January 22, 2015

As National Press Mostly Snoozes, Add Seattle to the List of Cities Where Homelessness Is Rising

A week ago, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, a Democrat, called homelessness in his city and the rest of King County a “full-blown crisis.”

Based on the numbers presented in coverage of the area’s situation, we can certainly add the Emerald City to the list of areas where homelessness has been on the rise. Odds are that many readers here didn’t know that, because the national press hardly ever pays attention to homelessness when a Democrat occupies the White House. Now imagine the firestorm which would erupt if a Republican or conservative proposed the “solution,” however allegedly temporary, Murray is advancing (bolds are mine):

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More on the ‘Myth’ of ‘No-Go Zones,’ Which Were Recognized Even Before the 2005 European Riots

Earlier today (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I posted on the establishment press’s apparent determination to punish anyone who dares to mention the existence — in their view, the “myth” — of “no-go zones” in France and other European countries.

The tactic seems to be working. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, who criticized CNN for allowing guests to use the term and failing to challenge them after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, is now praising the network, particularly Anderson Cooper, for backing away, even though one of those guests was a “former CIA official” who, it would seem, would have been asserting his position about their existence based on job experience and other acquired knowledge. Before the term completely disappears down the memory hole, readers should be reminded that it was being used even before the 2005 riots in Europe.

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A Badly Needed Economics Lesson

Henry Hazlitt’s vital lessons explained on PJTV.

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This column went up at PJ Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Tuesday.

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How serendipitous it is that PJTV has begun 2015 with a series of videos covering Henry Hazlitt’s marvelous book, “Economics in One Lesson.”

Its arrival comes just as Obama administration apologists celebrate the alleged wonders of our current economy. Later, I will provide one example showing how suspect those claims likely are.

PJTV’s effort includes an installment on each of Hazlitt’s original 24 chapters. Short of reading and absorbing the content of the book itself, its series may be the best 90 or so minutes one will ever spend learning how societies genuinely advance their living standards, and how governments almost invariably work to slow or stop that onward march. It’s perfectly suited for otherwise very busy people who only can carve out a few minutes a day from their daily pursuits, including the millions who are working multiple part-time and temporary jobs in this allegedly marvelous economy just to makes end meet.

Keynesian naysayers will immediately try to pounce on PJTV’s supposedly misplaced priorities. After all, a skeptic’s book originally published almost 70 years ago can’t possibly have any current relevance. We’re all so much smarter now, right? Wrong.

Since the advent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, Keynesian thought has held sway with rare exceptions in economics courses throughout the land. As has been the case in so many other areas dominated by leftist dogma, real-world failures to achieve predicted outcomes have only caused its adherents to double down on their nonsense, mount ever more absurd arguments, and turn up the shrillness of their attacks on opponents.

Keynesians desperately in search of good news after the awful recovery from the nation’s most recent recession — a recovery publicly and explicitly directed by their disciples — want the public to believe that the U.S. economy’s recent performance, at long last, vindicates their precepts.

We’re supposed to forget that their recipe gave us a four-year post-downturn performance that was arguably worse — that’s right, worse — than the four years following the Great Depression’s 1993 crater. We’re not allowed to notice that the 20 percent ramp-up in federal spending supposedly required to enact their precious stimulus plan in 2009, originally sold as a “temporary” two-year maneuver, has instead morphed into what they hope is a permanent floor in the size and scope of the federal government upon which they build an even bigger leviathan.

We’re supposed to discount as unimportant the $6 trillion in deficits and the $7.5 trillion increase in the national debt seen during Barack Obama’s presidency. We’re supposed to believe that the $4.5 trillion in Federal Reserve electronic money creation known as “quantitative easing,” without which an otherwise broke government could never have financed its profligacy, won’t badly hurt us down the road.

