All posts by Mad Hemingway

In 36 States, Unemployment Rates Still Linger Above Prerecession Levels

By BEN LEUBSDORF | Feb 26, 2016 | WSJ

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 3.02.50 PM
Nevada, hit hard by the housing crisis, has yet to return to its prerecession unemployment rate of 4.5%. JOE KLAMAR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The recession is over, but it’s certainly not forgotten across most of the U.S.: Unemployment last year remained elevated compared with 2007 levels in more than two-thirds of the states.

The Labor Department reported Friday that average annual jobless rates fell in 2015 from the prior year in 47 states plus the District of Columbia. Unemployment was unchanged in North Dakota and rose slightly in West Virginia and Wyoming. In 2014, unemployment fell in every state and D.C. for the first time since 1984.

Even so, the average annual unemployment rates in 36 states plus D.C. in 2015 were higher than the average unemployment rate for those states in 2007. The recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

Unemployment rates in just 14 states had returned to or fallen below their 2007 averages in 2015: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri,Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin.

The job market’s recovery remains incomplete at the national level, too. The U.S. unemployment rate in January was 4.9%, the lowest level since February 2008—but still up from the recession-eve unemployment rate of 4.7% in November 2007. And to be sure, the unemployment rate doesn’t provide a complete picture of an economy’s health. In some cases, a falling jobless rate can reflect unemployed workers moving away or otherwise leaving the labor force rather than finding jobs.

Waiting for Full Recovery

District of Columbia5.50%6.90%No
New Hampshire3.50%3.40%Yes
New Jersey4.30%5.60%No
New Mexico3.80%6.60%No
New York4.60%5.30%No
North Carolina4.70%5.70%No
North Dakota3.10%2.70%Yes
Rhode Island5.20%6.00%No
South Carolina5.70%6.00%No
South Dakota2.80%3.10%No
United States4.60%5.30%No
West Virginia4.60%6.70%No


Half of U.S. May Endure ‘Lost Decade’ of Depressed Employment

by BEN LEUBSDORF | Mar 17, 2016  | WSJ

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 2.53.00 PM
Khalifah Varnado reads a help-wanted postcard during a career expo in 2010 in Phoenix, Ariz. Underlying job-market damage may be continuing to hold down employment in regions like Phoenix that took the hardest hits in 2007. PHOTO: JOSHUA LOTT/GETTY IMAGES

Economic recovery has been unusually sluggish and uneven across regional U.S. job markets, with employment set to stay low for years to come in areas that endured the recession’s worst, according to new research.

At the current pace of improvement, employment rates across the U.S. won’t return to normal levels until the 2020s, “amounting to more than a relative ‘lost decade’ of depressed employment for…half of the country,” University of California, Berkeley, economist Danny Yagan wrote in a working paper posted this week on his website. He said the research paper soon will go through peer review.

Recessions hit some places harder than others, and recovery doesn’t necessarily mean every place recovers all the jobs that it lost. Instead, unemployment rates can come down to prerecession levels as job seekers leave distressed regions and move to economically healthier areas of the country. “A state typically returns to normal after an adverse shock not because employment picks up, but because workers leave the state,” economists Olivier Blanchard and Lawrence Katz wrote in a 1992 paper.

Continue reading Half of U.S. May Endure ‘Lost Decade’ of Depressed Employment

NAFTA and Obama’s Proposed ‘Trade’ Deals Are UnConstitutional

Washington’s Blog | March 21, 2016

NAFTA and other mega-‘trade’ deals are actually about lots more than merely ‘trade’; they’re about sovereignty — the ability of each of the participating nations to establish laws and regulations restricting toxicity of products, environmental pollution, protecting workers’ rights, and many other things that are essential to the public’s welfare. These ‘trade’ deals lock-in existing laws and regulations so that no matter what is found by future scientific studies which may indicate, for example, that a given product is actually far more toxic than had previously been known, the laws and regulations can’t be increased, because any such increase would subject the given nation to multi-billion-dollar lawsuits by international corporations for ‘infringing on the rights of stockholders to profit’ by any stiffening of those regulations existing at the time the ‘trade’ deal became law. Thus, for the first time in world history, the rights of the holders of the controlling blocs of stock in international corporations are coming to supersede the rights of any government, so that those stockholders can sue taxpayers of any such country, not in any democratically accountable court and judicial system, but in private panels of unaccountable international ‘arbitrators’ who won’t be subject to any nation’s laws. It’s an international-corporate world government now forming, and the U.S. Constitution prohibits the U.S. from being any part of it (because what’s forming is an international-corporate dictatorship); so, in the U.S., it’s being done entirely unConstitutionally.

The Treaty Clause of the U.S. Constitution says:

[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.

The Trade Act of 1974 introduced a new way to pass a treaty, the way now called Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority, by means of which that two-thirds requirement can be eliminated and ‘trade’ deals can now become law merely by being approved by 50%+1 members of the Senate. This was done because President Richard Nixon and some members of Congress wanted to be able to pass into law treaties that would be so controversial (so odious, actually) that approval by two-thirds of the Senate wouldn’t be possible; such proposed treaties wouldn’t be able to become approved in this country unless the two-thirds-rule were eliminated for them.

Continue reading NAFTA and Obama’s Proposed ‘Trade’ Deals Are UnConstitutional

How Obama and Congressional Republicans Intend to Pass TPP Into Law

Washington’s Blog | March 18 2016

Back on 10 December 2015, the head of the U.S. Senate, the pro-Obama-trade-deals Republican Mitch McConnell, said that Obama shouldn’t try to pass his TPP or any other of his three mega-trade-deals until after the November elections, because Senators and Representatives won’t vote for it until the voters have already voted for their re-election (so that they’ll then be free to vote against those voters’ interests).

The previous congressional votes on these deals showed that congressional Republicans overwhelmingly favor them but many congressional Democrats oppose them. For example, in the crucial vote, in the Senate, only 37 of the 100 Senators voted against the enabling legislation (without which legislation they can’t pass), called “Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority,” which will enable the President to ram these treaties through Congress, and 30 of these Senators were Democrats, 5 (Collins, Cruz, Paul, Sessions, and Shelby) were Republicans, and 2 (Sanders and King) were independents. That’s both independents, 30 of the 44 Democrats, and only 5 of the 54 Republicans. So: these bills are overwhelmingly Republican trade bills, which were created by a ‘Democratic’ President.

These deals will be enormously favorable to large international corporations, at the expense of workers’ rights, consumer rights, and environmental protection; so, it’s natural that they have overwhelming Republican support in Congress.

Continue reading How Obama and Congressional Republicans Intend to Pass TPP Into Law

The Koch-Fueled Plot to Destroy the VA

By Kevin Drum | Sun Mar. 13 | Mother Jones

A ranking of the various kinds of American health care on a “socialized medicine” scale of 1 to 10 would look something like this:


If you’re a hardcore libertarian, which program would you be most eager to privatize? The VA, of course, which is America’s only genuine example of purely socialized medicine. In the past, the VA’s status as health care provider to military vets has protected it from attack, but that’s changed over the past few years. Why? Because of a carefully orchestrated smear campaign by a Koch-funded activist group called Concerned Veterans for America. Over at the Washington Monthly, Alicia Mundy reports:

Though the CVA’s incorporation papers don’t reveal its donors, Wayne Gable, former head of federal affairs for Koch Industries, is listed as a trustee. The group also hired Pete Hegseth as its CEO…a seasoned conservative activist, having been groomed at a series of organizations connected to—and often indirectly funded by—the Koch brothers.

…Hegseth became a fixture on Fox and was a guest on Bill Maher’s show….By late 2013, Hegseth and the CVA were making the case that the VA needed “market-based” reform that provided vets with more “choice” to receive care from private doctors and hospitals.

…Then, on April 9, 2014, at a hearing in the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Representative [Jeff] Miller dropped the bomb. He announced that his staff had been quietly investigating the VA hospital in Phoenix and had made a shocking discovery: some local VA officials had altered or destroyed records to hide evidence of lengthy wait times for appointments. And worse, Miller claimed, as many as forty veterans could have died while waiting for care.

This latter charge guaranteed screaming headlines from the likes of CNN, but was later shown to be unsubstantiated…In only twenty-eight out of the more than 3,000 patient cases examined by the inspector general was there any evidence of patient care being adversely affected by wait times…In most VA facilities, wait times for established patients to see a primary care doc or a specialist were in the range of two to four days…For the VA system as a whole, 96 percent of patients received appointments within thirty days.

In short, there was no fundamental problem at the VA with wait times, in Phoenix or anywhere else.

Continue reading The Koch-Fueled Plot to Destroy the VA

The VA Isn’t Broken, Yet

by Alicia Mundy | March/April/May 2016 | Washington Monthly

Inside the Koch brothers’ campaign to invent a scandal and dismantle the country’s most successful health care system.
Falling in line: Republican candidates like Marco Rubio have made pilgrimages to events sponsored by the Koch brothers-funded group Concerned Veterans for America.

In past presidential primaries, when candidates wanted to win the votes of veterans they would trek to American Legion halls and Veterans of Foreign Wars conventions in far corners of Iowa and New Hampshire. While there’s been a little of that in the current primary contest, a new pattern has emerged, at least on the Republican side.

