Showing posts with label Economy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Economy. Show all posts

Monday, December 1, 2014

Nobody Showed Up to Shop

I don't know about you, but this is what I experienced on Black Friday:

Even after doling out discounts on electronics and clothes, retailers struggled to entice shoppers to Black Friday sales events, putting pressure on the industry as it heads into the final weeks of the holiday season.

Spending tumbled an estimated 11 percent over the weekend from a year earlier, the Washington-basedNational Retail Federation saidyesterday. And more than 6 million shoppers who had been expected to hit stores never showed up.

The decision to open stores on Thursday remains the worst idea in the history of American retail. There should be a law that says that if you open on Thanksgiving Day in order to sell anything other than gas and emergency supplies for hobos, you should pay triple the tax on anything you earn. We need to give people a set number of days off in this country--eight per year sounds about right--and we need to back it with a guarantee.

This is called basic common sense and it allows people some human dignity. How is that a bad thing?

I knew it was going to be a bad year, retail-wise, when I was able to park in the first stall right in front of a Pier One store in central Maryland. There weren't any crazy people, running around with shopping bags and battle axes and there were deals a-plenty. Someone somewhere better get ready for a major adjustment as to how the retail industry organizes itself. This time next year, how many book stores do you think will have closed?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thanks, Obama

If the jobless rate has hit a six year low, and if Obama has been President for six years, then all of this is his fault. The voters just punished a sitting President for successfully creating jobs and ending unemployment for millions of Americans during his presidency.

Remember when nobody had a job and nobody had any money and the world economy was in freefall and everything was broke and stuff?

Me, neither. Thanks for nothing, Obama.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gas Prices Plummet

I can still remember Election Day, 2008.

In our little corner of Maryland, I went to the polling place and voted. Some jackass was driving around in the parking lot, obstructing people from voting, and he was campaigning from his car window in violation of the law. On his bumper were two stickers:

Get Ready for $5.00 gal/gas If Obama Wins

Still waiting, asshole. Still waiting.

One of the traditional measures of how a President was doing was centered around the price of a gallon of gas. Nothing affects working people more than what they pay at the pump. You can't just "cut down" on the amount of gas you buy because people use it to get to where they have to be. As in, work, school, and to the store. Nobody buys gas they don't need. And so the impact on our economy is felt when the cost of gas is high because you HAVE to buy gas--you cut back on extras after you buy the gas you have to have. That's what drives down our consumer consumption.

This President can't even campaign for other Democrats because things are so toxic, and there is no shortage of those who believe he has been a tyrant/apologist/sellout/failure. None of those people remember the days when President Bush was clueless about why our endless wars in the Middle East were causing massive disruptions in the oil supply. The same people who apologized for Bush are deranged about Obama, and vice versa.

The best case for voting for Democrats? Cheap gas, baby. Enjoy it while you can.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The 4.5 Million Jobs No One Talks About

This is a great encapsulation of what I've been saying for years:

Do you have any idea how many more jobs Obama has created than Bush did? You don’t, because liberals are less likely than conservatives to cheerlead.

The terrific June jobs report may be the signal we’ve been waiting for that we’re finally turning the psychic corner. The overall jobs number was great at 288,000, and the unemployment rate was down to 6.1 percent. But the most important number was that the employment-to-population ratio, which many economists think of as the truest measure of the jobs market, was up a bit to 59 percent, a high for the recovery, indicating that maybe more people are finally out looking for work than staying home.

Republicans will tell you that cutting off unemployment benefits and making welfare a shameful state of affairs have helped to move these numbers, but, really, that's all bullshit. Shame doesn't motivate companies to hire people because corporations, being most emphatically not people to be begin with, don't care about shame. They care about profits. And if companies are hiring, it must mean that they can no longer function without more people or their profits will dry up.

The phony logic of "both sides do it" and the need for some sort of mythic "bipartisanship" has driven the narrative in America. Democrats did not shut down the government; Republican extremists did that. Democrats would love to pass a jobs bill; Republicans intentionally kill job creation legislation and get away with it, year after year after year. The economic misery of America is laid at the feet of a president who can't get anything out of an insane, extremist-driven Congress. Obstructionism killed the middle class, not Obamacare. How do you work with people who get away with everything and are accountable for nothing because the working media is committed to being fair when they should be fired for ignoring the destruction wrought by a Republican Party led by fools?

Good God--here's Patient Zero for all of this--courtesy of Charles Pierce. The Republican Party of the State of Texas wants to nullify Federal laws, pull out of the United Nations, and bring back spanking.


I'm not holding my breath for an accountability moment where hundreds of Republicans are thrown out of office. It won't happen--we have an incumbent protection racket that will not change the makeup of Congress in a substantive manner. We have a disconnect, driven by money for influence, that prevents the accountability moment from happening. 

Oh well. President Ted Cruz will have to lead us to the Promised Land, I guess, because that's exactly what America wants and what America is going to get, and sooner than you think.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Unemployment is Now 6.1% Because of the Worst President Ever

Despite a long, proud history of doing whatever it can to tank the American economy--government shutdown anyone? forty attempts at repealing Obamacare and no jobs bills anyone?--the Republican Party woke up to bad new today.

Unemployment has fallen to 6.1% in the United States. This is devastating news for the people who hate America.

The worst President ever, in the history of everything forever, just won the morning.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Look What Happens When You Ruin the Economy

We have not recovered from the financial crisis of the late 2000s because nobody has any money:

U.S. fertility is not recovering from the financial crisis — and demographers aren’t sure why.

The fertility rate fell to a record low 62.9 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2013, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The total number of births, at 3.96 million, inched up by a mere 4,000 from 2012, the first increase since the financial crisis. But the total fertility rate, or TFR, the average number of children a woman would have during her child-bearing years, fell to just 1.86, the lowest rate in 27 years. TFR is considered the best metric of fertility. A TFR of 2.1 represents a stable population, with children replacing parents as they die off.

Demographers expected the fertility rate to fall during recession, as financially strapped families put off childbearing. But what has surprised some demographers is both the depth of the decline and the fact that fertility has continued to drop even over the course of the country's five years of slow but steady recovery. The rate has fallen steadily each year since 2007, when it stood at 2.1 percent.

Wages have not kept up with this soft "recovery" and we still have far too many people who are unemployed. Couple that with the fact that your average job is rapidly becoming a two year temp-to-hire position paying less than what you made before and you have the recipe for a sharp demographic shift. Women would have more children if this were a more secure economy, and it isn't secure enough right now.

The very same people terrified of a foreign invasion of anchor babies have perpetrated this situation by ruining the economy, confiscating the wealth and assets of the Middle Class, and paying CEOs ridiculous amounts of money. Thomas Piketty scared the crap out of them because he was right--we have far too much inequality in America.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pessimism Rules in America

This is an interesting look at how pessimistic people have become in the United States. Despite having everything, Americans are still a miserable lot. Despite an extremely high standard of living, it's all going to hell in a handbasket.

I think the transformation of companies into temp agencies is helping this along. When no one has stable work, the country isn't stable at all and very few risks are taken. Fewer people buy new cars and homes, more people hoard and hunker down. This is not conducive to growing an economy.

That, and everything is Obama's fault.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

James Poulos Does Not Understand the Danger of Inequality

The glib libertarianism of James Poulos is on display today:

So far, so good. But then Hacker and Pierson go off the rails: “another Frenchman with a panoramic vista—and far more precise evidence—wants us to think anew about the progress of equality and democracy. Though an heir to Tocqueville’s tradition of analytic history, Thomas Piketty has a message that could not be more different: Unless we act, inequality will grow much worse, eventually making a mockery of our democratic institutions.” 

The apparent ignorance behind this thesis is so extreme that it causes Hacker and Pierson to see Piketty as the real genius—while even an undergraduate level of engagement withDemocracy in America would reveal, in virtually every chapter, that Piketty is not only wrong but glibly and perilously so.

Poulos is out of his depth, but you already knew that. Praise for Piketty's work is being heard far and wide.

Of course, there's no proof that Piketty is wrong, just snide bullshit operating as rhetoric. It reads better when you can ignore every single indicator that we are entering a new Gilded Age and come up with a jarring bit of Slate-inspired contrarianism. Or something like that. It's as if Poulos hasn't been told that corporations are people and that a billionaire can buy anyone or anything he wants, especially the United States Senate or the governor of Wisconsin.

Poulos, you see, is operating under the impression that it is 1994 and not 2014. We are in the midst of a new Gilded Age, and it's worse than the last one because, well, there is no organized labor movement anymore and political corruption is seen as a character building exercise in getting away with it rather than the shameful, money-grubbing excess it used to be.

You can follow the link and see the other four reasons yourself. I think the fifth one is good enough. What you are paid is indicative of what you own; the ever-increasing gap between now and the time of Alexis de Tocqueville is readily apparent--the equality of early America, where men owned their land because the government gave it to them for improvement has been replaced by a world of renters and urban dwellers. It's one thing to have a nation of yeomen farmers who are building the agricultural infrastructure of early America; it's another to have apartment blocks full of people paying Too Damn High of rent.