Through the first quarter of 2014, during the first 4-3/4 years after the recession’s official end, this unprecedented spending and borrowing binge got us real average annualized economic growth of … wait for it … 2.1 percent. By contrast, during the 1980s recovery, the government under President Ronald Reagan faced far more challenging conditions, including sky-high inflation and interest rates, than Team Obama did in early 2009. Despite that, and while mostly making economic policy choices directly opposed to what Keynesians would have recommended, annualized growth averaged a stunning 4.8 percent.

But now, all is supposedly well. The government estimates that the economy grew by an annualized 4.8 percent during last year’s second and third quarters, finally accomplishing for two quarters what Reagan’s economy did for almost five years. The U.S. economy added a seasonally adjusted 2.95 million payroll jobs in 2014, the largest pickup since 1999. The unemployment rate is “only” 5.6 percent, which, thanks to convenient bar-lowering and likely statistical manipulation, is what the economic elites now believe is “full employment.”

It would be nice to think that what has finally happened is that the private sector has finally figured out how to maneuver its way around the latest round of government encroachment. Sadly, business birth and death statistics shatter that illusion.

Last week, Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, noted that the number of new business startups has trailed the number of failures for the past four reported years. That has never happened since such measurements began in the 1970s. The margin is not narrow: “Four hundred thousand new businesses are being born annually nationwide, while 470,000 per year are dying.”

Such conditions would lead one to question how the economy can be growing so robustly. Hazlitt has at least part of the tragic answer in his book’s Chapter 8: “Spread-the-Work Schemes.”

Though the chapter focuses on labor union make-work and featherbedding practices, which “always raises production costs,” and end up resulting “in less work done and in fewer goods produced,” the principles involved have direct application to how the Obama administration has imposed its will on the nation’s economy. It has done so by creating make-work schemes, at the very least within Obamacare and the government’s regulatory apparatus.

Obamacare’s onerous electronic recordkeeping and reporting requirements on doctors and medical providers have quietly created an entire new industry of “medical scribes.” According to Politico, “About 100,000 of these glorified typists are expected to be working for doctors by 2020.” Though there’s no reason to question the work ethic of the individuals involved, the fact is that these people clearly add little or no value to the healthcare delivery system.

In early December, Labor Secretary Tom Perez bragged: ”At the beginning of this administration, there were 730 investigators in the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division. Today, we’re over a thousand.” The idea that the there are thousands and thousands of employers out there brazenly violating minimum-wage laws is patently absurd. These new workers will at best add no value to anything. At worst, over time, as a friend of mine who has fought the government has long pointed out, they will dream up new ways to harass law-abiding businesses.

In each instance and likely dozens of others, the new make-work hires are of course counted as employed, and are naturally getting paid and spending most of their take-home pay. Their consumption is treated as part of gross domestic product. So the real question isn’t whether GDP is being artificially inflated by make-work hiring; it’s only how much artificial GDP inflation is occurring with no accompanying genuine increase in standards of living.

This is just one real-life application of Hazlitt’s clearly explained economic principles. Surely dozens of others await those who subscribe to PJTV’s important series.

Those ‘Mythical’ No-Go Zones in Paris: NBC and NY Times Recognized Them a Decade Ago; TNR Writer Says They’re Still There

The leftist press’s truth squads apparently believe they have successfully intimidated any news organization which henceforth wants to be considered respectable from ever again referring to any Muslim-heavy enclave in Europe as a “no-go zone,” regardless of the facts and circumstances.

Snopes.com, the self-appointed, almost invariably left-driven debunker of supposed “urban legends,” doesn’t reach a specific conclusion, but the title of its post (“Caliph-Ain’t”) gives away their take. A Google search on “no go zones myth” (not in quotes) returns a slew of entries. Some of them include BusinessWeek, Talking Points Memo, the Atlantic, and MSNBC. The same search at Google News give us an additional self-satisfied item at the New York Times covering plans by Paris’s mayor to sue Fox News. Well, before the censors complete their end-zone dance, they need to explain away a few quite inconvenient items. I don’t believe they can.

