Tag Archives: unemployment

Blogging by Gaslight: Economic Numbers Edition

Once upon a time, say about 16 months ago, keeping a daily commentary running on various topics  was fairly easy because there was an expectation of — if not accuracy — at least a separation of facts from fantasy.  No more.  Through the presidencies of Bush and Obama there were days with good news, bad news, and news that could be good or bad depending on how the event was interpreted in context.  However, in an age of Gaslight there’s no context, just noisy pronouncements intended for a 38% audience which doesn’t care about news, merely affirmation.

Let’s start with economic growth, as measured by the GDP quarter over quarter, here’s the graph from the Bureau of Economic Analysis:

GDP Q1 18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, it should be reasonably obvious the percentage change from the previous quarter isn’t the Greatest Ever.  It increased at an annualized rate of about 2.3% in the latest report for the first quarter of 2018.   Nothing too exciting here.  Nor is this anything to be ashamed of unless, of course, the intent is to be The Best Ever All Time In The Whole Wide World.

The news from the Department of Labor isn’t all that bad either:

In April, the unemployment rate edged down to 3.9 percent, following 6 months at 4.1 percent. The number of unemployed persons, at 6.3 million, also edged down over the month. (See table A-1.)  Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult women decreased to 3.5 percent in April. The jobless rates for adult men (3.7 percent), teenagers (12.9 percent), Whites (3.6 percent), Blacks (6.6 percent), Asians (2.8 percent), and Hispanics (4.8 percent) showed little or no change over the month. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

However, the Gaslight phrase of the day tells us that Black unemployment is the Lowest Ever!  Not quite — there was always that 100% employment situation before the southern surrender at Appomattox Courthouse — but we do need to notice that Black unemployment is 3% higher than that for whites. We also need to attend to the fact that employment for women is what pulled the rate down while other categories showed “little or no change.”

Yes, there’s some good news here — at least most unemployment categories didn’t increase, and the situation for women improved — but when hyperbole rules the roost the standards are impossible, and lying is required to fill the space between the numbers and the analysis.  A bit less hyperbole, a whole lot less gaslight, and a bit more cogent evaluation would be helpful.

Given the propensity for hyperbole, gaslight, and outright prevarication from the current administration headliners, it’s often a good idea to DIY economic numbers and trend graphs (remember to read the notes!)

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Numbers of the Day

Barn Door Closing 1,205: The number of corporate entities subject to a request for information regarding a “Resignation of Registered Agent” inquiry as representatives of Mossack-Fonseca.  [LVRJ]  Translation: The number of companies associated with the Panama Papers operations of Mossack-Fonseca.  But, here’s the kicker:

“Corporate filings are administered by the secretary of state’s office, although laws governing their oversight are enacted by the Legislature. Nevada and states such as Delaware and Wyoming have some of the most liberal corporation laws in the nation. They do not require proof of identification when setting up a company, a task that can be accomplished in a few hours by paying only a few hundred dollars.”  [LVRJ]

The Secretary of State announced she’s putting together a “working committee” to review statutes pertaining to business registration – How about requiring some identification? To registered agent requirements, and concerning “the maintenance of related records.”

It’s nice to be “business friendly,” but it would also be nice to know that Nevada isn’t being used by tax evaders, swindlers, hucksters, money launderers, and other frauds as a “friendly place to do business.”

Gee Whiz Graph 1 9: The number of graphs tweeted out by Donald Trump to “prove” the Obama Administration’s a failure.  0: The number which are accurate and not misleading. [Washington Post]

 

 

Curiel 1953: The year Judge Gonzalo Curiel was born in Indiana.  The judge hearing the Trump University case has come in from some anti-immigrant bashing from Mr. Trump. Interesting because Curiel’s father came to the U.S. in the 1920’s while Mr. Trump’s mother didn’t get here until the ‘30s and didn’t become a citizen until 1942. [TPM]

Starbucks 2: The number of African Americans associated with Seattle University who were racially assaulted in a Starbucks by a man spitting and yelling racial epithets. 0: the number of restaurant patrons who protested against the assault. 1: Restaurant manager who assisted in the filing of a police report. [C&L]

Unemployment BLS

The unemployment rate declined by 0.3 percentage point to 4.7 percent in May, and nonfarm payroll employment changed little (+38,000). Employment increased in health care. Mining continued to lose jobs, and employment in information decreased due to a strike.” [BLS]

Yes, 38,000 is not a major indicator of job creation, but take a look at what was happening during the Recession 2006-2009. 

Blackburn 3: The number of entities (two Planned Parenthood facilities and  StemExpress Inc. who are being investigated by Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s committee for violations of HIPAA requirements.

“These accusations are the latest step in an investigation that has never had any reason to exist. The House panel was formed after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, released deceptively edited videos purporting to reveal that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue for profit. Since then, repeated investigations have found no evidence that Planned Parenthood did anything wrong, and members of the Center for Medical Progress have been indicted for their activities.” [NYT]

Enough.

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Filed under abortion, Economy, Nevada, Politics

Unemployment Insurance: S. 1845 and its appendages

BillTo say, as I did in the last post, that S. 1845 to extend unemployment insurance benefits to our long term unemployed was headed for the House was premature, as aptly pointed out by the Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus.  The bill may get there eventually — after our solons have tacked on various and sundry amendments.

This, as the redoubtable Club For Growth, never one to shy away from its Supply Side Hoax and 0.01% perspective, had the following to say about those who voted in favor of Senator Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) cloture motion:

“Congress should end the federal unemployment insurance program and return the authority back to the states, which already have programs in place. Absent this, Congress should pay for this extension by cutting spending elsewhere in the budget. After six years, an extension can no longer be called an “emergency” with any credibility. There is plenty of waste in the federal budget from which to find an offset.

Our Congressional Scorecard for the 113th Congress provides a comprehensive rating of how well or how poorly each member of Congress supports pro-growth, free-market policies and will be distributed to our members and to the public.”  [Club for Growth]

There’s nothing subtle about their agenda, “end the federal unemployment insurance program...”   And, we can guess where they want to cut — Social Security, Medicare, SNAP, Meals on Wheels, School Lunch programs, etc.  It’s also safe to conjecture that they don’t mean major cuts to defense spending or to subsidies to major multi-national corporations.  Also missing is any reference to a solution other than cuts.   For example, raising revenues?  However, back to the amendments:

Some of the amendments proposed to S. 1845 are interesting. There’s Senator Ayotte’s  amendment about Social Security numbers (SA 2603) which sounds innocuous until it’s recognized as an obvious bit of “immigrant bashing.”

