Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wishful Thinking Is Not a Good Policy Foundation

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I had to laugh (albeit ruefully) when I saw this opening from Jon Walker at FDL Action this morning:

Almost any national health care debate in this country is almost entirely disconnected from real-world examples, which is tragic given that facts have a well-known liberal bias.
My bold. Why did I find this worth laughter? Because the bolded part is applicable to just about every policy issue written or talked about by the DeeCee Political crowds and their Beltway Village Idiots Courtiers in the TradMed. Pick the issue, any issue, and the discussion emanating from DeeCee sounds like it is coming straight out of an alternate universe.

By now, most folks reading me know that I write frequently about the (lack of) jobs and the problems facing folks looking for employment; whether they are like myself and among the long term un and underemployed or the folks just entering the workforce with newly minted college degrees.

Today, we have the Initial Unemployment Claims (via Bloomberg) report from last week, and guess what? The economists are once again "surprised." From the Bloomberg article:
Jobless claims increased by 10,000 to 424,000 in the week ended May 21, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg News survey called for a drop to 404,000. The economy grew less than forecast in the first quarter, a separate report showed.


Estimates in the Bloomberg survey of 47 economists ranged from 390,000 to 420,000. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s figure up to 414,000 from the 409,000 initially reported. There were no special factors behind last week’s increase, a Labor Department official said as the figures were released.
IMNSVHO (In my not so very humble opinion) I think the economists are making it all up as they go along. I'm not sure any group of people can be so consistently wrong on so many levels.

USA Today had this article last Thursday on the dragging job creation:
The nation has 5% fewer jobs today — a loss of 7 million — than it did when the recession began in December 2007. That is by far the worst performance of job generation following any of the dozen recessions since the 1930s.

In the past, the economy recovered lost jobs 13 months on average after a recession. If this were a typical recovery, nearly 10 million more people would be working today than when the recession officially ended in June 2009.
Time Magazine had this on the vicious circle some folks find themselves in when employers with jobs refuse to even consider the unemployed:
When Sony Ericsson needed new workers after it relocated its U.S. headquarters to Atlanta last year, its recruiters told one particular group of applicants not to bother. "No unemployed candidates will be considered at all," one online job listing said.

The cell-phone giant later said the listing, which produced a media uproar, had been a mistake. But other companies continue to refuse to even consider the unemployed for jobs — a harsh catch-22 at a time when long-term joblessness is at its highest level in decades.


Some employers argue that they have a perfectly reasonable right to weed out the unemployed and that it is just good business. People who have lost jobs or have never been hired are less qualified as a group than those who are currently working, they say. People who are out of the workforce for a significant period of time may also have fallen behind in skills.

But advocates for the unemployed argue that in this economy there is no basis for negative inferences about people who are out of work. Many lost jobs for economic reasons or general corporate downsizing, not through any fault of their own. In a stronger job market, many would have found new jobs long ago.
A couple of weeks ago, the NY Times had this one on the half-a-loaf efforts coming from the administration:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said on Monday that it would not seek Congressional approval of free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea until Republicans agree to expand assistance for American workers who might lose jobs as a result.

President Obama has made the three deals a focus of his foreign and economic policy, but the Monday ultimatum reflects the political difficulty of advancing the deals in the face of high unemployment and opposition from parts of the Democratic base.

“This administration believes that just as we should be excited about the prospect of selling more of what we make around the world, we have to be equally firm about keeping faith with America’s workers,” said Ron Kirk, the United States trade representative.

The announcement puts the White House in line with Congressional Democrats who have made expanded benefits a condition of their support for the trade deals, and at loggerheads with Republicans who say the government cannot afford the cost.
At least there is an apparent recognition that so-called free trade agreements do cause a negative impact on employment for US workers. Now if we can just get the politicians to do something for the long term un and underemployed. But when all seven of the firms represented on the Obama Jobs Commission are increasing their overseas investments, I'm not exactly filled with confidence:
Seven publicly traded U.S. corporations represented on President Barack Obama’s advisory council for jobs and competitiveness -- including General Electric Co. (GE) and Intel Corp. (INTC) -- have devoted a growing pool of their non-U.S. earnings to investments in other countries.

As a group, multinational companies with current or former chief executive officers on Obama’s jobs council have, over the past four years, almost doubled the cumulative amounts they’ve reinvested overseas, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

By doing so, companies may be able to take advantage of faster-growing markets or lower production costs, and they can defer U.S. income taxes on profits from overseas sales. Underscoring the difference between corporate interests and the national interest, they’re also investing money elsewhere that could be helping the U.S. economy, said former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
I guess we all engage in wishful thinking. The economists do so when they keep trying to tell us how much better things are, I do so every time I submit my resume for a newly posted job, and President Obama may be doing it most of all in thinking his Jobs Commission is going to actually do or say anything that will lead to jobs in the US.

And because I can:

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