Showing posts with label David Dayen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Dayen. Show all posts

Thursday, November 1, 2012

This is the "new normal"

The ADP Report on private sector jobs came out today and showed an increase of 158K jobs. David Dayen at the FDL News Desk discusses this report and the Bureau of Labor Statistics report that will be issued tomorrow morning (Friday, November 2):

Plug this all in and what have you got? The consensus forecast calls for an increase in 125,000 jobs. That would be an increase from last month’s increase of 114,000, but below the increases in July and August (August and September will get revised in the report). This generally matches what we’re seeing in the ancillary reports, and shouldn’t be a number that would arouse joy or sadness in either Presidential campaign. However, with the volatility of last month’s topline unemployment rate, derived from the household survey, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw it increase from the current level of 7.8%.

Either way, it’s a preliminary report, and we probably shouldn’t put as much weight on it as we will, especially with the political implications headed into the election.
While the Weekly report of initial unemployment claims was lower than expected (economists surprised!), even this moderately good news is not all that great.

The reality for many millions of us among the long term un and underemployed is the good jobs just are not there. At the end of August, Catherine Rampell of the NY Times had an article headlined "Majority of New Jobs Pay Low Wages, Study Finds." As I noted in this post, it was very similar to an earlier post from April '11 I had written that was based on a Washington Post article. Both the Times article and the Post article were based on reports from the National Employment Law Project.

Sunday in the NY Times, Steven Greenhouse had this article on how employers in retail and hospitality industries use (and abuse) part time workers:
But in two leading industries — retailing and hospitality — the number of part-timers who would prefer to work full-time has jumped to 3.1 million, or two-and-a-half times the 2006 level, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In retailing alone, nearly 30 percent of part-timers want full-time jobs, up from 10.6 percent in 2006. The agency found that in the retail and wholesale sector, which includes hundreds of thousands of small stores that rely heavily on full-time workers, about 3 in 10 employees work part-time.

...snip...

A 2011 survey of 436 employees at retailers in New York City, as diverse as luxury establishments on Fifth Avenue and dollar stores in the Bronx, found that half of the city’s retail workers were part-time and only one in 10 part-time workers had a set schedule week to week. One-fifth said they always or often had to be available for call-in shifts, according to the survey, which was overseen by researchers at City University of New York.

...snip...

Mr. Flickinger, the retail consultant, said companies benefited from using many part-timers. “It’s almost like sharecropping — if you have a lot of farmers with small plots of land, they work very hard to produce in that limited amount of land,” he said. “Many part-time workers feel a real competition to work hard during their limited hours because they want to impress managers to give them more hours."
What? Could someone have actually spoken a truth here? The modern day wage slave, complete with sharecropping as the ideal.

While CNN has an article this morning attempting to paint the rosy glasses scenario on how the jobs are not all part time minimum wage, even they have to acknowledge the reality of the lower wage since 24% of the "new" jobs are in hospitality and retail:
It's true that the economy has added a lot of low-paying jobs over the last two years. Restaurants and bars, which pay a median wage of just $9 an hour, have accounted for 15% of all the jobs created in the recovery. Retailers, which pay a median $11 an hour, make up another 9%.
The Cincinnati Enquirer on Monday reported on the long term un and underemployed for Ohio:
According to the government, 780,000 Ohioans are underemployed or unemployed, a number that does not include persons working more than 35 hours. The report does not compile local underemployment numbers.

...snip...

More people are working multiple part-time jobs, a practice Pautke cites as the only means of increasing the person’s take-home pay.
And this point goes back to the job scheduling practices noted in the NY Times article above - it is rather difficult for a part time wage slave to work those two or more part time jobs if/when the employers want the "flexibility" to schedule the work shifts the day before.

This is the "new normal" for far too many workers. So somebody please explain to me where all those jobs are from the "job creators?" Businesses in multiple industries are posting record profits (here, here, here, here, here, here) yet there are still millions of people in long term un and underemployment, people wanting to work, people with skills asking only for an opportunity to earn a decent wage with fair benefits.

And because I can:

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Vortex of Stupidity, also known as Washington, DC

I sometimes think that there has to be a crest to the levels of stoopid coming out of Washington, DC but obviously, I am wrong. Just the past two days, Dean Baker at his blog Beat the Press refuted three different pieces of so-called "conventional wisdom" by different members of the Beltway Village Idiots Pundits, Press, and Politicians in good standing.

