Archive

July 13th, 2016

A more reassuring U.S. jobs report for June

    By beating headline market expectations in a big way, the employment report for June released Friday provides a reassuring assessment of the U.S. labor market and, more generally, the well-being of consumers. It also was encouraging that the labor participation rate ticked up after a steep two-month decline that took it close to multidecade lows. Unfortunately, wage growth remained below what is needed to underpin a more buoyant economic outlook.

    After a surprisingly weak 38,000 jobs added in for May, the U.S. economy created a robust 287,000 in June. This figure provides a solid signal that the poor performance for May was likely to have been an outlier. The small uptick in the labor participation rate to 62.7 percent in June -- especially after the sharp 0.4 percentage point drop in the previous two months -- also was encouraging. But a third key indicator, wage growth, remained sluggish, with only an 0.1 percent monthly increase (or 2.6 percent year-on-year).

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The great email scandal that wasn't

    Pity poor Republicans. For months now, they've clung to their one and only hope of winning the White House. It had nothing to do with the strength of the economy or the state of the world. Nor did it have anything to do with Donald Trump or his pathetic campaign. It was something entirely different.

    Knowing they couldn't count on Trump to win the White House on his own, Republicans placed all their bets instead on their fervent hope that Hillary Clinton would be indicted for her exclusive use of a personal email server while secretary of state. Pity poor Republicans. That hope evaporated completely this week with FBI Director James Comey's surprise announcement that the FBI would recommend to the Justice Department that no charges be filed against Clinton.

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Britain and Blair painfully revisit the invasion of Iraq

    As if our British brethren aren't experiencing enough angst over leaving the European Union, they're now being confronted with looking back at their leaders' decision 13 years ago to partner with the United States in its invasion of Iraq -- arguably the most ill-advised war either country has ever undertaken.

    A seven-year parliamentary inquiry into the origins and wisdom of invading Iraq to topple the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein has emphatically declared it an immense and avoidable folly.

    The British prime minister at the time, Tony Blair, has publicly accepted "full responsibility" for following the American president at the time, George W. Bush, over the cliff into the quagmire that still haunts both countries.

    Both the report and Blair's candid response stand out in sharp contrast to the behavior of his friend George, who by and large has declined to engage in much reflection about taking his country, and the so-called "coalition of the willing," into that war of choice based on unrealistic expectations, poor planning and faulty intelligence.

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All the Nominee’s Enablers

    A couple of weeks ago Paul D. Ryan, the speaker of the House, sort of laid out both a health care plan and a tax plan. I say sort of, because there weren’t enough details in either case to do any kind of quantitative analysis. But it was clear that Ryan’s latest proposals had the same general shape as every other proposal he’s released: huge tax cuts for the wealthy combined with savage but smaller cuts in aid to the poor, and the claim that all of this would somehow reduce the budget deficit thanks to unspecified additional measures.

    Given everything else that’s going on, this latest installment of Ryanomics attracted little attention. One group that did notice, however, was Fix the Debt, a nonpartisan deficit-scold group that used to have substantial influence in Washington.

    Indeed, Fix the Debt issued a statement — but not, as you might have expected, condemning Ryan for proposing to make the deficit bigger. No, the statement praised him. “We are concerned that the policies in the plan may not add up,” the organization admitted, but it went on to declare that “we welcome this blueprint.”

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July 12th

A tragedy beyond color

    Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. Both statements must be made true if the heartbreaking loss of life in Dallas is to have any meaning.

    The killing spree that left five police officers dead and seven others wounded should be classified as an act of domestic terrorism. The shooter, identified as 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson, apparently believed he was committing an act of political violence. Our duty, to honor the fallen, is to ensure that Johnson's vile and cowardly act has the opposite impact from what he sought.

    Johnson, who was captured on video shooting one officer in the back, was killed when police, who had tried unsuccessfully to negotiate his surrender, sent a robot his way bearing an explosive device. Enough about him, except this one thing: He said he was motivated by hatred over the deaths of two more black men -- Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota -- at the hands of police.

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A Week From Hell

    Last week was yet another week that tore at the very fiber of our nation.

    After two videos emerged showing the gruesome killings of two black men by police officers, one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the other in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, a black man shot and killed five officers, and wounded nine more people, in a cowardly ambush at an otherwise peaceful protest. The Dallas police chief, David O. Brown, said, “He was upset about Black Lives Matter” and “about the recent police shootings” and “was upset at white people” and “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”

    We seem caught in a cycle of escalating atrocities without an easy way out, without enough clear voices of calm, without tools for reduction, without resolutions that will satisfy.

    There is so much loss and pain. There are so many families whose hearts hurt for a loved one needlessly taken, never to be embraced again.

    There is so much disintegrating trust, so much animosity stirring.

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The Clinton Contamination

    It says a lot about our relationship with Hillary Clinton that she seems well on her way to becoming Madam President because she’s not getting indicted.

    If she were still at the State Department, she could be getting fired for being, as the FBI director told Congress, “extremely careless” with top-secret information. Instead, she’s on a glide path to a big promotion.

    And that’s the corkscrew way things go with the Clintons, who are staying true to their reputation as the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of American politics. Their vast carelessness drags down everyone around them, but they persevere, and even thrive.

    In a mere 11 days, arrogant, selfish actions by the Clintons contaminated three of the purest brands in Washington — Barack Obama, James Comey and Loretta Lynch — and jeopardized the futures of Hillary’s most loyal aides.

    It’s quaint, looking back at her appointment as secretary of state, how Obama tried to get Hillary without the shadiness. (Which is what we all want, of course.)

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Officers killing, and dying, in a vicious circle

    Thursday's shooting of 12 police officers in Dallas suggests spiraling violence: The cops were shot during a protest against the shooting of black men by police. A vicious circle of retribution would be something new for the U.S. where, unlike in other developed countries, killings by police far outnumber officer deaths in the line of duty.

    The point that police kill more people in the U.S. than in European countries has often been made. It's intuitively understandable: American cops must deal with armed criminals more often because guns are more widely available, and the dominant culture is pro-gun, so people have less of a problem using weapons. For all that, however, relatively few officers get killed.

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A nightmare for black Americans

    Wednesday night I dreamed about my brother's death.

    He's alive, to be clear. Late 20s, in good health, has a great job, just moved states. He's fine - for now.

    The feeling of "for now" is new. I'm a black woman living in the United States of America, but I didn't grow up with a pervasive sense of fear. I was taught that things were getting better - they're always getting better. Look, we've moved past slavery, past Jim Crow. The civil rights movement worked!

    Thinking back, perhaps my parents - like all black parents - were less convinced than I was, and rightly so. Immigrants from Nigeria, a pharmacist and a nurse, they were middle-class professionals obsessed with our educations and far more interested in pushing us to get ahead rather than in looking back.

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July 9th

Confronting both nostalgia and amnesia

    The haunting U2 lyric, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for," captures what many Americans seem to feel about politics in 2016. And a lot of us are looking backward.

    Donald Trump's pledge to make our country great again captures the longing of some of his supporters for a time when our country was less diverse -- and when a less open global market created the circumstances for a large, well-paid working class.

    Trump doesn't talk about it, but incomes also rose because of a robust union movement. The era of labor power feeds nostalgia on the left for the glory days that ran from the 1940s through the 1960s when living wages underwrote strong families and upward mobility.

    The postwar era "was an extraordinarily good time to be a worker," says the historian Jefferson Cowie. "For the very first time in U.S. history, business, the government, and workers all accepted unions and collective bargaining as legitimate pillars of American working life."

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