A round-up of news items, articles, columns and blog posts that caught our eye this past week.
More Bailout Nation Fail:
General Motors extended-range electric Chevrolet Volt had its worst sales month since August, as negative publicity over fire risks hurt vehicles sales in January.(italics, ours)
GM sold just 603 Volts - above its sales in January 2011, but far below GM's best-ever sales month in December, when GM sold 1,529 Volts.
Last week, GM North America President Mark Reuss said sales of the Volt have been hurt by bad publicity.
Reuss said bad publicity from the government's investigation into fire risks of post-crash Volts is "definitely a component" of the decline in sales.
GM sold about 7,700 in 2011, below GM's target of 10,000. GM abandoned its sales target of 45,000 for 2012 last month, saying it would match "supply to demand."
It's amazing how a stone-cold dose of reality can return one to one of the most basic principles of market economics.
Mr. President, about that do-nothing Congress you intend on running against...
Looking on the bright side of things, however, do we really want a legislative body headed up by Harry Reid to do much of anything? Self-imposed gridlock is not such a horrible thing.
Ah, but there are some folks that are hard, hard, hard at work:
The United Nations wants a world tax imposed on all financial transactions to fund a global model of social services that will provide “needy people” with a basic income, free healthcare, education and housing.
The drive is part of the UN’s mission to create a “social protection floor” under the auspices of the Commission on Social Development, which began this week in New York. The SPF will become the UN’s primary focus from 2015 onwards when the Millennium Development Goals project concludes.
“The money to fund these services may come from a new world tax,” reports the Deseret News, quoting Jens Wandel, Deputy Director of the United Nations Development Program, who said that a long term funding plan for the project would center around “a minimal financial transaction tax (of .005 percent). This will create $40 billion in revenue.”
“No one should live below a certain income level,” stated Milos Koterec, President of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. “Everyone should be able to access at least basic health services, primary education, housing, water, sanitation and other essential services.”
We whole-heartedly agree and that is why it is incumbent upon the various kleptocracies, dictatorships, military juntas and Islamist regimes littered about the planet and which are the cause of 99% of human poverty and misery on this planet to voluntarily disband and be replaced with constitutional-based republics possessing market-based economies. No amount of planetary wealth-redistribution, particularly any of that which is hatched by the brain surgeons at the U.N., is going to do a damn bit of good otherwise.
If any of this has a ring of domestic familiarity, it should as the economic illiterate currently residing in the Oval Office tried to commit this country to $845 billion in what was called the Global Poverty Act and which was to be his crowning legislative achievement while he was still a back-bencher from Illinois.
Hey, at least someone is hiring:
Economic woes have forced at least one city agency into a hiring spree -- adding more workers to process the demand for food stamps and other assistance.
The Human Resources Administration added more than 100 workers last July and plans to hire another 100 to serve the burgeoning number of New Yorkers applying for food stamps and rent assistance at their offices, according to the Daily News.
About 1.8 million New Yorkers are now on food stamps, which marks nearly a 65 percent increase from four years ago, according to city records. The increase in applicants has led to overcrowding at HRA offices throughout the city, and the agency said at a council hearing Tuesday that it had to hire scores of new workers and supervisors to manage the situation.
And about that 8.3% unemployment rate (down from 8.5% last month)... Don't let the smooth looks fool you, baby.
The January jobs report is out and it seems pretty strong, at least superficially. The unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent from 8.5 percent, the lowest rate since February 2009. And the economy added 243,000 jobs, the most since April 2011.
But does anyone believe an “official” unemployment rate of 8.3 percent really gives an accurate picture of the U.S. labor market? Even though the unemployment rate fell, so did the labor force participation rate (as more Americans became discouraged and gave up looking for work). Here’s what that means:
1. If the size of the U.S. labor force as a share of the total population was the same as it was when Barack Obama took office—65.7 percent then vs. 63.7 percent today—the U-3 unemployment rate would be 11.0 percent.
2. But let’s not go all the way back to January 2009. In January 2011, the unemployment rate was 9.1 percent with a participation rate of 64.2 percent. If that were the participation rate today, the unemployment rate would be 8.9 percent, instead of 8.3 percent. As an analysis from Hamilton Place Strategies concludes, “Most of the shift of the past year is due not to the improvement in the labor market, but the continued drop in participation in the labor force.”
3. Now, to be fair, some of the decline in the participation rate is aging Baby Boomers dropping out of the labor force. But taking that into account still doesn’t get us very far, as HPS notes:
Demographic projections expect that participation rate to be at 65.3 percent. If that full participation rate is the goal, our economy is “missing” 3.8 million workers, up from the 3.4 million we noted in the white paper. The unemployment rate in that context has not budged at 10.4 percent.
4. Then there’s the broader, U-6 measure of unemployment which includes the discouraged plus part-timers who wish they had full time work. That unemployment rate is still a sky-high 15.1 percent.
Mathematically speaking, it's more about a shrinking denominator than a growing numerator.
They are indeed proud of how efficiently they can issue food stamps so it just stands to reason...
As a Bloomberg News commentary notes, large numbers of people who are not poor are getting food stamps, due to perverse incentives that encourage states to deliberately classify people as eligible in order to draw federal money to their state. People are eligible in some states even if they are not poor at all, but merely received an “informational brochure” for welfare, or a tiny amount of state money that the state deliberately gave them that they didn’t even need, in order to qualify them for food stamps.
Open Markets note that though the adminstration did not necessarily create the perverse incentives to get more people on the dole, it is necessarily cracking down on states that are cracking down on welfare fraud.
Laughable charges of racism aside, he really is the food stamp President. He's owning it.
And speaking of which... remember when dissent was patriotic. Man, weren't those the days?
"Newt Gingrich brought back the food stamps president thing — and then tonight, he went to ‘President Obama ought to stop singing, ought to stop being the Entertainer-in-Chief.’ Sort of caricaturing him in a way that calls out to minstrelsy," MSNBC's Rachel Maddow said tonight during her network's coverage of the Florida primary results.
"These are — Newt Gingrich is many things, stupid is not one of them. He knows exactly what he’s saying, he knows exactly who he’s playing to, when you look at that map, when you deal with the northern border of Florida, which is southern Alabama and all of those states where they [sic] headed he knows what card he’s playing," Al Sharpton chimed in.
That's it. That's all they've got. When there is scant and dubious record of accomplishments upon which to run, of course the water-carriers, shills and hacks are going to play the race card at every single turn. That's all they've got. That's. All. They've. Got.
Sarah B. of Lipstick Underground celebrates Black History Month with a shout out to Alvin Ailey:
Ailey reveled in American themes, primarily of the Black experience, and celebrated the strength and power of faith, family and survival. He made the genre accessible and opened his groundbreaking company to artists of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Today the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is arguably the most celebrated Modern Dance company in the world.
Lack of enthusiasm for any of the G.O.P. presidential candidates should not discourage our fight for House and Senate seats. Leslie at Temple of Mut has the details of Operation Counterweight, here.
And finally, and with respect to Bill Maher's former bunk mate (our take on breaking developments here) Leslie shared the following with us: