Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's Never Been Worse Than This (So Far)

We really are in the worst recession (depression) in the lifetimes of most of us.

Oh, and not only is the red line showing a greater level of unemployment, note in the chart's legend that the current Great Recession lasted (is it really over?) a wee bit longer than the other three, as well.

Under these circumstances, the key to boosting economic activity and strengthening the recovery is to create additional demand. The jobs bill contains several measures that will do this. Three of the most important are extensions of existing Recovery Act measures: renewing the provisions that provide extra weeks of unemployment insurance (UI) and subsidized COBRA health insurance coverage for unemployed workers to the end of the year and providing additional fiscal assistance to states struggling to balance their budgets.
You might want to fax this to your Congressional representatives. It comes from the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

Never mind the problem at hand, many people are fascinated by the blame game. Imagine little Georgie and Barak mixing it up in the schoolyard. "It's Barak's fault," screams little Georgie. "Georgie started it," Barak retorts. Despite the mediocre measures taken, it is not unemployment insurance that is raising the budget deficits. The CBPP shows it is two wars, tax cuts, bail outs and the slowing of the economy that is steadily adding to our national debt.

Just in case that representative is shy about creating greater debt, let them know that you know their unemployment pittencies do not amount to a hill of billions in the current deficit and debt debate.

And just in case you think using this chart is a sly way to support Bush bashing, I want to note that the response from the Obama Administration has mainly been, "Not much of that can be done this year." Oh yes, his administration started a program to save homeowners who own houses worth more than their mortgages. Was that to save the homeowners from foreclosure or to save the banks from people rationally walking away from their overpriced homes?

There is plenty of blame to go around, but little help for the people who are suffering.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This Misfortune Hates Company

Nearly a half a million people officially joined the ranks of the unemployed in the week ending May 15. Welcome. If current trends continue, four out of five of you will still be unemployed a year from now. The good news is . . . .

Sunny Side Up

 And here is the good news: 

Michigan's unemployment rate slips to 14% in April
“A year ago almost to the day, [Timothy] Madison, 48, of Novi lost his job at American Axle in Detroit as vehicle sales tanked during the Great Recession.

“A year later, Madison is cutting grass for the City of Novi for $9 an hour -- a far cry from his $28.60-an-hour wage as a UAW-represented worker on the assembly line at American Axle. Married with two teens still at home, Madison gave up his leased car and now drives a 10-year-old vehicle, one of many sacrifices.

"'It's real rough,’ he said Wednesday. ‘We had to do some major cutbacks, eliminate some things we really didn't need, like cable and all that other luxury stuff. We were out of a phone for a while, but we realized we really had to have a phone.’ Help from his mother allowed Madison to get his electricity restored when it was shut off for nonpayment.

“Against this backdrop, the slight drop to 14.0% in Michigan's unemployment rate announced Wednesday must be seen for what it is -- a tiny step on the long road to recovery for the state's labor markets.”
While the Federal Open Markets Committee revised its forecasts for a more rosy outlook, we can try taking its forecast to the bank to forestall foreclosure on their auguries.
“The April employment report also showed an increase in long-term unemployed Americans. The number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or more rose as a percentage of all jobless to a record 45.9 percent."
Meanwhile in Georgia, like in the rest of the country, we are noting what’s marching through the country is a completely unforeseen trend: lingering, crippling (for its sufferers) long-term unemployment.

“While the unemployment rate declined 0.1 percent from March, the number of unemployed Georgians who have been out of work at least 27 weeks rose to 215,100 in April. That was a 5.1 percent increase from March and a 152 percent surge from April 2009, the Labor Department said.

“The long-term unemployed now account for 43 percent of the 489,010 jobless workers in Georgia, according to the Labor Department.