“Ayotte proposed an amendment Tuesday to make low-income American citizen children of undocumented immigrants ineligible for the refundable Additional Child Tax Credit by requiring parents have a Social Security number to claim the credit. On the Senate floor, Ayotte claimed the benefits are being exploited by “people who are claiming a refundable tax credit for children who should not be entitled to it” and asserted, “Many of these children do not even live in the United States or may not even exist.” [ThinkProgress] (emphasis added)

This isn’t anything new.  Senator Vitter and Senator Rubio have advanced bills in previous sessions on this subject, basing their “case” for “rampant fraud” on the testimony of one, single, self admitted, tax preparer. [AmProg] Unfortunately all this amendment does is to further advance the odious notion that some citizens born in this country are “more equal than others.”

Speaking of Senator Vitter, there’s Senator Vitter’s (SA 2604) Bash Obamacare 101 review which says in part:

“Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives and the Financial Clerk of the Senate shall make publically available the determinations of each member of the House of Representatives and each Senator, as the case may be, regarding the designation of their respective congressional staff (including leadership and committee staff) as “official” for purposes of requiring such staff to enroll in health insurance coverage provided through an Exchange as required under section 1312(d)(1)(D) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18032(d)(1)(D)), and the regulations relating to such section.”

Senator James Inhofe’s amendment (SA 2605) has nothing to do with unemployment benefits and everything to do with giving individual states control over energy development on public lands.

Senator Coburn’s watching out for the little guy?? His amendment (SA 2606) says, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be used to make payments of unemployment compensation (including such compensation under the Federal-State Extended Compensation Act of 1970 and the emergency unemployment compensation program under title IV of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008) to an individual whose adjusted gross income in the preceding year was equal to or greater than $1,000,000.”

Of greater utility is Senator Richard Blumenthal’s Pathways Back to Work Amendment (SA 2608) which puts some money into getting the long term unemployed back to work.

Then there’s Senator Coats’s SA 2611, which would delay the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act until December 31, 2014, as well as other implementation delays.   We already knew they couldn’t pass up another opportunity to obsess over the ACA.  Senator McConnell’s already gotten heat from Senate Majority Leader Reid on this one. [The Hill]

Senator Moran has a lengthy amendment (SA 2612) which starts out speaking to foreign nationals and entrepreneurship, and then goes on this tangent:

“The Secretary shall award grants to support institutions of higher education pursuing initiatives that allow faculty to directly commercialize research in an effort to accelerate research breakthroughs. The Secretary shall prioritize those initiatives that have a management structure that encourages collaboration between other institutions of higher education or other entities with demonstrated proficiency in creating and growing new companies based on verifiable metrics.”  (emphasis added)

Nothing like completely shattering the wall between independent academic research and corporate R&D projects?

Nor, should we blind to the evident hypocrisy of Senator McConnell’s rationale for slapping a GOP filibuster on S. 1845 in the first place,

“We’re now in the sixth year of the Obama administration,” McConnell said. “We all know the stock market’s been doing great. So the richest among us are doing just fine. But what about the poor? What about working-class folks? … Well, record numbers of them are having a terrible time.” [LAtimes]

Yes, indeed they are.  Thanks to the Trickle Down Theory, Supply Side Hoax, and Austerity Politics of the Republican Party.

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A Little Common Sense and Economic Literacy Required

The GOP filibuster of the bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits for “long term” unemployed people was broken by a 60-37 vote in the U.S. Senate [vote 2] with both Nevada Senators voting in favor of the cloture motion.  The bill will now move over to the House side where passage is less certain.

While Senator Heller (R-NV) is anxious for us to know that he’s “still a conservative,” [WaPo Fix] he’s also representing a state with a heavy 3.9% long term unemployment rate.  [BusinessInsider]

How They Voted – States with 3% or higher long term unemployment

Rhode Island  4.1%   Reed (D) Whitehouse (D) Yes

Nevada 3.9% Reid (D) Heller (R) Yes

New Jersey 3.9%  Booker (D) Menendez (D) Yes

Illinois 3.7% Durbin (D) Yes Kirk (R) No

California 3.7% Boxer (D) Feinstein (D) Yes

Mississippi 3.6% Cochran (R) Wicker (R) No

North Carolina 3.6% Hagan (D) Yes Burr (R) No

New York 3.5% Gillibrand (D) Schumer (D) Yes

Georgia 3.5% Chambliss (R) Isakson (R) No

Florida 3.3%  Nelson (D) Yes  Rubio (R) No

Michigan 3.3% Levin (D) Stabenow (D) Yes

Pennsylvania 3.0%  Casey (D) Yes  Toomey (R) No

South Carolina 3.0% Graham (R)  Scott (R) No

These “no” votes make no economic sense.   First, we ought to look at some of the statistics related to unemployment in this country.  The BLS report for November 2013 on characteristics of those unemployed show that of the 10,271,000 unemployed persons in the U.S. 5,400,000 were those who had been laid off or who had finished temporary jobs.   For some 4,448,000 these were not temporary lay offs.  3,329,000 were permanent job losses.  1,160,000 were those who had completed temporary jobs.

Secondly, we should look at where the jobs are increasing.  The last comprehensive report issued in November shows some pockets of economic activity which aren’t promising.  For example, in the health care and services category showed increases in most subcategories, approximately 4,000 nursing home care jobs were lost. [BLS]   While mining and logging showed general growth, support services for mining were down 3.1%.  The manufacturing sector slugged along, with significant employment up for motor vehicles and parts, up 6.7%.  Transportation equipment manufacturing was up 4.9%, and fabricated metal products related employment increased by 3.1%.

In the retail sector of the U.S. economy there was more mixed news.  Employment in electronics and appliance stores down 3.6%, in food an beverage stores down 5.4%, in health and personal care stores down 3.4% in a sector which showed an overall 22.3% increase Oct/Nov 2013.  [BLS]

The mixed news created the chart below, indicating that while employment levels were generally higher, this wasn’t necessarily good news for those who were among the long term unemployed (longer than 26 weeks.)

