Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: Unemployment

Jobs? What Jobs?

Henry Hazlitt

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When CNBC announced that the number of workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week while private employers added new jobs in May, this was “further evidence [that] the labor market was improving.” In more muted fashion, the Associated Press called it a “slow-motion recovery,” but a recovery nevertheless.

This was in line with Vice President Joe Biden’s prediction back in April that the economy would be adding between 250,000 and 500,000 jobs “in the next couple of months.” Similar sentiments were echoed by President Obama on Wednesday in a speech at Carnegie Mellon University:

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Economic Forecast: Summer of Discontent

Frowny

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After six straight months of gains in consumer spending the April numbers showed no change from March, according to the Commerce Department. This was a surprise to some who have been tracking such things as the University of Michigan’s index of consumer confidence (higher), consumers’ expectations on the economy over the next 12 months (higher), moderate real job creation (higher), savings rate (higher) and manufacturing activity (higher).

Others remained sanguine, holding that “We do not expect household spending to flatline in the coming months,” according to Michelle Girard, senior economist at RBS in Stamford, Connecticut.

Consumers themselves, however, are not a happy lot. According to Rasmussen Reports, only 35 percent of Americans are planning to take a summer vacation this year, and those who are, aren’t planning on spending as much as they have in the past.

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$13 Trillion and Counting

Tax Day Debt Protest 2009

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When former Comptroller General Bill Walker, who headed the U.S. Government Accountability Office, said two years ago that the “official” debt of the United States “is only around $10 trillion,” he wryly suggested that since this number was produced by “government accounting, which…allows one to ignore Social Security, Medicare and the new prescription drug benefit [it was like] ignoring rent, food and utilities in your household budget [and] it will lead to a few bounced checks.” However, he added, “Our real debt is about ten times higher,” or about $100 trillion.

At the time this was a breath-taking number, but Walker was just repeating what Richard Fisher, President of the Dallas Federal Reserve, had said just a couple of months earlier.

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Biden Predicts Job Growth—but Where’s the Evidence?

Vice President Joe Biden takes the oath of off...

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Vice President Joe Biden predicted job growth of 250,000 to 500,000 jobs a month in the next two months, according to CNBC on Monday. Biden was speaking at a political fundraiser in Pittsburgh, where he said, “We caught a lot of bad breaks on the way down. We’re going to catch a few good breaks because of good planning on the way up…All in all, we’re going to be creating somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs next month.”  Even though some have cautioned Biden about his excessive and premature enthusiasm, Biden continued:  “I’m here to tell you some time in the next couple of months we’re going to be creating between 250,000 jobs a month and 500,000 jobs a month.”

However, the evidence and logic backing up Biden’s prediction are clearly lacking.

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Housing: Washington Only Delaying Inevitable

Foreclosure Sign, Mortgage Crisis

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Friday’s announcement of more intervention in the housing mortgage market will result in a deeper, longer, and more painful delay in the inevitable decline in housing prices that are necessary to clear the market. According to the Obama administration, the “broad new initiatives” will help troubled homeowners to refinance their existing mortgages with more favorable affordable ones provided directly by the government. Part of the new program is “meant to temporarily reduce the payments of [those] borrowers who are unemployed [but are] seeking a job.” In addition, the enhancements include inducements to “encourage lenders to write down the value of loans [already] held by borrowers in modification programs.”

In simple English, HAMP (the Home Affordable Modification Program), announced with great fanfare and high expectations early on in the Obama administration, isn’t working, and so more of the same is required.

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Jobs Bill: The Law of Intended Consequences

London | 2009

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With great fanfare, the Obama administration celebrated its first policy victory of the year—the $17.6 billion jobs bill. Eleven Republican Senators helped push the bill through the Senate, 68-29.

The economically flawed and unconstitutional law provides employers an exemption from Social Security tax withholding through the end of the year on any employees added to the payroll who have been unemployed for at least 60 days. And if the employees stay on that payroll for at least a year, the employers would receive an additional $1,000 tax credit. In addition, the law spends $20 billion on federal highway construction and other public improvement projects.

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Latest Unemployment Numbers: Shoveling Snow?

Bureau of Labor Statistics

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When the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced last Friday that the economy lost only 36,000 jobs in February, the usual choristers took that as good news. Christina Romer, the Chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers said, “Today’s report on the employment situation is consistent with the pattern of stabilization and gradual labor market healing we have been seeing in recent months.”

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Geithner: No Double Dip

Timothy Geithner at the United States Departme...

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When he appeared on ABC News‘s This Week on February 7, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was quizzed about the risk of the United States losing its triple-A credit rating, the chances that foreign investors might start shunning US debt, and whether the economy would suffer a double dip recession.

Last week the credit rating agency Moody’s warned that weak economic growth and increasing debt burdens could “put pressure on the country’s triple-A status.”  When asked to respond, Geithner said, “Absolutely not. That will never happen to this country.”  One remembers the speaker’s rule to be very careful about using absolutes, such as “absolutely”, and “never happen.”  History books are filled with examples of events that could “absolutely never happen.”

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Yemen: Intervention, Nation-building, and the Constitution

Map of the modern state of Yemen. Map of Yemen...

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When Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) vented his frustration at further involvement by the United States in foreign countries despite constitutional limitations against such involvement, he declared:  “Stay out of Yemen!” Unfortunately, almost no one is listening.

