Friday, July 12, 2013

Mean Team Piles On Jobless Americans (Slackers! It's a Feature, Not a Bug) and A Better Than Expected Jobs Report Isn't the Same Thing As a Good Jobs Report (Closing Time?)

Paul Ryan's assery would be almost laughable except that it's still in place in D.C., suggesting that the unemployed are the asses who are living it up on his dime. He's joined by Governor Pat McCrory in North Carolina in this oddly American Hall of Fame.

Rand Paul Defends Secessionist Aide: Confederate Flag Like Smoking Pot

I've said from the first that there are no accidents during this long-term, jobless Depression (which will never be called what it truly is even though it's now lasted over a decade). The owners planned for this and their response is incredibly sharp (cruel, some would say) while seeming dull and lackadaisal to the casual observer.

It's nice to know that the masses of jobless Americans (about 30 million if you count everyone who would like a job) have not been entirely forgotten.

Although . . .

The Mean Team Piles on Jobless Americans

By Jim Hightower, Creators Syndicate

07 July 13

ome on, team, let's get mean!"

This is not the chant of rabid football fans, egging on their favorite team to crush the opponents. Rather, it's the raucous war cry of far-out right-wing ideologues all across the country who're pumping up Team GOP to pound the bejeezus out of America's millions of unemployed workers. Far from a game, this is real, and it's a moral abomination.

I've been unemployed before, and I can tell you it's a misery - all the more so today, when there are far more people out of work than there are job openings. This leaves millions of our fellow Americans mired in the debilitating misery of long-term unemployment.

But that's not miserable enough for a feral breed of Ayn Randian political zealots who are lobbying Republican governors, legislators and congress-critters to punish the jobless for ... well, for their joblessness. In this perverse universe, the conventional wisdom asserts that unemployment benefits and other poverty-prevention programs are sapping our nation's vitality by allowing "moochers" to live the Life of Reilly and avoid work.

The GOP's budget demigod in the U.S. House, Rep. Paul Ryan, expressed this dogma in a fanciful homily deriding America's safety net as "a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency." This from a guy whose family's wealth was gained from government contacts and who has spent practically all of his adult life in the sweet-swaying hammock of congressional privilege, presently drawing $174,000 a year from Old Uncle Sugar.

As ridiculous and just plain mean as this attitude is, it plays well in the insanity that now defines "the debate" in Republican primary elections. So, state-after-state (as well as Congress) are succumbing to this pound-the-poor, right-wing screed by frenetically slashing unemployment benefits.

Behind this faux-philosophical push are the smiling barons of corporate America. Without jobless payments, you see, desperate millions will be forced to whatever low-wage, no-benefit, dead-end jobs the barons design.

What's at work here is a profoundly awful ethical phenomenon that has seeped into the top strata of American society: Our nation's corporate and political elites have developed an immunity to shame.

It has become morally acceptable in those lofty circles to enrich themselves while turning their backs on the rest of us. Even more damning, they feel free to slash America's already tattered safety net, leaving more holes than net for the workaday majority of Americans who've been knocked down by an ongoing economic disaster created by these very elites.

For a look at how shameful these privileged powers have become, turn to North Carolina. 

Until recently, this Southern state maintained a fairly moderate government with a populist streak, taking pride in its educational system and other public efforts to maintain a middle class. No more. A shame-resistant political leadership has recently taken hold, consisting of corporate-funded tea party extremists who loathe the very idea of a safety net.

The new bunch has been gutting everything from public schools to health care, and now they've turned on hard-hit citizens who're out of work.

In a state with the fifth-highest jobless rate in the country, and with no recovery in sight, the right-wing governor and legislature recently whacked weekly unemployment benefits by a third, leaving struggling North Carolinians with a meager $350 a week to try to make ends meet, while simultaneously eliminating millions of consumer dollars that those families would otherwise be putting into the state's economy. Then, just to give the jobless another kick, the petty politicians cut the number of weeks people can receive unemployment aid.

This official minginess automatically disqualified the state from getting $700 million a year for long-term jobless payments from the federal government. Yet Gov. Pat McCrory issued a cockamamie, Kafkaesque claim that the gut-job ensures that "our citizens' unemployment safety net is secure," while providing "an economic climate that allows job creators to start hiring again."

Yeah, we'll all hold our breath until those "job creators" get going. Meanwhile, the GOP wrecking crew doled out a fat tax break for the corporate elites - for doing nothing. Take from the poor, give to the rich: backward Robin Hood. If ignorance is bliss, McCrory must be ecstatic.

Meanwhile, his shameless immorality has unleashed a growing storm of weekly demonstrations known as "Moral Mondays." For information about this remarkable citizens' uprising, link to the North Carolina Justice Center: 

So come on over to the statehouse in Raleigh for Moral Mondays. I guarantee you'll meet some very knowledgeable, decent people. Out in the streets. Demonstrating against the Koch-Publicans.

Dean Baker always comes through with the best economic commentary in my, of course, very humble opinion. Ken at Down With Tyranny does the honors.

