January 31, 2015

AP, WSJ Reactions to Friday’s GDP Report Vary Sharply

Yesterday’s government report on the economy’s growth, which told us that the nation’s gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.6 percent sharply underachieved analysts’ expectations of an annualized 3.0 percent to 3.6 percent. The stock market clearly reacted negatively to the downside surprise. Bloomberg’s take at the end of the day: “U.S. stocks fell Friday, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to its biggest monthly decline in a year, as weaker-than-forecast economic growth overshadowed a rally in energy shares sparked by a surge in the price of crude.”

That didn’t stop Martin Crutsinger and Josh Boak at the Associated Press from celebrating the result in late-morning and overnight reports, respectively. Meanwhile, Josh Mitchell at the Wall Street Journal delivered a more sanguine take on the situation.

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January 30, 2015

Positivity: Assisted living centers defeat HHS mandate in court

Filed under: Health Care,Life-Based News,Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:53 pm

From Denver:

Jan 29, 2015 / 04:56 pm

A federal court has permanently barred the Obama administration from enforcing the federal contraception mandate against the group of Evangelical-owned senior citizen and assisted living centers.

“All Americans should oppose unjust laws that allow the government to force people to surrender their constitutionally protected freedom to live and work according to their deepest beliefs,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Michael J. Norton said Jan. 27.

Norton’s legal group filed the challenge to the federal rule on behalf of Stephen W. Brisco, who owns several Colorado companies that operate senior citizen residences, assisted living centers, and skilled nursing facilities and related businesses that mange them.

Brisco, an Evangelical Christian, objected to federal mandates that he provide employees with insurance coverage for contraceptive drugs that can cause abortions.

Refusal to provide the coverage would have resulted in heavy fines.

Norton said that Americans have a “clearly protected right” to be “free from this type of government coercion at home, in their family businesses, and in non-profit endeavors that benefit everyone.”

On Jan. 27 a U.S. District Court for Colorado issued a permanent injunction against the federal government from enforcing the mandate. It cited the Supreme Court’s June 2014 ruling that the mandate’s application to closely-held private companies like Hobby Lobby violated the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Supreme Court had said the government had not shown that the mandate was the least restrictive means of achieving its goal of providing free contraceptives to employees.

The Obama administration announced the controversial mandate in 2012. It requires employers to cover sterilization, contraception and some drugs that can cause abortions. Its narrow exemption for those with religious and moral objections to the coverage drew much criticism and prompted many legal challenges.

Norton said the Obama administration should give up what he described as “its blind and indefensible efforts to punish people of faith.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

AP Double Standard: Atlanta Chief’s Firing Over Religious Views Is National News, But His EEOC Challenge Isn’t

Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who alleges he was fired from his position solely because of his Christian beliefs, has filed a religious discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

That’s not news at the Associated Press’s national site, and it appears that the AP has not even carried a local story about Cochran’s EEOC complaint — omissions that reeks of a double standard.

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For Once, AP Skeptical of Dems’ Over-the-Top Claims About the Economy

Even Charles Babington at the Associated Press, for once not the completely beholden Administration’s Press, seemed to be having a hard time buying what Democrats at a meeting in Philadelphia were selling. Unfortunately, he decided to let Joe Biden’s direct contradiction of his party’s congressional delegation’s sunnyside-up stance on the economy go unreported.

In a video carried at the Weekly Standard, Biden said, “To state the obvious, the past six years have been really, really hard for this country, And they’ve been really tough for our party. Just ask [former DCCC chair] Steve [Israel]. They’ve been really tough for our party. And together we made some really, really tough decisions — decisions that weren’t at all popular, hard to explain.” Despite how “really, really hard” it has all been, the party is attempting an “in your face” at those who want to claim that it has been that way because of the Obama administration’s economic policies. Excerpts from Babington’s AP report follow the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

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4Q14 GDP: An Annualized 2.6%, Badly Trailing Expectations of 3.0% to 3.6%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:15 am

Predictions for GDP growth during the fourth quarter are running from the New York Posts’s John Crudele’s annualized 3.2 percent to 3.6 percent at Seeking Alpha.

Recent data would make you think that today’s figure might trail the range just noted, but the past two quarters’ GDP figures averaging 4.8 annualized growth seem disconnected from the underlying reality, making predictions at this point a crapshoot.

The report will be here at 8:30 a.m.

8:25 a.m.: Well, well … Bloomberg is carrying a 3 percent prediction. Business Insider also has the 3 percent prediction, which will, per them, be driven by an annualized 4 percent increase in consumption.

HERE IT IS (permanent full text link): Bloomberg’s late writedown to 3 percent turns out to have been a harbinger of a poorer result, and I guess the meme be that federal government “austerity” ruined everything —

Real gross domestic product — the value of the production of goods and services in the United States, adjusted for price changes — increased at an annual rate of 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 5.0 percent.

