Friday, June 01, 2012

Catnip 6/1/12: Don't Panic


Sea lions at Pier 39. They jump up on the tethered docks to nap in the sun as the tourists snap pictures. Every once in a while, a wet one will join the pack, which brings honks of protest from the others that are sleeping. Fun to watch.

Other than that - Hello June. Yee-hah.

Everybody freakout. Jobs number not what we want to hear, unemployment rises as people rejoin the workforce. And as Greg Sargent so masterfully points out, this not-great news dovetails nicely with the new Romney "feel good" ad that essentially says that you should act on your frustrations and just vote Obama out. The Republicans are going for that "morning in America" meme once again, and it just may work as long as the media refuses to take a critical look at position and policy. Never any mention of how Romney would take us right back to the same track that got us feeling bad in the first place.

If these numbers stay the same, and the Democrats don't start showing some fight and passion in their message, we may be in trouble here. I didn't feel that way a month ago, but, in the face of $1 billion in slick ads that are going to promise you that feel-good instant crack high that the R's are famous for - I'm starting to think that this country may fall for it again. And then they are going to be really sorry.

Moving on...

Message to Bill, Cory, and Deval. Look guys, people don't get nuance. You aren't helping when you try to play both sides of the Bain card. Just stop. Talk about something else.

House Republicans are still trying to screw around with the student loan rate bill. Now, they want to take the money from federal employees, or take money from Medicaid providers, or "coordinate with the states to stop overpayment on Social Security claims." Whatever. Anything to protect their campaign contributors. You know who they are. The WSJ reports this morning that student debt rose 8% last year - up to $904 billion dollars, far more than the $679 billion Americans owe on credit cards.

Krugman calls "austerity" for what it is - disaster capitalism. In other words, create a crisis, and use that crisis for further cuts to social programs. Comparing the countries and policy in Europe as an example, Krugman comes to this conclusion; "So the austerity drive in Britain isn’t really about debt and deficits at all; it’s about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs. And this is, of course, exactly the same thing that has been happening in America." Yup. That about sums it up. And it won't work, unless you enjoy masses of people in poverty.

Wisconsin takes center stage. $62 million dollars has been spent in the state on the recall election; a lot of that coming from out-of-state special interests that have a stake in how the effort to bust unions comes out. And union busting has worked. David Dayen at Firedoglake points out that AFSCME members have dropped by nearly half in the past year, from 62,000 members to 28,000 since March of 2011. "The goal of Walker’s anti-worker bill was to decimate public sector unions, to ruin the funding base for Democrats in Wisconsin elections. In other words, the bill was designed to deal with close races like this, to give Republican candidates an advantage." Take out the unions, take out the Democrats - which is exactly what the Republicans have in mind.

One good economic sign, retail sales grew in May. From the Financial Times via Wonkbook: "American shoppers increased their spending in May, despite uncertainty over US economic growth and the jobs market, according to monthly sales figures from some of the country’s largest retail chains. Total sales at stores open for at least a year rose 4 per cent last month, according to Retail Metrics, the research group."

Another good economic sign - car sales at the Big Three are up big. Ford 13%, Chrysler 30%, and "GM says US sales up 11% in May for best monthly total since August 2009 (Cash for Clunkers); GM retail sales up 14%" according to a tweet from David Shepardson. David also reports "GM says it sold 1,680 Volts -- up over April's 1,462 -- and has now sold 7,057 for the year -- almost as many as all of 2011". All that will be in print later, I'm sure.

With that, enjoy your weekend - and get ready for the knockdown, dragout fight that is going to be the summer silly season...