December 5, 2008

The November Employment Report, with Comments (Updated, Carried to Top)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:45 am

Lead-ups:

  • Well, the econ indicators don’t point to anything good. The Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing (36.2%) and Non-Manufacturing (37.3%) Indices point to an economy, and thus a job market, that’s in the tank. Index readings above 50% mean expansion, and below 50% mean contraction. A reading below about 42% in each case indicates recession. This POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy we’ve been living in since June, and which was called by yours truly in early July, is something else, isn’t it?
  • On the employment front, ADP’s National Employment Report Wednesday came in at 250,000 nonfarm private jobs lost, and only a slight upward revision (from -179,000 to -157,000) to its original October number. Two consensus predictions for Uncle Sam’s report both point downward — the Associated Press (unemployment to 6.8% and 320,000 seasonally adjusted jobs lost) and Reuters (340,000 jobs lost).

The Report (Bureau of Labor Statistics link) — Well, you can’t get much worse than this:

Nonfarm payroll employment fell sharply (-533,000) in November, and the unemployment rate rose from 6.5 to 6.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. November’s drop in payroll employment followed declines of 403,000 in September and 320,000 in October, as revised. Job losses were large and widespread across the major industry sectors in November.

Comments:

In the last three months, the POR Economy has lost 1,256,000 seasonally adjusted jobs; since June, over 1.5 million:

JobsLostIn2008thruNov

Nancy, Barry, and Harry must be so proud. It’s simply amazing what promising to choke off a country’s energy supplies (all three of them did so in June), promising to radically raise taxes (Obama did, and the others have been on board, for at least 18 months before the presidential election), and having a decades-in-the-making wreck of the housing and mortgage-lending industries come to a head (a Democratic Party group effort going back to the late 1970s) can do.

Never forget this: They broke it.

Now let’s see if they can fix it.

“Funny” thing: They can’t, and they know they can’t, without backing off many of the very things they promised to do. It’s already in progress: Obama’s punitive tax increases on the top 5% are being deferred, and Obama has dropped the windfall profits tax on “evil” oil companies that sent his crowds into spasms of applause during the campaign.

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UPDATE, 1:00 P.M.: A look at the “actuals” — that is, the NOT seasonally adjusted numbers — shows that the November decay is much worse than the seasonally adjusted numbers would indicate.

JobsLostIn2008thruNovNotSeas

The decay in January through June averaged 183,000. In September and October, as the likelihood of “something” happening become more possible, it went to 423,000 and 402,000. Then the wheels came off in November. Instead of the +313,000 that took place last year, employers actually shed 634,000 jobs — an ugly, stunning wrong-way swing of 947,000 jobs.

Gee, I wonder what “something” took place in November to cause this?

UPDATE, 1:00 P.M.: Also see this NewsBusters post for a critique of the predictably weak coverage by the Associated Press’s Jeannine Aversa. An excerpt from that post –

Based on my review of Bureau of Labor Statistics data (start here, and select the tables listed on the first line labeled “Total Nonfarm”), the negative swing of 947,000 from November 2007 to November 2008 appears to the worst one month year-over-year turndown since World War II (to be fair, other negative swings in the distant past are probably a higher percentage of the labor force at the time).

UPDATE 2, Dec. 6, 6:30 A.M.: Aversa’s 6:17 p.m. update yesterday starts thusly –

An alarming half-million American jobs vanished virtually in a flash last month, the worst mass layoffs in over a third of a century, as economic carnage spread ever faster and the nation hurtled toward what could be the hardest hard times since the Great Depression.

Actually, Jeannine, as seen above, 634,000 jobs vanished in a month where jobs have been added in 53 of the last 64 years. The job loss, even considered proportionally against the size of the workforce, is the worst November since 1960.

The “good news” is that 1960 was the year JFK was elected. Kennedy later surprised everyone and I suppose disappointed the leftists in his day by doing the right thing and cutting taxes across the board, leading to the prosperity of the 1960s. Oh to have history repeat itself.

