A Whole Weeks Worth of Economy in One Post!

So USA Today has helpful hints for people of my generation towards saving for retirement. Unfortunately they forgot Step 0: have a job with a retirement plan and that pays well enough that you can actually save money.

So then, about jobs. Earlier this week, the jobs report came out. The good news is that there are more jobs. They’re even paying a bit more — by a whole $0.05 per hour (don’t spend it all in one place, kids). Yet still, unemployment claims are up and Very Serious People are speculating about plateaued progress and  The Next Recession.

Just maybe that’s why consumer spending and factory orders are down.

Even so, I am NOT among those calling for the Fed to avoid raising interest rates. For one thing, the Fed doesn’t have as much control as many people think. Second, the last several years should have proven that the interest rates banks charge one another really doesn’t have much to do with whether or not your boss gives you a raise. Third, I’ve been saying for a decade now that super low interest rates don’t actually stimulate the economy. Yeah, we’ve had super low interest rates for a decade now. Maybe if interest rates went up, corporations would spend some of their cash.

Of course, if you are very wealthy, the economy looks just great. Remember that when you listen to the 2-ring circus we’re calling “2016 presidential candidates.”

In Closing: Warren Buffet has single handedly prevented many unwanted pregnancies (and probably a few cases of cancer); The TPP is on life support, but still out there and it still is a no good very bad thing for average people; ain’t nobody but spies like us; more studies tell us the same damn thing; I am still not sure why anybody ever thought this was a good idea; to hell with the H-1B program.

The truth is, None of Us Can Breathe

So, please mark December 5, 2014 in your calendars. It is the day that I agreed with George W. Bush, when he said the Eric Garner grand jury results were “hard to understand.” Sure, we look at the video and say “how the heck can a cop get away with choking out a man on a sidewalk for a non-violent offense?” If anybody other than a police officer had killed Eric Garner, this case would be a slam dunk.

Instead, the system worked to protect cops at the expense of those they are supposed “to protect and serve,” just as it did in Ferguson. And really, any of us could have been Eric Garner. Any of us could have been the person breaking a minor law and ending up  — more or less — publicly executed. And let’s just face the truth: the odds of that happening are simply higher if you are a person of color. Then, you might get a public execution for picking up a toy gun or some other stupid pretext, or you might end up being kidnapped by cops in your own yard. Furthermore, it would be stupid for me to pretend any longer that the same rules apply equally to both blacks and whites.

One thing that gives me hope is that many people are feeling like they can’t breathe. Like they’d better stand up and do something. And even though a full 1% of our population is either in prison or on probation — think about it, one out of every hundred kids you went to school with, one of every hundred people you ever knew from work, one out of a hundred of everybody who was ever your neighbor, now a criminal — even though that’s true, it’s not the only thing that makes it hard to breathe.

A lot of us understand that freedom is more than not being executed in public, is more than not actually being in prison. It’s not much good to be free if you can’t afford the trappings of liberty: food, a roof over your head, medical care when you need it, little picky things like that. And sure, we had some very good employment data yesterday! There are more jobs, more jobs in more different industries, fewer unemployed people. All those are good things. However, median weekly wage is still within a few bucks of where it was in 2007, a shade under $800. Have your expenses gone up since 2007? Mine have. Take a look at the rest of those charts. Somehow, long term unemployment is down, but labor force participation is also down. Isn’t that interesting.

So yeah, the middle class can’t get ahead. People below the middle class aren’t even doing that well. And even though there is evidence that higher wages wouldn’t cause corporate profits to collapse, there are people who consider wage growth to be a problem. Yeah. It’s a real problem when people can work their way out of poverty instead of deeper into it; you might have to treat them like human beings.

In a very large nutshell, there’s laundry list of reasons why “I can’t breathe” resonates more than “Hands up, don’t shoot” ever could.