First up was his having to counter a column from Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post. Pearlstein says:

Europe is a different story. The bubble years allowed much of Europe to avoid making the kind of structural changes necessary to put its social welfare system on a sustainable fiscal path and reform its labor and product markets. The euro crisis — which is both a banking crisis and a sovereign debt crisis — has forced Europeans to begin addressing those issues.
Baker points out however:
Of course this is completely wrong. The countries with the well developed welfare states, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands are doing fine. The countries that are in crisis, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, have the least developed welfare states among the older EU countries.
Next up we have a WaPo0 opinion piece decrying the "looming short fall in public pensions." Baker points out here:
The pensions are underfunded in part because policymakers would not take seriously those of us who warned that pensions were making overly optimistic assumptions about stock returns before the market crashed. Returns have been well below expectations in the dozen years since the peak of the stock bubble in 2000.

The other reason is that some politicians, like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, think it is really cute to not make the state's required contribution to the pension fund. Not surprisingly, if states get into the habit of not contributing to their pension fund, as has been the case in some states, then pension funds will be underfunded.

However it is more than a bit bizarre that we should therefore ripoff the workers who are counting on these pensions. Suppose state and local governments contract with construction companies for road work or hospitals to treat poor people. If the governments don't put aside the money to pay these contracts would we then think it makes sense to tell the contractors and hospitals to get lost?
Finally, today Baker goes after NPR and Nariman Behravesh, the chief economist of the forecasting firm IHS Global Insight, who thinks that the biggest problem we face is "the deficit":
Wow, isn't that impressive. So Europe, China and the rest of the world will be really impressed if the United States throws even more people out of work as long as it reduces its budget deficit! That's interesting, had it not been for NPR I never would have known people in the rest of the world thought this way.
As one of the 25 Million plus long term un and underemployed Baker mentions in his post, I would like to quote the inimitable Mr Pierce, "Fck the deficit. People got no jobs. People got no money.

David Dayen at FDL News today (Monday, October 22) covered a survey on the wage gap between federal workers and their private industry counterparts. Not so surprisingly, the public sector workers are paid far less than private sector jobs requiring comparable levels of skills and education:
If you compare organized federal employees, many of whom have college degrees, to unorganized service-sector and retail workers, then yes, you will find higher wages in the public sector. But if you do an apples-to-apples comparison between public employees and their private-sector counterparts in related fields, you will find that the public sector is significantly undervalued.

...snip...

You cannot lump together those who clean up the National Mall and those who work on scientific breakthroughs at the National Institute of Health, compare them to the “average worker,” and come up with a legitimate pay scale for federal employees. You have to go sector by sector and find the appropriate comparison in the private sector. And when you do that work, you see that federal employees are underpaid. This has an impact on millions of hard-working Americans, who are forced to take less than their skills would bring them back in the open market, because of a foolish tendency toward austerity and the demonizing of public workers.
Over these past few years, we've all seen many articles decrying the "generous pensions and salaries" of public sector workers, whether teachers, fire fighters, EMTs, or police at local levels or scientists at the NIH, NASA, JPL, EPA, or any other federal agency you wish to name.

My question is why?

One of the themes to emerge from this year's presidential race has been Mitt Romeny's "infamous" speech at a private fund raiser last May, calling 47% of the US basically moochers and freeloaders because they don't pay federal income taxes or they receive some level of federal benefits be it Social Security, VA or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) among others.

But why is it so fashionable to trash people who have earned pensions, earned veterans benefits or Social Security or have used the EITC because of low wages? Shouldn't we be asking why there are so many people earning such low wages that they don't even pay a minimum federal income tax? I know for myself, I would dearly love to be earning a salary that would have me paying federal income taxes. Reuters offered this analysis on Friday (October 19):
The number of Americans not owing federal income taxes has been growing since the mid-1980s, and the increase largely stems from expansion of these two tax credits - championed by Republicans from conservative economist Milton Friedman to former President Ronald Reagan.
I want to work in my chosen field, earn a decent wage with benefits and pay my fair share of taxes. Instead, we see the "champions of industry" threatening employees with lay offs should President Obama be re-elected.

Right now, I'm a bit surprised we don't see more news articles like this one from the AP last Sunday (October 14) about a man attempting to rob a bank of $1 so he could be sent to a Federal Prison. How bad must it be to want to rob a bank so that you can get sent to prison. My guess is the three hots and a cot and health care sounded mighty appealing if the option was starving on the street.

