September 6, 2009

Media Spin Abounds Over Last Friday’s Employment Report

unemployment

On Friday, Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the nation’s unemployment rate rose to a seasonally adjusted 9.7% in August, and that the economy lost another 216,000 seasonally adjusted jobs.

In various ways, the press tried to put a happy face on the news and otherwise tried to minimize its impact. It also continued, as it has for years, to ignore what really happened on the ground (i.e., the not seasonally adjusted numbers) during the month; in August, a look at that info punctures any illusion that the employment situation is improving. It also ignored prior-month downward revisions to both June and July totaling 49,000 seasonally adjusted jobs.

Here are the first four paragraphs of the Friday report by Christopher S. Rugaber at the Associated Press:

APaugustEmpReport090409

In Rugaber’s defense, if his “not all bad” reference red-boxed by me is to the economy as a whole, he’s correct.

Two paragraphs later in his report, he writes that “many analysts say the economy should grow by a healthy 3 to 4 percent in the third quarter, pulling the United States out of the longest recession since World War II.” That would indeed be welcome news after four dreadful quarters brought on by what I have been referring to since July of last year as the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy, which has turned during the past four quarters into the POR Recession (radio talker Mark Levin would prefer to use the term “repression“) As Normal People Define It. In addition to a person Rugaber cited, I found some corroboration for the contention that growth will resume at this link at the Philadelphia branch of the Federal Reserve, where in mid-August “professional forecasters” predicted third-quarter annualized growth of 2.4%.

But if Rugaber or anyone else thinks that the employment situation is “not all bad,” they are sadly mistaken. That’s because, despite the lower seasonally adjusted job-loss number, what actually happened on the ground in August (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) went the wrong way for the 22nd consecutive month:

BLSnotSeasAdj0809withChanges

After narrowing the year-over-year decay to 42,000 in July, August 2009′s on the ground number was worse by 131,000. Also, August’s report revised July’s figure downward by 110,000 jobs; what had appeared last month to be the first year-over-year improvement vaporized. The last time there was a year-over-year improvement in the not seasonally adjusted jobs added/lost figure was October 2007.

Meanwhile, at the New York Times, Peter S. Goodman and Jack Healy were rewriting history, trying to convince readers that the expected recovery will be jobless, as it was during the last downturn:

Many experts envision a jobless recovery, in which the economy grows but job losses persist. That would reprise the end of the last recession in 2001, when payrolls continued to decline for nearly two years afterward.

Sorry, Peter and Jack, payrolls did not “continue to decline” during the entire period in question.

BLSseasAdj2001to2003

As seen above, there was a net decline in seasonally adjusted jobs from December 2001, the first month after the recession as the National Bureau of Economic Research defined it ended, until August 2003, 21 months later. But five of those months showed gains, October and November 2002 showed consecutive gains (it’s pretty hard to claim something “continued” if it had a break of two full months), and the final four of the 21 months had a net loss of only 25,000 jobs. During every month of the past year (September 2008 – August 2009), including the past two months which we are now being told is part of a recovery, that many seasonally adjusted jobs have been lost every 3-4 days.

After the 21-month period Goodman and Healy cited, the Bush tax cut-driven economy added jobs for 46 consecutive months, the longest job-adding winning streak since the Reagan tax cut-driven economy added jobs for 82 consecutive months (September 1983 to June 1990).

If Goodman and Healy are going to persist in call that 2001-2003 time period a “jobless recovery,” I would hope that they call one where jobs are consistently lost in monthly six-figure amounts a “job-loss recovery.” But I don’t expect it.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

USAT’s Clunker Payment Piece Fails to Note Original 10-Day Govt. Promise To Dealers

CARSsymbolGive Sharon Silke Carty of USA Today credit for unearthing important information about the serious back-office problems with Uncle Sam’s Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program, popularly known as “Cash for Clunkers.”

This is the program that ABC, CBS, and NBC have all characterized as “a victim of its own success.”

But Carty didn’t do nearly as much as she could have with the information she learned. Her most grievous oversights were her failures to compare the government’s newly promised payment timetable to the 10 days dealers were told to expect, and to explain to her readers the extra unreimbursed costs dealers will have incurred as a result of the program even if (emphasis if) dealers receive full payment for their Clunker transactions.

Here are relevant paragraphs from Carty’s report:

Officials set Sept. 30 as goal to pay dealers on clunkers

The Department of Transportation is kicking up efforts to pay dealers who sold cars under the federal cash-for-clunkers plan and hopes to process all outstanding rebate claims by Sept. 30.

A spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who did not want to be identified because the government’s data are not yet public, said the government will have 5,000 workers handling claims by the middle of the week, up from the 3,000 now.

So far, the government has paid $500 million to dealers, the spokesperson said, or about 17% of the total claims. By next week, the government hopes to be paying out $100 million a day.

…. Once all the applications are sifted through, there may be money left in the pot, the government spokesperson said, because some percentage of the applications will be rejected. That money will go back to the Treasury Department.