‘Although our job market is slowly improving, the continuing increase in the number of long-term unemployed Georgians is troubling,’ said state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. ‘The specter of structural unemployment is beginning to cast a long shadow across the American workplace.’”
Is it too difficult for reporters to remember that monthly job figures are never an “exact tally?” What they are is a result of a survey from the US Bureau of Labor and here by the NJ “state labor department.” When they tediously report political polls, reporters mostly allow for a “margin of error.” Such margins of error are never allowed in government statistical reporting, no matter how similar its methods are to the pollsters.
“The monthly jobs figures, however, are hardly an exact tally and often shift from month to month as more data is added. The labor department today said job losses in March were deeper than originally reported by 1,800, with 4,900 jobs lost from February to March.

“Census hiring drove public sector growth, with 2,100 temporary workers hired by the federal government.”
Maybe we should allow for a continuous census of the country; at least some people will then have jobs.

“The state's unemployment rate dropped last month for the first time in three years, and Walla Walla County's went with it, according to numbers released this morning from the state Employment Security Department.

“Washington's unemployment rate fell in April to 9.2 percent from 9.5 percent in March, thanks to an increase of about 5,800 jobs.”
That is three-tenths of one percent. Given “margins of error” that is statistically the same as remaining unchanged. Oh, and nothing mentioned about the long-term unemployed.

“The April 2009 South Dakota unemployment rate was 4.9 percent. However, the unemployment rate for April 2008 was only 2.7 percent, reflective of an economy, which had not yet been impacted by the national recession.”
The lead in this story is that the state’s unemployment rate is down to 4.7 percent. Four point seven percent. That rate, if achieved nationally, would be heralded far and wide as full-employment.

I cut and pasted the below paragraph from the link above earlier this morning. Now, the seemingly contradictory note has been excised. Emailed the reporter to find out why it was removed.
“The New England Economic Partnership produced the forecast. It says that all six states are expected to see employment growth by the end of the current quarter, but the region’s unemployment rate will continue to rise to a peak of 9.3 percent by the start of 2011. Gittell says the unemployment rate is likely to continue rising because the labor force is expanding.”
At least about unemployment, we live in a world where down is up and increases mean decreases.  

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Mr. Potter Defense

“This is the carrot-and-stick method of galvanising your population: work hard and you can make millions; don’t work and you’re in real trouble. If you were after some evidence of how the US has managed to enshrine hard-working values in its citizens, this chart is probably a good place to start. And these figures matter. Long-term unemployment is a far bigger problem than short-term joblessness. Not only do long-term unemployed outnumber those temporarily out of a job (for a year or less), they are also far, far harder to encourage back into the workforce.”

There is a fairytale economy and a real economy. In the fairytale economy, capitalists profit when they make good decisions and lose money when they make bad decisions. In the fairytale economy, the lazy working people grab money from the government and the bankers are thrifty and hard working because they eschew such anti-capitalist hand-outs. Edmund Conway delivers a corollary argument that uses statistics to show more generous unemployment benefits leads to longer term unemployment.

When we check in with reality, however, something is amiss. The US, he says, has the least generous unemployment protections and that is one of the reasons why our economy does so well. There is one problem. The US now has a rate of long-term unemployment that simply does not fit his chart. Long-term unemployment, despite the best efforts of government to keep benefits low, and protect working people from the scourge of idleness, is at the highest level seen since at least the 1970s, and probably since the 1930s.

In the real economy it is bankers who get the most generous government benefits and working families who suffer the most. Where has that got us? A testosterone-laden rabble instead of a thrifty banking class. And all because a few starry eyed dreamers like Timothy Geithner stir them up and fill their pockets with a lot of taxpayer money.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hold the Champagne

The broken leg the economic doctors put in a cast seems to be on the mend. Meanwhile, the patient is hemorrhaging, badly; worse in April than in May. It is the worst economic bleeding our economic doctors have seen since the 1930s. But the leg seems to have started to mend, and we all can sign off on the cast.

I would not transfer the country from the intensive care unit, not while the wound opened during his economic collapse is still spurting blood at an historic rate.

I am happy that 290,000 more people had jobs in April than in March. I am unhappy that there are 6,617,000 people in this country who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, 169,000 more in April than in March. Using the most lenient method of counting people who are out of work, we now have 550,000 more unemployed people in April than March. So there were 15.26 million people out of work, who are actively seeking work, in April.