Duration Unemployment 2013Looking at some of the other labor data could indicate some of the employment sector weakness facing the long term unemployed.  Unemployment rates in the construction sector, while far better than in 2012, were still at 8.6% as of November 2013. [BLS]  The unemployment rate in the leisure and hospitality sector was still above the national average at 9%, and unemployment in the agricultural sector was at 9.7%.

Given a situation in which there hasn’t been enough job creation in significant sectors, and in which while employment has generally improved, there remain pockets of losses, and what we don’t want to create are more “discouraged workers.”

BLS Table A-16 puts paid to the conservative theme that the unemployed are sitting on the stoop swilling beverages of choice and “taking” a living from “hard working Americans.”

Discouraged Workers 2013The number of Americans “marginally attached” to the labor force declined from 2,505,000 in 2012 to 2,096,000 in 2013, meaning that there was a decrease in the number of persons “who want a job, have searched for work during the prior 12 months, and were available to take a job during the reference week, but had not looked for work in the past 4 weeks.”

There was also a decline in the “discouraged worker” category, from 979,000 in 2012 to 762,000 in November 2013.   Discouraged workers  are categorized as “those who did not actively look for work in the prior 4 weeks for reasons such as thinks no work available, could not find work, lacks schooling or training, employer thinks too young or old, and other types of discrimination.”  These people obviously didn’t drop into the infamous “other category” because those numbers also declined.

Others is a category which “Includes those who did not actively look for work in the prior 4 weeks for such reasons as school or family responsibilities, ill health, and transportation problems, as well as a number for whom reason for nonparticipation was not determined.”  Those numbers dropped from 1,526,000 to 1,334,000 between November 2012 and November 2013.   It’s truly hard to argue that people are willing to avoid work when even at a point at which there are three applicants for every single job available those who have only the most tenuous connection to the labor force are demonstrating a reduction in their numbers.

When the numbers of “marginal, discouraged, and ‘other'” workers are dropping people are obviously NOT willing to accept “dependency” on the government for their income.

If we are truly interested in improved economic growth then we’d be well advised to take both some long term and short term measures to develop it.

Short term activities should include extending unemployment insurance benefits so that people have the wherewithal to continue to seek work.  No one is giving away gasoline to get to job fairs and interviews.  Further, (once more will feeling) such benefits act as a automatic stabilizer for the economy, keeping spending levels from gyrating wildly in times of economic instability.  DB’s been on this topic at least since April 2011.

Long term investments in infrastructure rehabilitation and construction would go a long way toward providing employment to meet short term needs in the construction sector and long term necessities for economic activity.

However, there may be little hope that the 233 Republicans in the House of Representatives (112th Congress) will manage to throw off the shackles of ideology.  We know that Trickle Down Economics is a hoax.  We’ve had thirty years of it.  We know that tax cuts don’t “boost the economy;” had this been the case the Bush Administration would have been wildly successful.  We know that deregulation produced one amazing financial sector collapse. And, we can see from the BLS statistics that unemployed people are leeches on the body politic.

However, all this information and experience didn’t prevent 37 Republican members of the U.S. Senate from voting to sustain their filibuster of the bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits to the long term unemployed — including some from the states which could have definitely benefited from the legislation.

Common sense and a modicum of economic literacy are in order.

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Long Time No See – A Job

There’s nothing hypothetical or academic about being unemployed.  It may be all well and good to pontificate about human nature.  Are we really all lazy sloths who would rather grow roots to the sofa while watching 24 hour marathons of Duck Dynasty than seek employment?  Meanwhile back in the very real world we got this release from the Department of Labor on December 6, 2013:

“The number of persons unemployed less than 5 weeks declined by 300,000 in November, partially reflecting the return to work of federal employees on furlough in October. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 4.1 million in November. These individuals accounted for 37.3 percent of the unemployed. The number of long-term unemployed has declined by 718,000 over the past 12 months.”

The long term unemployed was “essentially unchanged.” There’s no way to sugar coat this. That’s not good news.  So, who are these people?  We know what they are not.  They are not necessarily less educated.  Nor are they confined to a single ethnic group.  However, they do share two characteristics — they tend to be older, and they tend to be those who did not leave their previous employment voluntarily.  [Atlantic]

We can see some “improvement” since November 2012.

Long Term Unemployment 2013The number of long term unemployed, defined as those who have been seeking work for at least 27 weeks was a dismal 4,784,000,000 as of November 2012, improving slightly to 4,066,000 in November 2013.  A pie chart of the unemployment duration at present shows:

Unemployment Duration 2013In short, about 27.6% have been unemployed for five weeks or less, 23.8% have been unemployed between five and fourteen weeks, and 53.6% have been out of work for more than 15 weeks.  Of the latter category, 16.2% have been unemployed between 15 and 26 weeks, and a disappointing 37.3% have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks.

Unemployment over 27 weeks 2013So, why can’t the numbers break down below the shaded portion of the graph?   One recent study from Northeastern University provided a less than appealing observation:

“…it doesn’t matter how much experience you have. It doesn’t matter why you lost your previous job — it could have been bad luck. If you’ve been out of work for more than six months, you’re essentially unemployable.”  [WaPo]

Some employers have expressed fears that prospective employees may have “out of date” skills, or could be a “short timer” who will take any employment available only to leave when something better comes along. [WaPo] A Brookings analysis put this more elegantly, if not more optimistically:

“A worker’s success at finding a job tends to decline with the length of unemployment. The percentage of all unemployed who found work within a month fell from 28 percent in 2007 to 17 percent in 2011. But in both years, workers were much more successful finding jobs in the first weeks of joblessness. In 2007, for example, workers who had been unemployed less than 5 weeks had a 37 percent chance of landing a job within a month. Workers reporting unemployment longer than six months had only a 16 percent chance of finding employment in the coming month.

