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:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Has the 'War On Women' been declared a Jobs Program yet?

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It has been fascinating, albeit in an unpleasant way, to watch the War On Women unfold this month. There's more than a little irony that we are seeing this "war" take place in March when March is annually the month to celebrate Women's History. That's a problem as many of the battles that women have fought for over the years are being re-fought this year so how can we celebrate them as history?

Actually, the best way I think to celebrate is to fight against the current iteration of the war. As I wrote a couple of years ago, I love strong women, but that gives me no more the right to tell any woman how she should live her life than the state has a right to do. Yet, all over the country, we are seeing state and federal elected officials propose that a women considering abortion has to undergo an invasive, unnecessary procedure that's only purpose is to attempt to intimidate a woman as if she has no will and awareness of her own.

The justifications for these proposed laws are about as patronizing and condescending as there is. The attempted obfuscations ("Religious Freedom!") rival the worst of what we've seen. Really, about the only smoke screen we haven't seen is someone trying to defend these attacks on women as a job creation effort.

Maybe they just haven't thought of it before. They do manage to keep re-cycling the same standard activities and call them Jobs programs. Tax Cuts! = Jobs Programs. De-regulation = Jobs Program. Drill, Baby, Drill = Jobs Program.

I guess the only reason they may have not linked the War On Women to Jobs Program is it really wouldn't be a Jobs Program. The sad thing is, I would wager they could find thousands of people willing to volunteer as "Chief Busybody and Slut Shamer" positions. Do they understand that "The Handmaid's Tale" is not really a "How-to" guide?

And because I can: