Tag Archives: joblessness

Is our grumpiness terminal?

The thought just occurred to me.

Could it be that we have entered a period of terminal grumpiness, that our dissatisfaction with government is a carryover that cannot be shaken loose no matter how well our politicians are functioning in the moment?

I see that President Biden’s job approval rating stands at just a bit north of 43%. It’s about 9 points less than his disapproval rating.

Voters’ opinion of Congress is worse than that. We are feeling testy toward the speaker of the House, the minority leader of the House, both party leaders in the Senate.

What’s going on? We well might be turning the corner on the pandemic; we’re still adding jobs to an economy battered by the disease, albeit at a too-slow rate; joblessness is down. Yes, we have immigration issues that need to be resolved. Our lawmakers cannot get our nation’s budgeting process figured out.

But damn! I just get this nagging notion that public opinion polling suggests a restiveness that might be carrying over from years past, or from months past.

I don’t see data that examines what is driving Americans’ distrust in government. I hear plenty of anecdotal stuff stemming from the previous administration’s tenure, about how the ex-POTUS was constantly railing against the “deep state” and those who collected all that power. Voters bought into a lot of what he was saying. I wasn’t one of them. My faith in government remains quite strong as does my belief that government can — and eventually will — right itself.

I don’t want there to be a state of terminal anger. There are too many good things waiting to occur. At least that’s my hope.


How does POTUS pull this one off?

“Here’s a guy who’s managed to rack up a $2 trillion deficit at a moment of full employment in the country. It is almost impossible to do that.”

Perhaps you have heard of the fellow who made that observation. He is U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, who — by the way — is one of the seemingly hundreds of Democrats running for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination.

He calls Donald Trump the “most fiscally irresponsible” president in decades. Bennet does raise a fascinating point.

The economy continues to rock along. Joblessness is down to 3.6 percent, the lowest rate in 50 years. The private sector keeps adding jobs at a robust rate, adding 263,000 more of them in April. That’s a solid performance, which the president is fond of touting. He should. The numbers are great!

How does the president manage, though, to preside over a federal budget deficit that is skyrocketing into the trillion-dollar stratosphere? I am not an economist, but I always thought that full employment — which is close to where we stand at the moment — is supposed to generate enough tax revenue to keep the government flush with money. That ain’t happenin’, man!

Dang! So the president will campaign on The Economy. What about that budget deficit, Mr. President? Doesn’t that matter any longer to any of those who comprise the president’s “base”?

Hah! Who am I kidding? Of course it doesn’t!

Good news, then a trade war … nice!

Donald J. Trump has just managed to piddle on his own good-news report. This is weird, man.

The U.S. Labor Department this morning released some seriously positive news: 233,000 non-farm jobs were added to the payrolls in May, which is greater than what economists expected; the nation’s jobless rate fell to 3.8 percent, the lowest rate since 2000.

We’re cheering the news! Yes, the economy is showing signs of rocking along. The president deserves his share of credit for the serious uptick in employment activity.

But … wait!

The previous day, the president announced a huge tariff on imported steel and other goods. Who’s going to get slapped with this protectionist measure? Our major trading partners and allies: Canada, Mexico, the European Union.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a statement this week about how this policy might make sense to someone in Washington but at this moment he cannot figure out what Trump is trying to do.

I’m not an economist, but I know enough about global economics to understand that trade wars rarely produce winners. Everyone loses. The cost of manufacturing items goes up because companies — that are in the business for make maximum profit — must increase the price of what they produce to cover the cost of sending it to trading partners.

Who pays the cost? You do. So do I.

This is classic protectionist policy, favored by union leaders who understandably want to protect their members’ jobs against foreign competitors.

Free trade? It’s out the window, flushed down the crapper, tossed onto the trash heap.

I’m still unclear about what Trump is trying to do.

I’m delighted with the jobs report. The trade war might tamp down a lot of our enthusiasm.


Labor market loses jobs; no big deal … maybe

Donald J. Trump was all too quick while running for president to denigrate the nation’s stellar job growth during the final months of Barack H. Obama’s administration.

A couple hundred thousand jobs added to non-farm private payrolls during a given month? The number are phony, Trump would proclaim. The Labor Department is cooking the books, he would allege with no proof. The “real jobless rate” is something like 40 percent, he’d bellow.

OK. Today, the Labor Department came out with some dismal jobs numbers: employers shed 33,000 jobs in September. Yes, the jobless rate fell to 4.2 percent, which is pretty darn low!

But, but …

Still, the job losses aren’t the president’s fault. Really. They aren’t. Economists blame the job loss on business shuttering in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The hospitality industry was particularly hard hit along the Texas coast and throughout Florida, they said.

The good news is that the jobs are likely to rebound in the weeks ahead as Texas and Florida continue to recover, albeit slowly, from the savage beatings delivered by Harvey and Irma.

There’s no particular moral to this item, other than the jobs report issued today is no more “cooked” or “made up” than they were when they were reporting much happier economic news.

Let’s also remember that not even this president — the self-proclaimed “very smart person” who surrounds himself with “the best people” — can prevent nature’s wrath from damaging the nation’s business structure.

‘Economy is doing so well’

Donald John Trump is rightfully happy with the state of the national economy.

The stock market is setting records. Joblessness is low. More jobs are being added to non-farm payrolls. Consumer and business confidence is high.

That’s all great, Mr. President.

The president talked about all of that today as White House chief of staff John Kelly reported for work on his first day in the West Wing.

Here’s the deal, though. The trend the president cited is a continuation of the “mess” he supposedly inherited when he took over this past January from Barack H. Obama.

Didn’t the one-time Republican candidate for president trash the daylights out of President Obama’s stewardship of the nation’s economy? Didn’t he cite sluggish GDP growth as part of that so-called “mess”?

I’ll give the president credit, though, for a recent Commerce Department report that ticked up GDP growth a bit past its original estimate. For that, the president can take some measure of credit.

I just find it curiously ironic that one president’s economic “mess” becomes another president’s economic “miracle.”

Big spike in job growth … is it still ‘fake,’ Mr. President?

I want to say something positive about Donald J. Trump’s stewardship of the U.S. economy.

The Labor Department announced a big spike in job growth over the past month; 222,000 non-farm jobs were added to the payrolls. Good deal, yes? Of course it is! The unemployment rate ticked up to 4.4 percent, up from 4.3 percent. Cause for alarm? No, as it signals — apparently — some renewed confidence in people’s ability to find work.

The growth was greater than economists had predicted.

The president’s previous disparagement of the Labor Department’s stats, though, taint any good word one would be inclined to say about robust job growth.

When jobs were being added during Barak Obama’s presidency, then-candidate Trump spoke ill of those monthly reports. He called them “phony,” “fake,” “cooked up” by politically minded statisticians intending to glorify President Obama’s economic record.

It’s different now that Trump has taken the watch. He’s said so himself. Imagine that, will ya?

That’s OK, though. The numbers look good and Americans should hail them as a sign of continued economic growth. Trump is on pace to exceed the job-growth numbers that occurred during Obama’s final months in office.

If only the president can take those numbers, accept them with dignity and class, and refrain from crowing about them. Do you think that’ll happen? Well, me neither.

‘Phony’ jobs numbers now become ‘real’

Donald John Trump is demonstrating yet again just why he makes me sick to my stomach.

The U.S. Labor Department today announced that 235,000 non-farm jobs were added to payrolls in February, the first full month of Trump’s presidency; the jobless rate declined to 4.7 percent.

Those are impressive figures. What does the president say?

He declares those numbers are “real” even though he said multiple times during his campaign for the presidency that the Labor Department was cooking the books during Barack Obama’s presidency. He called the job growth registered during President Obama’s time in office “fake”;  he said the numbers were phony; he said the “real jobless rate” was much greater than what the Labor Department was reporting.

As White House press secretary Sean Spicer said today, quoting the president: “They may have been phony in the past but they’re real now.”

Now they’re real?

Trump sickens me for many reasons. At many levels. You name it.

He lies, slings innuendo around, insults his foes, boasts openly about his own prowess.

The Trumpkins lap this crap up, giving this clown license to keep making patently, demonstrably untrue statements.

The job figures are impressive. The president should simply have acknowledged them as progress toward the nation’s continuing economic recovery.

But no-o-o-o! He had to remind millions of us why we detest him.

So much for unity at this inaugural

I have a message to the new president of the United States, if only he receives it.

The campaign is over, Donald John Trump. You won. You’re the president. You promised to unify the country. You could have started when you delivered the inaugural speech. Sadly — in my mind — you didn’t.

What the country heard from the president was a recitation of the themes that won over enough voters to elect him president.

He painted yet again a dark, forbidding portrait of the greatest nation the world has ever known. He talked about job losses, a dispirited military establishment, fear of radical Islamic terrorists, a general feeling that the nation has gone to hell in a hurry.

This wasn’t your typical inaugural speech. It contained little of the high-minded hope that presidents bring to their high office.

Here is the speech in its entirety. Take a look and judge for yourself:


Believe it or not, I was hoping there would be at least a glimmer of recognition of the progress that President Barack Obama made during his eight years in office: dramatic reduction in the jobless rate; revival of the auto industry; huge reduction in the annual federal budget deficit; success in the war against terrorists — including the killing of Osama bin Laden.

None of that came forward.

Interestingly as well was the lack of mention of the dreaded Affordable Care Act, which Trump has vowed to “repeal and replace.” Nor was there a mention of the Iranian nuclear deal that Obama negotiated to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

He talked instead of restoring jobs, bringing back manufacturing jobs. Here’s a news flash, Mr. President: Those jobs fell victim to automation, not poorly negotiated trade deals; good luck if you think manufacturers are going to forgo robots for human beings.

I’m going to wish the president well — believe it or not. If he succeeds in all that he wants, more power to him, and to the country he now leads.

Failure, as the saying goes, is not an option.

If only he could have lifted our spirits just a little bit.

Barack Obama will deserve a high presidential ranking

This is it, dear reader. The hand-off from one president to another is upon us. With that, I believe it is time to assess the performance of the guy who’s leaving office and perhaps try to compare what I believe he accomplished to what was projected of him when he took office.

Bear in mind, bias is implicit in everything anyone says … particularly when it regards political matters. I have my bias, you have yours. Some of our bias might mesh. Much of it might not.

How has Barack Obama done as the 44th president of the United States of America? I’ll give him a B-plus, which is a pretty damn good grade, given what he faced eight years ago.

Let’s start with the economy. We were shedding three-quarters of a million jobs each month when the president was sworn in. What did he do? He got his then-Democratic Party majority in both congressional chambers to enact a sweeping stimulus package. It pumped a lot of money into the economy. It helped bail out major industries, such as the folks who make motor vehicles. Banks were failing. The failures tapered off and then ceased.

Was this a bipartisan effort? Hardly. Republicans declared their intention to block everything he tried. The economy would collapse even faster, they said. The stock market, which had cratered, would implode. What happened? The Dow Jones Industrial Average has tripled since then.

Job losses? They disappeared, too. In the eight years of the Obama presidency, the nation has added 11 million or so non-farm-payroll jobs. Unemployment that peaked at 10 percent shortly after Obama took office, now stands at 4.7 percent.

Has the recovery been even? Has it been felt across the spectrum? Not entirely. It is that unevenness that sparked the populist movement led in large part by none other than the master of decadence Donald J. Trump, who parlayed people’s fear into a winning presidential campaign strategy.

All in all? We’re in far better shape today than we were when Barack Obama took office.

National security anyone?

OK, let’s try these facts.

A SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011; we haven’t been victimized by a terrorist attack in the past eight years; we have killed thousands of terrorists around the world as our global war has continued; Obama and his diplomatic team negotiated a deal to prevent Iran from developing an nuclear weapon.

Yes, North Korea continues to pose threats. The president erred in saying he would act militarily if Syria crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons and then failed to act on his threat. We did a poor job of managing the Arab Spring that erupted in Libya and eliminated Moammar Gadhafi.

Immigration reform remains in the distance. Barack Obama has been all-time champion of deportation of illegal immigrants, despite complaints from his foes that he is soft on that issue. And, of course, I believe he is correct to suggest that building a wall is contrary to “who we are as Americans.”

In an area related to national security, I would like to point out that we’ve all but eliminated our dependence on fossil produced in the Middle East. I don’t want to overstate the president’s role here, as much of that is due to private industry initiative. Federal tax breaks, though, have made alternative energy production more feasible, which has reduced our dependence on fossil fuels.

Domestic issues?

Obama’s foes said he would launch raids on Americans’ homes, seeking to take away our guns. It hasn’t happened. There was never any realistic threat that it would.

The president did a 180 on gay marriage and the U.S. Supreme Court — citing the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution — made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

And, oh yes, the Affordable Care Act has provided health insurance to 20 million citizens who couldn’t afford it otherwise. The ACA is in jeopardy as GOP members of Congress want to repeal it. They don’t have a replacement bill lined up. Obama has said he’d support any improvement to the ACA that would come forth. Is it perfect? No. The president admitted this past weekend that he and his team fluffed the launch of healthcare.gov, which was a huge error.

Barack Obama didn’t bridge the racial divide that splits Americans. The first African-American president perhaps misjudged the national mood; maybe he was too hopeful.

However, that this brilliant man was elected president in the first place in 2008 with substantial majorities in both the popular and Electoral College votes — and then re-elected — tells me that we’ve come a long way from the time when even his candidacy would have been considered unthinkable.

I’m proud to have been in his corner for the past eight years. I haven’t agreed with every single decision he has made … just the vast majority of them. He has made me proud, too, at the way he has conducted himself and the way his family has adjusted to living in that bubble known as the White House.

Millions of Americans will wish him well as he and his beautiful family depart on Friday.

As for the future, well … we cannot predict it with any more certainty than many Americans did when Barack Obama took the stage. Let’s just hope for the best.

Waiting now for Trump jobs reports

We know this much about Donald J. Trump’s presidency: the wall won’t be built any time soon, if at all; the Muslim registry won’t be enacted right away; all those jobs that have poured out of the country — supposedly — won’t be coming back right away.

However, we’re going to get a good feel for how Trump responds to a certain economic barometer. The U.S. Department of Labor issues its monthly jobs report right around the first Friday of every month.

For the past, oh, seven years or so, the Labor Department jobs figures have been ticking upward; roughly 150,000 each month, give or take.

Democrats have crowed about the figures. Republicans have been, well, more or less silent. If GOP leaders have had anything to say about these jobs figures, it would be to say that wages still stink.

The unemployment rate? Democrats have cheered the rate that now stands at 4.6, which is roughly half of the rate it was when President Obama took office eight years ago. Republicans pooh-pooh the numbers, saying that they reflect a diminishing number of Americans who are looking for work.

The first Friday in February will be just a few days after Trump takes office; nothing much to look for then. The March jobs figures, though, might give us a feel for how the Trumpkins respond to the Labor Department numbers. The feds will announce the jobs report on March 3, telling us how employers fared during February, which will be Trump’s first full month as president.

If they’re good, look for the Trumpkins to shout for joy. If they’re bad, look them to dismiss the numbers. Heck, they might suggest the numbers are “rigged” to make the new administration look bad. Oh, wait! He’s going to have his own labor secretary on the job by then.

Whatever news we get, we’re going to see a dramatic role reversal among partisans on both sides of the great — and growing — political divide.