The Great Recession has thus pushed jobless workers into unemployment-duration groups with poor odds of finding work, even after economic recovery. From 2007 to 2011, the fraction of the nation’s unemployed who were unemployed six months or longer increased from 18 percent to 44 percent.”  [Brookings]  (Emphasis added)

Brookings posits three elements creating this situation. First, that the long term unemployed do not have the skill sets most commonly sought by employers.  Secondly, that the longer a person is unemployed and the more frequent the refusals the less time people spend seeking a job.  Note that this element appears to substantiate the right wing mythology of the Lazy Loafer, but it has to be combined with yet another element. Third, there is some outright discrimination going on.   Again, Brookings explains:

“A third reason: employers (legally) discriminate against job applicants who have been idle for a long time. Catherine Rampell of The New York Times reviewed job postings on Web sites like Monster.com and Craigslist and found hundreds “that said employers would consider (or at least ‘strongly prefer’) only people currently employed or just recently laid off.”

Even employers who do not impose outright bans on hiring the long-term unemployed may nonetheless follow a de facto policy of discrimination. Faced with résumés from three qualified applicants – a fresh graduate, a worker dismissed one week earlier when his employer went bankrupt and a laidoff worker who has been unsuccessful in 18 months of job search – it is hardly surprising that employers often assume the third applicant has the most problematic job record. Indeed, in a buyer’s market, it may not be rational for employers to expend the effort to dig deeper.”  [Brookings]

In short, the prospective employer made assumptions about the long term unemployed worker which may or indeed may NOT have been a realistic appraisal of the individual’s employ-ability.   And, we need to look more deeply at that “buyer’s market” inserted into the last line.

The right wing mythology/ideology clings like lint to the notion that “there’s always work to be done,” all the unemployed have to do is “just get a job.”   This is the point at which we need get a JOLT, or the Job Openings Labor Turn-Over figures.   We have some from 2013:

“Taken together, the September level of job openings remained at 3.9 million. However, there were 11.3 million job seekers in September (unemployment data are from the Current Population Survey and can be found here). That means there were 2.9 job seekers for every job opening in September. In other words, for nearly two out of every three job seekers, there simply were no jobs.”  [EPI]

And, the numbers weren’t all that different when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the last JOLT statistics on December 10, 2013:

“There were 3.9 million job openings on the last business day of October, little changed from September,  the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The hires rate (3.3 percent) and separations rate (3.1 percent) were also little changed in October.”

Less politely, the situation in September 2013 when there were almost 3 people seeking a job for every one that was open, wasn’t improved by the time the November numbers were released in December.   This doesn’t often impede the extension of ideologically driven retorts from the right — Why don’t these people move? Find a job in another field? Open their own business? Mow lawns? Shovel snow?

We human beings are adaptable.  That’s in part why there are so many of us, but there are some limits.  When faced with unemployment people can expect some “stages,” rather like grief. [WIJC][PsychToday] Assuming the individual has the support necessary to get to the analysis and action stage, and most do, there’s the realistic matter of the job market.

There are two ways to stop being counted among the long term unemployed.  (1) Get a job and (2) Stop looking for employment.

Getting a job requires action from two quarters.  There must be a person looking for the work and there must be an employer offering a position.  For the millionth time — we need to recall the First Law of Personnel Management — There is one and only one rational explanation for hiring someone: There is more demand for goods and services than current staffing levels can meet.  Firms which hire “because there will be a tax credit,” or “because Aunt Minnie’s boy needs a job,” or for any other extraneous rationale are NOT business models to be emulated.

Contrary to the bloviating of the right, tax policy has precious little to do with rational hiring decisions.  One thing to notice when this contention is raised is that the reporters are basing the conclusions almost always on opinion surveys not actual HR Department activities.   It is perfectly possible for an executive or manager to whine to the Heavens about “taxes” while hiring staff during periods of increased demand.  For example, in the 1950s the top income tax bracket, those earning over $400,000 annually, was 84.375% [Stanford pdf] the unemployment rates in 1951 and 1952 were 3.3% and 3.0%. [BLS]

If we assume that no one’s repealed the laws of supply and demand, and we further assume that most employers haven’t lost their minds and do, in fact, make rational hiring decisions, then the issue boils down to (1) how to create jobs by increasing demand for goods and services, and (2) how to keep people motivated to seek out those jobs.

One way to stabilize demand while promoting job searches is, inconveniently for some persuasions, the extension of long term unemployment insurance benefits.  Why?

“The macroeconomic benefits of UI (keeping spending power in the economy from falling as far as it otherwise would) are large and completely unambiguous, while the microeconomic impacts (for example, the incentive it may provide people to search either more or less hard for work while collecting benefits) are small and can actually cut in very useful directions for the economy.” [EPI]

The supporting study (pdf) demonstrates what the hypothetical and academic discussions do not.  That is, the extension of unemployment insurance benefits help to maintain demand, acting as our old friend the automatic economic stabilizer, while the individual (in his microeconomic world) has a cushion to sustain the basics while continuing to look for work.  Phrased less elegantly — Want to see a person hit the fatalistic last stage of “unemployment grief?” Pull the rug out from under him.

There are some immediate and some structural answers to our long term unemployment situation.  In the immediate time frame, some states have suggested making it illegal for employers to blatantly discriminate against long term unemployed workers.  While they might still be innately suspicious of a person out of work for 6 months, they would not be able to insert “no unemployed need apply” elements in the announcements.

We could also extend our unemployment benefit insurance payments to at least keep people spending at a basic level, and keep them in the job hunt.

A second, and obvious intermediate proposal to create jobs is to invest in the nation’s infrastructure needs. Lord knows we need it,  continuing to rely on Providence to protect us from crumbling bridges is intrinsically irrational.

Third, as suggested previously, this nation needs a manufacturing policy that goes beyond prattling on about “free trade” which is all too often merely a reference to the freedom of capital to move over borders even if the products don’t.  Any trade policy which doesn’t  give environmental, export, and personnel policy issues precedence over capital transfer is missing the entire point.

Fourth, we could see the effects of increased demand should this country require a living wage.  Australia’s minimum wage is $16.88 per hour. [WaPo] Their unemployment rate is 5.8%. [WSJ]  They must be doing something right down under, even if their mining boom is fading a bit.

What we do NOT need is an increase in the number of individuals who have hit the wall, those who have moved from the frustration of continuous unemployment into the fatalistic last stage “there’s just nothing out there for me” end of the road. … Sitting on the couch waiting for the next Duck Dynasty marathon.