And because I can:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Final Pre-election Jobs Reports

This week has seen the final jobs reports that will be available to make a possibly measurable impact prior to November 6. Wednesday's report from ADP had 162K new private sector jobs. Yesterday's (Thursday, October 4) Jobless claims report had a slight increase to 367K new jobless claims and 4 week rolling average of 375K new claims. Finally, today's (Friday, October 5) Bureau of Labor Statistics report has an increase of 114,000 jobs for September and the jobless rate falling to 7.8%.

It seems the fall in the overall unemployment rate has some folks on the right, led by Neutron Jack Welch, claiming the numbers have been cooked. David Dayen at FDL News puts it this way:

Because data is just fungible to the political leanings of whoever confronts it, we predictably saw a number of conservatives question today’s jobs report, suggesting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics fudged the data to help the President’s re-election campaign. Leading this charge was former GE CEO Jack Welch on Twitter. I think the government should make a deal with Welch – they’ll admit to massaging the data if he cleans up all the PCBs in the Hudson River personally.

On a more serious note, this is really pretty outrageous, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, whose department includes the BLS, is right to be insulted. The BLS is a civil service agency that until recently was still run by a Bush appointee. It now has a career bureaucrat in charge. The political team plays no role whatsoever in the derivation of or announcement of the jobs data. And if, despite all this, BLS cooked the books, they’re terrible at it, because they shifted the data in the household survey without corresponding in the establishment survey.
My WAG on this is that the adjustment of the number of jobs for July and August probably had as much affect on the September jobless rate as the actual numbers for September. As far as I can see, this opinion piece from Jay Schalin at Fox News pretty much covers the basic point of the "unemployment" figures:
One thing the current economic slump has made painfully clear is that the unemployment rate is an imperfect tool for gauging the health of the economy. Washington should replace it with a more meaningful and useful benchmark: the labor-force participation rate.

The widely publicized unemployment rate, eagerly awaited each month by pundits and policy wonks, has become little more than a shell game in which officials keep the public guessing about the real state of the economy.
Please do go and read the entire piece, he makes some excellent points.

One item that I find still glaringly obvious is that for the most part, most of the people in charge or talking about jobs and the economy have no more clue about what is happening than they do about what the surface of the moon feels like. Just the past few days, I have seen these headlines as I have surfed the toobz (links embedded in headlines):
"Fiscal cliff" fears may impede faster job growth (Reuters October 2)

'Discouraged' workers face tough road back to employment (NBC News, October 4)

S&P 500 on verge of 5-year high day ahead of jobs data (Reuters October 4)

S&P 500 dips after four days of gains; earnings eyed (Reuters October 5)
I think the bottom line point here is any attempt to tie jobs reports, favorable or unfavorable, to the stock market is attempting so much witch craft. There IS no connection or the stock market would not be trading. As Reuters reported back in August, the market is up for the Obama administration by 74% since he took office January 2009:
At 1,400, the S&P 500 on Friday was closing in on a four-year high and was up 74 percent since January 20, 2009, the day Obama took office. Not since Dwight Eisenhower's first term has a president had such a strong run for their first term.
As most folks reading this know, I am and have been among the long term un/underemployed. The reality for me and many millions of others is, we want to work in decent paying jobs, preferably in our chosen career fields. The dithering in DeeCee from both sides of the aisle, the constant calls for cuts to the budget, "Grand Bargains" to "save" Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (especially the non-existent "Bowles-Simpson" plan since there was no formal report and plan adopted by their namesake committee) personally drives me nuckin' futz. As Mr Pierce often says, "Fck the deficit. People got no jobs. People got no money."

It really is a simple concept. People want to work. We want to work at decent paying jobs with half way decent benefits and contribute to the overall commonweal of the nation. Working two or three part time barely above minimum wage jobs does NOT fit this definition.

And because I can:

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.

...snip...

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:

Monday, April 2, 2012

How does an interconnected global economy avoid a global recession?

Author's Note: Please take a few minutes and Join the Firedoglake Membership Program today. FDL provides the tools that help me and others extend our reach with our rants so we need to support FDL when we can.

As I was surfing through various news sites this morning (April 2), I noticed a number of articles discussing problems with the European and US economies which lead directly to the question I have posed in the title of this post:

How does an interconnected global economy avoid a global recession?
Unfortunately, I do not know the answer but if I had to guess, it would be to say "It can't."

The first article I noticed was from tha AP via Yahoo titled, "Euro unemployment spikes to record 10.8 percent." Reuters reported it as "Euro zone unemployment reaches near 15 year high":
Unemployment in the euro zone reached its highest level in almost 15 years in February, with more than 17 million people out of work, and economists said they expected job office queues to grow even longer later this year.

Joblessness in the 17-nation currency zone rose to 10.8 percent - in line with a Reuters poll of economists - and 0.1 points worse than in January, Eurostat said on Monday.

Economists are divided over the wisdom of European governments' drive to bring down fiscal deficits so aggressively as economic troubles hit tax revenues, consumers' spending power and business confidence which collapsed late last year.

As a companion to these was this blog post from Reuters on youth unemployment across Europe:
In Spain the number of under 24-year-olds out of work is 50 percent, in Italy nearly a third of young people are without a job and in France the figure is a quarter.

However, in Germany youth unemployment is expected to sink to record lows over the coming months and is currently well below 8 percent.

...snip...

So what is Germany doing right and can Spain learn a few lessons? In an article written for the Centre for European Reform, John Springford lays the problem out clearly. In EU countries where rates of unemployment are high levels of participation in higher education and vocational studies is approximately 40 percent. In Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland, where youth unemployment is fairly low, rates are closer to 60 percent in some cases.
But it is not just high unemployment in general and among the young in particular that is problematic. Today's NY Times had this article on the swelling ranks of the working poor in Europe:
Europe’s long-running euro crisis may be cooling. But the economic distress it has left in its wake is pushing a rising tide of workers into precarious straits in France and across the European Union. Today, hundreds of thousands of people are living in campgrounds, vehicles and cheap hotel rooms. Millions more are sharing space with relatives, unable to afford the basic costs of living.

These people are the extreme edge of Europe’s working poor: a growing slice of the population that is slipping through Europe’s long-vaunted social safety net. Many, particularly the young, are trapped in low-paying or temporary jobs that are replacing permanent ones destroyed in Europe’s economic downturn.

Now, economists, European officials and social watchdog groups are warning that the situation is set to worsen. As European governments respond to the crisis by pushing for deep spending cuts to close budget gaps and greater flexibility in their work forces, “the population of working poor will explode,” said Jean-Paul Fitoussi, an economics professor at L’Institut d’√Čtudes Politiques in Paris.
Meanwhile in the US, there was this post from Yahoo:
In addition, while the economy has been expanding for nearly three years and hiring is picking up, Reich notes, "we also see some major declines in terms of median wage. And that's particularly true for the bottom 90 percent."

In the past, economists argued that wage growth lagged in part because employers were spending more on benefits like health care and pensions. But that hasn't been the case in the past few years. A recently released study from the National Institute for Health Care Reform shows that in 2010, the percentage of Americans with insurance who got insurance from employers fell to 53.5 percent, down sharply from 63.6 percent in 2007. "At the top of the talent chain, employers are providing very generous health insurance, deferred compensation, and everything you can imagine," notes Reich. "But as you go down the job ladder, particularly to people who are doing routine jobs, they're getting less and less. There has been a substantial erosion of health care benefits for the bottom 90 percent.
David Dayen at FDL News points out that "Austerity doesn't work." Austerity in Europe squeezes the 90%, throws more people into unemployment and creates more working poor. The same thing in the US. In an interconnected global economy, how can we not have a global recession when seemingly the entire industrial world is being squeezed.

And because I can:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bernanke wrings his hands on jobs. Market reacts favorably.

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So. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke gave a speech this morning.:

My remarks today will focus on recent and prospective developments in the labor market. We have seen some positive signs on the jobs front recently, including a pickup in monthly payroll gains and a notable decline in the unemployment rate. That is good news. At the same time, some key questions are unresolved. For example, the better jobs numbers seem somewhat out of sync with the overall pace of economic expansion. What explains this apparent discrepancy and what implications does it have for the future course of the labor market and the economy?

Importantly, despite the recent improvement, the job market remains far from normal; for example, the number of people working and total hours worked are still significantly below pre-crisis peaks, while the unemployment rate remains well above what most economists judge to be its long-run sustainable level. Of particular concern is the large number of people who have been unemployed for more than six months. Long-term unemployment is particularly costly to those directly affected, of course. But in addition, because of its negative effects on workers' skills and attachment to the labor force, long-term unemployment may ultimately reduce the productive capacity of our economy.

