he would have said "If you need to find your Rep's or Senator's contact information, we're now listing it on whitehouse.gov." I list that info all the time, it's easy to get and post. (Senate link, House link. Total time: less than 30 seconds.)
So where are we? Fundamentally, screwed. It takes time to get legislation through Congress, and we're close to out of time. The last hope is that after Harry's Wednesday vote, it goes over to the House, Boehner agrees to schedule a vote, and it passes this weekend. If you think that will all happen successfully, you are probably also a fan of the scene in Woody Allen's Sleeper where the scientists of the future point out that hot fudge sundaes, steak and cigarettes are good for you and carrots will kill you.
The real truth is that America is simmering not just in outrageously hot weather (yes, teabaggers, there IS global warming) but in even hotter anger at a government which has become completely dysfunctional. Obama's right - call your reps -- tell them to pass a raise in the debt ceiling, talk about shared sacrifice, and tell them you vote. Then figure out how quickly you can learn to fiddle.
Boehner said no to the Obama "compromise." Boehner caved to pressure from the far right. You shouldn't be surprised. Obama shouldn't be surprised. Then again, Charlie Brown shouldn't have been surprised after the first 50 times.
The reason this keeps happening is NOT because the president is stupid. But because he, and the rest of the Democratic Party are seemingly oblivious to the cognitive dissonance that affects America. That is, most people do not come close to understanding what the truth is, nor what the potential ramifications of certain proposals can be.
To wit: most people who receive government money don't know that they receive money from a government program. Here's the chart:
Now, that chart is from a 2008 study, but it's unlikely the percentages have changed much. Face it, people can't value something they don't know they have. Further, the higher up on the income ladder a taxpayer is, the more likely he/she has received a tax subsidy of some sort. If you want to read the full, fascinating report, it's after the jump.
And there's something else that people don't know: if you add together the TOTAL cost of early childhood programs, low income housing programs, WIC funds, teacher training and afterschool programs, job training for the unemployed, LIHEAP, community health centers, homeless assistance grants, legal services for the poor, and Title X family planning, you get $44 billion dollars. Want to guess how much it costs each year for extending the Bush tax cuts for JUST the top brackets? $42 billion. Full breakout in chart form here, which includes some other eye-popping dollar amounts only for the rich.
The next time you're out driving in real traffic, watch the people who only see what's ahead of them, never on the side, nor behind them. Most people don't have a sense of what's around them. They can only look right in front of their noses. The Democrats, and ESPECIALLY the president, need to put these sorts of data right in front of people, as many times as it takes, until they understand.
Scott lays out all the numbers. And numerically, he's certainly correct. We'll have to do a number of things to get the deficit under control. And if you want to see what you'd like to cut, click here for the Budget Calculator which shows what is saved, program by program, based on the choices you make.
But the determination of how to measure out the ingredients in the recipe is based 100% on philosophy. Whether the recipe sells is predicated on politics and message control, but at base, it's philosophical.
The Ryan plan, and other privatization plans are based on the philosophy that people should stand on their own two feet and accept no government help. And we can all take blame for the rise of someone like Paul. Years ago, when Medicare and Social Security were a gangrenous foot, no one would modify the programs, they were considered the third rail. Thus, no cutting off the foot to save the leg. There were modifications that could have been made decades ago, but now we've got gangrene up into the thigh. We can still save part of the leg, but Ryan and his ilk want to cut off the whole leg. And as Scott's numbers show, it won't be enough. Not only that, but there is a set of numbers he doesn't present: what happens if the elderly have no Social Security and no health care?
First, the number of homeless rises. Then, the number of sick brought to the hospital (generally by ambulance after they collapse on the street) greatly rises. Talk about an unfunded mandate on every hospital in America. And the food banks. And every charity: none of which have enough money to care for the number of people currently asking for help.
Do we have to recalculate how we care for our sick and elderly? Sure. The Economist, in the 7 April edition, has a great special section on that. (Sadly, you need a subscription to read it online, I greatly advise you either buy a copy or read one in the local library. You can see some of it online, but not enough of it.) They point out that across the developed nations, retirement age needs to rise, and with that, how companies treat their employees needs to change also. That is, the current system says that seniority equals power, but for people in their 60's, most people want less "power" and more ability to mentor, share knowledge, and have personal flexibility. It's a little different here in the US as people change jobs far more often than those in Europe and Asia, but still there are great ways to use skills and talents. The section also points out that not all jobs are created equal: someone sitting at a computer into his 70's is doing easier work than digging ditches, and thus there needs to be a scaled response of retirement ages pegged to the type of work. They do not mention, but it is certainly a given, that the longer people work not only do they collect later, but they pay in longer, thus affecting the balance of input and outgo.
