Insight. Antics.

Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

Leisure Crime.

In Economy, Media, Politics on August 11, 2010 at 11:50 am

There’s been a recurring narrative in the major publications and cable news channels about the Obamas’ leisure time: that they’re  wasting or abusing taxpayer money to enjoy life outside of the White House, or that they’re doing so in the “wrong” place. Their date in Manhattan, their recent trip to Maine, their plans to spend a week in Martha’s Vineyard; all have drawn criticism.

This week has seen renewed hubbub since Michelle Obama took Sasha to Spain for a few days. She is paying for all the things you and I would pay for if we were going (hotel room, meals, and transportation) but of course being First Lady comes with a hefty Secret Service entourage, not to mention a secure private jet. I’ll admit that this trip seems much more lavish than a Cosby ShowWomen‘s Day” with Clair and Rudy, but whatever. (I wonder if Michelle is also telling Sasha, “Your father and I are rich. YOU have nothing!”)

I don’t fault Michelle for this. The first family shouldn’t be held to account for the modern realities of protection: I’m sure she would love to whisk Sasha away and disappear down the calles of España alone for a weekend.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jobby Job Jostling.

In Economy on December 8, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Right after the Afghanistan decision rollout, the Administration turned on a dime and focused on jobs, something it seemed they neglected in public of late. The message has been deliberate and sustained ever since.

Thursday there was a jobs summit at the White House with business influencers representing a cross-section of geography, sector, and size, though Montgomery Burns was not spotted.

Friday the president took questions at an Allentown community college. (The last question was from a young guy who just wanted some help, as a student and veteran, with the red tape of getting his post-9/11 GI bill honored.)

With hints yesterday and a speech today the president revealed a plan to use the $200 billion of remaining TARP funds to create jobs. (Of the $700 billion passed under Bush, half was intentionally left over for the next president, and with faster than expected bank paybacks, this XXL $200 remains). It’s a shrewd (or sneaky?) way to assuage critics who are fearful the Stimulus was not large enough and placate those who do not see justification for passing a second one. Republicans would prefer he pay down the national debt with the extra cash instead. This (“CLEAR!”) defibrillating job jolt is intended to be executed via small business loans, tax breaks, infrastructure projects, and energy efficiency incentives.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dreary Forecast.

In Economy, Energy, Politics on November 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

World Leaders in Singapore for the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on 11/14/09 - Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

You might be under the impression that there is now, at long last, worldwide consensus towards taking swift, bold action against climate change, by reducing carbon emissions and transitioning to renewable energies. Y’know, a reactive rallying cry in this post-Katrina, post-Australia flood, Day After Tomorrow age.

Indeed. This weekend, while at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, world leaders (seen above in their brightest kung fu practice attire) reached a momentous, exciting outcome: they will not reach a deal this year.

Yes, in Singapore, the word came down that the sweeping, binding agreement they intended to reach at the U. N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, with a goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, is DOA.

Not with that attitude! Come on, guys, it’s game time!

(The fact sheet they released avoided all of this of course. And, this news renders what President Obama said at APEC on the subject pretty empty.)

Apparently, APEC is not known for much in the way of substance. So, this news has really bolstered its relevance!

What’s most disheartening of all? It’s mostly our fault! Congress’ inability to pass climate and energy legislation has sent typhoons of political paralysis across the oceans. The House passed a relatively robust bill in June, but Ol’ Unreliable Senate has not. Thanks for letting us down again.

Another morsel of glee: the Senate isn’t expected to get into the nitty-gritty of a debate until 2010. And from there, it’s only two years until the Mayan apocalypse!
Read the rest of this entry »

Economists. And Everyone Else.

In Economy, Media on September 18, 2009 at 12:04 am

Ben Bernanke on 8/19/09 - Doug Mills/The New York Times

Are economists out of touch?  By definition, I’m afraid so.  Take a 60 Minutes feature two years ago where Alan Greenspan can be seen enjoying reading labor and manufacturing statistics over breakfast, while his wife, Andrea Mitchell, looks on, swooning over how adorable she thinks it is.

I’m not sure it’s their fault though.  It’s just their nature, and someone’s going to follow this stuff.  The disconnect arises when economists irritate laypeople with statements like these: “The recession is very likely over at this point.”  That was Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaking Tuesday at the Brookings Institution.

Okay, so I did extract his quote out of its natural habitat (and unlike other media entities I am admitting to it), but the gist is still the same: “Even though from a technical perspective the recession is very likely over at this point, it’s still going to feel like a very weak economy for some time as many people will still find that their job security and their employment status is not what they wish it was.”  This technical analysis may be accurate, but it does little to help the national mood.

Bernanke’s not the first economist to put bookends on the recession, but he is the best known.  These economists called the recession in May in Forbes. Some outlets have been teasing the story for a few months now.  And the IMF’s top dog said a month ago that the global recession is over and the recovery has begun.  The consensus is that America was the caboose entering this tunnel, but still, as interdependent as today’s world is, can that really be so?  And what’s the benefit in saying it?

A huge portion of the population is still reeling from the fall and struggling to get up.  It’s not like four years after Katrina the new head of FEMA would be so insensitive as to call a press conference to say, “We’re all back to normal!”  Can you imagine what Tyler Durden would do to him? Read the rest of this entry »