Friday, August 31, 2012

Labor Day Weekend, 2012 Economic Report

Well, here we are once again. Labor Day weekend has rolled around; the time when all the politicians extol the virtues of the working man and woman. But as I pointed out last year, once a year praise by Beltway Village Idiots Politicians and Pundits or the local equivalent of same, does not actually make someone a friend of workers.

Just last night, if you were so inclined, you may have listened to Mitt Rmoney talk about workers:

You deserved it because during these years, you worked harder than ever before. You deserved it because when it cost more to fill up your car, you cut out movie nights and put in longer hours. Or when you lost that job that paid $22.50 an hour with benefits, you took two jobs at 9 bucks an hour and fewer benefits. You did it because your family depended on you. You did it because you're an American and you don't quit. You did it because it was what you had to do.
Emptywheel does a wonderful job of parsing and eviscerating that paragraph of Rmoney's speech here:
The passage is fundamentally important to the logic of the speech–and indeed, Mitt’s entire campaign–both because it pretends Mitt understands the struggles of average people and because it suggests Obama failed to deliver on Hope and Change.


The average self-reported hourly wage of a Staples EasyTech Associate is $8.89. The average self-reported hourly wage of a Staples Sales Associate is $8.54.

Those jobs Mitt talked about as a symbol of America’s failed promise, the ones that don’t pay a living wage? That’s what Mitt’s campaign boasted about last night as his idea of an “engine of prosperity.”

And it was an engine of prosperity, for Mitt, for Stemberg. Mitt’s worth at least $250 million. Stemberg is reportedly worth $202 million. And they got that money by running an engine of prosperity that relies on workers who are Mitt’s own example of the failure of the American dream. “This just wasn’t right,” Mitt said himself. (Not to mention that some of the steel jobs Mitt destroyed probably were $22.50 an hour jobs, with benefits.)
A bit over a year and a half ago, I wrote this post, Let's Play With Some Numbers, where I put together what a single person with a full time job making minimum wage would have to deal with. And of course, few jobs paying minimum wage are actually remotely close to being 'full-time.'

Today's (Friday, August 31, 2012) NY Times had this article headlined with opening paragraph:
Majority of New Jobs Pay Low Wages, Study Finds

While a majority of jobs lost during the downturn were in the middle range of wages, a majority of those added during the recovery have been low paying, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project.
This particular theme seemed familiar to me, then I realized I had written a post back in April 2011 on the same basic topic, only with a Washington Post article as the starting point. It turns out, the WaPo0 piece was based on a report (pdf) from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and the NYT article is based on an updated report (pdf) from NELP. David Dayen discusses today's NELP report here. Dayen also has this on Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke's speech in Jackson Hole, WY earlier today. Dayen offers this analogy:
Water works well at fighting fires.
Everything is on fire.
We may hook up the hose at some point.
Not promising anything.
As I have written before (here and here though I have touched on it in many more posts), we keep hearing how the Fed is "poised" to act; they just never seem to be willing to take the step of actually doing something. I guess pretending is acting in a way though. Dean Baker talks about the NYT piece here while also touching on Benbernank's speech and the fed.

But hey! Did you see where Honey Boo Boo got higher ratings the other night than the Republican National Convention? We. Are. So. Fecked.

And Because I can:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just put the damn pedophile enablers in jail already.

When I write blog posts, I usually try to stay away from certain hot button issues. I try to write about things that have a somewhat global impact such as the (execrable) state of the economy. But every now and again, I see an article or series of articles where the claims made are so egregious and the conduct so reprehensible, that I have to respond, even if it means burning a bridge. An example of this is this diary I wrote over at MyFDL 2 1/2 years ago after the Archdiocese of Denver banned a child from enrolling in one of their schools because his parents were lesbians.

Today, I have had another one of those moments when I saw this article from Huffington Post. The headline alone was enough to cause my blood pressure to spike:

Father Benedict Groeschel, American Friar, Claims Teens Seduce Priests In Some Sex Abuse Cases
WHAT THE FCK?!?!? How do we even respond to shite of this nature? This goes way beyond "blame the victim." The HuffPo article quotes from the original article at National Catholic Register but it appears the original has been taken down. The link in the HuffPo article now goes to a dead comments page and though a search on the NCR site looks to bring up the original interview, clicking the links also goes to the same dead comments page.