John McEleney, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, says he’s happy the government has set the Sept. 30 goal to pay dealers.

“It’s taken longer than we would like; a lot of our members are strapped for cash,” he said.

McEleney’s response seems rather muted, given the grief his dealers are incurring.

The $500 million paid out thus far is only half of the original $1 billion allocated to the program. That amount was used up in clunker deals during the very first week (July 24-30) of the program. Even if the government is able to keep its dubious $100 million a day payment promise starting on Tuesday (more on that in a moment), that means that many dealers have waited over 40 days to get paid. The original payment promise, according to this report, was 10 days.

Congress expanded the program to $3 billion in early August, and clunker deals that used up the additional $2 billion were done from August 7-24. At best, the government will be usually be paying dealers 35 days after their respective deals.

25-30 extra (35 or 40 minus 10) days is a long time to wait for large amounts of money. There are really only three ways a business can deal with this: Dig into cash reserves if they exist, thereby losing interest income; carry more debt while waiting, thus incurring interest expense; or slow down payments to vendors, pushing the pain onto them and potentially damaging those relationships. These problems are more than minor inconveniences. McEleney should have brought them out (is he afraid of offending an administration official?), but even if he didn’t, Carty should have known better than to ignore these consequences.

There’s plenty of reason to doubt whether DOT can catch up as quickly as promised. You can’t increase staff from 3,000 to 5,000 and expect everyone to hit the ground running. Even if we bravely assume that all 2,000 newbies have been screened and are all qualified and ready to work first thing Tuesday morning, you have to have or find the space for them to work, buy or find them work stations, train them, have supervision in place to monitor them and review their work, and have all the necessary controls in place for processing large volumes of cash transactions. Excuse me for being skeptical that DOT can pull this off and get totally done by September 30. I think that’s why the agency is expressing that date as a “goal” and not a promise, and why USAT reporter Carty writes of “hope.”

The fact that DOT feels it has to ramp up to such a level this far into the program indicates that it had no idea of the scope of what it would have to do to support Cash for Clunkers when it was enacted. Instead of trying to operate the program itself, it seems from here that it should have engaged one or more of any number of outfits accustomed to processing large volumes of financial transactions (banks, loan companies, insurance companies) that would already have had most of the systems capability, and perhaps even much of the staff, in place to handle the workload.

Given the program’s myriad problems — there have been many other issues besides slow payments to dealers, including processing snafus (Carty herself noted that some dealers may not get paid for some of their good-faith transactions), dealer opt-outs, market distortions, and poor disclosure of sales and income tax consequences to buyers — it would seem more appropriate to talk of Cash for Clunkers not as a “victim of its own success,” but as a creator of victims who trusted the government to keep simple promises to run a program efficiently, and to make timely payments.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Our Punk President and His Gangster Government

ObamaTheGangster0809ObamaThePunk0809A government of, by, and for politically corrupt cronies.

____________________

Note: This post went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Friday.

____________________

I’ve caught some heat since Election Night when I made my first reference to the person whom I expected would turn out to be our first Punk President.

As I noted in a related February column, there was plenty of pre-election justification for concern that the most powerful elected office in the world was about to be occupied by, at the very minimum, a “a young, inexperienced person” who lacks major elements of maturity one would expect in someone about to take on such a serious responsibility. Normally, these traits would be acquired in one’s life as a result of running a business, working in the private sector, serving in the military, or occasionally through wide-ranging experience in political office. Barack Obama brought in none of these four attributes.

Evidence abounded during the campaign that trouble was brewing. There was the “subtle” bird-flipping of opponents — twice. There were allusions to inflicting violence on rivals. There was gaffe after gaffe after gaffe, dutifully minimized by the lapdog media establishment. There were false narratives, ranging from self-aggrandizement to whitewashing family history to (despite a big set of ears and his thin-skinned sensitivity about them) completely implausible denials about having heard objectively racist, America-hating rhetoric from a pastor of almost 20 years. The tissue-thin resume, in combination with even a small sample of the items just described, should have been enough to disturb any objective observer concerned that we were about to elect the lightest of lightweights. And we did.

Obama’s ignorance and inexperience have been quite evident since Inauguration Day — in fact, even on Inauguration Day. The gaffes have continued, from his “joke” about the Special Olympics to his (and his wife’s) Gerald Ford imitations to his “where have you been?” misstatements relating to basic culture and history. His advisers must cringe at the thought of any future teleprompter accidents.

Not that his advisers are particularly bright either; or maybe they’re fiendishly clever. Consider the garble they inserted into the beginning of the president’s primarily H1N1-related speech on Tuesday:

Before I say a few words about the meeting we just had I’d like to mention some good news that came out today about our economy. For the first time in 18 months, our manufacturing sector has expanded, and the statistics used to measure manufacturing output is the highest it’s been in over two years.

The statistic involved is the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Index. That ISM’s statistic did increase to a two-year high of 52.9% in August, and it was the first time in 19 months that the reading topped 50%, the minimum indicator of expansion. It was also the index’s highest reading since June 2007.