Remember, these 15 million unemployed are not living alone, so at least 30 to 45 million people are being adversely affected by the great recession because someone in the family is out of work. Include in the count those who are too discouraged to look for work and the people who are working only part time and are looking for full time work, and the number of people adversely affected by the great recession is closer to 60 million.

That is only a seat of the pants estimate including immediate family members. How many other people are loaning their children, siblings, parents, friends, etc. cash to keep them afloat? I do not know, and I do not know if anyone is trying to find that out. But I image that number would be around 25 percent of the total population, not just 9.9 percent of the workforce.

This is not over by a long shot. It is not even time take the champagne out of the cellar and put it on ice.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Second Shall Be First

Read this headline on the story that accompanied the release of a Gallup poll on Monday and tell me, what do you think?
Inflation Worries Permeate U.S.

That inflation is the number one economic concern of Americans? Yes? That is what I thought, too. Look at the first part of the story:
More than half (55%) say they are "very concerned" inflation will climb
by Dennis Jacobe, Chief Economist
PRINCETON, NJ -- Although the Federal Open Market Committee said "inflation is likely to be subdued for some time" after its meeting last Wednesday, 55% of Americans in an April 8-11 Gallup poll are "very concerned" inflation will climb, and another 29% are "somewhat concerned." This level of concern about inflation also seems to reflect consumer inflation expectations contradictory to the FOMC's assertion that "longer-term inflation expectations [are] stable."
Fives times "inflation" is used in the lead paragraph once each in the headline and in the subhead.

Then there is a chart detailing concerns about inflation. It delineates just how much people are concerned about inflation, breaks those concerns down by region, income, ideology and party. Following that long chart is a long paragraph, again talking about inflation. Inflation must be the number one economic concern Americans have. Got that, OK. Time to move on.

But wait, there is more. The next subhead is this:
Few Escape Financial Concerns
I really do not know what that means. Even Warren Buffet does not escape financial concerns. Let us read on.
With today's nearly double-digit unemployment rate, it is not surprising that among their other concerns, 68% of Americans are very concerned that unemployment will remain high.

So two thirds of Americans, the largest number in the poll, say they are “very concerned” about unemployment and only 55 percent say they are “very concerned” about inflation. Which item would you lead with? And that is why you, and I, are not economists and do not work for the Gallup organization.

Why does this matter? Look at this headline and lead graph from The Hill, the daily newspaper covering Congress.
Americans most concerned about unemployment, inflation
By Vicki Needham - 05/03/10 06:45 PM ET
Americans are very concerned that inflation will rise and unemployment will remain high.
Although the Federal Open Market Committee expects inflation to remain stable in the near future, 55 percent of people say they are very concerned about inflation climbing, while 29 percent are "somewhat concerned," according to a Gallup poll released Monday.

This is how the news game is played. Like the misdirection of a magician, the most important part of a story is included, but is superseded by the information that concerns the providers. News organizations perform the stenography, slap on a byline and, voila, inflation becomes more important than unemployment.

I emailed Eric Nielsen of the Gallup organization to explain this. Stay tuned.


The vast majority of those unemployed last August remain unemployed today. That comes from a new report entitled No End in Sight: The Agony of Prolonged Unemployment that was prepared by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The news media is beginning to pay attention. Here are some quotes:

From No End in Sight:
It is remarkable that fully two-thirds (67%) of those jobless last August were still jobless this March, and 12% had given up looking for jobs. Since August, the number of job seekers searching for more than seven months rose from 48% to 70%. Over half do not think they will find a new job in the near future even though 73% are willing to take a pay cut and 77% are willing to change careers in order to get a job.
From the St. Paul Pioneer Press (twincities.com):
The report suggests that if you're laid off, it's very unlikely you're going to find a job for comparable pay and very unlikely you're going to find a job period — unless demand returns — for a very long time. Among those still unemployed since last August, 60 percent reported being depressed. Additionally, just over half of the workers who found new employment say they accepted a pay cut from what they earned in their previous job.
From The New York Post:
Have Americans been changed forever by the Great Recession? Or, are there other explanations as to why -- according to Thrivent Financial/Kiplinger -- 84 percent of the population is now worried about their finances, despite the alleged economic recovery and the fact that between 80 percent (the unofficial unemployment rate) and 90 percent (the official one) of adult Americans still have jobs?
From The New York Times:
. . . the results are somewhat discouraging.
Somewhat discouraging? Somewhat! If a disease ravaged a large group of people, and a drug to treat the disease was shown to have failed in two thirds of the cases, I doubt if "discouraging" would be modified by "somewhat." It may be "somewhat encouraging" that one-third of the patients responded, but in no way can this figure from the No End in Sight study be portrayed as less than a huge economic failure.

