June 8, 2011

AP ‘Scoop,’ Naively Reported: WH to Form ‘Rural Council’ — As If Help Is Needed

Statism never sleeps.

The Obama administration has apparently identified a significant constituency it hasn’t been able to buy off, and is attempting to do something about it.

Of course, the ever-gullible Darlene Superville at the Associated Press is swallowing the White House line completely, as seen in these excerpted paragraphs:

Obama to create White House Rural Council

President Barack Obama plans to create a special advisory council to recommend ways to boost the economic outlook and quality of life for the estimated 60 million people who live in rural areas of the U.S., a White House official said.

Obama was expected to sign an executive order Thursday establishing the White House Rural Council and naming Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, of Iowa, to be its chairman.

The official asked not to be identified in order to speak freely before a formal White House announcement about the council.

The panel will be responsible for providing recommendations to the president on investment in rural areas, as well as coordinating with a variety of rural interests, including agricultural groups, small businesses, and state, local and tribal governments.

… the panel’s initial focus will be on job creation and economic development.

… The remaining subject areas will be: agriculture, access to credit, innovation, health care, education, Internet access, infrastructure, conservation and developing regional economies.

It never even occurs to Ms. Superville that rural areas might not be interested in more government “help” or “investment.”

Yesterday, the government released GDP by state information for 2007-2010. As the following graphic shows, eight of the nine states with the fastest economic growth are predominantly rural:

GDPbyState2007to2010Top9

What was that about economies needing a “boost”?

Of course I recognize that oil and other natural resource discoveries are helping many of these states. So? And don’t forget that the Obama administration is feverishly resisting efforts to explore and develop domestic energy resources.

As to “job creation,” here are the seasonally adjusted unemployment rates of the seven highlighted states as of April 2011, all of which were lower than that month’s nationwide rate of 9.0%:

  • North Dakota — 3.3%
  • Wyoming — 6.0%
  • South Dakota — 4.9%
  • Alaska — 7.3%
  • Nebraska — 4.2%
  • West Virginia — 8.8%
  • Utah — 7.4%

What was that about “job creation”?

The real “problem” with the seven highlighted states is that the government hasn’t figured out how to “cure” them of their inherent hostility towards initiatives designed to increase Washington’s control over them. I will suggest that this is what the “Rural Council” is really about. As seen in the stats cited, it can’t possibly really be about “job creation” and “economic development” — Washington’s targeted clients are doing fine on their own.

Poor Darlene Superville and the Associated Press just can’t (or won’t) see past the superficial.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

___________________________________________________

UPDATE, June 10, 9:30 a.m.: Fearful prediction — Shirley Sherrod shows up on the new Council.

Can You Top This?

I don’t know how (actually, what’s in the Update does, in some ways).

Well, a news development finally came along that made me feel compelled to say something specific in reaction to the Anthony Weiner situation:

NYTonWeinersWifePregnant060811

Please-please-please, don’t tell me this is a play for sympathy. Y’know, that is a theory (although Salon’s Joan Walsh doesn’t think it’s a good strategy).

Sadly, even this might not be enough to force a resignation, except for one thing.

The Weiner-should-resign crowd has what will probably be the ultimate weapon in usually coherent liberal Kirsten Powers, who happens to be a deeply deceived and used former girlfriend (HT Hot Air).

Her outrage is important, because she’s willing to call the Congressman by names he really deserves — names which the press has been avoiding like the plague — and because she is, as far I know, by far the most influential person on the left who has publicly dared to identify what is at stake for her party if they let him serve out his term:

Anthony Weiner lied to the country about his sexual misconduct online. He also lied to me.

I had been defending him, based on what he told me, but no more. Weiner must resign from Congress immediately.

This has not been my previous position during the scandal, but as I have recovered from the shock of seeing an old friend’s life unravel and have had time to get my mind around the extensive and sociopathic lying in which he engaged, there seems to be no other choice than for him to step aside and stop hurting his family, friends, and the Democratic Party. As more information trickles out about his online behavior with women, it has also become clear that he does not have the character to be in a position of leadership because of his misogynist view of women and predatory behavior.