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Mountains and Mole Hills

Mountain MolehillOne of the more unpleasant aspects of today’s media offerings is the tendency to confuse mountains and molehills.  No disrespect to all those diligent moles out there assiduously plying their turf disrupting trade, but when Everything Is A Crisis! perspective is the first casualty.

Mountain:  We have an immigration policy in place which doesn’t work for us.  There are two bills addressing this issue, S. 744 which passed the Senate and H.R. 15 which languishes in the House while the TeaParty/GOP leadership decides which they’d prefer to tick off — their corporate backers or the xenophobic right wing.    Representative Amodei (R-NV2) thinks he could support Rep. Eric Cantor’s “Kids Act” and he provides a summary of the issue on his webpage, but his statements on comprehensive immigration policy reform remain fuzzy.  Where Representative Heck (R-NV3)  stands is a bit more clear, given his statement on October 25th:

“I have spent countless hours meeting with community members and addressing town hall meetings on the topic of immigration reform. There is no doubt in my mind that reforming our immigration system is right and necessary and I remain committed to enacting real solutions that will fix our current broken system. I will continue to urge the House leadership to move forward on immigration reform with all possible haste.”

While he’s “urging leadership to move forward,” the question remains — toward what?  A piecemeal enactment of immigration policies which serve only to protract the issues, and may never arrive at a complete picture — or — legislation like S. 744 or H.R. 15?

Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV1) drilled down to one of the major issues in the piecemeal approach to immigration policy reform:  What of women who work in the service sector?

“Comprehensive immigration reform must take into account the fact that many immigrant women work at home or in the informal economy.  If, for example, eligibility for the path to citizenship requires proof of employment, providing paystubs cannot be the only acceptable proof or we risk leaving millions of women behind.  Approximately 74 percent of undocumented domestic workers do not receive documentation of their pay from an employer.  Thankfully, H.R. 15, the bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill recently introduced in the House, addresses this issue by allowing flexible forms of proof of employment. It is critical that we incorporate this thoughtful approach into any immigration reform bill considered by the House.”

Meanwhile, the mountain remains, impervious to rational debate and reasonable action.

Mole Hill:   Those who have purchased individual health insurance plans constitute about 5% of the population. [UI]  This translates to a maximum of 16,500,000 individuals out of a total 330,000,000; if we count every single person large or small, young or old.  The actual percentage is probably closer to 14.3 million individuals. [UI pdf]  Some of these people bought JUNK.  In a search for low premiums they purchased policies that didn’t cover much, if anything, or bought policies the coverage terms of which were so confusing that the insurance corporation was able to deny compensation for even basic treatment options.   The infamous Barrette Case is a classic example of a JUNK policy.   Forbes magazine estimates that about  4 million Americans were sold some 1,200 of these junk policies.

Thus, it should be fairly easy for the press to find some individual examples for popular consumption of these Outraged Individuals who want to keep the cheap junk they purchased, out of a category of 4 million.   Therefore, the media cry “there are millions of Americans affected by this ‘mistake'” is technically accurate but ultimately misleading.   Some broadcasters have jumped on the “Crisis” bandwagon, only to have their stellar examples debunked within hours.  You can tell when the mole hill is being magnified into a mountain IF (1) the report doesn’t compare the junk policy to the coverage available in the health insurance exchanges, (2) if the report doesn’t take into consideration the subsidies available to assist the policy holder pay for the premiums, and (3) if the report relies on individual examples to generate conclusions for which there is no other substantiation.

Mountain:  Speaking of health issues — 32,163 Americans died as a result of gun fire in 2011.  6,220 died as a result of a homicide. 19,766 individuals used a gun to commit suicide.  [GP]  73,883 Americans were injured by gun fire.  432 Americans died in gun related accidents. [GP]  By contrast, in 2011 there were 9,878 fatal automobile accidents in which there was a driver with a BAC level above 0.08 or even higher.  [NRD pdf]  We are coming perilously close to the point at which the number of gun deaths equals or surpasses the number of automobile deaths.  According to figures released by the CDC 33,687 Americans died in auto accidents, 31,672 died as a result of gun violence.  We do something about drunk drivers.  We restrict the licenses of some drivers. We have yet to address the issues related to the easy access to firearms in this country.

When Gallup polled Americans about controlling gun sales in the U.S. during the week of October 3-6, 2013 some 49% favored more stringent controls, 13% thought restrictions should be eased, and 37% called for controls to be kept the same.  A September poll by Quinnipiac University found 89% of Americans supportive of legislation to require universal background checks.  These numbers aside, on September 17th Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced he didn’t have enough support to reintroduce the background check bill in the Senate. [TheHill]

Mole Hill: I’m really pleased that there are at least seven retailers who will give their employees a break for celebrating Thanksgiving with their families.  [TP]   That said — when wages for American workers have stagnated for the past decade [EPI], when there are about 10% of our young veterans  still looking for work while the programs to help them are shrinking [CNN], and when the unemployment rate for Whites 6.3% while the unemployment rate for Blacks stands at 13.1% we have a problem far larger than whether or not people go home for Thanksgiving.

Mountain:  Did anyone read the IPCC climate report?   Did anyone delve into Chapter 12, wherein the commission discussed climate change implications for pattern scaling, temperatures and energy budgets, atmospheric circulation, the water cycle, the cryosphere, our oceans, and carbon cycle feedback?  [IPCC pdf] One newspaper noted that the report made the climate change deniers overheat.  Too many media outlets were engaged in sowing seeds of doubt about the report’s content and all but ignoring the conclusions and commentary contained therein.

Mole Hill:  There were 48 bills in the 113th Congress related to the abortion issue. [GovTrack]  There’s Sen. Rand Paul’s S.583 Personhood Bill, H.R. 2300 from Rep. Tom Price to “empower patients” (not), Rep. Trent Frank’s H.R. 1797 “pain” bill, and his H.R. 447 PRENDA, Rep. Jim Jordan introduced H.R. 1091, life begins at conception act, and the list goes on.

Meanwhile back in the world of reality — the rate of abortions per 1,000 women of child bearing age has declined from a high of 29.3 in 1981 to 19.6 in 2008. [Guttmacher]

A Suggestion

Could we start talking about the mountains, and minimize our time spent in elaborate and protracted debates about mole hills?

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Filed under abortion, Amodei, anti-immigration, ecology, Gun Issues, Health Care, health insurance, Heck, media

The Numbers Are Nice, What About The People?

