Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Catnip 6/20/12: Suddenly Summer


Sundial on the Berkeley campus. Happy Summer Solstice to you all.


Gutting of the country. Even though tax revenues are starting to recover, states are still making cuts to vital services. Examples cited? Schools, elderly and public safety. Totals: "State and local spending is down 0.8% this year — a 2.7% drop when adjusted for inflation — to an annual rate of $2.4 trillion, a USA TODAY analysis of Bureau of Economic Analysis data found... The pullback has trimmed 662,000 state and local jobs since August 2008, about 3%."

Great story from Bryce Covert at The Nation that points out once again that Americans want to keep "teachers, cops and firefighters" on the job. They may want to see benefit cuts, but as far as layoffs - no. Go read. Bryce and partner Mike Konczal are the writers that originally pointed out how it was the Republicans elected in 2010 and the red states that have driven the layoffs of "teachers, cops and firefighters." Sensing a pattern yet, America?

The New York Times gets in the public sector layoff game today too - making this the official meme in my little world. "Government payrolls grew in the early part of the recovery, largely because of federal stimulus measures. But since its postrecession peak in April 2009 (not counting temporary Census hiring), the public sector has shrunk by 657,000 jobs (different number than above). The losses appeared to be tapering off earlier this year, but have accelerated for the last three months, creating the single biggest drag on the recovery in many areas."

Mark Thoma at the Fiscal Times points out how anti-government extremism on the part of public job-slashing Republicans is hurting the economy and the country. "We cannot function economically without supporting infrastructure, we are already falling behind where ought to be and that will prove costly over time, and we cannot allow externalities, particularly those associated with global warming, to run rampant. Conservatives used to understand that government had an important role to play in these areas, and opposition to government was based upon coherent reasoning rather than a knee-jerk rejection of government." I still hold that we will find Republicans love them some big government once they get back in power (see: Michigan) - but they still won't spend in the most critical areas that serve citizens long term needs such as education and health care - and that ends up costing us more money in the long run.

How the psychology of the monthly jobs report may make or break the economy - and the election. "Economic growth is, in part, driven by people and businesses feeling optimistic about the future. And after hearing how lousy the job sector looked over the last month, some consumers decide not to buy things, like a new house or even an extra appetizer. After hearing that so many of their customers are out of work, some companies decide there isn’t enough growth on the horizon to warrant hiring. Just like that, a bad initial jobs report (obsessed over by a frantic news media) might make a bad situation worse." Go read that too.

Bloomberg poll, whoa. At first, it screams outlier - but then I realized it was done by Selzer, who is a very reliable pollster. The poll shows Obama up 53-40, and this is due to the fact that Romney has a whopping 48 percent unfavorable rating as voters see him as "out of touch". Selzer warns it still comes down to turnout. Bloomberg also shows that Americans say they are better off now than the beginning of 2009 when Obama took office.

Mitt Romney, web traffic killer. Editors across the board report that stories about Romney are death for getting clicks. So, not creating any jobs on the internet, that's for sure.

On a related note, Politico's Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns have a story about how the presidential campaign of 2012 has been lacking in substance. Before you start laughing about journalists bitching about the state of journalism - really listen to what is being said here, because I've certainly felt it too. It's a runaway train: "There have been small-ball presidential campaigns before, but veteran strategists and observers agree this race is reaching a record degree of triviality. Nothing previously can compare with a race being fought hour by hour in 140-character Twitter increments and blink-and-you-miss-it cable segments. Not to mention an endless flood of caustic television ads. Blame the campaign strategist, blame the operatives, blame the reporters. They know it’s a drag. And they know they’re responsible. They would argue: We’re powerless to stop it." And they are. No one wants to give up that perceived advantage of winning the news cycle.

And with that, I'm off to feed the beast...