Once again, it seems to be a speech that depends on the individual perspective as to the take-away. David Dayen at FDL News titled it "The “Better But Not Good Enough” Economy Conundrum" and it follows a pattern from earlier speeches. Last June, I wrote a post after a Benbernank speech that appeared to be at least four different speeches, depending on the spin. Getting it down to only two spins is a bit better. The problem I have with Bernanke and his speeches is that while he talks about the problems of the long term un and underemployed, he never really seems to get around to doing anything about it, even while "pursuit of maximum employment" is part of the stated Federal Reserve mission.

While it appears that the folks on Wall Street and the various stock exchanges loved Bernanke's speech, it has been obvious to anyone paying attention that Wall Street and the various stock exchanges don't really have much of a connection to the real world economies. As Dayen notes in his post:
The problem is that many believe that the Fed’s monetary policies have not been accommodative enough to match the deep hole in economic performance. The other reason some became alarmed by Bernanke’s speech is that he accurately but incompletely touted the labor market recovery, with its 250,000 increase in private market jobs on average over the past three months. Bernanke goes through all the positive indicators and only at the end gets to the negatives, like the 5 million payroll jobs below peak, the still-elevated unemployment rate, and most importantly the shrinkage of the employment-population ratio and the labor force participation rate. Brad DeLong thinks that Bernanke is “preparing to declare victory,” and that “To transform cyclical into structural unemployment is not a victory for policy.”
Amazingly enough, just last month, The Benbernank testified before both the House and the Senate where the Republicans in both chambers took him to task for (from the NY Times House article):
WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans criticized the Federal Reserve on Thursday for working to reduce unemployment and revive the housing market rather than maintaining a single-minded focus on inflation.
And from the Senate article, also via the NY Times:
Senate Republicans on Tuesday, like their colleagues in the House last week, expressed concern that the Fed effectively was declaring that it would prioritize job growth over inflation.
I guess the folks in the House and Senate would just as soon not deal with the problems of 25M to 30M un and underemployed. They must not think we vote. Or matter.

In the immortal words of Mr. Pierce
Fck the deficit! People got no jobs. People got no money!

And because I can:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Is the Greece Crisis a Preview of Coming Attractions?

Author's Note: Please take a few minutes and Join the Firedoglake Membership Program today. FDL provides the tools that help me and others extend our reach with our rants so we need to support FDL when we can.

Let me start this by stating right up front that I do not pay near enough attention to happenings around the world and the Greek debt crisis is just one of those issues that I am aware of without really knowing all the ins and outs of the situation.

Nevertheless, I saw a headline this weekend that has me in full on WTF mode. Saturday morning a NY Times headline said "Greek Premier Faces Impasse Over Demand to Cut Private Wages.":

ATHENS — Lucas Papademos faced his most difficult test as Greece’s interim prime minister on Friday when his three-month-old government reached an impasse over proposed demands by the country’s foreign lenders to reduce private-sector wages drastically in exchange for the aid the country needs to prevent default.
Now, I can understand why lenders would demand wage cuts for Public Sector employees. I can think it is incredibly stupid, short-sighted, and penalizing the wrong group of people but I can understand the logic behind it. But Euro zone leaders and banks requiring private sector wage cuts before restructuring debt for Greece just makes no sense at all.

A bit further down in the article though I do get a small hint here:
It was unclear exactly what sort of wage cuts the troika was demanding. Some news reports said the lenders were seeking changes that would reduce most private-sector salaries by as much as 25 percent; others said the group was insisting on a cut in the minimum wage that, at least directly, would affect fewer than 300,000 people.

The goal of any pay cuts would be to help make Greek workers, who are generally less productive than workers elsewhere in Europe, able to compete more effectively inside the euro zone, where countries share a common currency that does not allow devaluations to help even out differences in labor costs.
My bold. And I think that is the goal right there. Cut minimum wage. Even though (assuming this wiki is correct), the Greek minimum wage works out to roughly $11,454 per annum (compared to the US minimum wage which works to $15,080 per annum - $7.25 per hour x 40 hour week x 52 weeks).

Today, I saw this article from the Wall Street Journal (if the article does not come through completely, check Der Google for the headline "UPDATE:Greece Close To Announcing 20% Cut In Minimum Wages-Sources" to get the full article):
Pressure on Greece has been piling up from its euro-zone partners to accept a new round of painful austerity if the country is to get a EUR130 billion bailout loan that will keep the country from defaulting next month when EUR14.4 billion in bonds have to be redeemed.

Germany and France urged Greek leaders on Monday to "live up to their responsibilities" by agreeing to the new cutbacks.