Construction project7.5% unemployment sounds good.  If Nevada’s numbers follow the national trend then we’d expect another decrease in statewide unemployment, also a good thing.  However, we need to temper our enthusiasm with a nod to some other numbers which aren’t quite so reassuring.

Not all employment is created equal: “The workweek fell from 34.6 to 34.4 hours.  As a consequence the index of aggregate hours worked fell -0.4%, offsetting last months 0.4% increase.”  [AB] [BLS table B4] It’s fine to have more people working, but if they are working fewer hours then the amount of spending those families can afford doesn’t move the needle in terms of aggregate demand.

Not all wages are created equal:  There’s weakness in average hourly wages as well. Average hourly wages were $23.42 in April 2012 and a year later they’d ticked up to $23.87 — insufficient to keep up with inflation. [BLS Table B3] Leisure and hospitality wages, which are of interest to Nevadans, averaged $13.35 per hour in April 2012 and increased to an average of $13.42 as of April 2013. [TableB3] Rather an underwhelming increase.

Public Sector employment remains weakened:  For the “Drown Government in a Bath Tub” crowd this is taken as good news, but the problem is that public sector employees are also consumers and their contributions to aggregate demand are declining.  Overall employment at all levels was down 11% since March 2013.  This figure breaks down to a decline of 8% in federal employment, a 1% decline in state workers, and a 2% decrease in local government employment.  [BLS TableB1] At some point in the discussion we need to ask just how small the bathtub is supposed to be?

If we exclude radical libertarian ethereal musings about an entirely privatized system in which we all drive on toll roads the moment we leave the driveway, or all hire our own security and fire protection services, and all our schools, libraries, parks, and public health services are for-profit institutions in which you can get only what you can afford to pay for — then we need to specify which public services we expect, and what level of service is acceptable.  How long are we willing to wait for our IRS tax refund checks?  How long is an acceptable response time for police and fire calls?  How many days should the library be open?  How many children in a single classroom are acceptable?  How long should it be between health inspections in work places, medical service providers, restaurants?

Not all jobs are creating assets:  The Construction sector continues to be weak, with YOY nonfarm payroll numbers down 6%, with residential construction down 6.2% and non-residential construction off by 4.8%.  Heavy construction and civil engineering was down 3.8% since last March. [BLS TableB1]

Given the state of our nation’s infrastructure the decline in heavy construction and civil engineering projects is particularly disturbing.  The President’s Rebuild America Partnership proposal remains mired in Congressional inattention, and partisan bickering.  S. 387, a bill to establish an American infrastructure investment fund was introduced in the Senate last February, and now sits in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.   The website for this committee doesn’t show any hearing scheduled for this bill to date.

One of the nicer features of infrastructure investment is that it is a Win-Win proposition; engineers, contractors, and their employees get paychecks and the contracting agency gets valuable assets enhancing the unit’s overall financial position.  Senate inaction, exemplified that the body only managed to pass 2% of the bills put before it so far, isn’t helping our economy by assisting in the creation of construction sector jobs or by aiding the financing of public agency assets.

Not all jobs are full time:  Full time employment is obviously distinct from long term temporary or contracted employment.

What’s changed in the last 20 years is that there’s been an unraveling of job security in the labor market, as well as a diminishment of benefit packages and a deterioration of stable, reliable wages and promotion pathways,” said Katherine Stone, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and labor specialist. “There’s been a really fundamental shift in the nature of employment — it’s a sea change. Whether you’re talking about the expanded use of short-term employees, temporary workers, project workers, contractors or on-call workers, the use of workers who don’t have regular jobs has increased a lot.”  [CBS]

Regular, traditional long term employment, increases the inclination to secure more expensive long term assets — durable goods and housing. The employment numbers may mask a situation in which we have more people employed, but not in jobs that induce them to make personal investments in durable goods or in long term housing.  While independent contractors may, indeed, prefer project to project employment — there’s the other 50% of temporary workers who would prefer full time employment.

In April, the number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) increased by 278,000 to 7.9 million, largely offsetting a decrease in
March. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.  (See table A-8.) [BLS]

The good news from the unemployment report this month is offset by weakness in the wages and hours figures, nor is it enhanced by the acknowledgement of continued weakness in the construction sector and the inattention to our infrastructure investment needs.  Additionally, we need to carefully monitor the trends toward temporary job creation as compared to more permanent jobs created as a result of increased aggregate demand.

Congress could help.  It could, for example, take up the American Jobs Act instead of attending to a plethora of ceremonial votes to “repeal Obamacare,” and continue its “War on Women.”  The Senate could assist by scheduling hearings and giving consideration to S. 387.

If we’d like even more optimistic news on the economic front it will probably be up to American citizens to insist that our federal legislators focus on JOBS, JOBS, JOBS.

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Filed under Economy

Ryan’s Time Wasting Titivation

salchowThe latest version of the House GOP budget proposal in Congress looks very much like previous renditions — lower the tax rates for the top 0.1% of American income earners, and replace the current Medicare program with a coupon/voucher plan. [TPM]   “Re-litigation” comes to mind.   The curious part comes as Representative Ryan, who vilified the $716 billion in savings in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) during the last presidential election, now incorporates those same savings into his budget proposal — while calling for the repeal of the ACA which contains those savings…  This rhetorical contortion looks less like a 360° turn and more like a quadruple salchow.  [more at Business Insider]

Former House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, called the scheme “fuzzy math and budget gimmicks.” [TPM] The point of this budget exercise, is not really to address the long term stabilization of U.S. indebtedness — it IS an exercise in sophomoric political economy; simplistic in form and regressive in nature. Ezra Klein nails it:

“Ryan’s budget is intended to do nothing less than fundamentally transform the relationship between Americans and their government. That, and not deficit reduction, is its real point, as it has been Ryan’s real point throughout his career.”

