Sunday, March 14, 2004

How do we assimliate this?

DailyKos diarist Lupin unearths this UPI story that says that the Army sent mentally ill troops to Iraq...and that this theoretically impacts the suicide rate.

Powerful stuff - damning if true.

As horriifed as I am by the suicide rate as an issue and the covering up of the misuse and abuse (physical and mental) of our troops, I am really uncomfortable with this article. Yes, it's important to advancing the larger discussion about the buried story of the week. But what if it's not true? Do we risk denigrating the troops?

Compelling thoughts - on a number of levels. Gonna have to ponder this one a while...


Friday, March 12, 2004

FRIDAY STORY OF THE WEEK: Military suicides reaching alarming rates

As much as NPR annoys me with their regular abandonment of objective journalism, they really hit one out of the park with today's piece on the increasing number of Iraq-related military suicides:

U.S. Army Releases New Numbers on Iraq Soldier Suicides

Until Friday, the U.S. Army had confirmed that 23 suicides have taken place among soldiers serving in Iraq. Now there are additional numbers -- Army officials are confirming that six soldiers who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom committed suicide once they returned to the United States. This brings the total number of suicides among Iraqi Freedom soldiers to 29. The Army is not commenting on the numbers revealed Friday, but in January when it was reported that the number of army suicides in this group was only 18, Undersecretary of Defense for Health Affairs William Winkenwerder told reporters that the suicide rate was "on the high end" of what has been seen in past conflicts. NPR's Alix Spiegel has the story.

Unlike last week's deluge of job-related stories, this story REALLY has been buried. As far as I can see, only NPR is covering this. The audio link is not live yet, but I'll put it up as soon as I can.

More news as it becomes available....

UPDATE: The audio link is live - here it is


Tuesday, March 09, 2004

You know it's bad when the "chattering class" start in...

Kudos to DailyKos diarist sipples, who posts this outstanding summary of political consultant Charlie Cook's daily email, which (surprise!) discusses the DoL employment report:

Cook points to a recent New York Federal Reserve study which reports that, unlike previous recessions, the job losses in the Bush Recession are only 21 percent cyclical and 79 percent structural. (A run-of-the-mill recession would have about a 50-50 split. The next worst structural job loss percentage? No surprise: the 1991-92 Bush #1 Recession.)

Structural job losses are permanent. Think an auto plant closing in Flint, or a New England textile mill closing a century ago. Cyclical job losses are layoffs. Think a factory cutting back from three shifts to two shifts. The problem is that it's much tougher to create structural jobs. There's no quick political fix. Fully funding education is one way, but you won't see results in the short term (i.e. by the November election). Tax cuts for the wealthy certainly won't do it.

A link to the presumed Fed report that Cook cites, "Has Structural Change Contributed to a Jobless Recovery?", is right here. Assuming I get the time to review the document, I'll post more on it. Until then, please feel free to review and draw your own conclusions. And post a comment or two on the topic, if you wish...


The Official Department of Labor Report

Here's the link to the report. It's a dynamic link, so I would guess that it will be updated when the April numbers are released.

On that thought, you've gotta love this last note: "The Employment Situation for March 2004 is scheduled to be released on Friday, April 2, at 8:30 A.M. (EST)."

Eh - April 2? A Friday? How convenient!


The Party Line

I've gone all over the blogosphere and into the general media for reaction to and analysis of the DoL numbers, but I never thought to check the Department of Labor site itself to see if BushCo had anything to say about this. And they do, as Labor Secretary Elaine Chao issued a brief press release on the issue, excerpted here:

Our economy has now created jobs for the sixth straight month, with hundreds of thousands of workers finding new jobs across the country. The unemployment rate of 5.6 percent continues to be below the averages of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Yes, the economy HAS created jobs. To say that "jobs" have been created, you would need to have a number greater than one. And we do. 21,000 new jobs, when it takes 150,000 new jobs every month simply to keep pace with the workforce.

Don't forget, also, that all 21,000 net new jobs came out of the public sector. The private sector is flat, and the higher paying manufacturing and construction jobs are being replaced by lower wage service sector jobs.

Also, Secretary Chao has her head in the sand if she thinks that 5.6% is our REAL unemployment rate. That's only the percentage of Americans who are receiving unemployment. The Economic Policy Institute says the real rate of unemployment - including those who are not receiving unemployment benefits - is more like 7.4%.

The lack of realistic perspective on the part of BushCo should give every Republican everywhere great pause, especially going into the November elections.


The Professor weighs in - HARD

For those who don't know, Paul Krugman is a professor at Princeton and an economics columnist for the New York Times. His book, The Great Unraveling, is one of the finest books I have read on economics and its interrelationships with the political world.