Please download and read the study. It is an eye opener.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Circling the Wagons

Just another number story, or is it?

Dennis Wyatt, the managing editor of The Manteca Bulletin is probably right. California’s state government took redevelopment agency money, $2 billion, to save 55,000 state jobs. He further states that RDA money, had it gone to private sector jobs in other economically depressed areas of the state, would have saved 170,000 private sector jobs. He cites “the state’s own multipliers” as the source for that number. He says the state hired 21,000 workers and cut 1,667 jobs, which he says is just 600 more cuts than the state’s fourth largest city, San Jose, has cut its workforce. Mr. Wyatt is probably right there, too.

The reason I bring up the Sacramento and the state of California numbers is this: as we spiral down and money gets dearer and dearer for us all (well, most of us) the backbiting increases. I would respect his comparisons more if the “the state’s own multiplier” was applied to the 55,000 state jobs. Their salaries help keep other people in work, too. Maybe it does not add up in Fresno, Stockton, Bakersfield and Modesto, but certainly it counts in Sacramento.

If it is a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul remember the real thieves are the ones who force us to pit Peter and Paul against each other. Peter and Paul were doing OK until the plug was pulled on the instruments of mass financial destruction. When the financial terrorists on Wall Street blew up the world financial system, they received history’s largest government bailout.
I would invite Mr. Wyatt to Albany for a few weeks. If he can find our legislators in session there, and observe them for a time, he would run back to California and thank his lucky stars.

Within the past year, I listened to a radio report on the New York State legislature. The report I heard noted my state’s legislators are each allowed to keep a photographer on staff, mostly so they can have pictures taken with their constituents at the many social and official functions. The radio reporter asked a California legislator how his state handles this chore, and after being told how his counterparts in New York do it, the legislator laughed and said they have one camera and pass it around. Legislators and staffers take turns snapping the pictures of each other and constituents.

The problem is that Mr. Wyatt is right in so many ways; the government in Sacramento seems to have circled its wagons to protect their own. The really sad part is that they felt forced to do so. We, the long-term unemployed, are the ones they are protecting themselves against.

To Make Money . . .

I hate stories about numbers. Numbers make my eyes glaze over and my brain swell. Most of the time, I can understand what the numbers mean, if they are explained slowly and carefully. Writing about them is even worse. My fingers feel like they have advanced arthritis and I get more frequent urges to get up and go to the bathroom. Plus, I know my ignorance of economics (I spent more time reading Prufrock than Samuelson) will get me in trouble. I will not try to keep it simple, it will be simple because that is all I am capable of.

Ohio voters have just approved adding funding its forward thinking development program, called Third Frontier (TF). They said yes to adding $700 million to the program. TF was started with $1,350 million. So the program’s total funding will be $2,050,000,000, or as numbers people like to abbreviate, $2.05 billion.

According to its March press release, TF has spent $548 million since it began in 2002. What has it purchased? It says it has created 55,000 jobs and 637 companies, up to December 31, 2009. That is a commendable achievement. They say the creation of those jobs and companies is worth $4,800 million. So they spent $548 million and got back $4,800 million. Pretty good; we would all take that return on our savings.