This is why I think the comparison to what Piketty is saying to de Tocqueville is not relevant. The transition of America from an agricultural power to a manufacturing power and now to a debt-repackaging power took place while the upper and bottom rungs of society struggled for control over who controlled the government and how it was wielded. Ronald Reagan was the verdict on this struggle, and the American labor movement was destroyed and the power of the CEO was established as a national birthright for the lucky few. A hundred years ago, you could mock the rich and powerful openly and with great gusto (see Finley Peter Dunne, et al). Now, you have inflamed butthurt feelings whenever someone makes a rich man sad by writing down what he actually said in public on purpose.

Poulos is dead wrong if he thinks that American democracy somehow has a remedy for all of this--it does not. It has not prevented this development and now, thanks to the ability of the wealthy to use money as speech, it is now much less likely that politicians will bite the hand that feeds them and cut off the main source of their power, which is not the votes of the populace but the money that allows them to manipulate voters into believing they are living in an actual democracy.

Income inequality is the disaster on the horizon. When the wealthy have everything, society falls into revolution and "distributes" the wealth. Tocqueville, knowing the causes of the French Revolution, would more clearly see this issue and the dangers of concentrating wealth in the hands of a small elite empowered with the permission of the law to buy their power without fear of legal consequences.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

End Credit Checks on Prospective Employees

Senator Elizabeth Warren is actually doing something on behalf of freedom and fairness--a rare novelty in a world where the only entities who get anything do so through cheating and bribery. This is what a Senator ought to be doing--standing up for working Americans by delivering a tangible protection of their privacy and freedom.

There definitely should be limits on the information that can be shared or divulged about people. The disappearance of privacy is a direct result of The Patriot Act and all of the nonsense that has gone into denying freedom to Americans solely to keep them from being attacked by terrorists. One of the fun things about The Patriot Act is that they decided to add in some bullshit about not being able to buy certain kinds of cold medicine because criminals were using it to make crystal meth.

Well, there's still no shortage of crystal meth, is there? But I'll be damned if I can get Sudafed when I need it. Thanks for what little freedom I can enjoy.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Get Back to Work

Just once, I'd like to see us add a half a million jobs to this economy for three or four straight months:

U.S. employers hired more workers than expected in November and the jobless rate hit a five-year low of 7.0 percent, raising chances the Federal Reserve could start ratcheting back its bond-buying stimulus as soon as this month. 

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 203,000 new jobs last month, following a similarly robust rise in October, the Labor Department said on Friday. The report, which showed broad gains in employment and a rise in hourly earnings, suggested strength in the economy heading into year-end. 

"It will add further confidence to the Fed of a reduced need for monetary stimulus in the U.S. economy. We now see the bias shifting in favor of a January tapering announcement," said Millan Mulraine, senior economist at TD Securities in New York.

The unemployment rate dropped three tenths of a percentage point to its lowest level since November 2008 as some federal employees who were counted as jobless in October returned to work after a 16-day partial shutdown of the government.

We need a hiring boom in this country. We need to get people back to work. Even though unemployment is at 7%, that's still awful for too many people.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Staying on the Bank's Books Forever

The advantages of wealth keep piling up.

We would like things to be fair, I suppose, but things being fair would immediately come under the heading of socialism! or worse. But when things are fair, consumers tend to have a little more confidence, I would imagine, since the inherently rigged financial system doesn't seem to be inspiring anyone anymore.

This is evidence that the game is rigged and that it is becoming institutionalized favoritism and that it is being rigged at a higher and higher level. Once you have eliminated the possibility that the wealthy can't help but get more favors and better rates than everyone else, the stratification of society is complete and there's no reason for someone willing to work and improve a property will try to get a mortgage. What incentive is there? Unless you're at a certain level, you're going to pay a higher rate and that will cut into your already razor-thin property margin.

I used to be down on the idea of "flipping" houses until I started watching some of what happens on channels like HGTV. Instead of being entirely a cutthroat operation, you see houses that are rehabilitated, brought back up to code, and sold for an honest profit after some investment and hard work has been done--nothing wrong with that. And I know it is difficult to signal a trend based on reality television programming, but the end result of a flipped house that sells for more than what it was sold is supposed to be a family living in a decent house.

When a family lives in a renovated home, it can save a neighborhood. It can lift the values of properties all around it. That's positive economic activity that should not be thwarted or discouraged by the unfair rate tiers given to the super wealthy who are simply trading in misery and ruin. I don't believe they are taking the time to invest in and flip houses. I think they're trading in assets that they can use to build a new and fancier version of the "big shitpile" made famous by Atrios.

