Thursday, August 18, 2011

So where exactly is that good economic news?

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Well, here we go again. As usual, the past couple of weeks there have been a few articles on how the economy really isn't THAT bad. In fact, that was a large part of the title of this article from McClatchy while USA Today offered up this from a Maria Bartiromo interview with the head of AIG, Robert Benosche (with a McCainesque "There's a core of strength to the economy"). However once again, the reality on the ground rears up to refute the cheerleaders. Today's (Thursday, August 18) Initial Unemployment Claims report for last week is out and the numbers are back over the dreaded 400k line once again (via Reuters):

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 408,000, the Labor Department said.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 400,000. The prior week's figure was revised up to 399,000 from the previously reported 395,000.
Given that the trend the last few weeks has been for an upwards revision of the previous week's numbers, I am not at all surprised at the upward revision from 395K initially reported to the 399K (although since I did not write a post on last week's report, I can't claim to have officially predicted the revision.)

Last Thursday, CNN had this article showing the lost jobs holes each state has to crawl out of to regain their pre-recession jobs numbers, especially when the new job seekers and residents for each state are factored in. Meanwhile, we got to 'enjoy' President Obama's photo op Midwest bus tour this week (not to be confused with Cincinnati's own Midwestern Hayride). Even though the lack of jobs has been an economic crisis for months years now, the elected officials, when they see fit to do something seem most intent on doing the wrong things. Marcy Wheeler has taken a few whacks at the stupidity of "free trade," deficit reduction clueslessness, and the White House propensity for rhetoric over accomplishment, but I have to chime in with a big WTF over this NY Times article from this past Sunday:
Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress, even if they may not have much economic impact. These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.
With 14M unemployed and 25M to 30M un and underemployed (and all the college grads unable to find work from '09, '10, and '11 not included in the these figures - nor are the "self employed independent contractors"). With all these people looking for decent jobs at living wages, the last thing we need is phony battles and photo-ops that do absolutely nothing to help the millions of people in need today. Today, not after the President speaks in September or after the Congressional Super Committee recommends destroying Social Security and Medicare in order to save them while refusing to raise taxes on the top 1% (so much for everything being "on the table").

I'm going to end this today with a couple of articles from the past week that aren't really related directly yet do seem to explain so much about where we are in the world today. First up is this one from last Wednesday at MSNBC:
Psychologist and social scientist Dacher Keltner says the rich really are different, and not in a good way: Their life experience makes them less empathetic, less altruistic, and generally more selfish.

In fact, he says, the philosophical battle over economics, taxes, debt ceilings and defaults that are now roiling the stock market is partly rooted in an upper class "ideology of self-interest."
This contrasts with this article from CNN from yesterday about how nice guys earn less:
Leo Durocher was right: Nice guys finish last.

Or at least they earn less, according to a new study.

"'Niceness' -- in the form of agreeableness -- does not appear to pay," the authors conclude starkly.

There are upsides to being nice in the office, such as being better liked by co-workers, the authors say, pointing to a raft of earlier studies.

But the bottom line, according to four studies they conducted, is that "agreeableness is negatively related to income and earnings."

In other words, nice guys earn less.
As I say, the two articles are not directly related but I do see them as not that far off. I've always tried to be a nice guy in my work life, even when my job in Software Quality Assurance lends itself to being a PITA. I guess I'd rather be a nice guy and be able to sleep at night than to be rich and uncaring of others. Oh well.

And because I can:

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