Friday, June 1, 2012

Quick Hits - May 31 & June 1, 2012

Economic news dominates today's dual edition of QH - and for President Barack Obama, the news is so bad that his liberal cheerleaders are touting his 'likability' in an effort to deflect from the dismal May jobs report.

While a consensus of economists [Who?  They need to find a new group of economists.  Ed] were predicting 150,000 to 160,000 new jobs would be created during the month of May, the actual results were well below this at 69,000 new jobs were created.  This was the lowest number of jobs created in a month since May 2011.  In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also released revised numbers for March and April - with both of these getting a reduction in their (at the time) highly disappointing job numbers.

As this is being written, the DJIA is down 2%, about 249 points, rebounding slightly from the days low.  BLS also has issued the May 'official' unemployment rate - showing that their rate has increased from 8.1% to 8.1%.  Oh, and the economic news from the Eurozone offers little encouragement.

With this, it's interesting to see how many elements are reporting this grim economic news.

The Washington Post, in the tank for the President, thinks that the increase in the official unemployment rate is minor....'Jobless rate inched up to 8.2%'

The Hill, also very supportive of the President, is taking a more objective look at these numbers and what they mean, calling the report a 'Bleak labor report...'.  They also note the missed expectations..'The report underperformed expectations the economy would add as many as 165,000 jobs...'

The Wall Street Journal notes simply - 'U.S. job gains decelerated sharply last month and the unemployment rate climbed, adding to concerns about a global slowdown.'

In England, the Telegraph has this in their 'Debt Crisis Live' update on their Finance page....
‘Markets tumble as dismal US jobs growth sparks new economy fears – Weak US job growth adding to worries about the health of global economy after a slump in UK and Eurozone manufacturing sectors…
The Washington Times takes the WaPo 'inched' and expands it just a little - The nation’s unemployment rate edged up from 8.1 percent to 8.2 percent last month as businesses from factories to office parks pulled back on hiring, the Labor Department reported Friday morning.

While the conservative New York Post uses a different adjective to describe the change from 8.1% to 8.2% as they note 'Unemployment jumps to 8.2% as only 69K jobs added...'

CNBC had this report on the Labor Department numbers....
The American jobs engine hit stall speed in May, with the economy adding just 69,000 new jobs while the unemployment rate climbed to 8.2 percent.

As another summertime swoon looms, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job creation missed economist estimates for 158,000 new positions, and said labor force participation remains near 30-year lows though incrementally better than last month.

The unemployment rate that counts discouraged workers rose as well, swelling to 14.8 percent.

The New York Times gives their readers this....
The United States economy gained a net 69,000 jobs in May, the Labor Department said Friday, a dismal showing that reflected mounting evidence of a global slowdown. The unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent from 8.1 in April, largely because more people began looking for work.

The payroll growth, which came in at less than half what analysts had expected and was the lowest number of net jobs created in a year, was potentially devastating for President Obama as he faces re-election. It also put increased pressure on the Federal Reserve to expand its stimulus campaign.

150,000 - 165,000 expected under the 'consenus' - and we got 69,000, a miss by nearly half, and that is 'potentially devastating'?!! Then the commentary about putting increased pressure on the Federal Reserve to expand its stimulus campaign? Increased pressure for another stimulus campaign (like a new round of QE)? Where does this come from. The only reference in the article, other than the author's wish, comes from a line referencing speaking to several members of the Fed policy making committee who said they were not inclined to change current Fed policy - and then with the editorial comment that the Fed made the current policy contingent of 'continued growth'. Did Paul Krugman, who is advocating for another, bigger, Porkulus program to 'fix' the economy, write this part?

The Heritage Foundation puts this news into perspective....
For those hoping for good economic news out of Washington today, they're in for a terrible disappointment. According to the latest jobs report from the Department of Labor, the economy created only 69,000 jobs in May -- well below expectations -- while the unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent, and job numbers from March and April were revised significantly downward. Meanwhile, Taxmageddon is threatening the U.S. economy and holding back growth, but strangely, President Barack Obama isn't doing anything about it.
Hmm, just what is our Dear Leader doing?

President Barack Obama is heading out of town today, as his schedule has him attending 6 campaign fundraisers in Chicago and Minneapolis. (In the neighborhood, but not stopping by to support his union buds in Madison, Wisconsin? Doesn't bode well for Wisconsin or the union / democrat recall election.)

So what is the 'official' response from the White House? BLAME GEORGE W. BUSH! (You expected something else?)
There is much more work that remains to be done to repair the damage caused by the financial crisis and deep recession that began at the end of 2007. Just like last year at this time, our economy is facing serious headwinds, including the crisis in Europe and a spike in gas prices that hit American families’ finances over the past months. It is critical that we continue the President’s economic policies that are helping us dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession...

...As the Administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report and it is helpful to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.

Hmm, 'don't read too much into one job report...

The problem is that it is not 'one' job report. It's no longer about how deep or severe the 2008-9 recession was. Despite the spin by the Obama Administration, it's comparable in terms of effect of the economic conditions in effect in 1980 - and in a number of ways better since we don't have nearly 20% prime rates and 20% mortgage rates. President Obama ran to undo the economic policies of George W. use the progressive playbook and Keynesian economics to stimulate the economy into a robust economy.

He borrowed nearly $850 billion to 'stimulate' the economy, promising not only an unemployment rate that would not exceed 8%, but we would be experiencing 6% annual GDP growth and 6% unemployment in 2012. Bottom line is that not only has his policies and actions not stimulated the economy and fueled a robust recovery - but his policies have resulted in the most pathetic recovery we've experienced since World War 2. And we're saddled with over $5 trillion in new debt and on the path to add more debt in his four years in office than Presidents 1 through 42 added combined.

' the context of other data....'

One of the aspects of the reporting on this grim economic news is the non-commentary about the 8.1% to 8.2% unemployment is not the case - that the Administration has cooked the books by reducing labor participation rate to a point where its at the lowest level in 30 years - and having now a real unemployment rate of over 11.1% if we used a comparable labor participation rate to what was in place in January 2009.  

Today, there are 766,000 more women unemployed today than when Obama took office...

This economic report, at a time when the President's reelection campaign is really struggling, will not bode well for a second term in office. 

A symbol of failure?

More grim economic news....
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose for the fourth straight week while first-quarter growth was revised lower, the latest signs that the economy is losing momentum.

A separate report showed private businesses hired at a very modest pace this month, further indication that overall
employment growth will be tepid when the government releases its broadest reading of the labor market on Friday.

"While the recovery has remained largely on track, it continues to struggle to generate sufficient positive momentum to make any meaningful progress in absorbing the significant amount of slack," said Millan Mulraine, an analyst with TD Securities USA.

Initial jobless claims rose by 10,000 to seasonally adjusted 383,000 in the week ended May 26, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the biggest jump in claims since the first week of April and above expectations of economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires for 370,000 new claims.
White House Press Flack, Jay Carney, has been forced to respond to his, and the Administration's blatant use of false talking points to try to counter their critics.....

Karl Rove, writing his weekly column in the Wall Street Journal, makes his case as to why 2012's election is not going to be like 2004 for the incumbent....

The story line goes like this: President George W. Bush had roughly the same numbers at this point in 2004 that Mr. Obama has today. Mr. Bush went on to win a narrow victory by building a massive ground game that focused on the GOP's base and by relentlessly attacking his opponent, Sen. John Kerry. Mr. Obama is executing the same strategy. What worked for Mr. Bush, the theory goes, will work for Mr. Obama.

The only problem is the theory is based on a false premise.

True, there are some similarities between 2004 and 2012. Mr. Obama's current job approval and personal favorability ratings are roughly the same as Mr. Bush's in 2004. So are the head-to-head matchups: In mid-May 2004, Mr. Bush trailed Mr. Kerry in Gallup, 46%-48%, while in the most recent Gallup tracking Mr. Obama is tied with Mr. Romney, 46%-46%.

But there are crucial differences between the two elections. It is a myth that 2004 was all about maximizing Republican turnout. The Bush campaign also successfully sought to win as many independents as possible and to poach elements of the Democratic coalition. In the end, Mr. Bush received 44% of the Hispanic vote, carried the largest share (24%) of the Jewish vote for any Republican since 1988, nearly erased the gender gap with 48% of the women's vote, and was supported by 11% of black voters, up from 8% in 2000.

If Mr. Obama makes this election mostly about energizing the Democratic base—as he clearly intends to—he will further alienate swing voters who elected him in 2008 and then turned on his policies with a vengeance in 2010.

Among the greatest political assets any president has is the public's perception of him as a leader. If voters see an incumbent president as strong and effective, many will vote for him even if they don't fully agree with him on some important issues.

But this president is perceived by many, even some in his own party, as indecisive, too willing to outsource the writing of key legislation to Congress, too eager to lead from behind, too political, too calculating, and too ready to discard frequently voiced promises. Most importantly, he appears hostage to events rather than in control of them.

Playing into the impression of Mr. Obama as an unusually weak chief executive is his practice of blaming the nation's challenges on everything from his predecessor to a tsunami in Japan to ATMs to the Arab Spring to airport check-in kiosks to Fox News to Super PACs to the Supreme Court. The blame game can work for maybe a year; after that, it is (rightly) seen as weak and whiny.

A president is strongest when he takes more responsibility and less credit. Too frequently, Mr. Obama does the opposite. The self-portrait the president has painted is of a weak liberal, buffeted by events. That will make this election more like 1980—when Ronald Reagan defeated an ineffectual Jimmy Carter—than 2004.

I talk a lot about the Wisconsin recall election that is taking place on the 5th. This is one that brings into shape not only a clear and articulate fiscal and administration policy to counter that promoted by the progressives, but one that has a real history of results over the last year - a year where the history of results of progressive policies in other states is as dismal as the President's national results.

The numbers in Wisconsin do not look good for the Democrats or their union base...and the fact that this is the case is starting to tick off a number of union leaders....
The leader of one of the country’s most politically powerful unions said Thursday that national Democrats could have done more in the Wisconsin recall race.

Gerry McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said more could and should have been done in the effort to remove Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) from office by the national party. Recalling Walker is of huge importance to labor, who became a conservative hero last year after facing off with unions over public workers’ collective bargaining rights.

Could have? The vote hasn't taken place yet...

Why is this a big deal? It cuts to the heart of the power of the unions.
But now, thanks to Governor Walker's reforms, the rights of Wisconsin public employees are protected. They are no longer forced into unions, forced to pay dues, forced to fund political causes they disagree with, and the benefits of this liberation are now paying off:

Public-employee unions in Wisconsin have experienced a dramatic drop in membership -- by more than half for the second-biggest union -- since a law championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker sharply curtailed their ability to bargain over wages and working conditions.

That could mean the sharp losses that some Wisconsin public-worker unions have experienced is a harbinger of similar unions' future nationwide, union leaders fear. Failure to oust Mr. Walker and overturn the Wisconsin law "spells doom," said Bryan Kennedy, the American Federation of Teachers' Wisconsin president.
Wisconsin membership in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees-the state's second-largest public-sector union after the National Education Association, which represents teachers-fell to 28,745 in February from 62,818 in March 2011, according to a person who has viewed Afscme's figures. A spokesman for Afscme declined to comment.
Here's the rub:

Much of that decline came from Afscme Council 24, which represents Wisconsin state workers, whose membership plunged by two-thirds to 7,100 from 22,300 last year.

In other words, that's how many people Walker's reforms liberated to make their own choices.

The left's year-long freak out in Wisconsin has NOTHING to do with workers' rights -- what about the right NOT to join a union? -- the freak-out was about the loss of an immoral law that forced public employees to join public unions and the subsequent loss of those dues that turn into a gajillion dollars for Democrat campaign contributions and anti-Republican ads.

What happens if we choose to do differently, as the conservatives contend, on another major Obama policy initiative? Rather than reform healthcare by having the federal government take it over and overly regulate / control it - how about deregulating the marketplace to increase competition - like MAINE did....

Then the 2010 electoral wave carried in Republican Governor Paul LePage and a GOP legislature, and they took modest steps to deregulate the insurance market. Insurers are now allowed to sell policies for premiums that range from 3 to 1 on the basis of age, rather than the prior 1.5 to 1, and to offer incentives or discounts for consumers to choose high-value providers.

The state also created a reinsurance fund that taxes all health plans by $4 a month. If someone ends up requiring extremely expensive care, the fund picks up some of the costs, which means insurers can better manage their future liabilities and pass the savings on to individuals.

The returns are now rolling in for the new coverage that can be offered starting on July 1, and premiums are falling by as much as 69% for Maine's dominant insurer, Anthem.

According to the Maine Bureau of Insurance, a married couple age 40 to 44 with one child will pay $1,919 a month for a policy with a $2,250 deductible in 2013 if they choose to re-up their current policy. If the same family switches to the new health plan, or buys the plan for the first time, their premium will fall to $920, a 52% decrease. A couple over 60 could buy the same policy for $1,290, down from $2,466 under the old system. Or a young adult 25 to 29 could buy a high $10,000 deductible plan for catastrophic expenses for $232, previously $665.

The ceremony to unveil the formal portraits of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush was held at the White House this week. It was a good ceremony with a lot of graciousness and class from both the former President and First Lady, and the current President and First Lady. But this part hit me a little strange. Was it just awkward phrasing by Barack Obama, or couldn't he not resist an opportunity to remind his supporters that the economic challenges today, after 40 months in office, remain with the previous President?

I did enjoy (and miss) the relaxed, funny, and self-depreciating comments of President Bush (43). He seems a person comfortable with what he has done / achieved - and a big difference from the person in the WH today. Just like the differences between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. That said - Obama did have a good line in his quip about being left 'a good TV sports package'. At that point, he was almost likable.

The longtime Muslim Brotherhood leader who is favored to become Egypt’s next president has long cast doubt on al Qaeda’s involvement in the Sept. 11 terror attack and even has called for a “scientific conference” to determine the real culprits.

Less than a week after blaming ‘terrorists’ for the massacre in Houla that killed 108 – mainly women and children, the Syrian regime has resumed their artillery bombardment on the town.

Spaniards alarmed by the dire state of their banks are squirreling money abroad at the fastest rate since records began, figures showed on Thursday, and the credit ratings of eight regions were cut.

Spain is the next country in the firing line of the euro zone's debt crisis, with spendthrift regions and shaky banks threatening to blow a hole in state finances and pushing funding costs towards levels that signal the need for a bailout.

Ireland held a referendum yesterday on the new European Union treaty (the Merkozy treaty of the spring) that would expand EU bureaucratic and fiscal control policies for EU members. 60% of Irish voters approved of the treaty - just as Ireland is looking at the possibility of needing a bailout from the EU as they remain challenged economically. What's most interesting about this treaty is that the treaty may be completely rewritten in the near future as French President Francois Hollande has a fundamental dislike for this treaty and the efforts to push 'austerity'.

This Day in History


1859 - The famous clock known as Big Ben, located at the top of the 320ft high St. Stephens Tower, rings out over the British Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London for the first time.

1889 - The South Fork Dam collapses outside of Johnstown, PA unleashing a flood that kills more than 2,200 people.

1916 - The British Home Fleet and the German Fleet meet off the coast of Denmark in the Battle of Jutland.  While the British took the heavier losses, 14 ships to 11, and in men, 6,784 to 3,058, the German High Seas Fleet is forced back to their bases - never to make another major effort to challenge British sea power in the North Sea in World War 1.

1941 - The Greek island of Crete falls to the German Army.

1962 - One of the chief architects of Hitler's 'Final Solution', Adolf Eichmann, is hung in Israel after being convicted of crimes against humanity.  Israeli agents captured Eichmann hiding in Argentina in 1960.

2005 - W. Mark Felt is revealed to be 'Deep Throat' - the secret source for Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward on the Watergate story.  Felt, an Assistant Director of the FBI at the time of Director J. Edgar Hoover's death in 1972, was angered at President Nixon for not appointing him to replace Hoover.


1864 - The Battle of Cold Harbor begins - at a critical crossroads less than 12 miles from Richmond, the Confederates launch an attack to retake the crossroads.  Both sides reinforced the area, with the Confederates taking defensive positions and entrenching their army in front of Grant....

1942 - A Warsaw underground newspaper, the Liberty Brigade, makes public the news of the gassing of tens of thousands of Jews at Chelmno,  a Nazi death camp in Poland.  This is the first public report of the Nazi extermination efforts.

1943 - German fighter aircraft shoot down a civilian airliner in route from Lisbon, Portugal to London, England.  Among those killed, actor Leslie Howard, known for his role in the classic film, Gone with the Wind.  There is evidence to indicate that Howard was specifically targeted for his efforts on behalf of British Intelligence.

1967 - The Beatles release their album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' - their 8th studio album and considered one of the greatest albums of all time.  It is ranked #1 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the Greatest Albums of all time.  (The Beatles have 5 of the top 15).

1968 - Helen Keller dies

1980 - CNN launches

2009 - General Motors files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the 4th largest in US history, and starts the process to remake itself as a new General Motors on July 10, 2009 after a large infusion of funds from the US government.

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