...snip...

Demands for cuts to the country's public-sector payroll were also on the table. The international creditors have asked for job cuts in the police and the armed forces, and there are even proposals to lay off teachers who work on temporary contracts, as part of the targeted 150,000 civil servants whose jobs will have to be eliminated by 2015.
Reuters reported the issue this way:
In Brussels, the European Commission defended the troika's demand for a cut in the minimum wage.

Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj said the Greek minimum wage averaged 871 euros a month, compared with 748 euros in Spain, which is not under an EU/IMF rescue program, and 566 euros in Portugal, which has received a bailout.
So apparently, the whole point is to drive wages of Greeks to as low as the lowest other nations in the Euro. David Dayen at FDL News put it this way earlier today with the headline "Greece Asked to Destroy Itself In Exchange for Bailout":
Greek bailout talks have deadlocked again, but at the moment the culprit is not the hedge funds seeking a higher payout on the distressed debt they bought, but the “troika” of the EU, ECB and the IMF. They gave Greece a Monday deadline to accept bailout terms. And those terms, frankly, are totally insane.

The deal calls for Greece to run a primary budget surplus (not counting interest payments on debt) in 2013 of over 2% of GDP, rising to over 4% by 2014. That implies massive cuts to public spending in the middle of a 5-year recession, if not a depression. As Antonis Samaras, leader of the New Democracy Party, told the Financial Times, “They’re asking for more recession than the country can take.” Samaras also has highlighted that the troika seeks cuts in private sector wages as part of the deal, of up to 25%. There would also be a 35% cut in supplementary pensions.

If Greece fails to agree to this today, the troika will likely suspend debt payments, forcing the country into default. European leaders said explicitly that they would not fund a continuing bailout unless Greece agreed to the troika’s demands.
This is where the tin foil comes into play for me. The "Preview of Coming Attractions" is telling me that if/when the Greek minimum wage gets pushed down, it will intensify the push here in the US to lower the minimum wage. Even if it is almost impossible to make it on a minimum wage as it is, it won't stop those who push this level of gibberish.

But hey, doG forbid, any banksters get a smaller than expected bonus. Why that truly is a sign of the coming apocalypse.

And because I can:


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Only MOTUs and Banksters get TARPs.

Author's Note: Please take a few minutes and Join the Firedoglake Membership Program today. FDL provides the tools that help me and others extend our reach with our rants so we need to support FDL when we can.

So there I was this morning, having completed my daily check for jobs in my chosen field of Software Quality Assurance and Testing (I do wish it would take longer than five minutes as that would mean there are actually some improvements in the economy but such is life), when I reached the NY Times and saw this article with the headline from Mayor Bloomberg that "‘Tent City’ Goes Beyond Free Speech":

“The Constitution doesn’t protect tents,” he said at a news conference in Queens. “It protects speech and assembly.”

The mayor expressed concern that those exercising a “right to be silent” might be getting drowned out amid the din of the protests.

“We can’t have a place where only one point of view is allowed,” he said. “There are places where I think it’s appropriate to express yourself, and there are other places that are appropriate to set up Tent City. They don’t necessarily have to be one and the same.”
A quick check of der Google shows that a lot of elected officials in places such as Durham, NC, Hennepin Co, MN, Seattle, WA, San Francisco and even Sydney, Australia are apparently in full agreement with Mayor Bloomberg. In fact, in this quick check, it was only Hartford, CT that did not seem to think tents and Tarps are the cause of the decline of Western Civilization. (I'm sure there are other cities fighting the use of tents and tarps and there may even be a couple of others allowing them besides Hartford).

David Dayen at FDL News notes that in fact there is only one tent in Zuccotti Park, a medicine tent. It seems folks owe a bit of thanks to Jesse Jackson for helping to block the NYPD from taking this tent down:
Bloomberg’s foray into originalism notwithstanding, the focus on tents also apparently extends to medicine. Because hours after the mayor made this statement, the NYPD tried to take down the medical tent at Zuccotti Park. Jesse Jackson, who was randomly on the scene in the middle of the night when this went down, helped save the tent, which is apparently not Constitutionally protected. Incidentally, the medical tent is the only tent at Zucotti Park. So he must really have it out for that tent. Such an eyesore!
So tell me Mr Mayor, where in the Constitution does it say that taxpayers have to bail out TBTF banks and give them a "TARP?" It seems that if Banksters and MOTUs get a TARP that protects their bonuses, surely folks who are protesting that largesse can have a tarp to protect themselves from the weather.