Or, more specifically:

“Here is Paul Ryan’s path to a balanced budget in three sentences: He cuts deep into spending on health care for the poor and some combination of education, infrastructure, research, public-safety, and low-income programs. The Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts remain, but the military is spared, as is Social Security. There’s a vague individual tax reform plan that leaves only two tax brackets — 10 percent and 25 percent — and will require either huge, deficit-busting tax cuts or increasing taxes on poor and middle-class households, as well as a vague corporate tax reform plan that lowers the rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.”  (emphasis added)

Now, why would those be “vague?”  First, it is much easier to dodge criticism of a proposal when the details aren’t available.  Offering a “vague” proposition allows for the “I didn’t really mean that” rationalization when push comes to the inevitable shove.  Secondly, when the arithmetic is fuzzy the extrapolations, of necessity, must also grow furry. What should give the audience room for some trepidation is that this offering from Representative Ryan isn’t the first time he’s run this flag up the pole.  Why could not more rational, detailed, and precise numbers be provided as the budget plan moves through its various incarnations?

The answer may very well be that he can’t be more precise without (a) offending major segments of the electorate, and/or (b) demonstrating that the numbers simply don’t add up to what he is claiming for his project.

In Representative Ryan’s blinkered vision of America, government is more to be feared than the level of indebtedness [Ezra Klein] but this ideological perspective obfuscates the very real role our government plays in this mixed economy.   Programs which provide automatic stabilizers in the economy to mitigate the impact of business cycle volatility, and those which provide citizens with opportunities to increase their standards of living have an impact across the economic spectrum.

CBPP concludes:

“As policymakers embark on the necessary work of further reducing long-term budget deficits, their approach could have important consequences for tens of millions of low- and moderate-income Americans.  If policymakers take an even-handed approach, one that combines spending cuts with an adequate mix of new revenues, they can reduce deficits without increasing poverty and the ranks of the uninsured or weakening efforts to ensure that children have more opportunity to succeed in the classroom and later in the labor market.  If, however, policymakers cut deeply into programs that assist low-income individuals and families, we will likely see more poverty and hardship as well as fewer paths to opportunity.”

The essential problem with perceiving government as a threat to “freedom” is that those programs which keep people from becoming dependent on government assistance in the long run, are those which the Meat Cleaver Republicans would assert in the first wave of cuts in the short term.

For example,  there are significant omissions in Ryan’s latest offering:

“It won’t create jobs this year, and will likely cost jobs in the years to come by putting the economy on a steep austerity ramp. There’s no housing policy for the millions of families in foreclosure and no way to read Ryan’s budget without assuming massive cuts to student-loans programs. That may mean fewer families watching student loans pile up, but only because they didn’t get any in the first place.” [Klein WaPo]

Jobs?  Jobs generate income, income generates both consumer spending and tax revenue.  The impetus may come from federal spending, but the results would be seen initially in local economies.  Paychecks get spent on housing, clothing, groceries, and transportation.  A family with an income sufficient to support the purchase of an automobile generates not only good numbers for the automobile manufacturers, but pays state sales taxes on the purchase, pays gasoline taxes to keep the beast running, and pays license fees to keep highways operating functionally.

Housing?  The “housing market” is a mid-stream economic activity.  Building a housing unit, whether detached or communal, requires raw materials, manufactured materials, and financing.  In short, housing is in the midst of the economic stream of activity, and as we discovered to our collective horror in 2007 when things start to go badly in this milieu the ripples can become tsunamic.  That there is not even a passing nod given to the issues associated with current housing market fragility and the continuing foreclosure issues in Representative Ryan’s budget ought to be demonstrative of his detachment from real economic forces at work.

Foreclosed properties wreak havoc on the homeowners, bring down housing values in neighborhoods, cause a loss in property tax revenue for local governments, and create law enforcement issues where abandoned properties are all too prevalent.  One might have thought that Representative Ryan would at least given cursory acknowledgement to the issues associated with the housing market in his budget priorities?

Education?  There is a link between income, unemployment, and education.

Educations Pays

If we truly want to move people out of poverty, or up the economic ladder, the graph above from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows how the rungs of that ladder are constructed.  Note that when the graph was drafted the national unemployment rate was 14.1% for those with less than a high school diploma, but only 6.8% for those with an associates’ degree.  If we look to the more recent numbers the picture doesn’t change much.

The February 2013 unemployment rate for those with a high school diploma stood at 7.9%; for those with an associates’ degree or some college the unemployment rate was 6.7%.  Those holding a college degree experienced an unemployment rate of 3.8%.  [BLS]

Given this information it would seem logical to conclude that if we want to improve the overall health of the American economy it would be seemly to enhance the opportunities for education, especially post-secondary educational programs.  That’s not what Representative Ryan and his Republican colleagues have on offer:

Ryan would stop increasing the size of Pell Grants to adjust for inflation. Instead, they would stay at the current level, $5,645, for 10 years. Ryan would also change the way the government calculates how much a student’s family is expected to pay to make it less generous.”  [Atlantic]  …

Ryan’s proposal doesn’t spend much time on a key reason Pell Grant awards have increased: rising education costs. Average costs for a four-year institution have risen 250% since 1980 and nearly doubled in the last 20 years. Pell Grant allocations have increased rapidly over the last decade — but that increase isn’t tied to the change for education costs.” [Atlantic]

Education is a labor intensive occupation.  The process can be assisted with technology, but since time out of mind the means by which human beings transmit knowledge — vocational, cultural, economic, etc. — is from human being to human being.  As states cut funding to educational institutions the colleges, tech schools, and universities raised tuition and fees to the “customers.”  The greater the increase in fees, the greater the problem for middle class parents who want to see their offspring move up the educational (and economic) ladder.   Young people are asked to take on a staggering amount of indebtedness to earn a degree, which in turn limits their capacity to participate more fully in the economic life of this nation.  Too much student loan debt means more difficulty purchasing a vehicle, or much of anything else.

The bottom line is that Representative Ryan has simply re-cycled his political document, with its ideological baggage and called it a budget.  While it’s an improvement over the Republican budget document which arrived without numbers in 2009, it’s still an homage to Ayn Rand and her Cult of Selfishness…and very little else, except time wasting titivation.

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Filed under Economy, Federal budget, tax revenue, Taxation

The Post Which Should Not Have To Be Written: Labor Participation Rate in the U.S.

Presidential candidate Willard Mitt Romney:

“So it looks like unemployment is getting better, but the truth is, if the same share of people were participating in the workforce today as on the day the president got elected, our unemployment rate would be around 11 percent,” said Romney. “That’s the real reality of what’s happening out there.” [ABC]

First the birthers, and now the jobbers.  After campaigning vigorously on the theme the President’s economic policies are failures because the unemployment rate was 8% or above, when the BLS reported a downtick to 7.8% the GOP found it incredible.

Candidate Romney may be referring to the labor participation rate, also calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics — which some of his surrogates are now disparaging.   The labor participation rate in November 2008 was 65.8%, admittedly higher than 63.6% in the latest report.  However, it was 66% during the month before the 2008 election.  In fact, as the chart indicates, the labor participation rate has been steadily declining since January 2007.

There is also the “Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization” report, otherwise known as Table A-15.  U1 refers to those who have been unemployed for 15 weeks or longer as a percentage of the civilian labor force; in September 2011 the number was 5.3%, in September 2012 the number dropped to 4.3%.  How about the U2’s — those who have completed temporary jobs and are now looking for work?  In September 2011 the number was 5.2%, in September 2012 the number reported was 4.2%.

Well, maybe it’s in the U4 number, since they didn’t like the 7.8% in the U3 numbers?  In September 2011 the U4 percentage was 9.6%; in September 2012 the U4 the percentage dropped to 8.3%.  OK, if it’s not the U4, then how about the U5 numbers?  U5 reports the unemployed plus discouraged workers, and in September 2011 the U5 figure was 9.6%, by September 2012 the percentage dropped to 9.3.

OK, if it’s not the U1, the U2, the U4, or the U5, maybe it’s the U6? (That’s the number of people who aren’t working for any reason.)  Nope.  The U6 report for September 2011 was 14.8%, dropping to 14.7% by September 2012.

Click on the image to go to the original chart:

In short, no matter which numbers one reports the figures illustrate what we’ve known all along.  Employment is a lagging indicator.  And, those who live in a fact-free universe are often reduced to conspiracy theories to refute news they’d rather not hear.

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Filed under 2012 election, Economy, employment, labor, unemployment

Unsolicited Questions for the Press Corps

There was a post like this a while back, but after listening to the President’s remarks this morning and then sitting through some rather inane inquiries from the White House Press Gaggle — how about this:  We put a moratorium on questions that begin, “Mr. President… The _____ are saying that ____ and how would you respond?

First, this makes the person asking the question sound lazy.  The easiest question in the world is something someone else writes for you.  A right wing bloviator of some infamy writes — “The president had control of both houses of Congress during his first two years, and the economy didn’t bounce back.” And, then the intrepid reporter asks, “How do you respond?”

Step two, now the reporter sounds uninformed.  The President’s party had control of the House, and titular control of the Senate.  A majority is sufficient to establish Committee appointments in the Senate, BUT it is insufficient to overcome 137 Republican filibusters.  [Senate]   The question also indicates that somehow we were supposed to rebound enthusiastically from the worse Crash since 1929, all while some $50 trillion of global wealth was erased by the Wall Street casino.  Not to mention the $7 trillion lost in U.S. equity wealth, and another $6 trillion lost in the housing debacle. [CBS]

Thus, in the interest of assisting a more energetic, more informed, Fourth Estate, here’s a humble offering of possible questions:

#1.  Background: In 2006 JPMorganChase hired a trading manager who rescinded the company’s guidance that traders exit any position in which there were $20 million in losses, and in February 2012 the firm adopted an index comprised of 125 credit default swaps on investment grade entities.   By April 5, 2012 the London Whale was involved in position so large that he was moving prices in the $10 trillion credit market.  As of May 18, 2012 JPMorgan’s losses were calculated at $3 billion and rising.

Question:  What actions have the SEC, CFTC and other regulators taken which might control the gambling in credit markets exemplified by JPMorgan? And, are U.S. capital requirements sufficient to protect American investors from fall out?

Question: What progress has been made by the CFTC and other regulators to assure the investing public that credit default swaps (and the indices based thereon) are transparent enough so that risk can be properly assessed and debacles like the one at JPMorgan avoided?

#2. Background:  From the Bureau of Economic Analysis, “the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 1.9 percent in the first quarter of 2012 (that is, from the fourth quarter to the first quarter), according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter of 2011, real GDP increased 3.0 percent. ” (May 31, 2012)

Question: If public sector hiring has decreased of late, and the Department of Labor is predicting, “Slower population growth and a decreasing overall labor force participation rate are expected to lead to slower civilian labor force growth from 2010 to 2020: 0.7 percent annually, compared with 0.8 percent for 2000-10, and 1.3 percent for 1990-2000. The projected 0.7 percent growth rate will lead to a civilian labor force increase of 10.5 million by 2020. (See table 1.)” Then, what role does public sector hiring play in the full recovery of our consumer based economy?

Question: If private sector worker compensation costs (wages and benefits) increased by 2.1% YOY, and public sector worker compensation costs increased 1.5% YOY,  [DoL] and if this trend continues will this constitute a drag on consumer spending?

#3. Background:  As of January 2007, the GAO reported that our national transportation infrastructure were at risk in terms of financing and capacity, and that funding sources were eroding  just as investment was needed to expand capacity.

Question:  What inroads into this imbalance might have been made by ARRA projects?  What employment advances might be made if funding was available for contracts to improve air traffic and transportation facilities? For highway improvements?

Question: In terms of our national parks, the GAO reported in 2006:  “Each of the 12 park units reported their daily operations allocations were not sufficient to address increases in operating costs, such as salaries and new Park Service requirements. In response, officials reported that they either eliminated or reduced services, or relied on other authorized sources to pay operating expenses that have historically been paid with allocations for daily operations.”   What should Congress and the Administration do to prevent this trend from continuing, and what might the economic benefits be in the private sector if sufficient funding were available for the operation of our national parks?

#4. Background: During the 2011 legislative sessions, states across the country passed measures to make it harder for Americans – particularly African-Americans, the elderly, students and people with disabilities – to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. Over thirty states considered laws that would require voters to present government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Studies suggest that up to 11 percent of American citizens lack such ID, and would be required to navigate the administrative burdens to obtain it or forego the right to vote entirely.” [ACLU]

Question:  What actions are currently being taken by the Department of Justice to confirm every eligible American citizen’s right to vote?

Thank you.  You’re welcome.

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Filed under 2012 election, ARRA, Economy, employment, financial regulation, Infrastructure, Vote Suppression, Voting