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Initial Unemployment Claims (012215): 306K SA; Raw Claims Down 8.4% From Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:30 am

Been fighting and losing a personal Cold War for the last day and a half, but this is the day we tear down the wall and get back into gear.

Anyway, Blooomberg is predicting “a decline” in seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims in today’s report.

We’ll see here at 8:30 a.m.

HERE IT IS (permanent link):

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending January 17, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 307,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 1,000 from 316,000 to 317,000. The 4-week moving average was 306,500, an increase of 6,500 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 2,000 from 298,000 to 300,000.

… UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 380,934 in the week ending January 17, a decrease of 148,530 (or -28.1 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 135,931 (or -25.7 percent) from the previous week. There were 416,116 initial claims in the comparable week in 2014.

The seasonal adjustment factors for last year and this year are virtually identical.

All in all, a pretty uneventful report with numbers basically last seen in 2006 and 2007 — with a slightly smaller pool of covered workers.

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (012215)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:06 am

This open thread is meant for commenters to post on items either briefly noted below (if any) or otherwise not covered at this blog. Rules are here.

Positivity: Big families bring hope – not poverty, says Pope

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Vatican City:

Jan 21, 2015 / 11:18 am

Pope Francis has rejected the “simplistic” belief that large families are among the causes of poverty, stressing that economic systems which create a culture of waste are to blame.

“Families know they are essential to the life of society,” the Pope said Jan. 21 during his first weekly general audience since returning from his Jan. 12-19 tour of Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Speaking to the crowds gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father recalled his Jan 16. meeting with 1,000 families in Manila, one of the main events of his visit to the Philippines.

“It gives consolation and hope to see many large families who welcome children as a true gift of God,” he said.

Having heard it said that large families are among the causes of poverty, the Pope described this belief as “a simplistic opinion.”

“I can say, we can all say, that the principle cause of poverty is an economic system which has removed the person from the center, and has put in his place the money-god; an economic system that always excludes children, elderly, the unemployed, and creates the culture of waste in which we live.”

In off-the-cuff remarks, Pope Francis added: “We are accustomed to seeing rejected people. This is the principle reason for poverty – not large families.”

Reflecting on Saint Joseph, who was tasked to protect the “Santo Niño”, or Holy Child, the Pope reiterated the importance of protecting the family against the “new ideological colonization, which threatens its identity and mission.

“The cure for poverty is a fundamental element of our life and Christian witness: it involves the rejection if every form of corruption which robs the poor,” while demanding “a culture of honesty.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

It’s Potemkin Props All the Way Down (See Update: All But 9 Counties Which Have Achieved Full Recovery From Recession Are in 4 States; 41 States Shut Out)

Filed under: Economy,Scams,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:06 am

Really, Barack Obama and his peeps couldn’t find anyone else to showcase as an example of the wonders of the current economy (with apologies to Glenn “It’s Potemkin Villages All the Way Down” Reynolds):

WashFreeBeaconObamaSOTUprop012115

Actually, it’s not that surprising they had a hard time finding someone, when you consider that 98 percent of U.S. counties haven’t recovered yet. Of the 65 counties (out of just over 3,000 in the U.S.) which have recovered, 39 are in either Texas (254 total counties) or North Dakota (53), which means that fewer than 1 percent of counties in the rest of the nation haved recovered (26 divided by about 2,700).

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UPDATE, 10:30 p.m.: Based on a detailed look at the data, I revised the final sentence above to reflect Texas having 24 recovered counties and North Dakota 15. Another source had indicated that ND had 16.

Further elaborating, only two other states had a decent number of counties recovering: KS with 8 and MN with 9. That left only 9 other counties achieving recovery in the entire rest of the country (MT-3, IA-2, AK-2, SD-1, SC-1).

41 states had no counties which fully recovered on all four of the metrics involved.