Even without the original, just the pieces that HuffPo has, has me shaking I am so angry:
Pressed for clarification, the New York State-based religious leader explained that kids looking for father figures might be drawn to priests to fill an emotional hole in their lives.

Furthermore, Groeschel expressed a belief that most of these "relationships" are heterosexual in nature, and that historically sexual relationships between men and boys have not been thought of as crimes.

"If you go back 10 or 15 years ago with different sexual difficulties — except for rape or violence — it was very rarely brought as a civil crime. Nobody thought of it that way... And I’m inclined to think, on [a priest's] first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime."
What fucking universe does this man inhabit? "Their intention was not committing a crime?" So what? Children were sexually abused and the Catholic Church hierarchy across the world condoned and covered it up by shipping offending priests to a new parish. Treating these acts as a "civil crime" is part of the damn problem.

If this rant comes across as a bit incoherent then forgive me but in my world, there are certain crimes that I find unforgivable and sexual abuse of a child is right at the top of the list. I studied Sociology my first time through college but recognized that I did not have the temperament to be a good social worker. One of my earliest posts here was on how I consider Child Welfare workers to have one of the most thankless jobs going. I spent a good part of the time in the late '90s and early '00s testing child welfare systems and became quite conversant with the federal reporting. This link will take you to the HHS/Administration for Children and Families page where you can access a PDF for the 2010 report National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems report if you care to delve into the statistics on child abuse and neglect.

I usually end a post with some music but not today.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Went and Looked at the Moon Last Night

Unless you have been stuck under a rock, you probably know that Neil Armstrong died yesterday. In July 1969, I, like so many millions of others, watched as he made "One small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind." (I am using the words as he said he spoke them rather than how we heard them as I can fully appreciate how there could be a comm drop - as should anyone who has had a phone drop the occasional word.)

That summer, I was 17 years old and about to start my senior year in high school. Vietnam was still raging; Richard Nixon had been president for only a few months, and I had all my life and the world in front of me. The USSR had launched Sputnik just 12 years earlier. Newspapers were soon providing the nightly times when Sputnik and then the follow-on US satellites would be visible in the night sky so that we could go out and watch them move rapidly across the sky.

Coach Bill wrote this diary yesterday at MyFDL on how many of us learned about the space program in school:

My earliest and most vivid memories of elementary school were when we would gather together in a single classroom and watch a rocket take off with a man aboard. I grew up with the Mercury Seven Astronauts, the Gemini program and eventually the Apollo Missions that culminated on July 20 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped off a ladder onto the moon.
In 12 short years, we as humans went from the first man-made objects in space to a man on the moon. This was a celebration of humanity at least as much as a celebration of "American Exceptionalism."

As adults, we read and watched The Right Stuff. Now, it has been almost 40 years since the last Apollo mission. We have seen the Challenger and Columbia disasters and the end of the Space Shuttle program.

So where are we going? Not just as a nation but as a human race? The author Kim Stanley Robinson visited Firedoglake's Book Salon yesterday to talk with folks about his latest novel 2312. One of the things that makes me love "hard" sci-fi is the inherent optimism that we will escape at least out to our solar system if not the whole universe. Let's hope our leaders can show some of the same imagination as shown by President Kennedy when he vowed to put a man on the moon within the decade. Otherwise, we have the situation Mr Pierce describes:
For at least a time, there literally was only one other person in the history of man who knew what Armstrong knew — how that sandy soil feels when you walk on it, the exact places where the shadows fall, the precise geometry of the mountains of the moon. Today, there are only eight of them left, all of them in their 70's. What will happen when the last of them dies? It's very likely that there will not be a living human being who knows what Neil Armstrong knew. It will all be for videotape and digital libraries, for historians and, if we're very lucky, for poets, as well. But there will be nobody alive who actually knows. Not a single one of our fellow humans, anywhere on the Earth.
I went and looked at the moon last night.

And because I can:

Friday, August 24, 2012

And the Occasional Truth Gets Spoken

Every now and then, I seem to run across news articles and/or headlines that seems to be just a bit of an understatement even as they are quite factual. Usually it seems, we get things like this one from NBC News yesterday:

New jobless claims take surprise jump

New claims for unemployment benefits took an unexpected jump in the latest week, raising more concerns about the struggling job market and providing further incentive for the Federal Reserve to jump in and help the economy.
As I have written before, it surely does seem as if the economist are ALWAYS surprised. Which still makes me wonder how they manage to keep their jobs as in most career fields, if you are always surprised by what happens, pretty soon you're looking for a new career.

