“Very Good” Report, But It Takes A While To Clean Up After Republicans

I was watching CNN this morning when the new—and “very good“— jobs numbers (as Mark Zandi characterized them later on MSNBC) came out. Guess who CNN, the network that tries hard at times to be a watered down version of Fox “News,” had on to comment on the numbers? No, come on, guess.

Oh, I knew you couldn’t guess. It was, uh, Grover Norquist. I’ll spare you what Grover had to say (that is something you could guess), but the point is there was no one on the panel of guests to counter the nonsense he spouted. I guess all the good guys were busy congratulating those conspirators at the Bureau of Labor Statistics for another job well done making Obama look good.

In any case, the numbers for October signal a continuing improvement. There were 184,000 private sector jobs added—32 months of consecutive growth—which represents the largest gain in eight months (government jobs continue to decline, as 13,000 more were lost, split fairly evenly between federal and state).  Because of the increased number of folks entering the job market (always a good sign), the unemployment rate rose to 7.9, from last month’s 7.8 (which, of course, the right-wing labeled a conspiracy).

What often gets lost in the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly report are the revised numbers for the last two months:

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for August was revised from +142,000 to +192,000, and the change for September was revised from +114,000 to +148,000.

That revision represents 84,000 more jobs added over the previous two months than previously reported.

So, although there is still a lot of Republican economics to fix, things are, indisputably, getting better and better.

Before I go, let’s play the guessing game again. What would you guess Fox “News” was doing after these “very good” numbers came out at around 7:30 C.S.T.?

Oh, I know, this one was easy, given what Fox has been doing for the past three weeks:

You gotta hand it to those guys. They are not ashamed of what they do.

By the way, in case you can’t quite figure out what that graphic in the right hand corner says, here is a better look:

Obama is one bad cat. One cover up isn’t good enough for him, he has to have two, or, who knows, possibly more. Perhaps next week’s Fox graphic will be a trifecta of intrigue: “Cover-up of the Cover-up of the Cover-up.”

Is There An Oil Industry Conspiracy Against Barack Obama?

Without such much as a jot or tittle of evidence, other than a downtick in the unemployment numbers, an entire conspiracy was launched by Jack Welch and others over Friday’s unemployment numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mr. Welch was finally forced to admit that his allegation involving those “Chicago guys’ trying to “change numbers” was baseless, just like all of the right-wing conspiracies in the Age of the Scary Negro.

All of which prompted a thoughtful commenter to write the following regarding my piece on this ridiculous conspiracy:

The conspiracy that I want answers to involve gas prices. In June of 08 when we had record gas prices of nearly $4.00/gal the price of a barrel of oil was over $130.00 dollars. Now, we have nearly the same gas prices, but the cost of a barrel of oil is slightly over $90.00. What gives here? Am I the only one that thinks the oil industry is trying to influence the election?

Kabe

Because gasoline represents about 50%  of the U.S. consumption of petroleum products and the Department of Transportation and the U.S. Energy Information Administration claim that the average household purchases about 1,100 gallons of gas every year, I checked on Kabe’s numbers to see if he got them right. Because essentially each penny increase in gasoline represents a tax on consumers.

I found that, as of today, West Texas Intermediate (the grade used in benchmark oil pricing) is priced at $89.92 a barrel.

I then checked on the price of a barrel of oil in June of 2008 and I found the following:

June 6, 2008 $138.54
June 13, 2008 $134.86
June 20, 2008 $135.36
June 27, 2008 $140.21

So, it appears that not only was Kabe right, his inquiry actually underestimates the disparity between the current gas/crude ratio and the ratio of 2008, when George Bush was president (crude peaked that year in July at $145 a barrel). We can clearly see that gasoline is higher now than it appears it should be, if oil prices, as we have always been told, determine most of the cost of gasoline.

I then checked on how the cost of a gallon of gas breaks down to see if crude oil pricing does indeed represent a substantial part of the cost:

As you can see, the price of crude oil both in the summer of 2008 and into January of 2012 represented around 80% of the cost of a gallon of gas. In fact here is a graph that shows the steady rise, since 2000, of crude oil as a share of the cost of gasoline and particularly the spikes in the summer of 2008 and 2012:

Now, from these data we would expect that since crude oil has represented and continues to represent such a large part of the price of a gallon of gasoline, that lower oil prices today ($90 a barrel) than in the summer of 2008 (about $140 per barrel), then gas prices should be much lower than they are.

