The high job-seekers to jobs-available ratio

The ratio remains above 4:1, as the Economic Policy Institute reports. So, job seekers need to gird themselves to wait the long wait.

JOLTS for August, 2011

What does this fact mean? First, it means that Congress must extend unemployment compensation eligibility beyond the 99 week term currently in place. Second, it means that Congress and the Executive must quickly produce a jobs program that reduces this ratio. Third, it means securing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid against the work of the political and economic reactionaries. Fourth, it means the United States would be better served if it returned to something better than “welfare as we knew it.” Fifth, it means a return to stimulus politics. And sixth, it means making a national commitment to a green-friendly reindustrialization program.

What’s wrong with this thought?

In a widely read and much discussed article, Elizabeth Drew wrote:

Someday people will look back and wonder, What were they thinking? Why, in the midst of a stalled recovery, with the economy fragile and job creation slowing to a trickle, did the nation’s leaders decide that the thing to do —in order to raise the debt limit, normally a routine matter — was to spend less money, making job creation all the more difficult? Many experts on the economy believe that the President has it backward: that focusing on growth and jobs is more urgent in the near term than cutting the deficit, even if such expenditures require borrowing. But that would go against Obama’s new self-portrait as a fiscally responsible centrist.

First, let us consider the point which Drew got right: America’s political situation is now in such a low state and likely produce a bizarre outcome with respect to the “debt limit” and “budget priorities” conflicts that future Americans — along with others around the world — will find it difficult if not impossible to understand and explain what happened in the summer of 2011. It is telling that a routine matter like increasing the debt limit triggered a budget conflict. This fact strongly suggests that Washington was waiting for the occasion to run wildly into this risky future.

Let us turn to what is wrong with her thinking. Obama is not a fiscally responsible centrist. The broadly construed reasons for making this judgment: He’s not fiscally responsible and he’s not a centrist. How might one reasonably call Obama a fiscally responsible politician when he has already refused to use the 14th Amendment and Coin Seigniorage options to manage the debt limit political problem? With this double refusal Obama has publicly embraced Federal debt default as an acceptable political risk for him and the country he governs. Now, to my mind, befuddled as it is by leftwing thinking, defaulting on the nation’s debts is as obvious a case of fiscal irresponsibility as one could imagine. Promising to do so if pushed is no improvement at all. So, Obama is not a fiscally responsible president.

Furthermore, how might anyone consider Obama a centrist when he has embraced a reactionary political economics? Choosing to throw millions into poverty is always a politically reaction path. And this is the path Obama has put his name on. Perhaps this Democratic President does sit between the far rightists and the moderates and leftists in his own party. But that fact, assuming its veracity for the sake of the argument, only reveals the vacuity of the term, “centrist.” Even though he might be a centrist in this sense of the word, Obama would remain a reactionary in the substantive sense of that word, albeit a reactionary who sits between the farther rightists and the undifferentiated mass sitting to his left. There is little that is tempered, rational, pragmatic and thus moderate about this President’s politics. He fights for the programs he believes to be best.

Drew’s erroneous Obama interpretation may originate in her belief about Obama’s ‘right turn’:

The question arises, aside from Obama’s chronically allowing the Republicans to define the agenda and even the terminology (the pejorative word “Obamacare” is now even used by news broadcasters), why did he so definitively place himself on the side of the deficit reducers at a time when growth and job creation were by far the country’s most urgent needs?

It all goes back to the “shellacking” Obama took in the 2010 elections. The President’s political advisers studied the numbers and concluded that the voters wanted the government to spend less. This was an arguable interpretation. Nevertheless, the political advisers believed that elections are decided by middle-of-the-road independent voters, and this group became the target for determining the policies of the next two years.

That explains a lot about the course the President has been taking this year. The political team’s reading of these voters was that to them, a dollar spent by government to create a job is a dollar wasted. The only thing that carries weight with such swing voters, they decided — in another arguable proposition — is cutting spending. Moreover, like Democrats — and very unlike Republicans — these voters do not consider “compromise” a dirty word.

Pace, Drew, it is a matter of public fact that Obama wanted to cut Social Security and other entitlements since the early days of his administration, and his desires were reported to be such at the time. Knowing this about Obama’s intentions, I would argue that the President is not a weakling or a deal-maker willing to bridge two extremes; rather, he is a Machiavellian virtuoso who has used the Congressional Republicans as his stalking horse. As Michael Hudson observes, “Obama has come to bury Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not to save but kill them.” The reality of the moment shows that, “The President and his men simply support terrible policies.” And it is because of his masterful statecraft that the President now sits in just the place he wants to be — holding an axe over the neck of America’s New Deal liberalism. The fall of this axe will be Obama’s radical change we can believe in.

A sensible question to ask

ThinkProgress tweets:

Why didn’t the GOP even hold a vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment when they controlled the WH, House and Senate under Bush?

One feasible answer: The GOP needed a willing Democratic president to gut the many social programs on which Americans now or will need.

Barack Obama — the man who liberated the GOP!

A damning judgment of Boehner’s recent budget

Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote:

House Speaker John Boehner’s new budget proposal would require deep cuts in the years immediately ahead in Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, the repeal of health reform’s coverage expansions, or wholesale evisceration of basic assistance programs for vulnerable Americans.

The plan is, thus, tantamount to a form of “class warfare.” If enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.

This may sound hyperbolic, but it is not. The mathematics are inexorable.

And:

In short, the Boehner plan would force policymakers to choose among cutting the incomes and health benefits of ordinary retirees, repealing the guts of health reform and leaving an estimated 34 million more Americans uninsured, and savaging the safety net for the poor. It would do so even as it shielded all tax breaks, including the many lucrative tax breaks for the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and corporations.

President Obama has said that, while we must reduce looming deficits, we must take a balanced approach. The Boehner proposal badly fails this test of basic decency. The President should veto the bill if it reaches his desk. Congress should find a fairer, more decent way to avoid a default.

Just to remind ourselves of our current situation, the current and prospective Federal debt has not produced a fiscal crisis, Social Security is not in trouble, the United States has one of the lowest tax to GDP ratios of all the OECD countries and an austerity budget can trigger a severe economic contraction during a time of high-unemployment. This whole ‘debate’ is class war in its simplest and vilest form. It is a war that the rich are winning, as Warren Buffet pointed out.

The Yves Smith Real News interview

This is her gloss on Barack Obama’s’ “Nixon goes to China’ moment.”

About Obama’s treachery?

Is it a superficial product of Obama’s pragmatism and the situation he confronts? Or does his treachery originate from the bottom of his soul?

The audacious one

In the quoted passage, Glenn Greenwald suggests that Barack Obama is rotten to the core, an opportunist and a committed elitist who cares not at all about the “lesser people”:

Obama knows full well that he can slash Medicare, Medicaid and even Social Security — just like he could sign an extension of Bush tax cuts, escalate multiple wars, and embrace the Bush/Cheney Terrorism template recently known in Democratic circles as “shredding the Constitution”—and have most Democrats and progressives continue to support him anyway. Unconditional support ensures political impotence, and rightly so. He’s attending to the constituencies that matter: mostly, Wall Street tycoons who funded his 2008 campaign and whom he hopes will fund his re-election bid, and independents whose support is in question. And he’s doing that both because it’s in his perceived interest and because, to the extent he believes in anything, those are the constituencies with which he feels most comfortable.

George Carlin — They’re coming for Social Security (NSFW)

Let us thank Glenn Greenwald for bringing this gem to the attention of his readers.