A couple of days ago, I saw this piece from Alison Linn at the Today show with the headline:
Many in middle class say they are doing worse financially

The Great Recession and weak recovery have left slightly fewer Americans feeling like they are part of the middle class, and many who do still identify themselves as such say they are now worse off.

A new and comprehensive survey on how the middle class feels, released Wednesday by Pew Research Center, finds 42 percent of people who identify themselves as middle class say they are in worse shape financially than before the recession began. About 32 percent are in better shape, and the rest either don’t know or see no difference.
I am part of that 42% though in fact, I have been forced to accept that by income, I am no longer remotely close to "middle class." I am poor.

NBC News had this piece last night that is very much a companion to the Linn piece:
Stronger economy delivers smaller paystubs for most of us

With recoveries like this one, who needs recessions?

The average household income has fallen steadily for nearly everyone since the start of the economic expansion in June 2009, with average income dropping 4.8 percent in the three years since the upturn began, according to a report released Thursday.

High unemployment, outsourcing of jobs and generally slow economic growth have restrained income for households during one of the weakest and most prolonged recoveries on record, according to the report from Sentier Research.
Last summer, I wrote this post about the interconnectedness of the global economy. Today, the NY Times has this article on how China is now having to deal with surplus inventory:
GUANGZHOU, China — After three decades of torrid growth, China is encountering an unfamiliar problem with its newly struggling economy: a huge buildup of unsold goods that is cluttering shop floors, clogging car dealerships and filling factory warehouses.

The glut of everything from steel and household appliances to cars and apartments is hampering China’s efforts to emerge from a sharp economic slowdown. It has also produced a series of price wars and has led manufacturers to redouble efforts to export what they cannot sell at home.
This actually does make me wonder how long this headline from CNN will be true:
Romney: ‘Big businesses are doing fine’
It is a global economy and eventually what happens to one piece of that global economy WILL trickle down to the rest of the globe. Meanwhile we get to see pics of Prince Harry acting like a single, 27 year-old man visiting Las Vegas.

And because I can:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where has the Federal Reserve been?

As many folks know, I spend a bit of time each day perusing various news sites. My postings have been light the past few weeks and months as I've been working through issues after my sister's death. More recently in the last week I've gotten a small piece of good news in my personal life (and not saying anything further as I try to nurture this news and make it grow - but it's not a job) as well as further bad news for my extended family, so the roller coaster ride does continue.

But then I go and see a headline like this at

Fed ready to help economy 'fairly soon,' minutes show
Turns out, the article was from Reuters though their headline wasn't much better:
Fed looks set to ease fairly soon barring swift rebound
Earth to Fed! Earth to Fed! Where in the holy hell have you been for these past few years?
(Reuters) - The Federal Reserve is likely to deliver another round of monetary stimulus "fairly soon" unless the economy improves considerably, minutes released on Wednesday from the U.S. central bank's August meeting suggested.

While the meeting was held before a recent improvement in economic data, including a stronger-than-expected July reading for U.S. employment, policymakers were pretty categorical about their dissatisfaction with the current outlook.


The Fed held policy steady at that gathering, but signaled a renewed readiness to act amid lingering softness in the economy. The minutes showed the central bank is actively considering a "flexible" bond-buying program, which could suggest that no upfront amount will be announced.
Let's see. The "official" time frame for the Great Recession had a start in December 2007 and ended officially in June 2009. Last June I wrote a blog post where I predicted a double-dip recession. Officially, I was mistaken as the economy has managed to maintain just enough headway to avoid the term "recession." But also last summer, I wrote a blog post asking Mr Bernanke just where the hell he has been these past few years. I and all the other people in long term un and underemployed situations have the same concerns. We want jobs. The Fed still has a "Mission Statement" that begins with direction for "...pursuit of maximum employment..." So we sit here with the official unemployment rate at 8.3% and the rate of un and underemployeds at 15%. These number still translate to nearly 13 million unemployed and another 10 to 15 million underemployed. And again, these numbers do NOT include new college grads trying to find their first full time jobs in their chosen fields. The numbers do NOT include all the millions who have been forced to become "self-employed, independent contractors. Add these groups into the official numbers and we are probably looking at (as a guesstimate) another 10 to 15 million people. Labor force participation was at 63.7%.