Which means I was waiting with baited breath for Krugman to post his New York Times column in the wake of the DoL numbers. I'm not sure what is harder hitting, the graph itself or Krugman's statement following it, "What you see in this chart is the signature of a corrupted policy process, in which political propaganda takes the place of professional analysis."

And you wonder why the DoL report was released on Friday?


Monday, March 08, 2004

If you ever wondered why the Left needed a REAL think tank...

Take a look at the Center for American Progress' blistering assault on BushCo's DoL jobs report.

Not only did they publish that gem, but they also just dropped an email in my box that attacks the admittedly manufactured good ol' boy image and reframes it in light of the DoL report. I don't want to make a habit of quoting entire pieces, but I could not find this on their site...

Windshield Cowboy

AP reports that President Bush is trying to shore up his "regular-guy image," recasting himself "as a plain-talking boots-wearer with Middle America tastes — an image he has cultivated for years to counter his background." Specifically, the President is driving a pickup truck around his Crawford, Texas estate, referring to himself as a "windshield cowboy," attending sporting events, and "painting [opponents] as out of sync with much of the country." The act contrasts not only to the President's "background as an Ivy Leaguer from an old, wealthy, New England-based family" – but also to his Administration's policies. Over the last three years, the White House has repeatedly showered its millionaire campaign contributors with tax breaks while ignoring the economic hardships that millions of "regular folks" are struggling with. And a review of the latest news shows that the Administration has no plans to let up.

THE "REGULAR GUY" CHARADE: All told, more than eight million Americans are out of work (with a fifth of those out of work for more than 6 months) and almost no jobs were created last month. Worse still, "job growth in December and January was worse than previously believed" with the Labor Department on Friday downgrading their previous estimates. And yet, despite the bad news, the "regular guy" President says that "the economy is getting stronger." Instead of extending unemployment aid for 760,000 "regular folks" who are running out of unemployment benefits who will lose their benefit, the President is spending hundreds of taxpayer dollars shoring up his "regular guy image" by flying Air Force One over the Daytona 500. Instead of releasing the millions of dollars in aid for jobless workers the Administration has withheld, the President is spending Monday squeezing in a photo-op at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo after two multi-million-dollar fundraisers.

"REGULAR GUY" OR OUT OF TOUCH ELITIST?: One day after the Labor Department reported that just 21,000 jobs had been created in February, President Bush "defended his economic record," saying "the economy is getting stronger" and that Congress needed "to make sure that the tax cuts are permanent." But the happy talk was in sharp contrast to the facts: since the President signed his tax cut, America has shed 2.2 million jobs. While the President couched his tax cuts in "regular guy" rhetoric, the data shows that most of the benefits went to the richest 1% of the population (those making about $1 million per year), who received than $1 trillion from the first tax cut alone. Meanwhile, the White House's policies have effectively raised taxes on millions of middle class Americans. Even conservatives weren't buying the President's happy talk: Glen Bolger, the President's pollster said, "you'd like to see the job growth a little more robust than 21,000" while a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert said "No one should be happy about these numbers." American Progress Senior Economist Christian Weller writes that American working families are disenchanted with the labor market, and with good reason.

"REGULAR GUY" OR OUT OF TOUCH ELITIST, PART II: While the Administration continues to defend its record, it has left one area almost completely unaddressed: wages. Currently, Americans' take-home pay is stagnating at the very same time health care costs are skyrocketing and pension plans are being scaled back. As the Labor Department reported last month, "7 of the 10 occupations with the greatest growth through 2012 will be in low-wage, service fields requiring little education: retail salesperson, customer service representative, food-service worker, cashier, janitor, waiter and nursing aide and hospital orderly. Many of these jobs pay less than $18,000 a year." A "regular guy" might try to push policies that address the situation, like an increase in the minimum wage. Instead, the "regular guy" President has responded by strongly supporting the outsourcing of good-paying American jobs, eliminating overtime protections for 8 million "regular people," and denying a minimum wage increase for "regular people." For more, see this American Progress backgrounder.

MORE AMERICANS DROPPING OUT OF WORKFORCE: The President has pointed to the fact that the "unemployment rate fell" as proof that "the economy is strong, and growing stronger." Yet, the main reason the unemployment rate dropped in January is because the economy is so weak that more and more of the jobless have simply stopped looking for work. As Bloomberg reports, "1.6 million Americans have dropped out of the workforce in the past year" with "the percentage of those working or looking for jobs falling in February to 65.9%, a 16-year low." Last month alone, "588,000 people left the labor force as the economy created just 21,000 jobs, a sixth of the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of 65 economists." For more, see this exposé by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

BIG GOVERNMENT HYPOCRISY: President Bush last week chastised opponents for pursuing "policies that grow the federal government." Yet, it appears President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have shepherded a rapid increase in the size of the federal government. Friday's Labor Department report showed "All of the 21,000 new jobs last month were government jobs, with none in the private sector." Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL) said "Did you see the category where the largest employment was created? Government jobs. That's not good. The recovery should not be built on more bureaucrats getting hired." The new data is consistent with a recent Brookings Institution report that showed "the government's largely-hidden workforce created through contracts and grants has reached its highest level since before the end of the Cold War." Of course, there is one job the Bush Administration promised to create six months ago but still has not filled: a manufacturing employment czar.

To Center for American Progress CEO John Potesta - THANK YOU!


Sunday, March 07, 2004

At least the one Democrat who counts cares

After steaming a little over the lack of institutional response to the jobs issue, I checked out John Kerry's blog (you know, the last remaining viable Presidential candidate blog that takes comments?) and was relieved to see this posting. Appropo to a Presidential candidate blog, Kerry's blog adds a section that highlights BushCo's wild inconsistencies in past job statements and reality, a historical perspective, if you will:


First Tax Cut:

Bush Promise: Will create 800,000 jobs by the end of 2002.

Reality: American lost 1.9 million jobs.

Second Tax Cut:

Bush Promise: Will create 1 million new jobs.

Reality: America lost 53,000 jobs.

New Promise:

Bush Promise: 2.6 million in 2004.

Reality: FED Chairman Alan Greenspan says it’s unlikely.

It might be a press release - I don't know and really don't care. Past the comparatives, it's a remarkably nuanced review of the DoL numbers. Hats off to JFK and his research/blog teams.


What I want to know

Why aren't the Democratic National Committee, New Democrat Network, and the Democratic Leadership Council (who really needs a blog) picking up on the DoL Friday jobs story?

Is the disconnect between the Beltway and we "little people" out in the sticks that big?

This silence does not bode well for November. Wake up, Democrats!


More blogosphere reaction...

Josh Marshall/TPM catches the public v. private job creation disparity in February.

CalPundit mentions the same issue of public v. private - which really is a rich irony for a President who supposeduly is commited to Grover Norquists goal for the Federal Government, as expressed to NPR: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." No one's passing judgement on "who came first" with this argument - the important thing is that it keeps getting mentioned!

DailyKos puts the job figures, and BushCo's handling of the numbers, in a broader perspective.

Carl with a K also uses the DoL numbers as a log in a larger fire over at Change for America.

On the other side of the Dean camp, Alison and Tanner, the new "blog-masters" at Dean for America, use the DoL jobs report as the context for their oh-so-appropriate Friday night report!

Finally, we'll conclude this entry with Atrios, who brings to light the Economic Policy Institute's JobWatch, a terrific site that does perhaps the best analysis of the Februart DoL numbers that I have seen. Definitely a keeper for the "Favorites" toolbar, as we know that future employment numbers between now and November will only be released on Fridays! Here's a sample:
Unemployment measures understate job slack

The number of unemployed workers (currently 8.2 million) and the national unemployment rate of 5.6% in February 2004 do not adequately convey the true labor slack in the economy for several reasons. One major understatement is that the unemployment rate does not reflect the uniquely large 1.2% decline in labor force participation that has occurred since the current recession began in early 2001. This decline represents a stark contrast to the past three business cycles, when labor force participation actually grew by an average of 0.4% of the working-age population over similar lengths of time. Consequently, there is what can be called a "missing labor force" of 2,808,000 workers who might otherwise be in the actual labor force but have either dropped out entirely or failed to enter the labor market because of the lack of jobs. If the unemployment rate in February 2004 took into account this missing labor force, the unemployment rate would have been 7.4%, or 1.8% greater than the official rate of 5.6%.

Good stats, meaty commentary.


Friday, March 05, 2004

Blogosphere reaction to the job numbers

DailyKos: Where are Bush's 300,000 jobs?
Brad DeLong: One Million Payroll Jobs Short Since October
Josh Marshall/Talking Points Memo offers a set of particularly devastating quotes about the economy and job creation under the Bush administration.


I'm not worthy!

JamesB offers up this six-pack of Friday "love" for the White House at DailyKos.

In addition to the employment report, which I've already gone over, he's compiled the following list of other goofs, gaffes, and general problems for BushCo (links to relevant articles added by yours truly):

- Ashy in the hospital with a rotting soul or whatever it is
- lingering questions and protests among blacks in New York and Florida over Aristede and Haiti
- backlash and damage control on 9/11 ads that were presumably supposed to entrance America
- John Glenn's dead-on slam against the new space goals (this made front-page news on AOL)
- the much-hyped signing of the Iraqi constitution scuttled at the last possible second

Kudos! Great Friday effort! Take the afternoon off and get yourself a case of duct tape!


