April 19, 2015

‘Failed’ Gwyneth Paltrow Was Actually on Track to Succeed in ‘Food Stamp Challenge’

As yours truly noted on April 12, actress Gwyneth Paltrow made a bit of a splash earlier this month when she announced that she would add her name to the list of ignorant politicians, advocates and celebrities taking on the deceptively designed “Food Stamp Challenge.”

The idea is to “try to survive” eating for a week on the average benefit a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient receives. The objective is to prove that it really can’t be done, thereby “proving” that food stamp benefits are too low. Of course, that’s what Paltrow claims occurred, with MSNBC.com hyping how she “succeeded by failing.” As was the case with an Indiana journalist several months ago, based on the spending figure Paltrow herself disclosed, she was not failing at all. Based on how the program really works, she would have succeeded had she stuck with it.

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April 18, 2015

Rubio’s Age Is Problematic, But Hillary Being Post-Menopausal Makes Her ‘Perfect’?

Time.com’s Zeke Miller tweeted yesterday that a “reporter” asked recently declared presidential candidate Marco Rubio of Florida the following question: “Is 43 old enough to be president?” Meanwhile, two weeks ago, a column at Time.com claimed that Hillary Clinton is “biologically primed to be a leader.” Seriously.

Since he either can’t or won’t tell us who asked the question, we’re unable to determine if the “reporter” to whom Miller referred was asking the question because he or she doesn’t know the Constitution or was trying to bait Rubio into giving an answer implicitly or explicitly criticizing other candidates. It would be worth knowing, because the first answer betrays ignorance, while the second reveals bias and a likely double standard in interviewing. Miller’s tweet, which includes Rubio’s priceless answer, is after the jump:

ZekeMillerRubioTweet041715

This means that Rubio would be 45 on Inauguration Day if he is elected (actually 45 years, 7 months and 23 days). That’s less than 22 months younger than Barack Obama (47 years, 5 months, and 16 days) when he was inaugurated. Both John Fitzgerald Kennedy (43 when inaugurated) and Theodore Roosevelt (42 after William McKinley’s assassination) were younger when they became president.

One commenter at Miller’s tweet specifically asked for the reporter’s name. From what I can tell at the tweet’s thread and in his Twitter feed up to about 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time, Miller hasn’t answered.

If anyone has asked Hillary Clinton about whether her relatively advanced age is a problem, I’m not aware of it, even though it was a press near-obsession during John McCain’s presidential run — only after he had secured the Republican Party’s nomination, of course. Apparently, the push is on to see it Mrs. Clinton’s age as a feature, and not a potential bug.

A “Dr.” Julie Holland at Time.com, Miller’s hangout, thinks that “Hillary Clinton Is the Perfect Age to Be President,” especially — get this — because she is “of a certain age” (bolds are mine):

Forget politics — she’s biologically primed to be a leader

At 67, Hillary Clinton is now a “woman of a certain age.” So much emphasis and worry are put on physical aging in women that the emotional maturity and freedom that can come at this time are given short shrift. That robs everyone of a great natural resource. For women of a certain age, it is our time to lead. The new standard for aging women should be about vitality, strength and assertiveness.

One of the largest demographics in America is women in their 40s to 60s, and by 2020 there will be nearly 60 million peri- and post-menopausal women living in the U.S. Because women’s average life expectancy is currently 81 years, we’re easily spending a third of our lives postmenopausal. That is a great opportunity for growth and change.

Holland, “a psychopharmacologist and psychiatrist” last seen at NewsBusters in 2009 discussing “the positive aspects of smoking marijuana,” brags about having written a book called “Moody Bitches,” and further explains why Mrs. Clinton is so uniquely qualified:

… I look at how women are taught from an early age that moodiness is a problem to be fixed. That is simply wrongheaded. Women’s moods are our body’s intelligent feedback system. If we learn to manage them properly, they are a great resource and a tremendous source of power. They show us when we are primed for certain challenges and opportunities.

Translated: “Since none of you guys running for president have ‘women’s moods’ and therefore their ‘tremendous source of power,’ get the heck out of the way and let her be become the nation’s 45th president already. Oh, and if you’re a post-menopausal woman and don’t vote for Hillary, you’re not only betraying the sisterhood; you’re also betraying your fellow older sisters.”

Thus, Holland plays the ageism and gender cards at the same time. Amazing — especially since Holland’s appearance at a site link Time.com would seem to indicate that this will be (or may already be) a conscious political strategy.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

April 17, 2015

Reported on Wednesday: Industrial Production Declines

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:37 am

From the Federal Reserve (bolds and paragraph breaks added by me):

Industrial production decreased 0.6 percent in March after increasing 0.1 percent in February.