It seems to this ol' country boy that so many of the politicians around the globe are paid to be bullish and protect the MOTU and Banksters. Along with the Bloomberg article, today's NY Times had another article about how Gov Cuomo refuses to extend New York's "millionaire's tax":
Even as Occupy Wall Street stokes debate over income inequality, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo dug in his heels on Monday against extending a so-called millionaires’ tax on high-earning New Yorkers, saying the income tax surcharge would place New York at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states.
The problem when politicians are so bullish about the MOTU and banksters? When there are a lot of bulls around, there's bound to be a lot of bull shit around.

H/T Peterr for the post title

And because I can:


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Regulations Are an Opportunity for Job Creating Innovation

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It is an article of faith among Republicans (and far too many Democrats) that all those pesky "regulations" are to blame for the lack of jobs today and the ongoing economic slowdown. Just the first of this month, McClatchy had an article where they had surveyed small business owners across the country and the consensus was that in fact regulations are not the problem for small business but lack of demand is:

When it's asked what specific regulations harm small businesses _which account for about 65 percent of U.S. jobs — the Chamber of Commerce points to health care, banking and national labor. Yet all these issues weigh much more heavily on big corporations than on small business.

...snip...

None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it. Some pointed to the lack of regulation in mortgage lending as a principal cause of the financial crisis that brought about the Great Recession of 2007-09 and its grim aftermath.

...snip...

Other small firms say their problem is simply a lack of customers.
My bold and I think we see where the folks complaining about regulations are really coming from. While the small businesses are struggling to make traction and find customers, the big businesses are squeezing every penny out of their operations in order to meet the quarterly demands of Wall St. And the anti-regulations crowd show an incredible level of short-sightedness. Instead of a knee-jerk "regulations bad" approach, they should be looking on regulations as an opportunity for innovation and building new businesses.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Political Posturing Versus Reality

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This morning (Wednesday, June 22) David Dayen at FDL News reports that the entire Senate Democratic leadership is getting behind a jobs/stimulus push:

The Senate Democratic leadership – all of them, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Patty Murray, Debbie Stabenow and Mark Begich – planned a morning press conference today where they will call for job creation measures, or stimulus, to be included in any debt limit deal.
This follows a report from Politico on Sunday:
Fearing the economy may be getting worse, Democrats plan to soon unveil what they’ll call a “Jobs First” agenda — and the stakes are high. A bleak economic outlook, like the May jobs report, could cost Democrats their thin Senate majority and even the White House if they can’t make a strong case to an anxious electorate that their policies will create jobs.

Senate Democrats are now grappling with ways to gain an edge in the economic debate dominated by budget talk. For instance, in an attempt to woo Republicans, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the White House are open to extending a payroll tax break to stimulate the economy, but that has spawned unease from Democratic senators such as Maryland’s Ben Cardin who worry that it would drive up the deficit and unnerve liberals such as Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, who are concerned it would deplete the Social Security trust fund.
While the Politico piece reinforces for me the idea of the Dems actions as just so much posturing, so does this, also from the Dayen piece:
There’s a sense that this is mainly rhetorical. Democrats have seen Republicans obstruct even the most piddling of jobs bills in the Senate. Yesterday the reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration, an old Great Society program, failed to break a filibuster.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Beltway Fantasy Land in Operation

It is almost impossible for me to freshly describe the ongoing disconnect between what we see and hear coming out of the mouths of people in and around the Beltway Village and the facts on the ground for the rest of the country. I won't say that they must be on drugs because I've used drugs and I never was as far away from reality as the Beltway Village Idiots Pundits, Politicians, and Courtiers. They just live inside a fantasy bubble. It might be acceptable if the decisions they make each day didn't have such negative consequences for the rest of us.

The Initial Unemployment Claims report for last week came out today (Thursday April 28), and guess what? It surprised the economists. From Reuters:

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits jumped 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 429,000, up from a slightly upwardly revised 404,000 the preceding week, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by Reuters were expecting claims to slip to 392,000 from the previously reported 403,000.
Of course, usually the surprise is the claims didn't fall as much as expected but today the claims went in the totally opposite direction than the predictions. Yet some of them refuse to give up their pre-conceived notions as AP quotes a Deutsche Bank economist that it is just "technical factors."

