Archive for the ‘Unemployment’ Category

Pandemic recession and higher education

May 3, 2021

Capitalism without a working class

July 9, 2019

Karl Marx and other socialists believed that capitalism depended on exploitation of workers, and that workers could liberate themselves by taking control of the means of production.

But the driving force in capitalism today is to eliminate workers as much as possible.  Manufacturing jobs are being eliminated through automation.  Now service jobs are being eliminated through use of artificial intelligence.

The end result would be a capitalism without workers—just investment in capital goods such as robots and AIs.

I don’t say this would ever happen completely, and it wouldn’t happen any time soon, but this is the direction we’re heading.

Treating people as unnecessary, and telling them that they are unnecessary, is wrong and very dangerous.

Almost everyone has it in them to do something that is useful and beneficial to others.  An economic system should be set up to honor and encourage this.  Investing in machines rather than investing in people is a choice, not a law of nature.


Chris Arnade on how the other half lives

January 13, 2018

This includes two updates

Half the world doesn’t know how the other half lives.   (old saying)

Chris Arnade spent 20 years as a Wall Street investment banker, then quit in 2011 to start a new career as a photojournalist, first interviewing and photographing drug addicts and prostitutes in the Bronx, then traveling across the country to talk to working people and poor people who’ve been left behind in the new economy.

Arnade said that what he concluded was that addiction is the result of isolation, isolation is the result of rejection and the chief source of rejection is the U.S. educational system.

The U.S. educational system, he said, teaches that the way to achieve success is to go to a good college, leave home and devote yourself to achievement in your professional life.

Those who do this successfully are the elite in American life.   The problem is that not everybody is able to succeed this way, and not everybody wants to do this.

Some people put family, community and religion first.  In this respect, he said, there is little difference between black people and white people, or between Anglos and Hispanics.

Arnade calls the first group the Front Row and the second group the Back Row. The Back Row are not only disrespected, Arnade said.  The economic system is rigged against them.

Every important decision on national policy, since at least the North American Free Trade Agreement  (NAFTA) in 1994, has put the interests of the Front Row ahead of the Back Row.

The one institution in society that welcomes the back row is the churches, he wrote.  He himself is an atheist, but he said that churches welcome you, no matter what your credentials or lack of them.  I’m not sure that is true of all churches, but his point is correct.

Another place the Back Row is welcome, he said, is McDonald’s restaurants.  McDonald’s original business model was a place where you can get in and get out quickly, but McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants have become places where you can get a nourishing meal at a low price, charge your cell phone and hang out with friends.  Most of them have an old man’s table that retirees have staked out for their own.

If you’re a Front Row person and want to break out of your bubble, stop having coffee at Starbuck’s (or the equivalent) and stop start spending time in McDonald’s (or the equivalent), Arnade advised,


Jobless youth and oldsters who can’t retire

July 26, 2016

Thomas Geoghegan, a labor lawyer in Chicago, wrote a good article for The Baffler about the connection between low wages, high youth unemployment and older people (such as himself) being unwilling to retire.

Thomas Geoghegan

Thomas Geoghegan

A reporter asked Pope Francis to name the single biggest evil in the world.  Secularism?  No.  Abortion?  Not even.  Here’s what he said: “Youth unemployment—and the abandonment of the elderly.”

OK, that’s two evils.  But aren’t they really one thing?  Unable to get a start, boomerang kids move back home—while their grandparents hang on to their jobs.

Why hang on?  They fear being abandoned.  They didn’t save.  The young have always had to wait for the old to retire in order to move up a notch, but in the twenty-first century, that wait is getting longer, increasing the competition for scarce jobs.

For the state to shrink, the old must work more.  It’s a neoliberal axiom.  Call it the New Old Deal.

As a labor lawyer, let me defend my clients.  The working-class people I represent are dying sooner, not mucking up the labor market by living too long.  Alcohol and heroin are partially to blame, and trending stories on epidemics afflicting the white working class make easy fodder for TV newsmagazines.

But let me tell you what I more often see happening to non-college whites: those who do hard physical labor for an hourly wage go lame.  By age fifty-five, or certainly sixty, many are just done.