Now, look at these numbers, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the federal agency that gives us the unemployment figures we all care about. Ohio’s unemployment rate is (until Friday’s release of the April figures) 11 percent. The amount of people employed in Ohio went down by nearly 37,000 people in the first three months of this year and over 60,000 in one year, since March 2009. The numbers of unemployed went up by over 14,000 in three months and by over 77,000 in one year, since March 2009.

Many people believe “unemployment” should also count the “total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.” That definition is called U6 by the BLS and that figure for Ohio is 17.6 percent. So 11 percent of the people in Ohio are actively looking for work and the real share of Ohioans not working or not working enough may be 17.6 percent.

Without searching for all the actual numbers, in order to get to where Ohio is today, you have to at least count what it has spent on these items:
  • Third Frontier
  • Unemployment benefits since the great recession began
  • The interest on the bonds that were sold to fund Third Frontier
  • All the other government programs the unemployed have availed themselves of
  • The savings and retirement accounts the unemployed have used to keep afloat
  • The money the unemployed have borrowed that they may never be able to pay back and the interest on the credit cards the unemployed have maxed out
  • Whatever equity people may have had in the homes they have lost
  • Do not forget the spending that was lost from the people who are out of work, or the negative “leverage” effect of the destruction of their earning power (those restaurants, for example, that no longer have those unemployed people as customers)
  • The loss of tax revenue caused by all the people thrown out of work
  • And make sure you include all the unemployed, the ones defined as U6, too
If I thought about it all day, I am sure I can add to this list. Feel free to let me know what I have left out.

I only am picking on Ohio since its voters yesterday approved the referendum that asked the state to add money to its absolutely necessary economic development program. Those jobs that left Ohio are gone. It can only hope that as the great recession recedes, if it recedes, Third Frontier will help it to grow its economy to include all of its people who want work.

Creating jobs is not a magical trick. It takes a lot of money and hard work. Losing jobs, that is letting our industrial, manufacturing jobs slip away to other countries, was not a natural event, like the migration of birds. We decided as a country to let them go. At least the people who knew better and could have fashioned a national policy to keep those jobs here decided.

Ohio's spending half a billion dollars to create jobs, which could not slow the torrent of jobs lost in this recession, is not a lesson about spending too much, but too little. Had it spent more to create and retain jobs, it might be now a state ahead of the curve instead of one lagging behind.

What this country has lost in the great recession adds up to far more than all the costs we can calculate, the extra benefits spending, the lost savings, the lost tax revenue, and on and on. The longer people stay out of work, the more we lose the incalculable personal value of having a job. That is the foundation of our civilization.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

One Unemployed Person At a Time

I have had this idea for a long time. Ever since The New York Times ran their long series of stories about the fatal victims of the 9/11 tragedy, I thought that "form" could be a good one for many other issues. The first one I thought of was for the education system of NYC (where I lived for 25 years). Year after year, stories are run about how bad the city schools are. People get up a head of steam up, and then little happens.

Like the 9/11 series, I thought a small story, 200 to 400 words with a picture, run each day, would not strain the resources of any news organization. No one story would change a system as vast as New York City's school system, but the accumulated weight of a lot of little stories might have the impact needed to improve what is, after all, the most important task we perform as a civilization: to educate our children.

One by one, I am undertaking to convince news organizations to run such a series, about people out of work, in their local markets. I do not know what kind of reaction I will get. I do know this: the elected officials who control our community chests can ignore the occasional story about unemployment. If a radio or TV station or a newspaper runs 365 stories, the plight of the unemployed is harder to ignore.

During the Vietnam War, many newspapers and television stations ran a weekly count of the dead and injured, American and Vietnamese. Not one week's count meant much, even in that era where the news cycle spun much slower than today. As the weeks accumulated, however, and people watched the totals rise, believe me, it had an impact. 

The NYT won a Pulitzer for its 9/11 series. I really do not believe anyone will win a prize writing about the unemployed. The eyes of the press should be focused this prize: the people in these stories. If a news organization undertakes such a project, it will have to be with the hope that the lives of a lot of lonely, desperate people will not evaporate without a sound.

This is what this blog is all about: making noise about the unemployed.

Stay tuned.

On the Money

If you want a good summary of our overall economic challenge, read this interview.