Over the last year, every major GOP candidate with the exception of Donald Trump has made a pilgrimage to gatherings put on by Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), a group that had barely formed during the 2012 primary cycle. Whereas candidates back in the day were under pressure from the old-line veterans’ groups to promise undying support for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and its nationwide network of hospitals and clinics, the opposite has been true this season. Candidates at CVA rallies have been competing with each other to badmouth the VA and its allegedly shabby treatment of veterans. And all have pledged fealty to the CVA’s goal of moving as many vets as possible out of the VA into private care. Even Trump is calling for more “choice.”

This may not at first hearing seem too surprising. Nearly the whole of the Republican Party has become more radically antigovernment in recent years. And since the spring of 2014, when headlines started appearing about long wait times and cover-ups at some VA hospitals, a strong narrative has built up, including in the mainstream media, that the system is fundamentally broken. A recent front-page headline in the New York Times proclaimed, as if it were a matter of fact, that Bernie Sanders’s support for the VA during the controversy over wait times proved his poor judgment: “Faith in Agency Clouded Bernie Sanders’s V.A. Response.”

Continue reading The VA Isn’t Broken, Yet

It Turns Out the Koch Brothers Took an Interest in the VA Hospital System

BY CHARLES P. PIERCE | MAR 11, 2016 | Esquire


A great number of people out there will tell you that there is nothing that unusual about how the Koch Brothers are slinging around their money in an attempt to refashion government at almost every level to conform to their dystopian concept of civilization. There are even people who will point to their various charitable endeavors as though these were somehow acceptable penance for their unceasing campaign to deform the country into something they can keep in their poolhouse. Then again, there’s also someone like Alicia Mundy, who comes along and explains that, yes, the Kochs are every bit the conniving plutocrats that you think they are, and that, yes, they want everything and are half on the way to getting it.

Continue reading It Turns Out the Koch Brothers Took an Interest in the VA Hospital System

Unsure About Socialism? Here’s More Evidence That Capitalism Is Killing America

by Paul Buchheit | March 14, 2016 } Common Dreams

(Photo: wildwise studio/flickr/cc.)

A recent Gallup poll found that less people would vote for a socialist than for an atheist, a Muslim, or an evangelical Christian. Media-numbed Americans still believe that “government is the problem.” Yet evidence keeps pouring in that free-market capitalism treats public safety as a profit-killer, dismisses environmental issues as irrelevant to business, and eliminates jobs to please investors.

Reports from the past six months show that the ongoing record of capitalist greed and irresponsibility has plunged to new lows.

1. Mocking Public Health and Safety

It’s disturbing enough that Volkswagen and Ford and General Motors and other auto companies rigged emissions tests and took safety shortcuts to save money; and that the Southern California Gas Co. lied about its poisonous sulfur levels; and that Exxon was found to be hiding its own climate change research for four decades; and that tens of thousands of government-subsidized abandoned mines have been left to pollute our waterways.

Continue reading Unsure About Socialism? Here’s More Evidence That Capitalism Is Killing America

Higher taxes do not kill jobs

by David Cay Johnston | June 20, 2014 | AlJazeera America 

County-level BLS data tell the true story about job growth

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 10.58.04 AM

America added 2.3 million jobs last year as the economy continued its too-slow recovery from the Great Recession. But it is where those jobs were concentrated that should garner attention. New county-level data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveal where jobs are increasing and decreasing. According to the numbers, job growth was concentrated in places that raised taxes, such as California, and in already high-tax areas, notably New York City.

Indeed, the empirical evidence indicates that increased or already high taxes appear not to put a damper on jobs, posing new challenges for those who argue that tax cuts are the primary and perhaps sole elixir for our economic woes and that tax increases always and everywhere spell doom for job seekers.

First, consider California, where voters in 2012 elected to increase both sales and income taxes beginning in 2013. Last year California ranked third in job growth at 2.9 percent, much better than the national average of 1.8 percent.

Continue reading Higher taxes do not kill jobs

Americans have lost out on $6.6 trillion

by David Cay Johnston | July 09, 2014 | AlJazeeraAmerica

The inability to maintain 2000-level prosperity has cost us all

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 10.23.14 AM

Why are so many Americans feeling squeezed economically even as the economy expands at an accelerating pace?

Last month set a new record for sustained job creation: 52 straight months of added jobs, with a robust 288,000 more jobs in June and more than 9 million jobs created since February 2010. The unemployment rate is down to 6.1 percent, and the number of long-term unemployed has been slashed, from about 5 million people to about 3 million.

The stock market is soaring, reaching a record high on July 3. The Dow Jones industrial average passed 17,000 — amazing compared with its Great Recession low of 6,627 in March 2009, just weeks after President Barack Obama took office.

So what’s missing? Why did Obama acknowledge in a television interview last week that the “underlying trend for middle class families, that they don’t feel, no matter how hard they work, they’re able to get ahead in the same way that their parents were able to get ahead.”

Continue reading Americans have lost out on $6.6 trillion