Philosophically, I'm in favour of raising retirement ages, while instituting programs that keep people working who want to work longer, and even doing away with early retirement at 62, with exceptions for physical limitations. I'm in favour of revamping Medicare and Medicaid as part of an overall Single Payer system which solves the financial problems of both programs, and lowers costs across the board once certain cost controls are put in place. (Um, they're actually there now, they're just not transparent.)
Then, I'd like to see the military budget cut and have us cease being the world's policeman. Imagine if each "send the troops" piece of legislation were debated publicly like other aspects of the budget. Fewer would support paying.
Finally, I say raise taxes. And yes, start with me. I'd be glad to pay 10% more than I pay now for the improvements I want. I think we've become so tax-averse that we fail to see that taxes are nothing more than a payment for services.
So, play with the budget. If it looks familiar, yes, we've linked to it before. Then come back with what YOU want to cut, and what YOU are willing to pay for. It's not just the dollars, it's the belief system, too.
America is slowly coming out of a recession. That is good news.
Or is it?
Officially, the U.S. economy is in a recession when our Gross Domestic Product as measured by the U.S. Department of Commerce declines for two consecutive quarters. In other words, our economy has "failed" when we stop producing quite as much stuff as we used to. Apparantly, we Americans are not living up to our patriotic duties and through our consumption encouraging manufacturers to produce quite as much stuff.
Part of the problem with this analysis is that we are not including the depletion of our natural resources in our calculations. If we produce consumer products but deplete our national treasure of irreplaceable resources, consume natural resources at an unsustainable rate and ruin the environment for generations to come, are we really better off?
Some politicians would like a more robust recovery. However, if we keep the GDP growing at 5% per year, year after year, then the economy is growing exponentially. This growth can only be supported so long in a finite world. At some point, the growth can no longer be sustained, and with a global population of over seven billion people can that day of reckoning be that far away,.
All publically traded companies aspire to build value for their shareholders. They try to maximize the discounted present value of their future revenue.
For example, suppose I own a piece of wooded land, I could clear cut the land, sell the wood to a lumber mill and the land to a real estate developer for an immediate payment of one million dollars. Alternatively, I could harvest only the maximum sustainable yield annual tree growth and thus produce, in a sustainable manner, a permanent revenue of, say fifty thousand dollars per year.
Anne Leonard's Story of Stuff is a provocative tour of our consumer-driven culture - from resource extraction to iPod incineration - exposing the real cost of our use-it and lose-it approach to stuff.
Which is better?
If the million dollars in sales are invested at an interest rate of 7%, they produce permanent revenue of seventy thousand dollars per year, so a corporation mindful of their shareholders will cover the forest with asphalt as soon as they can.
If the country is in a recession and interest rates go down to 3%, the million dollars only return thirty thousand dollars per year, so a smart corporation will engage in sustainable development preserving the forest for future generations.
By this logic, people do not plan as carefully for the future if interest rates are high. However, should our stewardship of our resources and indeed this planet truly depend on interest rates? The stakes are quite high. This logic applies not only to timberland in the Northwest United States but to the Amazon rain forest as well.
Deficit hawks tells us that by running a deficit and running up a debt which future our children and grandchildren will have to pay, we are stealing from future generations. If so, then we can make an even stronger argument about our environment. Non-renewable resources such as petroleum are like bank accounts from which we are withdrawing assets but never make any deposits. The oil we withdraw from our proven reserves are gone forever and will not be available to future generations. Similarly, when we pollute, we are saddling future generations with an environmental debt, depreciating the value of our oceans and our atmosphere to our children and grandchildren.
The Gross Domestic Product should not the be-all and end-all of our society.
In this calculation, we fail to address the cost to the environment of removing the carbon dioxide producing forest, and burning the trees.
Reusing consumer goods by repairing them or reselling them on Ebay does not contribute to the GDP, but it does just as much to maintain our American standard of living without as heavy a toll on the environment.
If a company pollutes the environment producing a product and then spends money partially cleaning up their own mess, the GDP is increased not only by the cost of the product but also by the cost of the cleanup. Focusing on the GDP literally encourages the creation of new "Superfund" sites.
We should act as if the interest rate were truly zero. By valuing future generations - our children and our children's children - at the same level as current generations, we may slightly reduce our gross domestic product, but we ensure adequate supplies for future generations and protect the environment.
Daniel E. Loeb publishes the Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He is also a mathematician working in mathematical finance.
Author's Note: Dan has offered that I can crosspost from DemConWatch, so you'll be seeing some of my articles. I'll also be writing some posts on local politics. This article is from DemConWatch, and the companion article cited at the end can be viewed here.
Obama's Debt Commission is due to report in November, albeit after the election. Theoretically, "everything" is on the table: debt reduction via raising the retirement age, a VAT tax, changes to the monies spent to support home ownership. All the stuff you read about. But somehow, they don't seem to include the things that I'd personally like to see. The "sacred cows" that don't even get mentioned. So here are a few things I'd like to see the Debt Commission consider:
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