It comes from CNNMoney.com, a David Futrelle interview of Columbia University, Nobel Prize winning economics professor Joseph Stiglitz. Here are some highlights.
... the bailouts didn't do what they were intended to do. For one thing, we put no conditions on the banks, and so much of the money was squandered. It went to dividends and bonuses. They didn't do more lending.

... it's likely that we will lose hundreds of billions of dollars. AIG is almost certainly not going to pay back the $180 billion taxpayers put in. Even if we get back nominally what we put in, we won't be compensated for the risk we took. Moreover, since we bailed out big banks, while letting smaller banks fail, the problem of "too big to fail" has gotten worse.

Unemployment remains very high. The pace of home foreclosures is likely to increase this year over last. A quarter of all homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, and problems are starting to hit commercial real estate as well.

I would say that the likelihood that we have a strong recovery before the middle of the decade may be a rosy scenario.

Worrying excessively about deficits during a crisis is counterproductive. The International Monetary Fund went into Argentina during its crisis a decade ago, crying about deficits, deficits, deficits, and pushed that economy over the cliff.

For a fraction of the amount we're talking about -- either the cost of the wars, or the cost of the bailouts, or the cost of the financial sector's mismanagement -- we could have put Social Security on firm financial ground for the next 100 years.
Just one thing: the introduction to the interview (actually, it is highlights, too, of a longer interview) puts Stiglitz to the left of the Obama Administration. The editors are doing their job, and they probably defined his place on the political spectrum correctly. But it is my contention (and if I can continue this blog I will pound away at this point again and again) that the labels of left and right are being  used only to divide us. It is an intentional act (though probably not for this interview).

Yes, focus on the most contentious issues and we seem to be a divided country. Take the list of what all Americans believe in as a whole, and we are as united as any group of 300,000,000 plus people can be. Everybody who is unemployed wants a job, and that is not left, right or center.

Work is part of what makes us civilized human beings.

Things are Terrible, Do Nothing

Not much new from former Federal Reserve chairman and current administration advisor (chairman of President Obama’s Economic Advisory Recovery Board) Paul Volcker.
“Not much of that can be done this year, or even next,” Volcker said. “It is a challenge not just for this Congress and this administration, but for years ahead.”
Smart ass that I am, if there is nothing to be done, let us embark on the road to recovery and cut government spending on economic advisors, starting with chairman Volker. It might be worth the firing of a gaggle of messengers. We need to get rid of the “nothing to be done” crowd because something has to be done before tens of millions of people melt into air.

He said in his speech at Washington University in St. Louis that America needs to shift its reliance from consumer and government spending to a greater emphasis on savings, exports and industrial investments. Good advice. The decades of policy that assisted in moving industry and jobs overseas has resulted in an economy that no longer operates unless the government intervenes.
“What we need is more saving, more industrial investment, and a stronger trade position,” Volcker said in his lecture at Washington University. “Our expansive and expensive program of entitlements simply must be brought under control. Our mortgage market must be rebuilt from the ground up.”
I would hate to see him go. He has actually given better advice to the administration than the current Fed chairman. Chopping off the metaphoric head of someone who says:
“Not much of that can be done this year, or even next,” Volcker said,

is exactly the kind of message that needs to echo through the pipes of the Internet.

I suspect he will not file for unemployment benefits if he is let go.

BTW: the story ended with this cheery note:
The jobless rate has not increased since October, when it reached a 26-year high of 10.1 percent.
That warms the cockles of this heart.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Long-Term Jobless Rate Escalates

Veronique De Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, has mined an astounding nugget of information from last month's unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Just over 44 percent of the unemployed are long-timers: that is unemployed for more than 27 weeks. At the beginning of 2008, about 18 percent of the unemployed fit that category. Then there are another 5.8 million people who want to work, but for one reason or another were not included in the BLS unemployment numbers. Frightening numbers for the economy and the unemployed.

Warren or Jimmy?

Buffett On U.S. Economy: 'Significant Improvement'

When I first read this headline, I thought it might have been ganja lover Jimmy Buffett to whom the economy was looking so rosy. Then I read the story.