For the first quarter of 2015 as a whole, industrial production declined at an annual rate of 1.0 percent, the first quarterly decrease since the second quarter of 2009. The decline last quarter resulted from a drop in oil and gas well drilling and servicing of more than 60 percent at an annual rate and from a decrease in manufacturing production of 1.2 percent.

In March, manufacturing output moved up 0.1 percent for its first monthly gain since November; however, factory output in January is now estimated to have fallen 0.6 percent, about twice the size of the previously reported decline. The index for mining decreased 0.7 percent in March.

… At 105.2 percent of its 2007 average, total industrial production in March was 2.0 percent above its level of a year earlier. …

Here’s a grim graphic capture of portions of the Fed’s main table:

IndustrialProductionMarch2015

Where, other than potential government “creativity,” is first-quarter positive GDP going to come from?

__________________________________

UPDATE: The Atlanta Fed’s 1Q15 estimate, after all of this week’s machinations, is back to 0.1 percent annualized, after increasing a tiny bit earlier in the week. Moody’s is basically unchanged at 1.0 percent to 1.2 percent.

April 16, 2015

Housing: Starts Down (Two Straight Months of Year-Over-Year Decline); Permits Up

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:07 am

Today’s report on new home construction had more bad news on housing starts, and modestly good news about permits:

BUILDING PERMITS

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,039,000. This is 5.7 percent (±2.0%) below the revised February rate of 1,102,000, but is 2.9 percent (±0.9%) above the March 2014 estimate of 1,010,000.

Single-family authorizations in March were at a rate of 636,000; this is 2.1 percent (±0.9%) above the revised February figure of 623,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 378,000 in March.

HOUSING STARTS

Privately-owned housing starts in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 926,000. This is 2.0 percent (±13.0%)* above the revised February estimate of 908,000, but is 2.5 percent (±11.5%)* below the March 2014 rate of 950,000.

Single-family housing starts in March were at a rate of 618,000; this is 4.4 percent (±12.3%)* above the revised February figure of 592,000. The March rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 287,000.

HOUSING COMPLETIONS

Privately-owned housing completions in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 823,000. This is 3.9 percent (±10.4%)* below the revised February estimate of 856,000 and is 5.8 percent (±10.2%)* below the March 2014 rate of 874,000.

The raw data for starts shows two straight years of decline in February and March:

HousingStartsNSA0105to0315

I don’t think we’re going to see much positive help from Residential Construction in the 1Q15 GDP report.

Initial Unemployment Claims (041615): 294K SA; Raw Claims Top 300K, Only 3.5% Lower Than Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:42 am

From the Department of Labor:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending April 11, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 294,000, an increase of 12,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 1,000 from 281,000 to 282,000. The 4-week moving average was 282,750, an increase of 250 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 250 from 282,250 to 282,500.

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 307,500 in the week ending April 11, an increase of 53,967 (or 21.3 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected an increase of 41,129 (or 16.2 percent) from the previous week. There were 318,793 initial claims in the comparable week in 2014.

Those tempted to dismiss the seasonally adjusted increase from last week still have to recognize that this is the first week with a raw claims number above 300,000 since late February, and that raw claims spiked significantly from the previous week. Since few government offices closed on Good Friday (April 3), I don’t think anyone can claim that there was much of a carryover to the week ended April 11 covered in today’s report.

Today is an indicator of deterioriation which is unfortunately consistent with the disappointment March employment report.

April 15, 2015

The Checklist Which, If the Establishment Press Has Its Way, Will Never Receive Any Checkmarks

Kurt Schlichter at Truth Revolt:

Questions No Mainstream Media Hack Will Ever Ask Hillary

Others may be able to ask the questions Schlichter has listed, but only if Mrs. Clinton allows anyone other than fawning fanboys and fangirls in the press to get close enough to ask her. Even then, depending on the circumstances, the likelihood that she would just walk out of an interview or walk away in silence is quite high.

There isn’t a chance that Mrs. Clinton has an acceptable answer for most of the question Schlichter has listed, which is why she is, as Barack Obama was determined to be seven years ago, objectively unfit to be President.

The Potemkin Economy

The press has hidden it for months.

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This column went up at PJ Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog Sunday evening.

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The disappointing March employment report the government released on April 3 finally forced the business press to ‘fess up to the truth, best summed up in words found at the Associated Press“For months, the U.S. economy’s strength has been flagging.”

That admission takes “too little, too late” to a whole new level.

During the past several months, business scribes and broadcasters have largely pretended that all is well, constructing and maintaining a Potemkin-like facade of a prosperous economy, even as the vast majority of hard-number economic indicators turned in performances ranging from middling to awful. To prop their false image up, they concentrated most of the commerce-related news they delivered to low-information voters and low-awareness news consumers on the job market, the economy’s one supposedly strong area, and positive consumer and corporate sentiment surveys.