Joe the Plumber Data Dive Whistleblower Was Threatened with Firing; Suspended Employees Should Not Return

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Privacy/ID Theft,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:40 am

ObamaAndJoeThePlumber1008The Columbus Dispatch has done some impressive work exposing the unauthorized and arguably illegal database diving done by State of Ohio employees into the records of Joe the Plumber in October. The rest of Ohio’s and the nation’s media have been virtually asleep.

In a previous post (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted that Vanessa Niekamp, the state employee who blew the lid off the underhanded undertaking, was virtually unknown, while many other past government whistleblowers have been treated as media heroes.

A story in the Dispatch this morning that should be read in full (HT Michelle Malkin) about Ms. Niekamp’s testimony before the Ohio House’s Government and Elections Committee reveals just how imperiled she was. While carrying out a personal order from a superior who was trying to cover his tracks, she was reminded that she was an “unclassified” employee. In plain English, she was threatened with her job if she didn’t do what she was told (bolds are mine):

The state worker who unwittingly ran an improper child-support check on the man known as Joe the Plumber told lawmakers yesterday that a deputy director later “dictated” how she was supposed to cover it up.

Here’s the “unwitting” part:

….. the day after Republican presidential nominee John McCain talked about Wurzelbacher in his final presidential debate Oct. 15 with Democrat Barack Obama ….. Assistant Deputy Director Carri Brown asked her (Niekamp) to check the state child-support computer system for Wurzelbacher.

Brown “claimed that he had contacted our agency with a dispute about how much child support he owed,” Niekamp said.

Niekamp, who did not recognize the name, said Brown took some notes, thanked her and left.

Here’s the cover-up attempt:

A week later, (Department of Job and Family Services Deputy Director Doug) Thompson came to her office with a different explanation — that he, Jones-Kelley and assistant director Fred Williams had requested the check.

“Doug told me that the person Carri had asked me to look up was Joe the Plumber — the one who was talked about in the national news. He said he needed my help explaining something,” Niekamp said.

“Doug then told me I must write an e-mail to our agency’s information-security officer to explain why the file had been accessed. He turned my computer screen so he could see it and dictated word for word what he wanted me to write. …

“He then told me that we needed to make sure that we answer questions about what happened the same way, so that our versions were not different from each other. Before he said that, he reminded me that I was an unclassified employee — which, as you may know, is someone who can be fired without cause.”

Fortunately for people who believe in government accountability, Niekamp immediately went to the Ohio Office of the Inspector General.

Finally, here’s the smoking gun that obliterates any justification for the ludicrously lenient “punishments” state employees involved received (mostly one-month suspensions without pay):

Niekamp said she knew the checks were improper because the staff undergoes training and must read and sign a form explaining when they can access confidential and personal information maintained by the department.

In other words, agency officials involved knew that what they were doing was strictly against policy, if not illegal.

The one-month suspensions handed down by Ted Strickland are in-your-face insults to the citizens of Ohio. These people have no business being State of Ohio employees ever again, in any capacity. If they return, we will know beyond doubt that Ohio’s government — from the very top down — only cares about our privacy as long as we don’t get in their way.

Given that this news involves a person who became a national figure in a presidential race in key swing state, you would think that all of this will be reported prominently in the rest of the country. You might think that the media would be asking the President-elect what he thinks of the subterfuge that was done on his behalf. Wanna bet?

As for Ms. Niekamp, what I wrote two weeks ago still holds: “I hope (her) legal representation is strong, as it’s reasonable to anticipate that her whistleblowing will not go unpunished.”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Will Obama’s Next ‘Betrayal’ Be of His Environmentalist Supporters?

Note: This column originally appeared at Pajamas Media Wednesday morning. I elaborated and updated here at BizzyBlog that same day.

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The President-elect is demonstrating that preservation — of his viability — is his first priority.

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It has been an interesting week in ObamaLand.