Friday, November 8, 2013

People Just Don't Get It

Despite all of the obstacles and all of the obstructionism, this President keeps creating jobs and the country keeps moving forward. We are living through a time where no one tells the truth about what is really happening and the rhetoric of the day does not match the facts of what keeps happening. We are better off than we realize, and we will never hear that spoken aloud.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

You Are Paying For This

Every individual who receives a Federal benefit puts strain on the system. It's no where near as broken as people claim to be--it's actually very efficient and relatively free of fraud and misuse. But taxpayers should not have to subsidize anyone who works 40 hours a week and plays by the rules. The people who work at McDonald's and do the right thing are being encouraged to sign up for food stamps. Which is a common sense thing because we wouldn't want anyone working in the restaurant industry to starve to death so that their employer can reap obscene profits.

A 40 hour a week job should pay a living wage, period. End of story.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Janet Yellen Needs to Focus on Jobs

This may elicit a deservedly snide 'duh,' but Janet Yellen has to focus on employment issues and see what the Federal Reserve can do to alleviate the stress that joblessness is placing on the economy. I don't know if this had anything to do with picking her over Larry Summers and whether or not she can actually do something about jobs.

It would be enormously helpful if the American people would stop electing Republican Tea Party extremists.Republican obstructionists are supporting efforts to keep people out of work. They really are rooting for America to fail, and they are doing so with deeds not just words.

This President is, apparently, not entitled to a cabinet of people of his own choosing. The Atlantic believes that Yellen will have a tough time getting confirmed. There isn't anyone out there who would sail through the Senate, up to and including whoever was chosen by the Tea Party. Yeah, there's a Ron Paul joke in there, but it is too sad to contemplate.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Jeremiah Program

Someone needs to pay attention to the success that The Jeremiah Program is having when it comes to lifting people out of intergenerational poverty:
The Jeremiah Program opened its doors near the Basilica of Saint Mary’s in 1998, when 18 families moved into its apartments. Over the years, it developed a model for combating intergenerational poverty that has won national recognition. The nonprofit has received calls for years from leaders in other cities, wanting to learn the magic formula. 
That formula includes safe, affordable housing for the family; quality early education for the kids; “life skills” training and a career track college education for mom — all linked to businesses, volunteers and the broader community to support the families along the way. 
A Wilder Foundation analysis of the model released this year showed that for every dollar invested in the program, there was a $4 return. Those savings took the form of less reliance on public assistance, increased taxes paid by the parents, and lower spending on special education and other services for their children.

They're adopting this program in Austin, Texas. Look for Governor Rick Perry to try to destroy it before it gets off the ground. If there's one thing a Republican hates, it is proof that the problem of poverty can be solved by using common sense and government money.

The formula of this project uses common sense and, to be honest with you, it flies in the fact of practically everything we are told about poverty. This strategy does not abandon people or relegate them to criminal status simply by being poor. It uses dignity and instruction to move people from one place to another.

How long before Nick Gillespie's outfit derides this as another boondoggle? How long before we see the Breitbart Kidz with hidden video of a pimp trying to get into an apartment?

Success breeds the kind of hate that has to be reckoned with. If you're going to successfully move people out of poverty, you have to be ready for the blowback.

Monday, September 16, 2013

So Long, Larry Summers

A lot will be written about denying Larry Summers yet another perch from which he could look down on the economy and do whatever it is he does. I find it hard to believe that anyone on the left, anyone who considers themselves a liberal, and the left wing of the Democratic Party in general has the power to determine who gets what job anymore.

If you are a conservative Senator, you can pretty much deny this administration anything you want. We have numerous judicial appointments that are still languishing in limbo. We have an incomplete Federal cabinet and we have gridlock when it comes to nominees that require confirmation from the Senate. That power is not held by anyone who comes from the left side of the political spectrum. Summers was sunk because of some other issue or reason, probably having more to do with a general lack of approval from some obscure Republican Senator than anything else.

This article seems to suggest that there are Democratic Senators who can, you know, change things. Senators Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley and Elizabeth Warren are powerful and won't be hung out to dry by the Democratic Party establishment, I gather? They are not going to face the music for helping to drive Summers out of the Fed job?

When did the left get this magical power to deny appointments? Why doesn't the left use this power more often?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Nothing Ever Changes

Why even bother to study this sort of thing?

Will it lead to change? No. Will anyone do anything about this? No. Will there be a badly-needed course correction in time to save our capitalist society from a meltdown?

I hope so. We do need to see reform and change, and this time in favor of people who don't own everything.