Well, those "technical factors" include the US economy growing at 1.8% for the first quarter of the year. From the NY Times:
American economic expansion slowed to a crawl in the first quarter, but economists are hopeful that the setback will be temporary. Total output grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent from January through March, the Commerce Department said Thursday, after expanding at a 3.1 percent pace in the fourth quarter of 2010.

When the year began, economists expected a more robust growth rate of about 4 percent, only to be barraged by bad report after bad report. Turmoil in the Middle East led to higher oil prices, which had already been climbing because of increased demand in emerging markets like China. Housing sales dropped sharply. Winter blizzards closed businesses and delayed construction, causing investments in nonresidential structures like office buildings to fall 21.7 percent from the previous quarter. Imports, which are subtracted from gross domestic product, surged. Military spending sank.
There are all sorts of ready-made excuses for the economists as to why the slow growth, however there were two other stories in the news today that tell me far more about where the economy is today than any of the economic predictions.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Do We Want? Jobs! When Do We Want Them? Now!

Today's Initial Unemployment Claims report for last week is out and the intial claims have jumped back up over 400k. Via Reuters:

A second report from the Labor Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 412,000, well above economists' expectations for a fall to 380,000.

The four-week moving average of unemployment claims -- a better measure of underlying trends - climbed 5,500 to 395,750.

The first report the article covers is the Producer Price Index, defined here. Also from the linked Reuters article:
The Labor Department said on Thursday its seasonally adjusted index for prices paid at the farm and factory gate -- excluding volatile food and energy costs -- rose 0.3 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in February. Economists had expected core PPI to rise 0.2 percent in March.

David Dayen at FDL News this morning says this:
But the bad economy only makes this worse. There’s a ton of idle capacity in the economy, a demand shortfall that forces millions of potentially productive workers to the sidelines. USAT estimates 27 MILLION non-working adults; that’s inexcusable. And they will not be helped by contractionary fiscal policy that lowers demand even further.

Friday, February 18, 2011

More Republican "Respect" for the Workers

On Wednesday (February 16), I wrote a post with the (admittedly rhetorical) title "Is Cutting Jobs Programs to Create Jobs Like Cutting Taxes to Increase Revenues?"

Today, I'd like to offer up a few more examples of how the new governors' of Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin are treating workers within their states as they "create" jobs.

To begin with, we have yesterday's report of Initial Unemployment Claims for last week. After falling to a 2 1/2 year low the week before, yesterday's report showed an increase once again in the initial claims:

There were 410,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Feb. 12, according to the Labor Department. That was up 25,000 from the week before, and slightly more than the 408,000 claims economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected.

Continuing claims -- which include people filing for the second week of benefits or more -- rose by 1,000 to 3,911,000 in the week ended Feb. 5, the most recent week available.
Of course, the economists interviewed looked on the sunny side of life because the trend "is still pointing downward." I'm sure that is bringing a warm feeling to the nearly 15 million unemployed and the 25 to 30 million un and underemployed. Why at the rate things are trending downwards, we might once again reach full employment in, oh, maybe in the year 2525?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

They Really Are Insane, Part II

It gets somewhat frustrating to read the cheerleader stories on the economy, or from the supposed economic experts on the same day and in the same paper where there are other stories plumbing the economic problems of average, everyday, yes, real Americans.

First off, we have the somewhat ludicrous cheerleader opinion piece from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in today's (Tuesday August 3) NY Times titled Welcome to the Recovery. It's impossible for me to pull out a couple of points of idiocy from this piece as almost every line of it is a misdirection, strawman, or flat out untruth.

From there, we go to this piece discussing a speech Monday by Fed Chair Ben Bernanke:

While the United States has “a considerable way to go” for a full recovery, “rising demand from households and businesses should help sustain growth,” Mr. Bernanke said on Monday in a speech in Charleston, S.C. “We are maintaining strong monetary policy support for the recovery,” he said in response to an audience question, without discussing any further action the Fed could take to aid growth.

The remarks signal that Mr. Bernanke and his colleagues, when they meet in Washington next week, will stop short of making major changes in their policy statement or taking new steps to lower interest rates and reduce unemployment, said John Ryding, a former Fed researcher. Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, “seems likely to pick up in coming quarters from its recent modest pace,” Mr. Bernanke said.

Yeah, who cares about nearly 10% official Unemployment and the Un/Underemployment nearly double that? David Dayen had a post at FireDogLake yesterday on a Krugman column on how this is the "New Normal" for employment. Looks like Krugman is correct (not that that is a shock mind you.)