 

Uber Alles: I’ve given up trying to write something about that not-cab company that thinks it is above the law (maybe that’s how they came up with the name?). They didn’t bother to actually suspend operations until a couple days after the judge said stop it, and then they whined about how this cost Nevada 1000 [part time, contractor, no benefits, oh yeah and provide your own car] jobs.  I’ve already been shouted down about how I don’t know what I’m talking about, and yet a Nevada judge used many thoughts similar to mine in his ruling: there’s no promise that Uber drivers can be held to the same public safety standards as cab drivers (commercial level insurance, DOT physicals, ongoing vehicle maintenance/condition).

In Closing: alert the media, give a kid a job and he’s less likely to become a crook; literary words; a car, a car, my kingdom for a car; which big cat are you?; diet; circumcision; Democrats.

You can’t breathe either? Here’s some music for you.

A Rant about the Constitution

Some people in Congress — by which I mean Republicans — have been ranting about how the President can’t do this or can’t do that because it’s unconstitutional (even though those accursed commie libruls can point to Republican presidents who have done the exact same thing.

Well guess what? I can point to at least two things that Republicans want to destroy that are explicitly required by the Constitution. The Post Office is mandated under Article I, section 8, and the Census by Article I, section 1.

So the next time some right wing blowhard tells you how the President is shredding the Constitution, remind him to read the freaking document. The NSA, TSA, CIA, FBI, DEA, FISA, IRS, INS, and a whole lot of other government entities they couldn’t imagine doing without aren’t there, but the Post Office and the Census are specifically mentioned in the first freaking article of the Constitution. Stuff that in your conservative pipe and smoke away.

And then maybe you can shift the conversation to how the government could create some jobs by making sure our bridges don’t fall down.

In Closing: warms the heart, and other bits too; I am not really sure what to say about Ferguson and police killing with impunity anymore; I think I’ve brought up a couple of these tips before; and practice. I had some things I wanted to say about Uber, and that might yet happen.

But What Would be the Point?

Wednesday, I thought I’d put up an open letter to the President to the effect of “Hey, listen, America needs you to be a grown up when Congress inevitably sends you piles of doggie doodoo.”

But, as my title says, what would be the point? He not only hasn’t delivered on a bunch of things he said were important, he’s outright backtracked on some of them. I don’t see him leading on curbing unconstitutional surveillance — in fact I see government agencies wanting more power to trample my rights in their quest to find mostly imaginary terrorists. I don’t see Gitmo closing. I keep hearing about job creation, but then I keep seeing homeless guys on nearly every major corner. I don’t see things getting better for Joe Average. TPP hasn’t been crushed under the threat of veto by the President of the United States. I guess at least there are attempts to whittle down Too Big To Fail.

So that’s where I’ve been all week, mentally at least.

A few items on job creation

Ok, by now everybody’s heard that really good job creation and unemployment numbers were announced Friday, right? Good. There were even jobs for people without a lot of education! I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet — I’ve only been talking about job creation numbers for a decade or so — but I do think we are headed in the right direction. That said, the middle class has still lost a lot of ground. Oh, look over there!

In Closing: On bankers; everything old is new again; into the woods; GOP = Rum Tum Tugger; Donner Pass; be afraid!!; compare and contrast; secure the data first; and gird up thy loins.

Shorties Fright

The Monk who Saved Lives: Ittetsu Nemoto.

The Priest who Preached Happiness: Let’s hear it once more for Pope Francis.

Israel and Palestine: Just a few assorted and random links.

You know you want it: Here’s the NSA, privacy, FBI, CIAWar on Terror, and related links.

Broken:  immigration and immigration reform problems.

Wow: Larry Kudlow seems to have found his lost mind.

All about the Jobs: We did have good jobs numbers this week. Let’s put it in perspective.

Research supports my observation:  Indeed: “[I]t sure does seem like the vast majority of the people who say diets don’t work have somewhere in their story a sentence like ‘I went on my first diet when I was 13.’ Or 11. Or 16.”

Fiddling while America Burns: Congress is too busy making baseless lawsuits and running out of town, so they can’t be bothered to fund things like fighting forest fires.