But as we all know, despite the drop in crude oil prices, gasoline remains stubbornly high. Here is a chart that demonstrates the problem:

As you can see quite clearly, the gap between the price of crude and the cost of gasoline was quite dramatic in the summer of 2008—when a Republican administration was under siege and a Republican candidate for president was trying to gain traction against Barack Obama.

Thus, those of us who know that Republicans are in the pockets of the oil industry suspect that something nefarious is at work here. But we should hesitate to advance, without corroborating evidence, some kind of overarching conspiracy designed to elect Mittens. There are plenty of reasonable-sounding explanations available that have nothing to do with an industry conspiracy. Just type into Google, “Why are gas prices so high now?” and you will get 96,700,000 results. Here is one you should check out and here is another and here is another and here is another, just as examples.

Notwithstanding those explanations, there remains no doubt in my mind that bidnessmen in the oil industry want milky Mitt Romney in power. But we need more evidence than the numbers and graphs I presented above, lest we become like Jack Welch and other paranoiacs that people the right-wing conspiracy industry.

What we need is some tenacious investigative journalist or journalists to investigate, to demand an explanation from representatives of and players in the industry, to have them explain why things are operating so asymmetrically today, to have them explain why things seem designed to produce public frustration—which Romney and Ryan and Republicans everywhere are exploiting—with the current occupant of the White’s House.

Disorganizing Labor

It is no secret that Republicans, for the most part, hate unions.

And the reason they tend to hate unions is because the moneyed interests the Republican Party represents tend to hate unions and hate them a lot.

You might be surprised to know that the moneyed interests don’t hate unions because they hate labor.  Oh, far from it. They love labor because the laborers enable the moneyed interests to become and remain moneyed interests.

But what the moneyed class hates is organized labor.  Because organized labor enables the laborer to get some love from the moneyed class in the form of cash and benefits and improved working conditions, which is not the kind of labor-lovemaking the moneyed class has in mind.

Here is a graph based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows the earnings differential between union and non-union workers:

As is obvious, it pays to be a part of organized labor, which is what causes so much heartburn on the right and which is why a new propaganda war has been launched against unions.

Apparently in various parts of the country an ad was shown during the Super Bowl that promoted something called the Employee Rights Act, which is an anti-union proposal disguised as “labor law reform,” and backed by a $10 million campaign.

Before we look at the Super Bowl ad, just to give you a flavor of the tactics of the folks behind this campaign, here is a full-page ad that appeared in The New York Times about a month ago:

The Employee Rights Act is designed, of course, to put a lot of disorganization in organized labor and if Republicans gain control of the Congress and the White House next year, it—or something worse—will likely become a reality.  Unlike Democrats—who campaigned on the middle-class-building Employee Free Choice Act in 2008 but didn’t do a damn thing with it when it came time to govern—Republicans these days have shown that they intend on doing all of the extremist things they say they are going to do.

Here is the Super Bowl ad, which is just a part of a larger propaganda war against organized labor:

Heritagethink

“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies…”

—definition of “doublethink” from George Orwell’s 1984

 

As an example of how a right-wing think tank—if that’s what you want to call the hopelessly extreme Heritage Foundation—spins the facts when a Democrat is in the White’s House, let’s look at today’s employment report from the Department of Labor for last month:

Nonfarm payroll employment continued to trend up in October (+80,000), and the unemployment rate was little changed at 9.0 percent, the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

By now most people have heard that bit of information. It has been spread far and wide today with various interpretations, from “anemic” to “hopeful.” (Private sector payrolls actually increased by 104,000, which means more government jobs were lost, but since Republicans don’t count government jobs as real jobs, I suppose that doesn’t matter much.)

But what most people probably haven’t heard, unless they have been paying close attention, is the following, from the same jobs report:

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for August was revised from +57,000 to +104,000, and the change for September was revised from +103,000 to +158,000. 

Those revisions are fairly substantial, particularly the August revision.  Perhaps most people have forgotten, but the original August report, which was used to blast the Obama Administration, said this:

Nonfarm payroll employment was unchanged (0) in August, and the unemployment rate held at 9.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

It doesn’t take a Pythagoras to figure out that the original August report was off by 104,000 jobs, which is because the data is always subject to refining, as more reliable information is factored in.

