Reason delves into it with some humor and expected results.
Ezra Klein finds an interesting study that gauges what factors contribute to men and women falling out of middle class society:
The big takeaway: Divorce and marriage matter, a lot. Education, or lack thereof, is pretty important, too. The picture gets blurrier with drug use: Men who use heroin are more likely to fall out of the middle class, but the effect is statistically insignificant for women. And crack use doesn’t make much of a difference for either gender.
Jimmy Hoffa, the teamsters union leader, warmed up a Detroit crowd before Barack Obama took the stage by saying the following:
“We got to keep an eye on the battle that we face: The war on workers. And you see it everywhere, it is the Tea Party. And you know, there is only one way to beat and win that war. The one thing about working people is we like a good fight. And you know what? They’ve got a war, they got a war with us and there’s only going to be one winner. It’s going to be the workers of Michigan, and America. We’re going to win that war,” Hoffa told thousands of workers gathered for the annual event organized by the Detroit Labor Council.
“President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march…Everybody here’s got a vote…Let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong,” he concluded.
The response to Hoffa intrigues me. The Tea Party, of all people, condemned his words, saying they were “inappropriate and uncivil rhetoric,” and that they have “no place in the public forum.” This is the same Tea Party that since it’s inception has been spitting vitriolic bile and is known for it’s protesting signs that depict Obama as either a Nazi or a slave master. To this day, I have not seen one Tea Party leader call for condemning their own “inappropriate and uncivil rhetoric” that truly “has no place in the public forum.”
Now, to be fair, Obama has called for a transformation in our political discourse so it would only be fair for him to call out Hoffa for his comments. He has pointed out the rhetoric of Congressional Republicans. Can he do the same for his own backers?
He released his economic plan last week. Take a look at it and the feedback on it in comparison to the 2012 GOP field.
Ezra Klein digs into a few studies that exposes the health and educational pains inflicted on pupils and families as a result of unemployment:
Last year, Mike Konczal flagged a 2009 study by Ann Huff Stevens and Jessamyn Schaller of UC-Davis that examined the relationship between parental job loss and children’s academic achievement, drawing on data about job loss and grade retention from 1996, 2001 and 2004 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation:
We find that a parental job loss increases the probability of children’s grade retention by 0.8 percentage points, or around 15 percent. After conditioning on child fixed effects, there is no evidence of significantly increased grade retention prior to the job loss, suggesting a causal link between the parental employment shock and children’s academic difficulties. These effects are concentrated among children whose parents have a high school education or less.
In the end, the researchers concluded, “one percentage point higher unemployment rate leads to a 0.3 percentage point increase in the probability that a child repeats a grade.” If this is true, Konczal points out, the cumulative impact of unemployment is staggering. “There are roughly 55 million students in K-12 in the country right now. If unemployment is 1% higher that means, roughly, 165,000 additional years of schooling will be repeated,” he writes.
But just as children are at higher risk of underachieving, education budgets are being slashed across the country as the economy remains anemic and the politics of austerity have taken hold. It’s a continuous pile-up that could have lasting damage that goes well beyond sheer employment numbers.
About 2.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force in August, up from 2.4 million a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.
This paragraph stood out to me because of the lack of nuance in the unemployment discussion. It is made out by some or not clarified by many that everyone who is unemployed is magically the same as the next, all being lazy bums who sit around and intentionally collect government dole. Is it ironic that a claim of laziness made against a whole group is in fact intellectually laziness?
Ezra Klein et al add some commentary to the above chart:
Last week, the Congressional Budget Office put out its revised GDP forecasts and predicted that the economy would expand at a healthy clip between 2013 and 2016, about 3.6 percent per year. That’s curiously upbeat, and even if the U.S. economy gallops along at that pace, we’ll only reach full employment by 2017—right in time for Rick Perry’s second inaugural.
And what happens if we grow at a slightly more sluggish rate, which is hardly implausible? Dave Altig, senior vice president and research director at the Atlanta Fed, has designed a chart of different growth scenarios, looking at how long it will take real GDP (what the economy is actually producing) to catch up to potential GDP (what the economycould be producing, given existing resources) under each.
The current economy is as bad as expected and shouldn’t be expected to rebound (as noted) for almost half a decade.
A very interesting story:
Seth Masket effectively exposed the logical fallacy of French’s argument, but I want to point out the harmful nature of the argument itself.
I worked hard and got a good education, yet I am poor. I have no money and haven’t worked in years, and if it weren’t for my parents letting me stay with them I would be homeless. The notion that poor people are just lazy isn’t new. People have been asserting that Randian trope for years. French adds a claim that religious attendance (if this were true, Nigeria should be an economic superpower) and moral depravity are also to blame.