After the strong economic growth seen during the second and third quarters of last year, the AP, aka the Administration’s Press, has been especially odious in insisting that the economy is still really “robust,” while coming just inches short of declaring that President Barack Obama’s economic critics should be cowering in the corner in shame. Until Friday, the shouting only got louder as the underlying data deteriorated further.

On February 20, the wire service’s Jim Kuhnhenn admired how Obama was “taunting Republicans” over the economy. Devoid of any sense of historical irony, Kuhnhenn described an “economic recovery showing signs of taking hold” — over 5-1/2 years after the recession officially ended.

When Kuhnhenn wrote his love letter, we had already seen:

  • Seasonally adjusted annualized fourth-quarter growth of 2.6 percent, barely half that reported in the previous quarter. That figure was revised down to a mediocre 2.2 percent just a week later. Given the next several items which follow, that revised figure still seems high.
  • Steep November and December declines in durable goods orders totaling over 5 percent.
  • Sharp consecutive drops in December and January retail sales.
  • A microscopic two-month advance of less than 0.2 percent in November and December construction spending.
  • December slippages in both real and current-dollar personal consumption expenditures.

Not to be outdone, five weeks later, the AP’s Martin Crutsinger composed a veritable hosanna of dishonest praise directed at Dear Leader’s economy, which he described as “sluggish,” but “one of the most durable since World War II.”

Crutsinger removed all doubt over whether he was bearing false witness when he wrote the following:

The current expansion will mark its sixth anniversary in June, meaning it will have already lasted 14 months longer than the average expansion since the end of World War II.

In referring to “months,” Crutsinger pretended that the economy has continuously expanded since the recession’s end. It hasn’t:

GDPquarterlies1Q09to4Q14

The previous expansions to which the AP writer referred were legitimate, because they were uninterrupted. By contrast, as seen above, the economy has contracted twice since the recession’s end. Its current winning streak is only three quarters. Therefore, despite what Crutsinger wrote, there will be no six-year anniversary to “mark” in June — and he has once again demonstrated why the National Review’s Kevin Williamson was correct in calling him the nation’s “Worst Economics Writer” two years ago.

Until that March employment report, the economy had indeed added an impressive-sounding seasonally adjusted 200,000 or more payroll jobs per month for 12 months. Though it’s a nice round number and the best such streak in 15 years, it’s still not particularly strong in historical context. More importantly, it remains far from what’s required to get discouraged and disengaged Americans on the sidelines who want to work back to work, or searching for more financially rewarding work.

As seen below, the post-recession Reagan economy of the 1980s, during which the Gipper did all of the things which Obama and his Keynesian cadre insist “don’t work,” after adjusting for the size of the workforce, more than doubled the job-creating performance seen during the Obama post-recession era:

ReaganVsObamaGraphicsThru69mos

By the time Crutsinger produced his false, fawning crud, there had been further weakening in durable goods orders and shipments, all factory orders and shipmentsconstruction spending, and retail sales. All of this has caused economists to write down their estimates of first-quarter growth to as low as the annualized 0.1 percent seen at the Atlanta Branch of the Federal Reserve as of late last week. Even the incurable optimists at Moody’s were only expecting 1.1 percent on April 3.

The March employment news was so bad that the Potemkin curtain had to be lifted. Instead of the 250,000 payroll jobs “experts” predicted — one particularly well-known analyst actually thought we would see almost 300,000, and that it would mark the beginning of several “even faster gains … in the spring”  — the government’s jobs report showed only 126,000 payroll jobs added in March accompanied by 69,000 in combined reductions to January and February. Far more damning, despite the nominally low unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, the job market’s malaise indicators got worse. The civilian workforce actually shrunk, and the labor force participation rate sank back to a 37-year low.

The cumulative effect of monthly declines have brought some year-over-year comparisons into negative territory, particularly in durable goods and total factory orders. Logically, this would seem to dictate that the producing side of the economy has given up all of the gains seen last spring and summer and reverted back to where it was last winter — or worse.

If that’s really true, first-quarter GDP, absent a strong surge in consumer spending which no one expects, seems destined to come in with a minus sign.

The only thing which seems more certain is that Marty Crutsinger and the other propagandists at the Associated Press will continue to pretend that we’re in the midst of a six-year expansion.

April 14, 2015

Hillary’s Original Bio Indicated That She ‘Fought (For) Children and Families’ — For Over 80 Years!

Hillary Clinton’s campaign rollout has been the gaffe machine that keeps on giving. One gaffe in particular was so obvious that it masked an even more ludicrous one.

On Sunday, several people, including yours truly, the Twitter curators at Twitchy, David Knowles at Bloomberg, but almost no one else in the establishment press, noticed that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign announcement press release told America that “she’s fought children and their families all her career.” That gaffe was so glaring that a far worse one which would have led readers to believe that she has fought for them even longer than she has been alive has, from what I can tell, been completely ignored.