He knew I was going on the show Hannity, where I would use this false information to defend him in front of millions of people. I did, and I regret it. The previous day I had reluctantly done an interview with the New York Post at his request to talk about what kind of boyfriend he was. In that story I didn’t address the controversy but talked about my experiences with him.

… The New York Times reported this morning that he told donors a week ago that the scandal was the result of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” and that “everything [would] be fine.” We also learned after his press conference that he coached a former porn star with whom he had communicated online on how to lie to the media.

… What has emerged is a picture of a predator trolling the Internet for women—some half his age—with which to engage in cybersex. We know only about the women who were responsive to his overtures. The odds are very high that he struck out with many, and other women were victim to his unsolicited sex talk. … This is textbook sexual harassment. It may not be illegal, but it’s definitely unethical. He is in a position of influence, and many women—especially a 21-year-old—would be afraid to report a congressman doing that to them because he holds so much power. Also, he claims none of the women he contacted were underage, but how could he possibly know that?

… Despite my disappointment in his behavior and my concerns about his capacity to be in a leadership position, my heart still aches for him and his family. We are all flawed human beings, and this is not about meting out judgment. It’s about having some sort of standard for what the Democratic Party stands for—especially regarding treating women with dignity and respect—and Congressman Weiner has fallen far short of even the low standard to which we generally hold our elected officials. It’s time for him to go.

Ms. Powers has it right. The Democratic Party will be proven as devoid of any — any — standards of behavior if Weiner is not forced out.

___________________________________

UPDATE: From Jennifer Preston late yesterday at the New York Times (in today’s print edition; HT Althouse) –

Three months before Representative Anthony D. Weiner sent a photo from his Twitter account to a 21-year-old Washington State college student named Gennette Cordova, a small group of determined, self-described conservatives were warning young women on Twitter, including Ms. Cordova, to be wary of him.

Calling themselves the #bornfreecrew on Twitter, members of the group closely monitored those whom Mr. Weiner was following, taking it upon themselves to contact young women they believed to be “schoolgirls,” and urging them publicly to stay away from him, according to an analysis of posts on Twitter’s public stream.

By early May, members of the group were also speculating that Mr. Weiner would be caught in a sex scandal. The leader, a man who identified himself on Twitter as Dan Wolfe and used the handle @PatriotUSA76, is the same Twitter user who discovered the photograph that Mr. Weiner took of himself and sent to Ms. Cordova. He shared it with his followers and the conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who made it public the next day.

As Democrats and Republicans embrace Twitter and other social media tools as a way to interact with their constituents and woo voters, many have discovered a downside to online communication: cyberstalkers, who track and criticize their every move.

But even by the standards of modern politics, Dan Wolfe and other members of the #bornfreecrew watched Mr. Weiner’s account with particular ferocity, and a sharp focus on his interactions with women. In several instances the congressman dropped his online contact with women after they were identified by the crew, suggesting that Mr. Weiner might have been aware of its actions.

So Ms. Preston characterizes the people trying to save women from Anthony Weiner the stalker as “cyberstalkers.” I didn’t really read that, did I? … (rubs eyes) … Yeah, I did. Ma’am, with all due respect, I think you’ve come up with a new dictionary entry for “sick.”

But it’s really worse than that. Weiner knew that his antics were being followed (forget the “might have been aware” copout; he knew) — and he couldn’t stop. Whether or not he ever, ever will be able to stop is a matter between Anthony Weiner, his wife, and their two families. It cannot be a concern of voters. He must resign.

Ohio’s Budget on the Verge of Passage; Kasich Calls It ‘Historic’

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:26 pm

I tend to be a wait-and-see person on things like this. It’s not a done deal, as there are differences to work out between the House and Senate, but yes, it appears that the workout of differences will happen. Assuming it gets done, congrats are indeed in order.

The other wait-and-see is to watch how Ohio’s economy (continues to) mend, especially in comparison to other states and the rest of the nation.

Here’s the latest from the Columbus Dispatch:

Kasich praises “historic” budget

Gov. John Kasich said the GOP-controlled Ohio Senate’s likely approval today of a two-year, $55.7 billion budget is “historic,” although its version differs from the budget Kasich proposed and the bill the House passed last month.