Yemen is located on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia on the north, the Red Sea on the west, the Gulf of Aden on the south, and Oman on the east. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, with unemployment exceeding 40 percent and the average citizen living on less than $1.25 a day. Its history is a running sore of intervention by outside influences and internal civil wars. It could be a vital, prosperous country by dint of its strategic location alone. Instead, it is best known for internal political corruption and increasing dependence upon foreign aid.

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Latest on the Economy: Heading Up or Head Fake?

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When the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that “the output of goods and services…increased at an annual rate of 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009,” the usual suspects in the kept media could hardly restrain themselves. ABC News’ headline trumpeted, “Economy Grows…Fastest Since 2003” which was “fueled by companies boosting output to keep stockpiles up.”  Their announcement explained that “Growth exceeded expectations mainly because business spending on equipment and software jumped much more than [was] forecast.”

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Bernanke’s Kudos, Criticisms Miss the Point

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A preliminary vote today for Ben Bernanke’s reappointment to a second four-year term as chairman of the Federal Reserve is expected to clear the way for a final favorable vote by the Senate.

Bernanke’s first term record was subjected to criticism and praise during confirmation hearings in December, and  he was selected as Time magazine’s Person of the YearTime magazine’s Michael Grunwald was kind to a fault, calling Bernanke “our mild-mannered economic overlord” (a reference, no doubt to Superman’s mild-mannered Clark Kent), and “the most powerful nerd on the planet.”  In that lengthy tribute, Grunwald summarized the Fed’s role:

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Weak Dollar Obama’s Fault?

Various Federal Reserve Notes, c.1995. Only th...

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According to Newsweek, the dollar isn’t weakening, and even if it is, it isn’t Obama’s fault. On Tuesday, Daniel Gross iterated all the reasons that, according to conservatives, the American dollar should weaken. Conservatives, he said, blame the actions of the Federal Reserve with the lowering of interest rates to zero, printing money, and expanding the monetary base. They also blame the Obama administration for running up huge deficits in its efforts to restart the faltering economy.

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The Fed: Forever Blowing Bubbles

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An article in the New York Times asked that since the Federal Reserve “failed to recognize the last bubble…why should Congress, or anyone else, have faith that future Fed officials will recognize the next [one]?”

The roots of the present Great Recession stretch back to the bursting of the last bubble—the tech bubble—in the late 1990s. As the stock market declined sharply, the Fed under then-chairman Alan Greenspan lowered interest rates in an attempt to keep the economy from collapsing. The Times succinctly noted in its overview of the credit crisis that “lower interest rates make mortgage payments cheaper, and demand for homes began to rise, sending prices up. In addition, millions of homeowners took advantage of the rate drop to refinance their existing mortgages. As the industry ramped up, the quality of the mortgages went down.”

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Economic Reality vs. Cheerleaders

Timothy Franz Geithner, President of the Feder...

When MSNBC headlined the report that existing home sales surged by 7.4 percent in November (according to the National Association of Realtors), it suggested that such an improvement boosted “recovery hopes.” Others jumped on the recovery bandwagon, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Alan Blinder.

According to Geithner, it’s now reasonable to expect “positive job growth” by spring and correct to assert that people should have confidence in an improving economy.  “I think most people would say the economy actually is strengthening now,” he added.

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Obama, Dems Slip Sharply in Polls

Tea Party Protest, Washington D.C., September ...

Nearing the end of his first year in office, President Obama and his Democratic Party are taking a beating in polls by NBC News/Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post/ABC.

After defying the laws of political gravity for much of his first term, Obama and his party’s poll numbers are starting to reflect increasing public unhappiness over the economy, healthcare, and Afghanistan.

For the first time in his presidency, Obama’s overall approval rating has fallen below 50% to 47%. More of those polled also see the Democrat party in a negative light, and believe the country is “on the wrong track”, with a negative 55% rating, the highest since inauguration.

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Paul Samuelson, ‘Economics’ Textbook Author, Dies at 94

Photo of Paul Samuelson

Long-renowned economist Paul Samuelson died on December 13 at his home in Belmont, Massachusetts, at the age of 94. In addition to writing Economics in 1948 — which became the best selling economics textbook for several decades, having been translated into forty-one languages and selling over four million copies — Samuelson also won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1970.

The chorus of accolades of effusive praise continues to resonate:

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Jobs Summit: More talk? Yes. More jobs? No.

unemployment

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When ABC News asked if the “jobs summit” would make real progress or would just be “simply a glorified public-relations stunt,” it studiously avoided asking the real question: How can the prime movers that created the current economic “Great Recession” be expected to fix it?

For starters, where is the constitutional authority for the government to get involved in creating jobs, even if it could?

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Double Dip Recession Coming?

Double Dip Package

If Will Rogers didn’t say “Those who don’t read the papers are uninformed; those who do are misinformed,” he probably should have.

Witness this headline from The Wall Street Journal: “Jobs, Spending Bode Well for Growth.”

Compared to this from Bloomberg: “Orders for Durable Goods in U. S. Unexpectedly Fall.”

Or this from APNews: “Jobless claims off, spending up in sign of rebound.”

Finally, to confound the confusion, see this from the Denver Post: “Good news raises hopes that recovery won’t fizzle.”

How does one make any sense of it all? Dr. Kenneth McFarland (named America’s Number One Public Speaker by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce in 1965) once quipped that he had read so much about the harmful effects of tobacco and alcohol that he just decided to give up reading!

There is another option: dig deeper.

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.