The Manufacturing Index measures whether or not overall economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded or contracted in the previous month, and to a degree how widespread the expansion or contraction was. It is a widely respected and very useful statistic based on data gathered from corporate purchasing and supply executives who are on the ground and in a position to know what’s really happening. But the index does NOT measure “output.” All one can really say after Tuesday’s result is that after 18 months of contraction, manufacturing started to get up off the floor. By far the worst index readings during the contraction streak came during what I have since July 2008 been calling the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy, which is now the POR Recession (radio talker Mark Levin prefers to call it a “repression“) As Normal People Define It.

Obama’s “clever” wording (possibly deliberately so) likely gave many listeners and viewers the impression that manufacturing is in its best shape in two years. That is obviously not even close to being the case. As to the potential for a sustained rebound, Jeff Pope noted in a recent PJM column that the POR Economy’s architects and their party don’t have the slightest appreciation for what manufacturing concerns need in order to have a decent chance at long-term success.

It would be bad enough if the punk behavior of Obama and his administration was limited to immature errors of fact and judgment.  But with this administration and its leader, the dictionary’s alternative definition of “punk”  (“a young ruffian; hoodlum”) has been operative for quite a while.

Michael Barone, who may have been the first to describe the Obama administration as a “Gangster Government,” recognized it early on. In May, after seeing what the Obama administration was in the midst of doing to Chrysler’s first-lien, secured creditors, Barone wrote the following:

The Chrysler negotiations will not be the last occasion for this administration to engage in bailout favoritism and crony capitalism. There’s a May 31 deadline to come up with a settlement for General Motors.

….. We have just seen an episode of Gangster Government. It is likely to be part of a continuing series.

Sadly, that is exactly what has followed. Obama’s car czars also ran roughshod over the contractual rights in bankruptcy of GM’s unsecured bondholders to the direct benefit of the United Auto Workers Union’s VEBA. More recently, the administration-favored health care bill as voted out of committee by the House has a $10 billion (at least) promise to shore up the benefit plans of predominantly unionized employers.

Elsewhere, the Obama administration is funding oil drilling off the coast of Brazil while doing everything it can to stifle domestic exploration and drilling. It browbeats corporate executives for taking bonuses it and Congress previously allowed, while bonuses to government employees proceed merrily along. It seemingly treats anyone who would disturb its budding empire as an enemy and not merely an opponent. Its closely-tied affiliate Organizing For America sends thugs and astroturfers to town hall meetings to crowd out others, intimidate dissenters, and worse.

It’s clear that our Punk President and his gangster government are bent on deciding, on their own and in as many areas as possible, who gets rewarded and who gets punished. Whatever you want to call it, this behavior is not characteristic of a representative government.

What is required to combat this group of thugs is an army of Eliot Nesses. Though that army may be forming in the nascent Tea Party movement, it will have to be about a lot more than periodic demonstrations. Gangsters play for keeps.

Positivity: Infamous Hollywood Screenwriter to Pen Film on Our Lady of Guadalupe – Patroness of the Unborn

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 7:01 am

From Cleveland (HT Brent Bozell at NewsBusters.org), via LifeSite News:

August 25, 2009

Infamous Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, 64, known for such sordid films as Basic Instinct and Showgirls, has undergone a conversion and now will be writing a new film on Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Eszterhas has been one of Hollywood’s most influential screenwriters, writing lucrative blockbuster films, such as Flashdance, Jagged Edge, and Basic Instinct, and raking in million-dollar paychecks. Known for living the full ‘Hollywood lifestyle’, Eszterhas gave it up to move home to Ohio with his wife and children in the late 1990s.

In 2001, faced with throat cancer resulting from his smoking and alcohol addictions, which threatened to kill him, Eszterhas turned to God in desperation.

“Seven years ago, I sat down on a curb near my home, sobbing, and asked God to help me,” he writes in a September 2008 Washington Post article. “I cried and begged God to help me … and He did. I hadn’t prayed since I was a boy. I had made fun of God and those who loved God in my writings. And now, through my sobs, I heard myself asking God to help me … and from the moment I asked, He did.”

God, he says, cured him of his disease, but, more than that, He gave him the strength to turn away from his worldly life and back to the Catholic faith. “Not only did He give me the strength to be able to defeat my addictions,” he wrote, “He saved my life. My throat surgeon … told me seven years after the surgery that I am ‘cured.’ Not that I am in remission, but that I am cured. … My life has turned inside-out. I have stopped my excesses and replaced them with prayer and long walks. I am carrying the cross as often as they’ll let me at Holy Angels Church in Bainbridge Township, Ohio. And I have written a book as a thank-you to God. Not just for saving my life, but for saving me.”

Eszterhas shares his story of conversion in his 2008 book, Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith.

This summer it was revealed that Eszterhas will be writing the screenplay for a new movie about Our Lady of Guadalupe. He is calling it a “labor of love,” and has indicated that he had been “hoping for some time to write a film that is both entertaining and inspiring.” ….

Go here for the rest of the story.