But here is how the Heritage Foundation’s Mike Brownfield, billed as the “Assistant Director of Strategic Communications,” spun the August numbers on the foundation’s policy news blog:

President Obama enters this Labor Day weekend with a serious problem on his hands. For all intents and purposes, the economy appears to be stuck in neutral, with news out today that the U.S. economy created a grand total of zero jobs in August. This followed two months of near zero growth. Not surprisingly then, the unemployment rate in August remained at 9.1 percent, virtually unchanged since April. In fact, it was completely unchanged, and for the first time since 1945, no new jobs were created—Zero.

America now has the weakest labor market in a generation, and the American people know it…

The two-and-a-half-year Keynesian experiment of flooding the economy with taxpayer dollars has failed, yet the President and his union allies continue to peddle the myth that the only way to save the economy is to spend more. There’s another way to go: freeing America’s small businesses from the day-to-day shackles of existing over-regulation, freeing families and entrepreneurs of the threat of higher taxes, and cutting spending to eliminate the constraining fear of America’s debt crisis. Zero job growth does not have to be America’s reality, but changing course will mean ditching the dream that more government spending will save the day.

Blah. Blah. Blah. We expect the Heritage Foundation to behave this way with the facts, since it was founded by right-wing extremists like Joseph Coors and Richard Mellon Scaife and is sustained by right-wing extremists like the Koch brothers.

But shouldn’t a think tank at least trust its readers to engage in some thinking?  Here is how the same guy, Mike Brownfield, reported today’s news about jobs:

No news is good news–except when it means that the story about America’s slow-moving economy remains the same…

The word from the monthly jobs report shows that unemployment was little unchanged at 9 percent in October, with only 80,000 jobs created. While it’s always good news when jobs are created (especially given this Administration’s record), there isn’t much of a sign of a strong economic recovery…

Today’s economic report shows more of the same economic news for America, and President Obama is responding with more of the same policies that won’t change the country’s economic direction.

Not a word in the article about the August or September revisions.

Now, given the big deal that was made by Mr. Brownfield about the “Zero job growth” in August, one would think that an organization that claims it is a “research and educational institution” would at least bother to point out that the “Zero job growth” was in fact  an increase of 108,000 jobs, right?

Of course I know better than that. The point is that these think tanks on the right are in fact don’t-think-just-believe-what-we-say tanks.

The truth is that for 20 straight months the economy has added private sector jobs, to the tune of 2.8 million, which is far too few, but still moving in the right direction.  And we would be in better shape still if we hadn’t lost almost half a million government jobs over the last 20 months.

But, again, as Billy Long said on Wednesday, those “public sector jobs” are “usually wasteful,” so good riddance.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans shot down another chance to create thousands upon thousands of jobs, and the Heritage Foundation couldn’t be happier.

The Past, The Present, And The Future

Thanks to “links master” Juan Don for linking me to an article on PoliticalCorrection.org titled, “The Many Errors of Fact in Speaker Boehner’s Wall Street Speech.” 

Anyone interested in the facts, as opposed to the ideological hallucinations of Republicans, about where we are economically, how we got here, and where we will go if Republicans get both hands on the wheel of government, should take the time to follow the link and read the article.

Here I want to reproduce just two of the many graphs provided, which should be used by Democrats at every gathering of two or more potential voters.  The first one looks at the past and present and demonstrates two trends that should please every conservative Republican in the country [click on for better view]:

As you can see the trend line for private-sector job growth is up and the trend line for public-sector job growth is down, a state of affairs that any Republican would be proud to feature on Koch-sponsored billboards across America.  As the accompanying text points out:

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there were 107,649,000 private sector jobs in July 2009. As of April 2011, the most recent report available, the data show that total is up to 108,862,000 — a net gain of 1,213,000 jobs in the private sector.

Thank you, Democratic Party.

The second graph looks to the future:

Thank you, Republican Party.

What could be clearer than this graph?  The cost-shifting is dramatic.  And keep in mind that while those who turn 65 in 2022 will see their share of health-care spending double, they will also be paying for the relatively generous benefits of seniors who were lucky enough to turn 65 before the results of Republican political philosophy kicked in. 

Just how long do current seniors believe that the “youngsters” will tolerate that asymmetrical situation?  That’s why I believe Democrats should also make current seniors—who the GOP has ostensibly exempted from the draconian effects of their kill-Medicare plan—aware that unless everyone is playing by the same rules, there is some real danger that their comparatively generous benefits will also disappear.

These two graphs, which represent the past, present, and future, should pop up everywhere a Democratic candidate speaks.

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