Want to know the interesting thing about this article?: This article about events that empower girls by reinforcing gender stereotypes was written by a man.

And finally: Keep it clean, people.

Yay?

So, another jobs report came out today. Now, remember that economists believe it takes 150-200k new jobs gained each month to keep up with new people entering the workforce. Obviously that’s an average, and also obviously June is one of those months that a disproportionate number of people get out of school and start looking for jobs. Keep that in the back of your head, even though it’s not going to get mentioned elsewhere.

In June, the United States added 288,000 jobs, roughly 10% of which were government jobs. Unemployment is down to a mere 6.1% nationally. And there’s more good news hidden behind the headline: average manufacturing workweek is above 40 hours, so theoretically factories need more workers now; long term unemployed is down to [a still depressing] ~3,100,000.

Of course there’s bad news hidden too: average workweek overall was 34.5 hours; wages aren’t up; when you include the underemployed and discouraged workers, unemployment looks more like 12.1%. Think about that: just under of 1 in 8 workers is either working part time when they want full time work, or has given up on finding work at all!

As a guy with more expertise than me summarized, it’s “meh.” Or perhaps you prefer the more technical “yawn.”

Nevertheless, Wall Street went WHEEEEE! on anticipation that the Fed might actually raise interest rates.

Oh, and it turns out that the states with the most job growth are the ones with those “job killing” higher minimum wages.

 

In Closing: Oh yeah, get those sweet sweet NSA and spying on Americans and the world links here; free science books; birth control Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling follow up links; problem solved!; media points out what many of us have been saying for years; apparently I’m the only one surprised that Maliki is alive and actually in charge of anything; when a red cross blanket on a gym floor is soooo much better than home [insert sad face here]; for pity sake, use seat belts and make sure the kids buckle up too; and then they wonder why the locals are pissed at them.

Another Month, Another Jobs Report

Good news everyone!

Employment is at an all time high. There’s 217,000 more jobs than last month, and we finally have more people working than at the start of the Great Recession.

Ok, now for why that isn’t really very good news at all. Good jobs went away only to be replaced by crappy ones with low wages and low/no benefits. This is double true if you happen to be a man. And the number of people who are not in the labor market but now want a job is up 292,000 this month (for the math impaired, 292,000 is greater than 217,000). And we still have businessmen arguing with a straight face that it would be bad for business to pay sick workers to stay home 3 days a year rather than have them come to work and share their illness with coworkers and customers.

No wonder the majority of Americans think that the “American Dream” is out of reach.

In Closing: Got a whole heaping helping of random NSA, Snowden, privacy, secrecy, spying, terrorism, and related links; people hate the cable company, love cute kittens, film at 11; a couple of gun links; turns out the stoner was actually drunk, but that doesn’t make for a good pot-is-bad story; breakin the law; careful what you post on Facebook; eggs; for a movement that calls itself “men’s rights“, they spend a lot of time worrying about women (yeah, pretty sad that’s Cracked pointing it out too); young adult literature; and social media.

Red Oleander

IMG_20140508_185729

 

In Closing: Slippery slope; Empire in decline; ok sure, have some NSA, Snowden, spying, and bonus Homeland Security links; Yellen at nothin; deny it all you like; yeah right, it might result in a very nasty bit of commentary but populist revolt??; it’s almost like math teachers get bored and try inventing new ways to add and subtract (and places like Kumon and Sylvan make more money….); and better figure it out, Eric.

Not Really Much Music Monday: May 5th

In addition to being Cinco De Mayo…..

 

It’s the birthday of Karl Marx.

 

 

In Closing: It’s good to be the CEO; a couple items on sexual assaults on campus (and not just college campuses, of course maybe if kids didn’t have to go to school in the dark….); turns out it’s not illegal to give away books; vaccination works; somebody’s gonna have to do something real soon now; and the job creation numbers aren’t as rosy as they first seem. Maybe that’s why all those armed guys have time to defend the Bundy Ranch?