The problem with this argument is that I believed it.
It may seem obvious to others that someone who completed an undergraduate double major in three years and graduated from a top ten law school can’t really be described as “lazy” but it took *years* of therapy before I could even contemplate the idea that it wasn’t my fault, I am not lazy or a bad person, but that I am suffering from depression. It is still sometimes difficult for me to accept that this isn’t my fault, but French seems to have no problem assigning that blame.
I wonder how this affects other people who are living in poverty. It seems like if you tell people that they are poor because they are lazy and immoral, the message that you’re sending is that there is no hope. Unless you believe that the poor have just decided that they would prefer to be lazy and depraved and they can wake up one day and simply choose to become virtuous hardworking citizens.
I started receiving food assistance last December after hearing about the program from a neighbor. My parents would be struggling financially even if they weren’t paying for my therapy and medication, so I figured it would help a lot if they didn’t have to feed me as well. I get $200 a month which can only be used to buy unprepared food. A few days after I started receiving this I happened to hear my state’s new House Speaker, Jase Bolger, talking about plans to limit the program I had just joined. He made it clear that he was doing this to *help* people on assistance:
“Michigan should help its citizens break the cycle of dependency, not create one for them,” Bolger said.
Really? $200 a month for food is going to create a cycle of dependency? People would go out and get a job but they just don’t want to give up that free six and a half dollars a day of food? The minimum wage in Michigan is $7.40/hr, and you think people are not working because you’re giving them less than that a day in food assistance? If there really are people with such an epic level of laziness I would suggest that the threat of starvation will not magically turn them into hardworking, moral citizens.
I like capitalism. I believe it is very effective and I value the freedom that it brings. But free markets are not bags of pixie dust that can be sprinkled on all of societies problems, and all of the failures of the market cannot be blamed on the moral failings of the less fortunate.
H/T: The Dish
Bloomberg describes job creation options, the intangible benefits of possessing a job, and the above chart that graphs the steep rise in those unemployed for longer than six months. The piece is worth a full read:
Long-term joblessness is reaching epic proportions. As of July, about 6.2 million job-seekers, or 4 percent of the U.S. labor force, had been out of work for more than six months — close to the highest level in more than six decades (see chart).
The skills of the long-term unemployed are atrophying and their motivation waning, making them increasingly likely to end up as wards of the state, collecting various forms of government assistance.
The intangible benefits of employment can also have a quantifiable value: Economists David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald, for example, have estimated that the increased happiness associated with having a job is worth about an extra $60,000 a year to the individual.
For me to find a job near full time in terms of hours from a non-profit all within a nation in a recession baffles me. In the end, I am very thankful. I have been employed and felt unemployed – that feeling of hopelessness that things will not change. A job really does bring a degree of purpose and connection to others.
You could change the Tea Party and the Mad Hatter to Barack Obama and it would send an almost identical message.
“Drawing upon modern Catholic social thought and the work of Thomas Aquinas’ political thinking, the goal of law and political authority is to serve, enhance, and protect the common good of society … It is perhaps ironic – or tragic – that the common good is the one element that seems to be missing from the current national debate. This seems to be due to the fact that the ideology that holds the most momentum right now in our political system – and hence that controls the terms of our debate – is the far-right ideology represented most vocally by the tea-party movement (but engaged by others as well).
This ideology, rather than upholding the common good as the end and goal of government and law, sees government as the very source of the problem. Therefore, those who propound this ideology are seizing upon this moment of debate over government spending, taxation and revenue creation, and the debt ceiling as an opportunity to starve government at its source by cutting off its supply of money. Some of the more extreme elements seem entirely willing to let the whole system come to a crashing halt rather than think about long-term solutions that seek to protect the common good of all involved.” -Thomas Bushlack on common good and if Jesus would raise the debt ceiling.
“For those who insist that the center is always the place to be, I have an important piece of information: We already have a centrist president. Indeed, Bruce Bartlett, who served as a policy analyst in the Reagan administration, argues that Mr. Obama is in practice a moderate conservative. Mr. Bartlett has a point.
The president, as we’ve seen, was willing, even eager, to strike a budget deal that strongly favored conservative priorities. His health reform was very similar to the reform Mitt Romney installed in Massachusetts. Romneycare, in turn, closely followed the outlines of a plan originally proposed by the right-wing Heritage Foundation. And returning tax rates on high-income Americans to their level during the Roaring Nineties is hardly a socialist proposal.
True, Republicans insist that Mr. Obama is a leftist seeking a government takeover of the economy, but they would, wouldn’t they? The facts, should anyone choose to report them, say otherwise.” -Paul Krugman
As Wolfers suggests, these numbers solve the mystery in the labor market. This isn’t about confidence or uncertainty or regulations or any of the other bankshot explanations we’ve been using to explain why unemployment seems stuck even as the economy rebounds. The economy isn’t rebounding. Demand isn’t returning. And without demand, there can’t be jobs.
Emphasis from here on out is from me. In terms of demand, is it all that bad for a country to scale back it’s purchases, it’s expenditures, and possibly live more within their means? Banks, for one, are not giving out loans as easily. I found this out over the past week. With a proposed deal I negotiated with Wells Fargo, I would of been facing a 40% mortgage payment to income ratio. The banks today want that ratio to be between 20% and 30%. Five years ago, I could have easily gotten a loan with a 40% ratio. I speak on this based on friends and family who have in fact received loans before the Great Recession with roughly 40% ratios. Banks are being more careful, people are not selling because the housing bubble has burst, and those willing to make moves have to cross their t’s and dot their i’s to prove that they truly will make x in a given year, not just think or hope they will.
Meanwhile, we’re in an economic crisis in which the main problem is too little spending.
Cutting spending and budgets in a recession does hurt an economy but, again, too little spending is not inherently bad. If anything, this Great Recession has helped us feel the purchases we make (credit cards numb the feeling of purchases. We do not see the actual money come out of our wallets or purses but only flash a piece of plastic. We delay this feeling from hitting us until later on).
I stand by less spending and lower demand as good signs for simplicity and understanding our behaviors. Whether these signals are actually making cognitive connections with fellow Americans, I cannot say for sure.
One final note: yes, over 9% unemployment nationwide (with that 2-3x the case for minorities – cry me a river white America) is bad. I will not deny that reality.
“I didn’t create a single job,” said the former Governor of New Mexico.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Johnson said in a statement. “We are proud of this distinction. We had a 11.6 percent job growth that occurred during our two terms in office. But the headlines that accompanied that report – referring to governors, including me, as ‘job creators’ – were just wrong.”
“The fact is, I can unequivocally say that I did not create a single job while I was governor,” Johnson added. Instead, “we kept government in check, the budget balanced, and the path to growth clear of unnecessary regulatory obstacles.”
“My priority was to get government out of the way, keep it out of the way, and allow hard-working New Mexicans, entrepreneurs and businesses to fulfill their potential,” he said. “That’s how government can encourage job growth, and that’s what government needs to do today.”
-Gary Johnson in quite candid and humble terms.
Some of the GOP candidates running in 2012 have executive experience (Johnson, Pawlenty, Huntsman). Conor Friedersdorf gives a good case for not trusting the job creating records these former exec’s had in their given state (New Mexico, Minnesota, and Utah, respectively). Conor even hones in on Gary Johnson, a candidate he most likely would endorse:
Every state has its confounding variables. And it’s unlikely that journalists or voters are going to accurately assign credit or blame for them, especially since a useful comparison requires attributing the appropriate credit to everyone. Plus there’s a huge time horizon problem. What if the best policy doesn’t produce jobs immediately, but does produce them eventually, and in much greater numbers than a shorter term fix? It isn’t as if it’s uncommon for a politician to inherit the consequences of a predecessor’s decision, or to saddle a successor with a problem that is more dire than it seemed when he left office.
Another problem with the jobs metric: success as a governor depends largely upon legislation signed or vetoed during one’s tenure. What if a governor has an intransigent legislature through no fault of his own? What if he owes his tremendous success to personal relationships in the state that he can’t rely on in Washington, D.C.? What if, like Gary Johnson, he vetoes bills aplenty when they’re passed by the other political party? Love or hate Johnson’s record, he amassed it largely through the veto mechanism. Elevated to the White House, but given a Republican rather than a Democratic legislature, would he be able to govern as successfully? Hard to say. A man’s success operating in one political context isn’t a reliable predictor of how he’ll perform in another. See all the successful governors who performed poorly after attaining higher office.
Felix Salmon narrates:
…the US increase in unemployment over the course of the recession was more than double the increase anywhere else.
I would disagree with Auth on this one. If you track the past year month by month, the economy (and job creation) under Obama has been at a slow (but expected) rate. Any Democrat or Republican can only do so much. Obama’s “government assisting the private sector” approach is not the full answer and cutting taxes is certainly not (look at the last 10 years and the 9.1% unemployment rate and tell me why tax cuts for the rich have allowed this rate to shoot up). Obama is open to both of the above. Unfortunately for the GOP as seen last night, insanity will continue if they take the White House in less than a year.
The economy is growing yes, but at a slow (and expectectly so) rate.
I don’t think those who didn’t want to bail out the auto industry didn’t care about those industries and workers but see the failing of some companies as creative for new industries to emerge (and not keeping certain industries on life support).