A "Better Than Expected" Jobs Report Isn't the Same Thing As a "Good" Jobs Report - Dean Baker

Friday, July 05, 2013

"Three business sectors - restaurants, retail trade, and temporary help - account for more than half of new jobs in the US."

"This would be a bad situation in any case, but it is made worse by the fact that it is 100% preventable. We know how to make the economy grow more rapidly and generate jobs. But politicians are using old superstitions and deliberate lies to scare people aware from the sort of fiscal stimulus that would get the economy back on track."

- Dean Baker, in "Upbeat June Jobs Report Still Leaves US Economy In a Deep Hole"
- The Guardian

by Ken

When Dean Baker says that a new jobs report is "somewhat better than most economists had expected," he gets my attention. But as his report on the jobs report makes all too clear, "better than expected" isn't the same thing as "good."

I'm going to take the liberty of splitting the opening paragraph of his report for The Guardian down the middle, into GOOD NEWS (the first part) and BAD NEWS (the last sentence).


The 195,000 new jobs reported for June was somewhat better than most economists had expected. The job gains, together with upward revisions to the prior two months' data, raised average growth for the last three months to 196,000.


While this may lead some to be dancing in the streets, those who actually care about the economy may want to hold off.

"First," Dean says, "it is important to remember the size of the hole the economy is in."

We are down roughly 8.5 million jobs from our trend growth path. We also need close to 100,000 jobs a month to keep pace with the underlying growth rate of the labor market. This means that even with the relatively good growth of the last few months, we were only closing the gap at the rate of 96,000 a month. At this pace, it will take up more than seven years to fill the jobs gap.

It is easy to miss the size of the jobs gap since the current 7.6% unemployment rate doesn't seem that high. However, the main reason that the unemployment rate has fallen from its peak of 10% in the fall of 2009 is that millions of people have dropped out of the labor force and stopped looking for jobs. These people are no longer counted as being unemployed.
Employment relative to population, Dean notes, is up only 0.5 percent from the bottom of the meltdown. "It is still down by more than 4.0 percentage points from its pre-recession level, and by 6.0 full percentage points from the peak hit in the boom of 2000."

Once upon a time, recessions were followed by

months in which the economy created over 400,000 jobs. And this was in a labor market that was more than one-third smaller. That is the sort of job growth that we should be seeing after a recession like the one we saw in 2008-2009. Unfortunately, such growth is nowhere in sight.
"Of course," Dean says, "the weakness of the job market is not a surprise."

The economy has been growing at less than a 2% annual rate for the last three years. In this context, it is surprising that we are seeing job growth of even 100,000 a month. Most analysts put the economy's trend rate of growth in the range of 2.2-2.5%. This means that the economy has to grow at this pace just to keep the unemployment rate from rising.
The productivity growth that fueled the last economic good times (2.5 percent a year in the decade before the meltdown), has tanked to 1 percent.


In a word: crappy. Okay, that's my word, not Dean's.

Over the last three months, three sectors -- restaurants, retail trade, and temporary help - have accounted for more than half of the jobs created. These sectors offer the lowest-paying jobs, with few benefits and little job security.

The fact that these sectors are growing rapidly speaks to the state of the job market. These sectors always generate lots of jobs, but in a good economy, no one will take them. Workers take these jobs when there are no better alternatives available.

The poor quality of jobs shows up in the wage data. The most recent data did show an uptick in the average hourly wage, which has been rising at a nominal rate of 2.1% over the last three months. This is somewhat better than the rate of inflation, which is around 1.5%. But a closer inspection of the data shows that the uptick was all among supervisory workers, who saw nominal age growth at a 3.0% annual rate over the last three months, compared to just 1.7% for production and non-supervisory workers.
"In short," Dean sums up, "the June jobs data falls into the 'it could have been worse' category – which is fast becoming the official slogan of the recovery."

We are seeing an economy that is likely to be well below its potential level of output for more than a decade. This means that tens of millions of people will needlessly be unemployed or underemployed.

Furthermore, high levels of unemployment will put downward pressure on the wages of most of the workforce. This means that businesses and higher-end workers will continue to see the bulk of the gains of economic growth.

This would be a bad situation in any case, but it is made worse by the fact that it is 100% preventable. We know how to make the economy grow more rapidly and generate jobs. But politicians are using old superstitions and deliberate lies to scare people aware from the sort of fiscal stimulus that would get the economy back on track.

They will try to pass off the June numbers as good news. They deserve our contempt.
Of course, there shouldn't be any surprise that what we're creating is primarily crappy jobs. This is simply a given of the modern-day "Two Americas" economy, wherein the top cohort sucks the life out of the economy, trickling down just a bit to its hanger-on tier, and leaving the rest of us screwed. High unemployment isn't a bad thing at all for those top-tier movers and shakers. On the contrary, it guarantees a defeated, we'll-take-anything, we'll-do-anything work force. To borrow the computer-software expression, unemployment turns out to be a feature, not a bug.

It's a great time to be in the luxury goods-and-services business. As for the rest of us, well, somebody's got to deliver the fancy stuff, and sweep up after the swells.

The saddest part of all this unemployment ugliness is to see the old and poor ignored by those rushing into the churches and synagogues to show off their newly acquired wealth.

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