Employment talking points from the Center for American Progress

Hanging out by the watercooler after lunch with a ditto-head who just got his daily jolt of Oxycontin...er...Limbaugh? Then try on these three talking points for size!

1. President Bush's massive tax cuts for the rich failed to produce adequate jobs for the middle class.
2. The jobs outlook for the unemployed is getting worse, not better.
3. At a time of rising financial burdens, President Bush is seeking to cut worker training and assistance programs for millions of Americans.


Another Friday, another weak economic report...

Reuters is reporting the Labor Department's February 2004 employment report.

Highlights for February (such as they are...):

* No new private sector job growth. Slightly lower than the forecast of 125,000 new jobs. By the way, that's "zero" with a "z".

* 21,000 new public sector jobs. No truth to the rumor that George W. Bush is going to overhaul his campaign message with a promise to quadruple the size of government to drag the country out of the recession.

* Unemployment rate is steady at 5.6%. Remember, that's the percentage of Americans who are receiving unemployment checks. When the checks run out, you're not unemployed any more! As the Guinness Beer guys would say, "BRILLIANT!"

And the numbers within sectors are impressively bleak as well, at least for those of us who like to earn enough to make a living:

* Construction jobs: Down 24,000 in February

* Manufacturing jobs: Down 3,000

* Service jobs: Up 46,000 - Has the DoL started to classify McDonalds workers as manufacturing yet? Looking at these numbers, my intuition says no.

And, no good government report is worth its salt without revising PAST reports. Let's see what the DoL had to say about past employment levels:

* January '04: Reported 112,000 new jobs - revised downward to 97,000

*December '03: Reported 16,000 new jobs - revised downward to 8,000

So, DoL overestimated the last couple months by 23,000 jobs. My my - that's more than the entire (unadjusted) number of jobs created in February! Certainly those overestimates wouldn't be coming down to boost consumer confidence and Presidential approval ratings, right? Ummmm.....Ms. Chao, I'm asking you that question....

And here's the kicker: The economy needs to create 150,000 jobs EVERY MONTH to keep pace with the growth in the workforce.

And, leave it to German media to accurately portray what's going on when it comes to BushCo and jobs:

The Bush administration released a forecast early last month that looked for average job growth of about 300,000 jobs a month this year -- well above most private forecasts. But with each disappointing jobs report, that projection looks increasingly pie-in-the-sky.

Doesn't bode well for November, W, does it?

Other coverage:

Associated Press: Unemployment steady as few jobs added

MSNBC (using the AP story): Job growth remains weak

FoxNews (using Reuters): Ministers praise Bush for sun rising this morning (OK, I'm kidding - it was "Job growth lower than expected")

CNN: Job growth stalls in February
Let's give some props to CNN, not just for writing their own copy (must not have renewed their AP and Reuters subscriptions....that's what happens when the ol' AOL stock price tanks!). The author, Mark Gongloff, spends a lot of time discussing the weak payroll growth as well. Gongloff also adds some pertinent stats:

There were 8.2 million people unemployed in February, compared with 8.3 million in January. The unemployment rate stayed the same, however, because the civilian labor force -- the pool of available workers either working or looking for a job -- shrank by 392,000.

The labor force participation rate -- the percentage of working-age Americans either working or looking for work -- fell to 65.9 percent, the lowest level since 1988. 484,000 people called themselves "discouraged workers" in February, having given up looking for a job because they thought none were available.

The unemployment rate was 5.1 percent for adult men, 4.9 percent for adult women, 16.6 percent for teenagers, 4.9 percent for whites, 9.8 percent for blacks and 7.4 percent for Hispanics and Latinos. The unemployment rate for Asians was 4.7 percent, a seasonally unadjusted number.


Saturday, February 28, 2004

9/11 Commission extension: The people rejoice!

Lots of terrific reaction from the Blogosphere on Speaker Hastert's "maganimous" decision to allow a 60 day extension for the 9/11 Commission to get their work done. Here are a sampling of reactions from the heavyweight division:

Atrios: Go John and Joe

DailyKos: Hastert caves on 9-11

"Ha ha. Rove ordered Hastert to take the heat for blocking the two-month extension for the 9-11 commission. He took the heat, and it was an all-out inferno.

Hastert has backed down.

And do we love Pelosi or what?"

Talking Points Memo: "So I guess that little 'president can't force Hastert's hand' charade didn't work out, did it? The Speaker has now agreed to allow an extension of two months for the 9/11 Commission to complete its work."


"Still hard to figure out what this little puppet show was all about."


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