Yep. Things are looking up for Warren Buffett, even as for the rest of the world, things continue to look pretty grim. This is because last week, Mr. Buffett got a legislative break, an ingredient thrown in by that great sausage maker Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. From the WSJ:
“The provision, sought by Berkshire and pushed by Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson in the Senate Agriculture Committee, would largely exempt existing derivatives contracts from the proposed rules. Previously, the legislation could have allowed regulators to require that companies such as Nebraska-based Berkshire put aside large sums to cover potential losses. The change thus would aid Berkshire, which has a $63 billion derivatives portfolio, according to Barclays Capital."
Buffett is only seeking to have the derivative exemption apply to existing contracts. While it might be true that Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has been more responsible in the creation of its derivatives, the exemption he seems to have won will apply to everyone who trade in these complex financial instruments, about which Buffett wrote Berkshire investors saying that derivatives "can be dynamite."

From the same rosy article quoting Buffett noted above:
“And the evidence is now clear that new jobs will follow. And at a faster rate than in any recovery in recent memory.

“The shift in employment activity is most apparent in job postings, which have begun to surge. Indeed.com, which collects job listings from thousands of sources, reported a 19 percent increase in postings in March, versus the same month last year.”
I do not know how anyone else out there feels, but Indeed.com, for me, has been the biggest waste of application time in my job search. It is so full of jobs that are not real jobs, I stopped using it near the beginning of my search.

And what does “recent memory” mean? If it refers to the memory of most Americans, that memory is short, indeed.

Some people claim the economy's to blame, but as the unemployed are often told, it's your own damn fault. 

The Illiad and Odyssey

''Unemployment is the Achilles heel of this recovery,'' said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at California State University. ''I will be surprised if the jobless rate falls below 9 percent this year, and it will take four or five years for it to get back to the levels before the recession hit.'' 
Achilles' heel killed the Greek's champion warrior. Unfortunately, the phrase has come to mean a soft spot, not a lethal vulnerability. Most economists do not include an unemployment component to their definition of "recession." People out of work are merely the by product of economic downturns. It is just a weak spot.

Like the Homer's sequel to the epic war poem, the return to "normal" might mean a long odyssey for people out of work.

Dudley's Dud Lead

A leading candidate for governor in Oregon, Chris Dudley, summed up the most of the major policies touted to create jobs in the US: cut taxes, reduce government spending, improving higher education. It is the fourth policy he proposed that caught my eye. He believes “[Oregon's] attitude towards business is a bad one.”

“We have a national reputation as a place not friendly for business and we need to change that.”

Oregon is not friendly for business. Huh?

It is one of only five states that have no sales tax. Who pays what when it comes to the state’s corporate tax ($10 is the minimum annual payment) is kept secret from taxpayers, whose income and property taxes are what mostly pay the bills in the state. A revenue limit returns excess taxes collected when the actual amount collected exceeds the estimated amount projected by more than 2 percent. Nike has its corporate home in Oregon and Intel is the state’s largest private employer. Oregon ranks 27th in state population and the 26th wealthiest state in terms of GDP, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Its unemployment rate is 10.7 percent.

If “not friendly for business” means the drop in timber production from federal lands, which was reduced by 96 percent in the 1990s, and the decrease in the timber industry in general, that is fair. Oregon remains, however, the leading producer of soft lumber production among the 50 states. While we are being fair, also note that Intel and Nike are both prime examples of how business friendly we are by letting corporations ship jobs that can be done in America overseas.

“There are 250,000 of our fellow Oregonians who are out of work, unemployed right now,” Dudley said. “I’m a believer that government doesn't create jobs but rather government creates the environment in which jobs can be created.”

The Republican candidate’s prescription for unemployment ills is no worse than the Republicans he was debating, nor of all Republicans anywhere. These ineffectual strategies are not worse than what Democrats have failed to do. It is just another example of the “shirts and skins” politics of America that continues to leave the unemployed out of work.

Homilies like Dudley’s will not get the job done.