But have no fear! All is not lost. Why just today, one of Willard Mitt Romney's top economic advisers proclaimed that The Benbernank is doing a smash up job as Fed chair and deserves to remain in the position while the Republican Party has added a plank calling for an annual audit of the Fed. My guess is this is the sop to Ron Paul. And to be honest, I can see this is a good plank. Of course, we still have the Todd Akin Memorial Anti-Abortion Plank Human Life Amendment so some things never change. After all, one of the reasons the Republicans re-took the US House in 2010 was because of the lack of jobs. Yet from the very start, the House concentrated on anti-abortion legislation that included "re-defining rape."

Todd Akin isn't an aberration in today's Republican Party. He is the epitome of today's Republican Party and Paul Ryan is right there with him. Meanwhile, the denizens of the Beltway wonder what all the fuss is about with jobs and millions of un and underemployed people wonder how they will survive.

And because I can:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have to Respond to the Stoopid

Now, some folks may have noticed (ha!) that I have not been posting too much these last few months. Those who actually know me understand that I've had a very good reason for this. However, I have still continued to surf the news sites each day and keep up with various blogs as well. I figure Mr Pierce does such a fine job eviscerating the Zombie-eyed-granny-starver and so many other idiots, that there really isn't much I can say and definitely can't improve on. As well, Dean Baker continues to easily refute the gibberish of so many Beltway Village Idiots Pundits and Politicians, so there's not much need for my rants.

So, I laugh when I see where someone has butt shot himself while thinking of all the "butt calls" I have received from family and friends. And I get a little sad when I see legislators in my home state embarrassing themselves with their diatribes against teaching evolution. (Note: Gravity is still considered a theory as well, maybe some of these folks complaining about teaching evolution "cuz it's only a theory" should maybe be invited to test that gravitational theory from the top of the capital building - rhetorically speaking of course.)

But then, I wind up reading something that is so incredibly stupid and disingenuous, that I am moved to take a whack at it on my own. Today, I reached this point when I read this idiocy from Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post:

Judging by the political reaction, you’d think that Paul Ryan’s budget takes a meat ax to Medicare and threatens economic havoc for the elderly. Just the opposite is true: The Ryan budget spares older people from almost any change or sacrifice — and that’s the problem. We have (and, to be fair, this is mainly the doing of Democrats and their intellectual apologists) made those 65 and over into a politically protected class, of which nothing is expected and everything is given.

It is impossible to have an honest debate about the budget — and government’s size and role — unless this changes, because aiding the elderly is now the main thing the federal government does. If you remove that, fearing a backlash from the 50 million or so Social Security and Medicare recipients, you condemn yourself to bad choices: (a) you can’t deal with deficits, which may crowd out productive investment and risk a financial crisis; (b) you must dramatically squeeze the rest of government, including the social safety net, defense and research; or (c) you must raise taxes sharply, which may further slow the economy.
Now, I am admittedly not an economist (thank doG) but by my rough count those two paragraphs contain maybe two semi-factual statements and about ten misstatements, mis-directs, and outright lies.

My first response after reading Samuelson's gibberish was to rush over to Beat The Press and see if Dean Baker had already taken Samuelson to task. Alas, Dean has been otherwise occupied with taking Casey Mulligan of the NY Times Economix blog and the Washington Post to task for their various misstatements and mis-directs. I imagine he can only deal with just so much stoopid and disingenuousness in one day before reaching his fill.

So if I may quickly:
The Zombie-eyed-granny-starver's budget and Medicare 'Plan' does take a meat ax to Medicare and threatens economic havoc on the elderly (via Kaiser Health News).

Samuelson proclaims that the Ryan budget "...spares older people from almost any change or sacrifice..." (this seems to be an article of perceived Conventional Wisdom among the Villagers and TradMed if this and this are indicators. But the devil as always is in the details as this from Think Progress explains. I would like to add that the attempt at generational war by proclaiming loudly that "55 and above are exempt from the changes" presupposes that those of us older than 55 have no desire to see these programs available to our younger family and friends. Please note, not everyone has an "I've got mine, fuck you!" attitude, m'kay?)

I am going to close this without attacking the rest of Samuelson's gibberish and try to re-store my blood pressure to a more manageable level. But I would like to say that Samuelson continues to act as if the social safety net spending, Social Security, and Medicare have been stand alone problems these last ten years while ignoring the destruction of the US and world economies by the Banksters and fraudsters on Wall St.

[/Harrumph harrumph rant]

And because I can: