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Top Articles of the Week

   Posted by: Pat    in Budget/Economy, entitlements, health care, Top Articles   Print Print

1. ‘Why the Jobs Situation is Worse Than It Looks‘ – Mort Zuckerman, US News and World Report

Zuckerman details how our economy and job situation is worse than even an unemployment rate of 9.1% make it appear. Plain and simple, America’s job market has been faltering for three years and is not currently showing signs of significant improvement that one would expect during a recovery. Zuckerman, an Obama supporter in 2008, believes this administration’s fiscal and economic policies have failed greatly:

The Great Recession has now earned the dubious right of being compared to the Great Depression. In the face of the most stimulative fiscal and monetary policies in our history, we have experienced the loss of over 7 million jobs, wiping out every job gained since the year 2000. From the moment the Obama administration came into office, there have been no net increases in full-time jobs, only in part-time jobs. This is contrary to all previous recessions. Employers are not recalling the workers they laid off from full-time employment.

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The real job losses are greater than the estimate of 7.5 million. They are closer to 10.5 million, as 3 million people have stopped looking for work. Equally troublesome is the lower labor participation rate; some 5 million jobs have vanished from manufacturing, long America’s greatest strength. Just think: Total payrolls today amount to 131 million, but this figure is lower than it was at the beginning of the year 2000, even though our population has grown by nearly 30 million.

2. ‘Obama’s focus on visiting clean-tech companies raises questions‘ – Carol D. Leonnig, Joe Stephens and Alice Crites, Washington Post

A thorough report on some of the winners and losers of the Obama administration’s green job promotion. The stimulus package was full of giveaways to companies doing green projects and when the government gives away money or tax breaks there are inevitable winners and losers. This report details how many of the ‘winning’ companies had connections to Obama’s campaign and many of the losers did not. When one company making electric car batteries gets federal money and another one doing the same thing doesn’t it’s called crony capitalism:

There was intense competition for clean-tech stimulus dollars. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said his agency reviewed 50,000 applicants and chose 5,000, a 90 percent rejection rate.

For the winners, there was an added bonus when Obama or his Cabinet secretaries dropped by to tout progress. “You couldn’t get that kind of publicity if you devoted all your advertising budget to it,” said Brendan Doherty, an assistant professor at the U.S. Naval Academy who has studied and written about presidential travel.

Obama began his clean-tech travel in March 2009. At a number of companies the president visited, there were connections — not all of them close, to be sure — to his 2008 campaign. Over the months, Obama touted a Florida’s utility’s electric grid project (a company in an Obama fundraiser’s portfolio was doing extensive business with the project) and a Nevada company that generates emission-free power from waste heat, the warmth radiated by machines or industrial processes (an Obama fundraiser is a partner in a venture fund that has a small stake in the company).

3. ‘The McKinsey Health Insurance Survey Was Rigorous, After All‘ – Avik Roy, Forbes

FMFP recommended this article which details the methodology behind the McKinsey Health Insurance Survey which concluded that tens of millions of working Americans would be dropped from their current employer’s insurance and forced onto Obamacare rolls. Commentator S O brought to our attention that McKinsey did not release how they came to their numbers, but hopefully this will clear things up:

Because McKinsey had refused to release details of the methodology used in their work, Democrats and left-of-center writers accused the company of having something to hide. A “keyed-in source says McKinsey is unlikely to release the survey materials because ‘it would be damaging to them,’” asserted Brian Beutler in Talking Points Memo. Senator Max Baucus (D., Mont.) wrote a letter to McKinsey demanding they release the survey’s methodology, with three House committees intending to follow suit.

Well, lo and behold, McKinsey decided to release the details: the full questionnaire used in their survey, along with a 206-page report detailing the survey’s complete results. Accompanying these details was a thoughtful discussion of the survey’s methodology, one that pops the balloon of those who tried to tar McKinsey as some sort of careless, partisan outfit. Despite reporting which implied that McKinsey wanted to distance itself from its own work, the company declared, “We stand by the integrity and methodology of the survey.”

4. ‘The U.S. and E.U.: Have They Ever Been in Such Terrible Shape? – Josef Joffe, The New Republic

Joffe sheds light onto how the Greek crisis is hurting both the EU, Germany and France, and the United States and that the situation is likely to get worse. Europe and the United States have been the saviors for so many facing tough or critical fiscal crisis, but as Joffe asks ‘who will save them?’:

Europe will inevitably buy time by handing over a few more slices of bail-out money to Greece, even though, one day, the country will default. With 50 cents of the euro, it will halve its debt as well as its repayments and thus buy more time. The E.U., meanwhile, still won’t have any idea where it’s going or how to handle the crisis long-term. But what else is new? Twenty-seven governments do not a “more perfect union” make. Certainly not when the natural leader, which is Germany by dint of wealth and weight, sounds such an uncertain trumpet as it has under Chancellor Merkel. Yet what, exactly, is she supposed to do when the chickens of an ill-designed monetary union have finally come home to roost? Neither she nor Sarkozy can undo the mismanagement of the PIIGS in one fell swoop.

Meanwhile, back to the United States—to its still-sinking dollar and rising unemployment. It is hard to think of a time when both the U.S. and the E.U., the two biggest players in the international economy, were in such miserable shape. We are talking about two giants with a total of 50 percent of global GDP. Who will save them?

5.’The Local Government Pension Squeeze – Steve Malanga, Wall Street Journal

We all know that the US federal government and numerous state governments (Illinois, California, Wisconsin a few months ago) are facing rising fiscal crisis. Basically, these entities are spending far more than they are bringing in and they have structural issues (entitlements for the federal government, pensions for the states) that are the wolf at the door. Well, our nation’s city governments are also facing fiscal crises that are already coming to a head. You can’t have libraries, police, and no pot holes when half your budget is going toward retired city workers:

While the national media has focused on state budget face-offs between government unions and governors such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, municipal officials like Mr. DeStefano are engaged in their own budget warfare. Wages and benefits account for 30% of state general fund expenditures, according to data from the National Governors Association. But U.S. Census surveys show that in the typical town or school district, employee pay and benefits can consume from 70% to 80% of the budget.

Pensions are an enormous part of the problem. While pension payments now consume about 4% of state budgets, many municipalities are already spending 15% to 20% of their finances on pension costs. Earlier this year, California’s Little Hoover Commission, a government oversight agency, observed: “Barring a miraculous market advance and sustained economic expansion, no government entity—especially at the local level—will be able to absorb the blow [from rising pensions] without severe cuts to services.”

Costa Mesa, Calif. (population 110,000) made news earlier this year when it sent layoff notices to 43% of its employees. In 10 years, the city’s annual pension bill increased to $15 million from $5 million and now consumes 16% of the city’s $93 million budget. In nearby Anaheim, pensions already account for 22% of its $252 million budget. San Jose’s pension costs for police and firefighters have quadrupled in a past decade. Without reform, the city estimates that its yearly pension costs, $63 million in 2000, will swell to $650 million in 2015.

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