“We will go to conference committee, but I don’t anticipate any major problems in there,” Kasich said following his address to those attending the American Institute of Architects Ohio Legislative Day at the Statehouse.

“We’re all on the same wavelength,” Kasich said. “There are some things that will have to be worked out, but nobody would’ve thought we were going to balance this budget, and cut taxes, and eliminate this structural deficit, and we are about to do it through the Senate today.”

Kasich likes what he sees, and wants Ohio to know that he likes it:

Kasich is entitled to few moments of crowing. But Ohio can do even more to control costs, and yours truly hopes to have a bit of influence on that in the coming months (sorry, I otherwise have to keep readers in suspense).

As I noted yesterday, those who are bent on repealing SB5 need to ask themselves if they want to go back to the painful economic contraction — the fifth-worst economic performance in the nation — that the Buckeye State experienced during the previous four years.

AP Goes Vague on GM’s Akerson Aching For ‘As Much As’ $1 a Gallon Gas Tax Hike

GovernmentMotors0609Early Tuesday morning, David Shepardson and Christina Rogers at the Detroit News (“GM’s Akerson pushing for higher gas taxes”) reported that General/Multi-Government Motors CEO Dan Akerson “wants the federal gas tax boosted as much as $1 a gallon to nudge consumers toward more fuel-efficient cars.” Later in the interview, Akerson was much more emphatic about what he would like to see done immediately:

“You know what I’d rather have them do — this will make my Republican friends puke — as gas is going to go down here now, we ought to just slap a 50-cent or a dollar tax on a gallon of gas,” Akerson said.

You don’t have to be a Republican to puke at the prospect of a permanent 50-cent or $1 gas tax hike, Dan. Such a levy would likely cause the high gas price-driven retail malaise of the past few weeks (which I have witnessed first-hand) to keep going indefinitely.

At the self-appointed nation’s news gatekeeper, the Associated Press, Tom Krisher pretended that the Detroit News interview never happened, even though the News’s current article time stamp is about 14 hours earlier than AP’s, and referred to Akerson’s aching for a tax increase in only the vaguest terms in Paragraphs 10 and 11 of 19 in a report on GM’s annual meeting:

Akerson also said that if the government wants to move people toward more fuel-efficient vehicles, it should consider raising the gasoline tax to keep gas prices high rather than requiring automakers to increase mileage.

“It helps with our deficits, at the same time may change consumer behavior, and the automotive companies will try to meet that demand,” he said.

The specifics in the Detroit News interview were noted at CNNMoney.com and almost nowhere else in the establishment press.

There was no sound reason for Krisher to avoid reciting Akerson’s specific quoted per-gallon tax amounts, or for the other wire services to ignore it, as appears to be the case based on a Google News search on “Akerson gas tax” (not in quotes) shows. The search returns 49 items, (it looks like 298, but it’s really 49), none of which besides the AP and CNN are from establishment press outlets.

Oh, I’m sorry. There is one reason for news outlets to avoid Akerson’s specfics, especially at the Associated Press. As the nation’s news gatekeeper, the AP seems to have decided that one of its important tasks is to cover for the President, Vice President, and Obama administration apparatchiks — of which Akerson is one, at least until the government fully divests of its ownership — when they say anything wrong or unwise. In this particular case, the AP know that if it doesn’t provide specifics, most of its subscribing news and broadcast outlets won’t go beyond what the wire service feeds them. Without the specifics, most newspersons will likely believe that the story is unimportant.

Why subscribers are willing to pay for omissions such as these which seem more often than not any more to be deliberate is beyond me.

Well, I hope Krisher and AP enjoyed their walk in the park with GM last night:

APheartsGM081210

Don’t they make a pretty couple?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Updating the Stimulus Fail Graph: Straw Man Wins

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:53 am

In this case, doing nothing really would have been better (HT James Pethokoukis at Reuters):

updated20unemployment20stimulus20graph

They can make all the noise they want about jobs “created and saved,” but what they promised is not what they have delivered, and no amount of word-gaming and excuse-making will ever change that.