The increase in real GDP in the fourth quarter reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), private inventory investment, exports, nonresidential fixed investment, state and local government spending, and residential fixed investment that were partly offset by a negative contribution from federal government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

The deceleration in real GDP growth in the fourth quarter primarily reflected an upturn in imports, a downturn in federal government spending, and decelerations in nonresidential fixed investment and in exports that were partly offset by an upturn in private inventory investment and an acceleration in PCE.

The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures prices paid by U.S. residents, decreased 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter, in contrast to an increase of 1.4 percent in the third. Excluding food and energy prices, the price index for gross domestic purchases increased 0.7 percent, compared with an increase of 1.6 percent.

Excuse me, but that 0.3% deflator is more than a little hard to take.

Here’s how the 3Q14 and 4Q14 components compare:

3Qand4Q14GDPcomponents013015

Once again, noninventory investment is virtually flat.

Once again, health care spending, which in my opinion is adding no standard of living value (see the end of this PJ Media column I wrote earlier this month), was a disproportionate contributor. (An additional health care-related contribution might explain why the “financial services and insurance” component, not listed above, contributed 0.32 points).

Absent an inventory buildup, which I believe represents manufacturers and retailers building up stocks beyond their anticipated need, GDP grew by an annualized 1.8 percent.

I feel the consumption number is going to come down a bit in future revisions, but that other component increases will probably offset that.

We’ll see in future months, but today’s report was not good at all.

January 29, 2015

Welcome to the New, Sickening Normal

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:21 pm

So they’ve had six years to recover from the recession and get the economy on track, and this is what we get:

RealGDP2015andFd

The bar-lowerers in Washington and in the press, who would never accept it coming from a non-leftist administration, are simply letting CBO’s published assumption that we’re doomed to annual GDP growth of barely above 2 percent as far as the eye can see slide by virtually without comment.

News Flash: Despite CBO’s predictions, the chances that household incomes will ever recover if growth really ends up being that tepid for that long are very low.

Initial Unemployment Claims (012914); 265K SA, Lowest Since 2000; NSA Claims Down 22% From Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:37 am

From the Department of Labor:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending January 24, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 265,000, a decrease of 43,000 from the previous week’s revised level. This is the lowest level for initial claims since April 15, 2000 when it was 259,000. The previous week’s level was revised up by 1,000 from 307,000 to 308,000. The 4-week moving average was 298,500, a decrease of 8,250 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 250 from 306,500 to 306,750.

… UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 280,237 in the week ending January 24, a decrease of 102,358 (or -26.8 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 57,297 (or -15.0 percent) from the previous week. There were 357,806 initial claims in the comparable week in 2014.

Of course, this result blew away expectations of 300,000.

The seasonal adjustment factor this year (105.6) was reasonably close to the one used during the comparable week last year (103.7).

The news is very good, and comes at a time, given other developments, when we could use some.

Positivity: Women Affected by Abortion Share Heartfelt Stories at March for Life

Filed under: Lucid Links,Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Washington, via Kristine Marsh and Katie Yoder at NewsBusters (video at link; bolds and internal links are theirs):

January 28, 2015 | 3:02 PM EST

Every year the media ignore the thousands who gather on the National Mall to celebrate life – in 2015, an estimated 200,000 gathered and ABC and NBC refused to acknowledge the March for Life. While conservative and religious organizations covered the annual event, one story that is often untold is the personal. This year, MRC Culture’s Katie Yoder spoke with six women eager to share their stories of heartbreak and hope on the other side of abortion – the perspectives the media want to censor.

Mary Rathke, a pro-life speaker who was conceived through rape, had some strong words for the pro-life movement: “Even those in the pro-life movement think it’s OK to abort me. Because I hear all the time, ‘I’m pro-life, except in the case of rape.’ I’m really hearing, ‘I’m pro-life, except in the case of Mary Rathke.”

“Just because my father was a rapist doesn’t mean I don’t deserve life,” she said.

Another woman, Travon Clifton, was pro-choice, until she found out that she too was conceived through rape. “Up until that point I did not know … in High School, I was actually pro-choice. I used to write papers about that – a woman’s right to choose.”

But, “I realized that when I was supporting the exception, I was consenting to my own death.”

Others told of their experiences of being raped and choosing not to have an abortion. In light of the recent fallout over the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (which would have banned abortion after 20 weeks except in cases of reported rape), many women at the march wanted to assert that life was still worth defending, even amidst the trauma of rape.

Marisol Guzman was one who chose to have her baby despite going through the traumatic ordeal of being drugged and raped by a stranger. “Do I regret what happened? Yes. But was it also the greatest thing that happened to me? Yes.” …

Go here for the rest of the post.

January 28, 2015

Bloomberg Celebrates Dec. Spike in New-Home Sales, Despite Record of Downward Revisions

If someone fools you once, shame on them. If they fool you with the same trick a second time, shame on you. If they “fool” you a third time — well, you must be in on it.

That’s my take on Bloomberg News’s virtually euphoric reaction to yesterday’s new-home sales release from the Census Bureau. The wire service’s Shobhana Chandra celebrated how seasonally adjusted December sales were at “the highest level in more than six years.” The problem is that the bureau reported the same development two other times in 2014, only to see each improvement disappear in subsequent revisions. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine):

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Recovery ‘Blame It on the Rest of the World’ Watch: Durable Goods Orders Plunge, Again

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:25 pm

From Bloomberg News via the Chicago Tribune yesterday:

Orders for capital goods drop for fourth straight month

Orders for business equipment unexpectedly fell in December for a fourth month, signaling a global growth slowdown is weighing on American companies.

Bookings for non-military capital goods excluding aircraft dropped 0.6 percent for a second month, data from the Commerce Department showed Tuesday in Washington. Demand for all durable goods — items meant to last at least three years — declined 3.4 percent, the worst performance since August.

Slackening demand from Europe and some emerging markets is probably weighing on orders, making companies less willing to invest in new equipment. At the same time, brightening American consumer attitudes are leading to gains in purchases of big-ticket items such as automobiles and appliances that can ripple through the economy and underpin manufacturing.

“It’s a broad-range weakness,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida, who is the second-best forecaster of capital goods orders for the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “It likely reflects some of the weakness in some other parts of the world.”

Also (not reported at Bloomberg, but noted at the Associated Press), November was revised down to a 2.1 percent drop from the previously reported. 0.9 percent. That’s a compounded 5.4 percent drop (.979 x .966) in two months.

But of course, none of this has to do with weakness here in the U.S. It’s the rest of the world that’s dragging us down. (/sarc).

January 27, 2015

Al Gore, Felipe Calderon Want to Spend $90 Trillion to Save the Earth

Ever since the publication “Earth in the Balance” in 1992, we’ve seen the press minimize the public’s exposure to the more outrageous ideas and quotes emanating from former Vice President Al Gore.

Concerning that original book, Gore’s statement that “The internal combustion engine is the greatest enemy of mankind” and his contention that it could and be eliminated in 25 years are hardly known by anyone besides his fevered supporters and attentive opponents. Apparently wishing to rush his timetable for taking everyone out of their cars, Gore, in an idea barely noticed even in the business press, proposed spending $90 trillion — that’s right, trillion — for such an enterprise. After the jump, readers will see how he wants to do it.
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Virtually Unreported: Unionized Percentage of Workforce Is at an Over 100-Year Low

On Friday, Melissa Quinn at the Daily Signal, after the release of the government’s “Union Members — 2014″ report, uniquely observed that the unionized percentage of the public- and private sector nonagricultural wage and salary U.S. workforce had reached “its lowest rate in 100 years.” From what I can tell in web and news searches, despite the fact that virtually any 100-year record is ordinarily considered newsworthy, no major establishment press outlet has reported what Quinn found.

The report from Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Labor Statisics claims that 1983 is “the first year for which comparable union data are available.” Perhaps, but there is data available going back much further, and it has been used occasionally in previous media reports. That data also indicates that private-sector union membership is at its lowest point since the turn of the century — from the 19th to the 20th century, that is.

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Congratulations, Karl Rove: You Deserve This

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:16 pm

Rove, on Election Night 2012, followed by Fox News’s Megyn Kelly going down to the networks’ “decision desk” folks to confirm their “Obama won Ohio” call:

Comedienne Kathleen Madigan, as she ridicules Don Lemon’s “Bizzardmobile” in blizzard-free New York City, with an apt comparison (tweet links here and here; HT Twitchy):

MadiganRoveSnowTweets012714

January 26, 2015

Not News: Only 1.1% of Americans Live in Unemployment Rate-Recovering Counties

This post follows up on Friday morning’s entry (at BizzyBlog; at NewsBusters) showing that “Fewer Than 0.5% of Americans Live in Fully Recovered Counties.” This is the kind of news which would be front and center with the nation’s establishment press if such a report came out during a Republican or conservative presidential administration. With Team Obama in place, NACo’s work has been virtually ignored.

Some commenters at the Friday post raised a potentially valid objection to the criteria used by the National Association of Counties to determine “full recovery.” NACo’s four bases were returns to pre-recession bests in number of jobs, the unemployment rate, GDP, and home prices. Objectors wanted to completely discount the group’s work based on its inclusion of home prices, arguing that pre-bubble home prices were artificially high, and that a failure to return to those levels was not a valid indicator of economic malaise. If all three other metrics were impressive, they would have had a point. But they weren’t. This post will look at the unemployment rate metric, because that will be the only one needed to show that they still don’t have a point.

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Politico Mag Uses Undisclosed Dem Donor to ‘Hit’ Obama For Middle-Class Suffering

It would seem that the conversation at Politico went something like this: “Hey, we need to hit the Obama administration for the havoc its policies have wreaked on the middle class. But we can’t go after them too hard, because that might burn some bridges, and we’ll lose our stenographer — er, journalistic — access. So we need to use someone sympathetic to Democrats who will know how not to go over the line.”

They chose contributing editor Zachary Karabell, who during most of his writeup did a presentable job of being not too critical while posing as an objective observer — that is, until his final four paragraphs.

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