And when they go lame, they have no options.  They have no union-bargained pensions anymore.   They certainly have no 401(k) retirement accounts.

Maybe the country should be grateful; to the extent that they die prematurely, they help shore up Social Security.  And hey, should the GOP make it harder for them to receive workers’ comp or disability, these high school grads may die even younger.

The whole article is worth reading.  Click on Exit Planning to read it.

Why is the economic recovery so weak?

July 13, 2015

weakrecoverySource: Sentier Research

Why is the current economic recovery so much weaker than in the previous two recoveries?

www-usnews2I don’t claim a profound knowledge of economics, but here’s what I think.

During the time of peak prosperity, the American economy was based on a benign cycle—high wages supported a mass consumer market, which supported high employment.

Since the 1980s, American wages have been stagnant or falling, and Americans maintained their purchasing power by means of borrowing.  But since the 2008 recession, they have reached the limits of their power to borrow and spend.

Big financial institutions and holders of financial assets are investing more in debt instruments or in production overseas than in job-creating enterprises in the United States.  At the same time government at all levels has responded to hard times by cutting spending and employment.

Both the public and private sector are dis-investing in education and training, in scientific research and in the infrastructure necessary to a productive economy.

Barring a change of direction, I expect things to continue to worsen.

How can we the people turn things around?  Being honest about the situation would be the first step.  Government could stop doing harmful things, such as the no-strings bank bailout and pro-corporate trade agreements.  Corrente’s 12-Point Platform is the kind of thing we should be thinking about.


The real reason robots are replacing human labor

May 12, 2015

The great danger of so-called artificial intelligence is not that computers will become sentient beings, but that decision-makers will treat them as if they are.

Machines are tools.  They are a means to multiply human strength and to duplicate repetitive human tasks.  They are highly useful.  But they are not a substitute for human skill and judgment.

jobretraining21stcenturyThe use of automatic pilots in airplanes is a good example.  An automatic pilot will make fewer errors than a human pilot, especially if airline management has pushed the human pilot to the point of exhaustion.  But excessive use of automatic pilots means that the human pilot’s skills wither, and the human is less able to respond in an emergency that doesn’t fit the computer algorithm.

Another example is the use of the Internet and automatic answering machines for customer service.  I don’t think anybody who has ever had to deal with one of these things thinks that they provide improved customer service.  Their purpose is to create a barrier between the organization and the public in order to save money, but also in order to free the managers from the inconvenience of having to deal with actual human beings.

Machines don’t talk back.  Not even self-directed machines talk back.  Neither do they exercise judgment or think of ways to do the work better.

But from the standpoint of a bureaucrat whose goal is the seamless exercise of power, the latter consideration is unimportant.   It is much more convenient to program machines than to deal with employees or deal with the public.


The U.S. jobless rate is falling [Update: Maybe]

March 7, 2015

MW-DH110_jobs_r_20150306091454_ZHVia MarketWatch.

It’s interesting that the report of gains in jobs and a drop in unemployment was followed by a drop in stock prices.

Conceivably this could be been due to the improvement being less than expected, but analysts quoted in my morning newspaper said investors fear that the apparent recovery will cause the Federal Reserve Board to stop holding down interest rates in order to stimulate the economy.

A certain number of people can be expected take their money out of the stock market and put it in savings accounts in banks, or in bonds, because they would getting actual interest income again.

In other words, stock prices reflect an unsustainable government policy, and not the real health of the economy.


Still, it’s good news that the unemployment rate is falling, and is falling by every measure.


What’s wrong, and what to do about it

December 3, 2014


The AFL-CIO has an excellent series of infographics about what’s wrong with the U.S. economy, which I have put into this post.  For those who have a little time, I link to four articles explaining the infographics.  For those who have more time, I then link to background information on which the articles are based.

My only argument with the AFL-CIO is that they attribute bad economic policies exclusively on Republicans, while ignoring Wall Street Democrats such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer and Christopher Dodd.


Fed official says low unemployment is dangerous

September 29, 2014

Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said it may be necessary to raise interest rates if the unemployment rate falls below 6.1 percent because low unemployment could lead to higher wages.

Crowded Michigan Unemployment OfficeFisher pointed out that in Texas, wages are rising faster than the rate of inflation.

To me, that is a good thing, not a bad thing.  Why interfere with the law of supply and demand?  The only reason that I can think of is that it might decrease the market value of financial assets.

I am reminded of Karl Marx’s claim that “a reserve army of the unemployed” is necessary to the functioning of capitalism.

I believe in the value of self-discipline, education and the willingness to work.  But anybody who preaches these values ought to be able to show that there is a payoff, and that the payoff is available to everyone, not just the exceptionally talented and the exceptionally lucky.

If the economic system is set up so that at least 6.1 percent of the work force is unemployed at all times, then there is no way to rise out of that 6.1 percent without knocking somebody else down into it.


Fed’s Fisher: wages rise when joblessness falls below 6.1 percent by Reuters (via Tom the Dancing Bug).

‘Poor people don’t plan long term.  We’ll just get our hearts broken’ by Linda Tirado for The Guardian.  Somewhat long, but well worth reading.

Obama’s Long Battle to Cut Social Security Benefits by Eric Zuesse for Washington’s Blog (via Mike the Mad Biologist).  The President’s goals are not what his supporters think they are.

1,600-plus applicants for three dozen jobs

January 6, 2014

I read the following dispatch from my former home town this morning.

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — When the Good Humor ice cream plant closed here two summers ago, more than 400 jobs and a stable, punch-the-clock way of life melted away, another in a string of plant closings that have battered this once-proud manufacturing town.

The hulking plant sat vacant until a co-op of Virginia dairy farmers purchased it in summer 2013 to process milk and ice cream, though on a far smaller scale than the 60,000 cases of ice cream that global food giant Unilever churned out every day.

Randy Inman, the board president for Shenandoah Family Farms, said he expected the plant’s revival to trigger plenty of interest in its three dozen or so initial jobs. What he did not expect: 1,600 applicants and counting — a deluge.

Many applicants are desperate former employees still without work in a county with 7.3 percent unemployment and in an economy where manufacturing job openings now require more specialized abilities than the lower-skilled positions that have gone overseas or, in the case of Unilever, to Tennessee and Missouri, where labor and operating costs are cheaper.

via The Washington Post.

I’m glad the Washington Post is reporting on this, but in my experience this kind of situation is neither new or unusual.  I remember when I was reporting on business here in Rochester, N.Y., 20 and 25 years ago, any announcement that a company was hiring would result in a line of job-seekers, comparable to Black Friday shoppers, who would start getting in line at midnight or earlier so as to be one of the first in the door when the office opened. My job-seeking friends tell me things are just the same today.

The Republicans (along with some Democrats) in Congress who don’t want to extend unemployment benefits think that the secret to getting people back to work is to give them a kick in the pants rather than a helping hand.

It is true that there is a hard-core group of people who lack motivation and forethought, and probably would do badly even in a high-wage, full-employment economy.   Even with the so-called underclass, there might be more hope for their children if they had more evidence that staying in school and working hard paid off.

As the Washington Post article illustrates, even people with a strong desire to work are up against it.

An economics lesson from a kangaroo

August 19, 2013


This is true, although in terms of purchasing power, the Australian minimum wage for fast-food workers is more like $12 in the United States. Click on Australia minimum wage for details from the Real News Network.

Many economists say, without any empirical evidence, that an increase in the minimum wage will automatically result in increased unemployment.  This is because it is a basic principle of economics that if you increase the price of something, people will buy less of it, and so it is with wages.

Under certain conditions, that would be true.  Fewer people would be hired for minimum wage jobs if, say, the U.S. minimum wage was raised to $72.50 an hour.  But there is no evidence that any of the actual increases in the minimum wage have had any adverse measurable effect on U.S. employment.  Indeed, the number of minimum wage and near-minimum wage jobs has increased dramatically since 2007-2009, when the minimum wage was increased from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.

The basic concept of economics—that the law of supply and demand describes how people respond to economic incentives—is true as far as it goes.  This concept has such beauty and explanatory power that it is easy to forget the other dimensions of human behavior.   Economists who forget this wind up like the physicist in the joke, who could infallibly predict the outcome of horse races, provided there were spherical horses racing in a vacuum.

How to keep unemployment low

July 24, 2013


Click on The New Sick-onomy: a look at the U.S. employment situation by Dan Alpert on his Two Cents web log for a good explanation of the facts behind the unemployment figures.

Click on Summary of U.S. Real Unemployment – June 2013 for an alternative figure by Leo Hindery Jr.  [Added 7/27/13]

Click on Deception in Counting the Unemployed for a profile of Leo Hindery and his ideas by Steve Clemons for The Atlantic.  [Added 7/27/13]

Click on Leftycartoons for more Barry Deutsch cartoons.

The day we reach zero unemployment

April 18, 2013

Click on Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for more like this.

Why don’t politicians care about working people?

March 28, 2013
Mark Thoma

Mark Thoma

Mark Thoma, professor of economics at the University of Oregon and host of the Economist’s View web page, wonders why politicians in general and Democrats in particular are so little concerned about the plight of American working people.

Consider… four facts from a recent speech by Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Raskin.

  • First, around two-thirds of the jobs lost during the recession were in moderate-wage occupations, but more than one-half of subsequent job gains have been in low wage jobs.  As she says, recent job gains have been largely concentrated in lower-wage occupations.
  • Second, since 2010 the average wage for new hires has actually declined.
  • Third, about one-quarter of all workers are “low wage” (just over $23,005 per year in 2011 dollars).
  • Finally, involuntary part-time work is increasing, and more than a quarter of the net employment gains since the end of the recession involve part-time work.


I don’t blame Republicans for their efforts.  I wish the working class was more important to Republicans, and I cannot understand their indifference to the struggles of so many people.  But that’s not who Republicans are.  Fundamentally, it’s the party of the rich and this is a chance to lower government spending and reduce the pressure for tax increases on high-income households.

I do, however, blame Democrats for allowing them to be successful.  Even though unemployment is extraordinarily high and job opportunities, when they exist at all, are mostly at reduced wages, and even though the future for the working class looks increasingly bleak, too many Democrats have aided and abetted Republicans in this diversion of attention from jobs to the national debt.

Click on Why Don’t Politicians Care about the Working Class? for Thoma’s entire article.

Click on Focusing on Low- and Moderate-Income Working Americans for Sarah Raskin’s speech.

Hat tip to occasional links & commentary

Unemployment and unauthorized immigration

February 20, 2013

Joe Guzzardi argues in this morning’s Democrat and Chronicle that granting legal residence or a path to citizenship to 11 million unauthorized immigrants would be devastating to the 20 million Americans who are now unemployed or underemployed, which, as he points out, include a large number of poor African-Americans and Hispanics.

deport-chart-no-2012-1The problem I have with his argument is that these 11 million unauthorized immigrants already compete for jobs with American citizens and legal residents.  One of the big advantages of hiring unauthorized immigrants is that they are outside the protection of American law.  They can’t complain about being paid sub-minimum wages, not being paid overtime or being forced to work in unhealthy or dangerous conditions.

Bring them under the protection of American labor and workplace laws, and enforce those laws, and the playing field between immigrant and native-born is leveled.

I imagine Joe Guzzardi would say it would be better simply to deport the unauthorized immigrants.  But the U.S. government has been trying this for years.  President Obama is deporting unauthorized immigrants at the rate of 400,000 a year, many more than under the Bush administration.  At this rate, it would take more than 27 years to track down and deport 11 million people and that only if no new unauthorized immigrants slipped in during that time.

I think President Obama’s amnesty proposal is the least bad of the possible alternatives.   And I don’t think deportations are the key to reducing the unemployment rate.

Click on How Obama’s Path to Citizenship Actually Works for the specifics of the President’s draft bill.

Obama and the economic recovery

November 3, 2012


The October jobs report shows the U.S. economy continues to recovery, but, as this chart from the Calculated Risk web log shows, at a much slower rate than previous post-war economic recoveries.

Since the 1970s, each economic recovery has been weaker than the previous one, with slower growth in jobs and hourly wages at a lower rate than in the previous recovery.   But in my opinion, the reason the 2007 recession is so much worse is the 2008 Wall Street crash, signaling the unsustainability of an economy based on debt and speculation rather than borrowing.

Here are some more charts, also from Calculated Risk, which show the state of the U.S. economy in the light of the latest job report.



The lower chart, which shows the proportion of the population in the labor force and the proportion with jobs is probably a better measure of the employment situation than the unemployment rate, which is the percentage of the population looking for jobs who can’t find jobs.   You should notice that the bottom line on the chart is not zero, which means that the variation at first glance seems greater than it really is.

The job losses in the recession were mainly well-paying, middle-class jobs, and the job gains are mainly low-paying, less desirable jobs.   And while any increase in jobs is good news, the rate of job growth is barely enough to keep up with growth in the population.

I think President Obama deserves some credit for the fact that things are not even worse than they are.  I think his stimulus program helped, and, while I disagree with the way the bank bailout was handled, I think the recession would have been far worse if the administration had stood idly by and let nature take its course.   Here is another Calculated Risk chart, which compares the current U.S. recovery with the Great Depression of the 1930s in the United States and with other nations which have gone through financial crises in the past few decades.


What this chart shows is that the financial crisis in the United States could easily have been much worse than it was.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration failed to take action to prevent a future financial crash.  It declined to prosecute for financial fraud nor to restructure failed financial institutions, as was done in the aftermath of the savings-and-loan crisis.  Obama’s administration worked pro-actively to prevent legislation that would break up the too-big-to-fail banks or to take meaningful action to limit speculation with federally-insured bank deposits.  As a result, the Wall Street financiers who were responsible for the financial crash, except for the executives of Lehman Brothers, wound up better off than they way before.

The predictable result of this will be another financial crash, a bigger and worse one than the 2008 crash.  I am not smart enough, or foolish enough, to say when this will be, but when it happens, it will be a political disaster for whatever political party happens to be in power at the time.

The broader problem is that the United States has slower economic growth than in the 1950s and 1960s, and an increasing share of the benefits of that growth are going to a tiny minority of the population.  I think both trends are the result of the globalization of the national economy.   To some extent, slower economic growth and wage stagnation are the result of the leveling of the playing field between American workers and workers in Latin American and eastern Asia.  I don’t complain about this.  It would be shameful to try to maintain my high material standard of living by trying to keep people in other nations poor.

The other aspect of globalization is that the world’s economic elite have the means to escape regulation and taxation, and that international economic institutions—the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the European central bank—operate to protect the interests of financial institutions and the economic elite from national governments.  I can imagine an alternate globalization in which international institutions work to raise labor and environmental standards, but at present workers and scientists are not in charge.

I wouldn’t expect Barack Obama to be able to change the situation all by himself, although I think a President is in a good position to raise awareness of the problem.  Nor do I think that Mitt Romney offers a better alternative.   His Bain Capital is part of the problem.  Change, if it comes, will have to come from an aroused public opinion.

Click on Calculated Risk: October Employment Report for a more complete analysis of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Click on Modest Jobs Growth in Latest Economic Report for a more readable and less technical analysis by the New York Times.


Why you should believe the BLS jobs figures

October 11, 2012

General Electric’s ex-CEO Jack Welch can’t believe that the U.S. unemployment rate actually fell to 7.8 percent in September.  He thinks the Bureau of Labor Statistics is manipulating the data.  It is understandable that he should think that way.  GE was fined by the Securities and Exchange Commission for manipulating its earnings data during Welch’s watch.

When I reported on business for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle some 20 and 30 years ago, I had dealings with statisticians and analysts for the New York Labor Department and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  They were thorough professionals.  They were like scientists and engineers.  They didn’t care what I wrote so long as I understood the figures and wrote about them correctly.

The monthly jobs figures are come from two sources, a household survey and an employer survey.  The household survey is based on asking a cross-section of the population whether they are employed and, if not, whether they have looked for work during the previous month.  These two figures are used to generate the monthly unemployment rate.

The employer survey is based on interviewing a cross-section of employers as to whether they have hired or laid off employees during the previous month.  Based on these results, the BLS adds to or subtracts from a benchmark figure of the number of jobs.

The benchmark figure is based on an actual count of the number of people paying workers’ compensation taxes.  It is the most accurate and meaningful figure, but it is always at least six months out of date because it takes time to add up all these figures.

The unemployment rate number probably is an undercount.  It does not include “discouraged workers” who’ve stopped looking for jobs, or part-time workers who’d like to work full-time.  The jobs number also is often an undercount.  It does not include the number of jobs created by formation of new businesses.  The BLS only catches up with those jobs when it does a new benchmark, which is what happened in September.

Both figures over time are accurate indicators of the trend.  If you always conduct a survey in the same way, then, even if it is flawed, it will always be flawed in the same way.   It’s not unlikely that the unemployment rate is exactly 7.8 percent, but it is certain that it is lower than it was at the beginning of the year when it was reported at 9 percent.

Reports of earnings by corporations such as General Electric, in contrast, allow a lot of discretion in how things are reported. By timing transactions on which a company takes a profit or a loss, the earnings can be made to appear much more stable than they otherwise would be.  This is not uncommon and, in and of itself, it is not necessarily dishonest.  It has to do with the timing of what is reported, not the content.   A company that is really unprofitable could not smooth its earnings that way.  But in Welch’s case, GE did overstep the bounds and had to pay a fine to the SEC.

As to the significance of the figures, it is still true that the current economic recovery is weaker than any U.S. recovery since the Great Depression.   I don’t think this is President Obama’s fault.   It is the result of decades of a hollowing out of the U.S. economy and the substitution of debt for income.  I think the Obama stimulus did as much as can reasonably be expected, and the Republican leadership was and is opposed to the President doing anything more.  My criticism of Barack Obama is on other grounds—that he is anti-labor, pro-Wall Street and indifferent to the plight of foreclosure victims, and that he opposes the necessary steps to prevent another financial bubble and crash.


Recession over? Not for working people

September 12, 2012

The Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit research organization which studies trends in wages and employment, has just issued its latest State of Working America.  Its facts and figures show that conditions were not good for wage-earners even before the Great Recession, and that, even though the recession is officially over, the United States has a long way to go before working people recover lost ground.

The Great Recession was by far the worst in the United States since the end of World War Two.

Double click to enlarge.

And while there has been recovery in economic output, and in the financial markets, the United States is a long way from getting back to a full employment economy.

Click to enlarge.

There has been some improvement in jobs, perhaps partly because of President Obama’s stimulus program, maybe partly because of the natural turn of the economic cycle, but not to pre-recession levels.

I believe that the reason the Great Recession was so bad and the recovery is so weak is that it is more than a routine downturn in the economic cycle.  I believe the United States has reached the limits of creating spending power by substituting credit for income, and we Americans need to somehow recreate an economy based on production rather than finance.

I think President Obama’s economic stimulus program kept things from being worse than they otherwise would have been.  I don’t think Mitt Romney’s and Paul Ryan’s economic philosophy, which is essentially make rich people richer and poor people poorer, would help.  But I do criticize Obama for giving free rein to the too-big-to-fail banks whose fraud and follies were the immediate cause of the crash, and thereby setting the stage for a new and bigger crash.

Click on Economic Policy Institute for the EPI home page.  Click on The State of Working America to read the digital edition of the EPI report.  A print edition is scheduled for publication in November.

Click on Did the stimulus work? for summaries of 15 economic studies by Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.  Matthews’ scorecard is that 12 studies said the stimulus was beneficial, two said it was useless and one said the effect is uncertain.

Click on Obama, Romney and the Low-Wage Future of America for an article by Dan Froomkin for Huffington Post Nieman Reports on the lack of a plan from either candidate for a full-employment, high-wage economy.

Al Jazeera on tax havens, austerity, drone war

July 28, 2012

There is an expression, the “informal economy,” which refers economic activity that goes on outside the purview of government regulators and tax collectors.  As used by economists such as Hernando de Sota, it refers to street pedlars and people who do odd jobs, but panelists assembled by Al Jazeera English discuss another informal economy, which includes the world’s super-rich and involves trillions of dollars.  This report and panel discussion, which focuses on Europe, is a good reminder that the billionaire shadow economy is a worldwide and systemic problem, and consists of more than just a few bad apples in the United States.

This report and panel discussion by Al Jazeera English, dating from last May, is a reminder that other countries face the same difficult economic choices as does the United States—economic austerity, which is likely to prolong or deepen the recession; or deficit spending, which may put governments even deeper in debt without stimulating the economy.  The discussion is somewhat fragmentary.  Panelists thought the U.S. government is doing a better job of coping with the recession than the European governments, but it wasn’t clear to me exactly what they thought the United States was doing right.

This documentary by a team of Dutch filmmakers is a good report on the technological advantages and political and ethical problems in waging warfare by means of remotely-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles.

Government austerity and the economy

June 29, 2012

In other recessions since World War Two, government employment was stable, and helped stabilize the economy.  Not this time.

Mike Konczal said the cutbacks are mainly a result of conservative Republican ideology, which asserts that government services are unnecessary.  Just one state, Texas, accounts for 31 percent of the loss in government jobs.  The 11 states the Republicans won in the 2010 elections account for slightly over 40 percent.  That’s a total of more than 70 percent.

Now it’s true that this recession is the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and it also is true that many state governments have constitutional requirements for balanced budgets.  But fewer than a quarter of the states account for more than 70 percent of public sector job cuts.   This indicates that the recession is being used as an excuse by right-wing Republicans who are hostile to public services on principle.

Click on Public Sector Layoffs and the Battle Between Obama and Conservative States for Mike Konczal’s full analysis on the Next New Deal, the blog of the Roosevelt Institute.

Click on America’s Hidden Austerity Program for more from Ben Polack and Peter K. Schott, two Yale University economists.

Hat tip for the graphic to The Big Picture.

Why I’m glad I’m not a young person today

June 18, 2012

It’s no wonder so many young people today prefer to focus on the virtual world of Twitter, Facebook and the other social media.  The real world is bleak.

The unemployment rate for workers age 16 to 24 is higher than 16 percent.  And many of those who are working take any job they can get, just to get by.

The cost of college tuition is going through the roof.

But things are rough if you’re just a high school graduate.

No wonder so many young people are still living with their parents.

My parents gave me a better world than the one they grew up in.  I am leaving those who come after me a world with less opportunity than I had.

Click on These Charts Show How Desperate Young People Are For Jobs for more charts and background information.

Click on The young and the jobless for more charts and background information.

Click on Diminishing Returns for a report on the plight of college graduates by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A better educated class of unemployed

June 13, 2012

President Obama said in a speech sometime back that everybody should get some education beyond high school.  This might be a good thing, but, in itself, it does nothing to create jobs.  A majority of the unemployed now have some education beyond high school. Without an increase in available jobs, all that increased college enrollment will do is raise the bar for getting a job, and create a better-educated class of unemployed.

Click on College Graduates, Dropouts Now Account for Majority of Jobless 25+, First Time Ever for background information and the source of the chart from Investors’ Daily.

Recovery still has a long way to go

May 4, 2012

This chart shows how much worse job losses have been in this recession compared to other recessions since World War Two.

Mike Konczal, who posts on the Roosevelt Institute web site, pointed out that unemployed Americans are dropping out of the labor force at a faster rate than they are finding jobs.  Click on Rortybomb for his post.

Heidi Shierholz, of the Economic Policy Institute, said the outlook is probably better than the figures indicate, because of seasonal factors, but the outlook is still grim, including for new college graduates.  Click on Economic Policy Institute for her analysis.

Click on Calculated Risk for the source and explanation of the chart above, and more charts.

The success and limits of economic stimulus

February 28, 2012

New unemployment insurance claims

It is a fact that economic recovery began after President Obama took office.  I believe that the recovery was helped by his economic stimulus program and by programs already in place such as food stamps and unemployment insurance.  These helped cushion the effects of the recession and allow recovery to take place.  I can’t prove this.  There is no way to go back in time and run another scenario in which the government stood aside and allowed events to take their course.

The problem is that the recovery is so slow, and that even when and if economic conditions get back to the way they were before.  During the supposed expansion preceding the 2007 recession, wages were declining (in terms of buying power), American manufacturing was being eroded and poverty was increasing.

Below are some charts which illustrate the weakness of the current economic recovery.


The jobs that are out there

February 18, 2012

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