Feldstein at WSJ: ‘The Economy Is Worse Than You Think’

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:54 am

economy1Well, it would make sense that if the job market is far worse than it appears — and it is — that the economy as a whole would also be in that condition.

Here are key paragraphs from today’s Wall Street Journal op-ed by Martin Feldstein, “chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan, a professor at Harvard and a member of The Wall Street Journal’s board of contributors”:

The Economy Is Worse Than You Think
Expect more bad news until someone enacts a plan to bring deficits under control without raising taxes.

The policies of the Obama administration have led to the weak condition of the American economy. Growth during the coming year will be subpar at best, leaving high or rising levels of unemployment and underemployment.

… Estimates of monthly GDP indicate that the only growth in the first quarter of 2011 was from February to March. After a temporary rise in March, the economy began sliding again in April, with declines in real wages, in durable-goods orders and manufacturing production, in existing home sales, and in real per-capita disposable incomes. It is not surprising that the index of leading indicators fell in April, only the second decline since it began to rise in the spring of 2009.

The data for May are beginning to arrive and are even worse than April’s. They are marked by a collapse in payroll-employment gains; a higher unemployment rate; manufacturers’ reports of slower orders and production; weak chain-store sales; and a sharp drop in consumer confidence.

… The administration’s most obvious failure was its misguided fiscal policies: the cash-for-clunkers subsidy for car buyers, the tax credit for first-time home buyers, and the $830 billion “stimulus” package. Cash-for-clunkers gave a temporary boost to motor-vehicle production but had no lasting impact on the economy. The home-buyer credit stimulated the demand for homes only temporarily.

… each dollar of extra deficit added much less than a dollar to GDP. Experience shows that the most cost-effective form of temporary fiscal stimulus is direct government spending. The most obvious way to achieve that in 2009 was to repair and replace the military equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan that would otherwise have to be done in the future. But the Obama stimulus had nothing for the Defense Department. Instead, President Obama allowed the Democratic leadership in Congress to design a hodgepodge package of transfers to state and local governments, increased transfers to individuals, temporary tax cuts for lower-income taxpayers, etc. So we got a bigger deficit without economic growth.

A second cause of the continued economic weakness is the president’s emphasis on increasing tax rates. Although Mr. Obama grudgingly agreed to continue the Bush tax cuts for 2011 and 2012, his budget this year repeated his call for higher tax rates on upper-income individuals and multinational corporations. With that higher-tax cloud hanging over them, it is not surprising that individuals and businesses do not make the entrepreneurial investments and business expansions that would cause a solid recovery.

A third problem stems from the administration’s lack of an explicit plan to deal with future budget deficits and with the exploding national debt. This creates uncertainty about future tax increases and interest rates that impedes spending by households and investment by businesses.

… The economy will continue to suffer until there is a coherent and favorable economic policy. That means bringing long-term deficits under control without raising marginal tax rates—by cutting government outlays and by limiting the tax expenditures that substitute for direct government spending. It means lower tax rates on businesses and individuals to spur entrepreneurship and investment. And it means reforming Social Security and Medicare to protect the living standards of future retirees while limiting the cost to future taxpayers.

All of these things are doable. But the Obama administration has not done them and shows no inclination to do them in the future.

Indeed, for all the talk of “transformative change” in 2008, all we’re seeing now from what’s left of Obama’s economic team is bitter clinging to an unacceptable status quo.

The Job Market: Far Worse Than It Appears

obamavillestopThe raw numbers are downright scary.

____________________

Note: This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Monday.

_____________________

The familiar items in the government’s Employment Situation Summary on Friday were bad enough:

  • The unemployment rate increased for the second straight month, this time to a seasonally adjusted 9.1%.
  • The seasonally adjusted number of workers employed increased by only 54,000. After taking prior-month downward revisions into account, only 15,000 more Americans were working in May than were working in April.

Both numbers were “unexpectedly” poor, even after prognosticators had two days’ warning to downwardly adjust their estimates courtesy of payroll giant ADP, whose employment report on Wednesday showed only 38,000 seasonally adjusted private-sector jobs added.

