Monday, June 13, 2011

It Is Impossible to Keep Up With All the Economic Cluelessness

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I noticed yesterday that Reuters had an announcement of a Larry Summers editorial on "The Jobs Crisis." Turns out, Summers had mostly the same editorial published at the Washington Post this morning as well. Scarecrow over at Firedoglake deconstructs the piece quite nicely, especially Summers own complicity with how we have reached this point of a probable "lost decade."

Yet for every good article on the economy such as this one from Reuters that points out the disconnect of economists wanting people to cut down on debt yet increase spending or this opinion piece, also from Reuters, we have something like this opinion piece from the Washington Post yesterday where the author calls for "signing bonuses for people instead of Unemployment Compensation.

From the first Reuters piece:

Talk about getting it from all sides. Economists want Americans to cut down on debt and boost spending all at once, even as home values tumble and gasoline prices soar.

It may all be a bit too much for the average U.S. household, particularly with an already sluggish labor market stuttering again.
From the second Reuters piece:
The big mystery in the United States today is why the job crisis is not at the center of the political and economic debate. After all, the numbers — and the human tragedies they reflect — could not be bleaker.

Nearly 14 million Americans — 9.1 percent of the working population — are unemployed. That’s just a couple of a million shy of the populations of Greece and Ireland, Europe’s two problem children, combined. Another 8.5 million would like to work full time, but can only find part-time jobs. A further 2.2 million have been so discouraged by the grim labor market that they have given up looking for jobs altogether.

It is hard to blame them — those still actively looking for work have been unemployed for an average of 39.7 weeks. These are cruel numbers, and they depict an unemployment crisis that is deeper and more sustained than at any time since 1948, when records first started to be kept.
Meanwhile from the Washington Post piece:
Washington politicians are flailing for job-creation ideas like a drowning man lunging for a life preserver. President Obama probably remembers Ronald Reagan’s setup and punch line: “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.”

So it’s no surprise that rumors of new payroll-tax cuts and dreams of a new infrastructure bankhave followed the miserable jobs report released June 3. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman seems to be scavenging Grandma’s attic for old Works Progress Administration signs to put up again.

Here’s a simple idea to cut unemployment that won’t cost the government any more money and won’t require devaluing our currency: Turn unemployment benefits into a signing bonus.


After 26 weeks of receiving benefits, a job-seeker would be eligible for a “signing bonus” equal to three additional months of benefits if he or she took a full-time job. It wouldn’t matter whether the job paid more, less or the same as the worker’s old one. We don’t want the logistics mess of a “cash for clunkers” type of program, in which the government had to figure out which clunkers really clunked.
The author of the Post piece was an economic adviser to the Bush I White House. Of course, he fails to explain just how his "bonus" idea would help folks to get jobs when there are still four to five applicants for each and every job opening out there today. He must have missed that McDonald's had over a million applicants during their "McJobs Fair" back in April.

Today, we also have President Obama meeting with his "Jobs Council" in North Carolina. Once again from Reuters this morning before the meeting:
Washington should streamline permitting for construction projects and make it easier for tourists to visit the United States to help boost hiring and spur the economy, a top adviser to President Barack Obama said.

Jeff Immelt, chief executive of General Electric and head of Obama's jobs and competitiveness council, said his panel's "progress report" outlined ways to increase hiring in manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and tourism sectors.
Somehow, I don't think we will find much support with DHS in easing the way for tourists to come to the US. And as I and others have also noted, minimum wage tourism jobs are not really going to go very far in building a long term sustainable economy.

Bloomberg has a couple of articles this afternoon that seem to fall on the same side as the Washington Post piece above - mainly in the "are you kidding me with this" style. First up is this one on the Jobs Council meeting:
The president is seeking to convince the business community as well as voters that his economic policies will help restore long-term growth even as data indicate the recovery is slowing.


Immelt said in an op-ed article in today’s Wall Street Journal that the panel is recommending five “fast-action” steps to create more than 1 million jobs in five specific areas.


Obama has spent this year seeking to repair relations with the business community, and the administration is still working to overcome criticism from Republicans and some executives that its regulatory policies are creating uncertainty for companies.

The Immelt-led board was formed in January to build a bridge to the country’s major employers. The same month Obama appointed former JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive William Daley as his chief of staff. Last month, the White House proposed revising and trimming regulations to reduce reporting requirements and cut compliance costs.
Yeah. There are nearly 14M unemployed and 25M to 30M un and underemployed and the MOTU on this jobs council can come with ideas for 1M jobs. I've got an idea - why don't they bring a few million jobs back to the US that they've sent overseas?

The second Bloomberg article is fairly standard cheerleading on how "surging profits" will lead to new jobs:
Profits at American companies are poised to be one of the few bright spots in the U.S., helping to steady the faltering recovery.

Earnings will climb an average 10 percent a year through 2013, more than three times quicker than the economy, after what has already been the fastest rebound since the late 1940s, JPMorgan Chase & Co. projects.


The recent spate of weak economic data, capped by news that payrolls grew in May at the slowest pace in eight months, is sparking concern about the expansion’s sustainability. Even so, private employers have added 2.14 million workers since job creation resumed in March 2010, nine months after the recession ended. That’s about a quarter of the 8.8 million positions lost during the 18-month slump.
Once again they present numbers without context. 2.14M private sector jobs since March 2010 works out to be 142.6K jobs per month on average. In an economy that needs to create roughly 100K to 150K jobs per month just to maintain the status quo. And the numbers do not include all the lost public sector jobs in the same period.

I'm going to end this post with a link to an AP (via Yahoo) article on a "survey" taken of economists by the AP. Best I can tell, the economists surveyed are telling us all to click our heels three times and wait for the miracle to happen. I wonder how Scarecrows feel about that.

And because I can:

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