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Bloomberg, AP Sharply Differ in Evaluating Ominous March Retail Sales Report

Today, the Census Bureau reported that retail sales in March increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent. While that was the first such positive figure in four months, it was less than the 1.1 percent increase analysts expected, and did little to calm fears that the economy contracted during the first quarter of 2015.

An unbylined report at Bloomberg News and a dispatch from Josh Boak at the Associated Press had sharply differing takes on what the result meant. Longtime readers probably won’t have a difficult time guessing who had the bigger set of blinders on.

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CNN, While Showing a ‘Vintage’ Car: ‘See Cuba Before American Investors Ruin It’

Journalists’ and leftists’ (but I repeat myself) misguided love for Cuba goes back decades. Y’know, free healthcare (cough), yada-yada.

Now that President Obama is unilaterally changing the relationship between the two nations, and as usual getting nothing in return, you’d think that they’d be happy. Heck no. It started several months ago when Fox News’s Shepard Smith fretted about how a thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations might “ruin the place,” and has been echoed in many quarters since then. Early today, CNN International went over the top, essentially communicating in one picture their concern that the changed situation will “ruin” what has already been ruined:

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In Low-Visibility Report, AP’s Crutsinger Masks Spike in Govt. Spending

Late Monday afternoon, the Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger produced a typically dodgy dispatch on the government’s Monthly Treasury Statement. The Treasury Department released the March version of that report covering the first six months of the current fiscal year early Monday afternoon.

The odd thing is, while it has been published elsewhere at the web sites of certain of its subscribers, a search on “budget deficit” (not in quotes) at the wire service’s national site indicates that it’s not present there at all. The national site’s only mention of March’s deficit is in the sixth of 13 listings at a “Business Highlights” summary. It reads as follows (bolds are mine throughout this post):

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April 13, 2015

Bill Daley: ‘Uneven’ Recovery Has Only Benefited ‘A Small Slice’

Well, this is awkward.

Undermining most of what the business press has done to try to portray the post-recession U.S. economy as performing adequately under President Barack Obama, Bill Daley, Obama’s former chief of staff, told CNBC today that Hillary Clinton “can’t run as the third term of Barack Obama economically,” because the recovery has been “uneven” and has only benefited “a small slice” of U.S. households.

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NY Times Editorial Board Melts Down in Deceptive Rant Over GOP’s ‘Racist’ ‘Insurrection’

On Saturday evening (published in print on Sunday), the editorial board at the New York Times had an epic meltdown over the Republican Party’s allegedly shabby treatment of President Barack Obama.

Although its title claimed that the GOP had entered “A New Phase in Anti-Obama Attacks,” nothing truly new seemed to prompt this rant. Its primary focus was the letter 47 GOP Senators led by Tom Cotton of Arkansas sent to Iran’s leaders. But that was a month ago, on March 9. The Times’s take on that letter was so embarrassing that it tried to keep curious readers from actually seeing it, forcing them to click through to two other items before deigning to expose them to its almost bland but legally and constitutionally accurate text.

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Why Everyone, But Especially Ohioans, Should Read an Important Post at Zero Hedge

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:00 am

Link: “Why This Retail Earnings Season Is Different”

The reason everyone should read: It’s about where retail seems to be headed. It’s not pretty.

The special reason why Ohioans should read: The author concentrates on conditions in Columbus. Yours truly has noted on several occasions that Metro Columbus has “somehow” managed to prosper fabulously compared to the rest of the state since John Kasich became the Buckeye State’s governor (and yes, that trend has continued).

If Columbus is as bad as portrayed, or even half as bad as portrayed, imagine the condition the rest of the state’s — and most of the rest of the nation’s — retail sector finds itself.

The money quote:

To paraphrase one of retailing’s most vociferous watchdogs Howard Davidowitz when explaining the current state of retailing and malls: “What’s going on is the customers don’t have the f***ing money. That’s it. This isn’t rocket science.”

He’s absolutely dead on. And, it would appear now with QE (as of this writing) still in the tail lights, along with the possibility (however so slight) that interest rates may rise, so too are the retailers themselves even more “empty pocketed” than their ailing consumers.

Perhaps consumers can yet save the day. But to do so, it would appear that all but the wealthy will have to go deeper into debt, only deferring the inevitable reckoning and making it worse when it strikes.

Let the Gaffes Begin: Hillary’s Original Bio Said She ‘Fought Children and Families’

With months (really years) to prepare, the allegedly well-oiled Hillary Clinton for President machine still managed to produce a howler of a mistake in her campaign bio’s debut. Since corrected, it originally stated that “she’s fought children and families all her career.”

This and other obvious gaffes are likely destined to go unreported by the Hillary-worshipping establishment press, while the slighest of real or imagined mistakes — up to and including supposedly taking an untimely drink of water — will become media obsessions for the next 19 months.

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