If you think that’s bad, wait until you see the real numbers.

What? Yes, I’m redundantly telling you that the numbers routinely reported out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) do not represent what actually happened in any given month, because they, as already noted, are seasonally adjusted.

To be clear, I’m not accusing BLS of cooking the books, and there’s nothing wrong with seasonally adjusting data. Doing so is a time-honored statistical technique for smoothing out information which fluctuates throughout the year. From all appearances, the methodology BLS uses to generate its seasonally adjusted data is statistically valid and has been consistently applied. In my view, despite the limited value of seasonally adjusted data in the current economic environment, I don’t want the bunch currently in the White House to get anywhere near the idea of revising how things are done (and no, I don’t believe they’ve had a chance to corrupt the process yet, though it could be a second-term agenda item).

In normal times, it’s usually acceptable for data users to stick with seasonally adjusted (SA) information while avoiding the adventure of delving into and analyzing the raw, not seasonally adjusted (NSA) stuff. But these are not normal times. We’re at the three-year point of the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy, an appellation I applied in early July 2008, when I recognized that the economy was fundamentally changing, and not for the better. In abnormal times such as these, you cannot be sure that the SA data adequately reflects what’s happening in the raw NSA information.

The following chart showing NSA and SA job additions and losses in the month of May during the past 11 years, both overall and in the private sector, will demonstrate the raw data’s current importance:

SAandNSAjobsAddsMay01toMay11

Going all the way back to 1955, May has been a month when net employer hires have been positive, usually by a large amount. Heavy-hiring months like March, April, and May make up for ones like January and July, when the workforce usually significantly contracts.

This year’s figure for overall May 2011 job additions may look almost acceptable at first, but it really isn’t. Except for May 2008, the eve of the POR economy, and May 2009, near the end of the recession, the May 2011 figure is the lowest on the list — during what is supposed to be a recovery. May 2011 is probably still worse than May 2010 even after reducing last year’s figure by roughly 400,000 census workers. Does anyone remember the economy being great in May last year? I didn’t think so.

Something got lost in this year’s (and, for that matter, last year’s) seasonal translation. It’s quite logical to ask how 682,000 NSA jobs can turn into 54,000 SA jobs, when in 2008, 112,000 fewer NSA jobs (682K minus 570K) generated 287,000 fewer SA jobs (the difference between +54K and -233K) and a huge net job loss. Also note that 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2006 all had higher actual NSA job growth that still resulted in lower SA job additions than May 2011.

The problem is that the May 2008 and especially the May 2009 raw values, which were so out of whack compared to previous years, were by design (again, validly per the BLS’s methodology) given significant weight in this year’s seasonal adjustment process. The reality remains, however, that this year’s May NSA number is, with one tiny exception in 1991, worse than every other May between 1982 and 2007.

Similarly, May 2011′s NSA figure of 723,000 generated seasonally adjusted private-sector additions of 83,000, even though May 2007 had 202,000 more NSA jobs (925K minus 723K) but only a barely higher 111,000 after seasonal adjustment. Though the raw private-sector figure for May 2011 is more impressive than its total economy counterpart, it’s still less than every year from 2003 through 2007 — years during which the establishment press was always telling us what a mediocre economy we were supposedly enduring.

It should be clear that if the economy in May 2007 had generated the raw overall and private-sector job additions seen in May 2011, both seasonally adjusted results would have been negative. Thanks to looking past the statistically valid but distracting seasonal adjustments and diving into the raw data, we see that May 2011′s results were far worse than reported. In the 23rd month after the recession ended, despite the obvious availability of millions of unemployed workers, the economy has suddenly gone to generating jobs at a rate that is nowhere near what occurred during 2003 through 2007.

With stubbornly high gas prices, overregulation, crippling uncertainty, and an administration indifferent and often hostile towards job growth, it’s hard to see things getting much better in the near term. Yet the establishment press won’t let go of the idea that we’re still in an economic recovery. My question remains the same as it was in early 2010: “Rebound? What Rebound?

(Graphic found at xcceleration.com.)