Georges Méliès: Trip to the Moon (1902)
Georges Méliès: Trip to the Moon (1902)
Challenger Gray and Christmas | May 05 2016
The pace of downsizing increased in April, as US-based employers announced workforce reductions totaling 65,141 during the month
The April figure represents a 35 percent increase over March, when employers announced 48,207 planned layoffs. Last month’s job cuts were 5.8 percent higher than the 61,582 recorded in April 2015.
Sam Thielman in New York | May 07 2016 | The Guardian
61,582 people lost their jobs between 1 and 30 April – a worrying sign of a slowdown in the pace of the jobs market’s recovery
Job cuts are at their highest level since 2009 according to a new study from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, up 35% in April against figures from March and 5% from the same time the year previous.
Some 61,582 people lost their jobs between 1 April and 30 April, according to employer announcements of staff reductions polled by analysts.
For the first third of the year, cuts are at more than 250,000, a level not reached since the recession hit the job market in earnest in early 2009 and cost nearly 700,000 people their jobs.
The news comes amid worrying signs of a slowdown in the pace of the jobs market’s recovery. This week payroll processor ADP said the US had added only 156,000 jobs in April, gains that were down against the previous month and offset by increasingly grim news from energy and tech sectors.
Today’s alarming fourth-year trade data on President Obama’s U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) arrived just as the Obama administration has started its hard sell to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And that is a real problem for the White House.
The Korea deal served as the U.S. template for the TPP, with significant TPP text literally cut and pasted from the Korea agreement. And the Obama administration sold the Korea deal with the same “more exports, more jobs” promises now being employed to sell TPP.
And since then, our trade deficit with Korea more than doubled as imports surged and exports declined. The increase in the U.S. trade deficit with Korea equates to the loss of more than 106,000 American jobs in the first four years of the Korea FTA, counting both exports and imports, according to the trade-jobs ratio that the Obama administration used to promise at least 70,000 job gains from the deal.
Today’s Census Bureau trade numbers provide the grim data fueling the nationwide bipartisan trade revolt now underway as public opposition to more-of-the-same trade policies surges and presidential and congressional candidates spotlight the problems with the TPP and the failure of U.S. trade policies.
And the Korea trade debacle shuts down Obama’s oft-repeated mantra that TPP opponents are somehow stuck in a past fight over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Today’s job-killing trade data are the result of a 2011 trade agreement pushed passionately by Obama himself, which he sold as “fixing” NAFTA.
If you review the Obama administration sales pitch for the Korea pact, you will hear the same exact claims now being made for the TPP.
David Cay Johnston | May 02 2016 | The Daily Beast
An investigative economist has crunched 45 years of official statistics to discover just how much kleptocrats have plundered from 150 mostly poor nations
For the first time we have a reliable estimate of how much money thieving dictators and others have looted from 150 mostly poor nations and hidden offshore: $12.1 trillion.
That huge figure equals a nickel on each dollar of global wealth and yet it excludes the wealthiest regions of the planet: America, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
That so much money is missing from these poorer nations explains why vast numbers of people live in abject poverty even in countries where economic activity per capita is above the world average. In Equatorial Guinea, for example, the national economy’s output per person comes to 60 cents for each dollar Americans enjoy, measured using what economists call purchasing power equivalents, yet living standards remain abysmal.
The $12.1 trillion estimate—which amounts to two-thirds of America’s annual GDP being taken out of the economies of much poorer nations—is for flight wealth built up since 1970.
Michael Grunwald | May-June 2016 | Politico
President Barack Obama insists he does not obsess about “the narrative,” the everyday media play-by-play of political Washington. He urges his team to tune out “the noise,” “the echo chamber,” the Beltway obsession with who’s up and who’s down. But in the fall of 2014, he got sick of the narrative of gloom hovering over his White House. Unemployment was dropping and troops were coming home, yet only one in four Americans thought the nation was on the right track—and Democrats worried about the midterm elections were sprinting away from him. He wanted to break through the noise.
Obama’s strategists, led by his longtime political guru David Axelrod, had always warned him against “dancing in the end zone.” Their polling suggested that gloating about the recovery would backfire when so many Americans were still hurting. But Obama thought it was time to spike the football, and in a speech at Northwestern University, he tried to reshape his narrative. If the presidential bully pulpit couldn’t drown out the echo chamber, he figured nothing could.
“Sometimes the noise clutters and, I think, confuses the nature of the reality out there,” Obama said. “Here are the facts.”
The facts were that America had put more people back to work than the rest of the world’s advanced economies combined. High school graduation rates were at an all-time high, while oil imports, the deficit, and the uninsured rate had plunged. The professor-turned-president was even more insistent than usual that he was merely relying on “logic and reason and facts and data,” challenging his critics to do the same. “Those are the facts. It’s not conjecture. It’s not opinion. It’s not partisan rhetoric. I laid out facts.”
The Northwestern speech did reshape the narrative, but not in the way Obama intended. The only line that made news came near the end of his 54-minute address, an observation that while he wouldn’t be on the ballot in the fall midterms, “these policies are on the ballot—every single one of them.” When Obama boarded Air Force One after his speech, his speechwriter, Cody Keenan, told him the Internet had already flagged that line as an idiotic political gaffe.
Pew Research Center | April 27, 2016
The public’s views of the Affordable Care Act, which were evenly divided following the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer upholding a key section of the law, are again more negative than positive. Currently, 44% approve of the 2010 health care law, compared with 54% who disapprove of the law.
In July 2015, after the Supreme Court upheld the federal government’s ability to provide insurance subsidies through federal exchanges, nearly equal shares approved (48%) as disapproved of the law (49%). Over the prior two years, somewhat more disapproved than approved of the law.
However, the balance of opinion about the law’s impact on the country has grown less negative over the past three years, even as slightly more continue to see the impact as negative than positive. Currently, 44% say the law’s impact on the country has been mostly negative, 39% say it has been mostly positive and 13% say it has not had much of an effect. In December 2013, amid the flawed rollout of the health exchanges, opinions about the law’s impact on the country were much more negative than positive: 49% saw its impact as largely negative while fewer than half as many (23%) said it had had a positive effect on the country as a whole (22% said it hadn’t had much of an effect).
Since that point, positive views of the law’s impact on the country have increased 16 percentage points (from 23% to 39%), while there has been a modest decrease in negative views (49% then, 44% today).
WASHINGTON Fist fights at campaign rallies. A major presidential candidate called a bigot and bully by members of his own party. Gridlock in Washington. And Americans downright pessimistic.
This is America’s politics today, seven years after Barack Obama was elected president with a promise to change it all.
The political change he predicted never appeared. Instead, partisanship and dysfunction have grown worse. His legacy on policies is more mixed. He did accomplish things, notably the Affordable Care Act. But his legacy on politics is another story.
Republicans and Democrats refuse to compromise, sometimes even talk. Congress has become more unproductive with lawmakers failing to pass budgets or even consider presidential appointments. And most Americans have little to no confidence in the federal government to tackle the problems facing the nation in 2016, according to a poll released in January.
Just Thursday, about 20 people were arrested after hundreds of protesters blocked an intersection and vandalized a police car outside a rally for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump at the Orange County Fairgrounds in California. Several fights broke out.
“It’s fair to say that President Obama entered office as chief executive of a divided country, and he’s done nothing noticeable to heal those divisions in his seven years,” said William Galston, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton and now a senior fellow at the center-left Brookings Institution.
Barring an unexpected change in the country, the political legacy of the 44th president will be that he left office with the atmosphere in the United States in worse shape than when he was elected.
That failure is all the more disappointing, Democrats and Republicans say, because he raised expectations so high.
Paul Rosenberg | April 30 2016 | Salon
Imagine there’s no Clintons. It’s easy if you try! Without pernicious DLC, liberalism is a stronger movement today
Hillary Clinton today promotes herself as a “reformer with results,” and she’s relied on a widespread impression that she and Bernie Sanders aren’t really that far apart on major issues. After the last round of primaries in the Northeast, she expressed it again:
“Because whether you support Senator Sanders or you support me, there’s much more that unites us than divides us. We all agree that wages are too low and inequality is too high, that Wall Street can never again be allowed to threaten Main Street, and we should expand Social Security, not cut or privatize it. We Democrats agree that college should be affordable to all, and student debt shouldn’t hold anyone back.”
Of course, it’s not just Democrats. The points she touched on have broad popular support, despite elite hostility, or at best neglect, which is a large part of why Sanders went from 3% support in the polls to near parity in some April polls [FOX,NBC/WSJ, IPSOS/REUTERS].
But Clinton is a skilled politician, so she’s artfully re-aligned herself to blur their differences, with overwhelming support from the elite punditocracy. When the dark side of the Clinton record from 1990s is raised—NAFTA, Defense Of Marriage Act, “welfare reform,” mass incarceration, Wall Street deregulation, etc.—two defenses come readily to mind: “Hillary didn’t do it!/Bill was president” and “times change/you’re forgetting what it was like.”
These are both effective narratives in the establishment echo chamber, which is designed and intended for horse-race politics at the expense of political understanding (as well as factual accuracy). But Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be here today if she hadn’t been aligned with those policies—and with helping to create the environment in which they came to pass. Even before entering the White House with her husband, who had promised voters “two for the price of one” during the 1992 campaign, the pair had cast their lot in with those who moved the party to the right, most notably when Bill Clinton became head of the DLC—the Democratic Leadership Council, or as Jesse Jackson called it, “Democrats for the Leisure Class.”
The DLC was crucial to the Clinton’s rise to power, so it’s absolutely essential to understand it, if one wants to understand their politics—and that of the party they’ve so profoundly reshaped—all the way up through Hillary Clinton’s most recent rearticulation of the day.
An excellent starting point for understanding this comes via the much broader focus of Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers’s book, Right Turn: The Decline of the Democrats and the Future of American Politics. While the book makes references going back to the Carter era, it opens with a meeting of twenty top Democratic Party fund-raisers three weeks after Walter Mondale’s landslide loss in the 1984 election, where they discussed “1988 and how they could have more policy influence in that campaign, how they might use their fund-raising skills to move the party toward their business oriented, centrist viewpoints,” as the Washington Post reported the next day.
Paul Buchheit | May 02, 2016 | Common Dreams
When refugees of a military or economic war swarm into a neighboring land, immigration is a problem: as in Lebanon, which took in a million Syrians terrorized by intervention (some of it ours), and then succumbed to the dangerous spread of poverty and unemployment by turning new immigrants away; and in the U.S., where the economic trade war called NAFTA caused displaced Mexican workers to seek simple survival across the border.
But overall, the merits of immigration greatly outweigh the potential disadvantages.
1. Immigrants Are Entrepreneurs
In Big Business: A recent study found that immigrants started more than half of current U.S. startups valued at $1 billion or more.
In Small Business: According to the Wall Street Journal, immigrants make up 13 percent of the population, but 28 percent of the small business owners.
2. Immigrants Are Job Creators
According to an SEC report, “Study after study has shown that immigration and economic growth go hand in hand.”
Research suggests that immigrants raise the standard of living of Americans through higher wages and lower prices. They tend to complement the existing workforce rather than compete with it. For example, the construction work of lower-skilled immigrants allows contracting companies to build more homes.