Let’s look around at some of the “hope and change” agents the president-elect has nominated thus far:

  • There’s Hillary Clinton, who voted for the Iraq War, as Secretary of State.
  • Obama wants Bush Defense Secretary Robert Gates to soldier on in the new administration. Gates supported the troop surge that Obama the senator and presidential candidate so stridently opposed — you know, the surge that led to victory in Iraq.
  • Then there’s Obama’s choice of Paul Volcker, whom the linked CNN story hilariously characterizes as “a Washington outsider,” to head up the new Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Though originally appointed as Federal Reserve Chairman by Jimmy Carter in 1979, Volcker is closely associated with Reaganomics. Volcker’s role in the early 1980s recovery consisted of returning the Fed to sound monetary policy and beating down the nearly ruinous inflation his predecessor and Carter had created. Volcker’s actions, along with Reagan’s income-tax cuts and indexing of tax brackets, were what brought the economy out from recession to a level of sustained growth that has not been seen since. He is thus inextricably linked to the policies of the president the hard left still despises even more than George W. Bush.

So, at least on the surface, there has been a sea change from Obama the campaigner to Obama the soon-to-be president. Can the president-elect’s apparent betrayal of his core supporters go beyond foreign policy, economics, and defense? Yes it can, right to its “religious” core: environmentalism. At this point, no one should be surprised if Obama’s other nominees signal that he will not, at least during a first term, attempt to enact radical measures relating to climate change.

That’s going to leave a mark.

But for all their professed solidarity with environmental radicals, the custodians of what I have since July called the POR Economy — Nancy Pelosi, Obama, and Harry Reid — must know that they cannot afford to drive the economy down any further without risking a brutal backlash. Any efforts at blaming Bush will likely be futile. As I showed last week, the POR Triumvirate and their party are primarily responsible for what has happened in the economy since June of this year. I also noted that if, as seems likely, the fourth quarter of 2008 shows negative growth, they will, because of their and their party’s current, past, and expected actions on energy, taxes, and bailouts, soon become the primary authors of a recession as the man on the street defines it: two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

In other words, they own it. Now they have to figure a way out of it.

The way out is certainly not, as Team Obama has already acknowledged, to immediately and punitively raise Social Security and other taxes on the wealthiest 5% of Americans for the purpose of handing out money to millions of others. It is not to re-impose just-lifted bans on offshore drilling and other oil and natural gas exploration. And finally, it is not to enact a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system that Obama himself said during the primary season would “bankrupt” attempts at building new coal plants.

Obama will have an unexpected excuse if, as I expect (and hope), he abandons economy-crippling environmental aggressiveness in his first term. It is that the European Union has all but abandoned the radical climate-change agenda. It is a development that has been virtually ignored by traditional media outlets in the US. But it’s happening with a vengeance, and you don’t have to look very hard to find it. Vehement objections are coming from Germany, Poland, Italy, and other EU countries.

What’s more, world opinion is turning against green extremism. The most significant finding at the linked article is that only 27% of those polled in 11 countries (including the US) “wanted their governments to participate in Kyoto-style international agreements to reduce emissions.” This explains why, thank goodness if true, the related December 1-12 United Nations-sponsored talks taking place in Poland “probably won’t yield concrete results.”

And in case there’s thought of slouching into such a treaty, the Czech Republic’s Vaclav Klaus will be there to frequently and strenuously object. In wonderfully serendipitous timing, Klaus, who has stated that “Global Warming Alarmism is Unacceptable and Should be Confronted,” will assume the rotating presidency and, if necessary, the bully pulpit of the European Union in 2009.

The worldwide economic slowdown is causing a long overdue re-evaluation of global warming (if such warming even exists):

As the global financial crisis takes hold, perhaps people are starting to wonder whether the so-called precautionary principle, which would have us accept enormous new taxes in the guise of an emissions trading scheme and curtail economic growth, is justified, based on what we actually know about climate.

The “precautionary principle,” in essence, says the following: “Okay, maybe we’re not really, really sure that global warming is occurring. And even if it is, we’re not really, really sure that human activity is causing it. But shouldn’t we err on the safe side, thereby formulating and enforcing strict emissions limits, just in case?” Such an outlook, taken to the extreme, would close the door on any and all future human progress. World opinion, which Obama and leftists love to claim should hold so much sway, isn’t answering “No.” It’s screaming “Heck no!”

Will a President Obama and the people he nominates for the EPA, Interior, and Energy really want to go it alone and put our economy in a choke-hold, while the rest of the world, including top polluter China and India, continue to chug merrily along? I doubt it, at least not while the economy is where it is. But watch out if the economy recovers, or if there is a second Obama term.