Economy Archive:

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Katrina Proves Bush Failed New Orleans

Posted by Bob Brigham

UPDATE (Bob) Here is the full recap

So far today, I've looked at Global Warming and Katrina and the crisis resulting from Lousiana's National Guard being in Iraq instead of defending their state.

Will Bush stay on vacation? At this point, it doesn't really matter. Because Bush has been asleep at the wheel for four years. From the Houston Chronicle in 2001:

New Orleans is sinking.

And its main buffer from a hurricane, the protective Mississippi River delta, is quickly eroding away, leaving the historic city perilously close to disaster.

So vulnerable, in fact, that earlier this year the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked the potential damage to New Orleans as among the three likeliest, most castastrophic disasters facing this country.

The other two? A massive earthquake in San Francisco, and, almost prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York City.

The New Orleans hurricane scenario may be the deadliest of all.

FEMA said this was the "three likeliest, most castastrophic disasters". Bush's response? Cut preparedness:

(UPDATE -- Tim:) I wanted to take a moment to spell it out for the visiting freepi fawning over the head start the Superdome is giving you supporters of minority internment. Of course we don't believe Bush caused the hurricane, although I think many of us wish he would have asked Pat Robertson to pray for a re-direction.

And most of you failed to read the article Bob linked, no surprise there. But inbetween vacations, the preznit got massive tax-cuts passed at the expense of important projects. Among them, preparedness for natural disasters--some of which happen to be in New Orleans.

In general, funding for construction has been on a downward trend for the past several years, said Marcia Demma, chief of the New Orleans Corps' programs management branch.

In 2001, the New Orleans district spent $147 million on construction projects. When fiscal year 2005 wraps up Sept. 30, the Corps expects to have spent $82 million, a 44.2 percent reduction from 2001 expenditures. [...]

Unfunded projects include widening drainage canals, flood- proofing bridges and building pumping stations in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. The Corps also wants to build levees in unprotected areas on the West Bank.

Irresponsible distribution of resources has, yet again, put American lives in peril. If the freepi were able to see past 9/11 and recognize the difference between real life, health, and safety risks (ie. environment & port protection among others) and not get distracted by contrived security risks (ie. Iraq), things might not look so grim tonight.

In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding.

It would be the largest single-year funding loss ever for the New Orleans district, Corps officials said.

I've been here over 30 years and I've never seen this level of reduction, said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. I think part of the problem is it's not so much the reduction, it's the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It's the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to.

There is an economic ripple effect, too. The cuts mean major hurricane and flood protection projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now.

Remember, this was a top-three "likeliest catastrophic disasters" and Bush shelved the study of how to protect against Category 5 hurricanes like Katrina? For most of Bush's time as President, FEMA has been saying this could be the deadliest scenario facing America. And Bush cut the preparedness funding, sent our strategic reserve National Guard troops to fight an unnecessary war and then went on vacation. Not only is Bush the worst President ever, but he is also a total asshole for fucking over New Orleans.

Hat tip to Ms Librarian and commentors.

UPDATE: (Bob) Here is some more...


Katrina could be the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. But it was not a surprise. Experts have been warning for years of the potential catastrophic devastation that a category 4 or 5 hurricane could have on the Gulf Coast. And in Louisiana, local officials have fought for federal funding to implement hurricane defense plans that could have avoided the widespread flooding of New Orleans. But under the Bush Administration, funding for those projects has been continuously slashed, leaving the Gulf Coast unprepared for such a disaster.


Federal Government Has Neglected Disaster Preparedness, Left Enormous Vulnerabilities. Disaster and emergency experts have warned for years that governments, especially the federal government, have put so much stress on disaster response that they have neglected policies to minimize a disaster's impact in advance. Robert Hartwig, chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute, said “It's going to be very evident that there were an enormous number of vulnerabilities that weren't addressed. There's going to be a lot of finger-pointing.” [Newhouse News Service, 8/31/05]

Disaster Mitigation Programs Slashed Since 2001. Since 2001, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. FEMA’s Project Impact, a model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration, has been canceled outright. Federal funding of post-disaster mitigation efforts designed to protect people and property from the next disaster has been cut in half, and now communities across the country must compete for pre-disaster mitigation dollars. [Baltimore City Paper, 9/29/04]

In 2003 White House Slashed Mitigation Programs In Half. In 2003, Congress approved a White House proposal to cut FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) in half. Previously, the federal government was committed to invest 15 percent of the recovery costs of a given disaster in mitigating future problems. Under the Bush formula, the feds now cough up only 7.5 percent. Such post-disaster mitigation efforts, specialists say, are a crucial way of minimizing future losses. [Gambit Weekly, 9/28/04]

Bush Continuing To Propose Cuts To Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps of Engineers will be cut in 2006. Bush’s 2005 budget proposal called for a 13 percent reduction in the Army Corps of Engineers’ budget, down to $4 billion from $4.6 billion in fiscal 2004. [Associated Press, 2/6/05; Congressional Quarterly Online, 2/3/04]

Under Bush, FEMA Reverted To Pre-Clinton Status As One Of The Worst Agencies. Former President Clinton appointed James L. Witt to take over FEMA after its poor response to Hurricane Andrew. Witt adopted recommendations and FEMA was described as an agency reborn: “transformed itself from what many considered to be the worst federal agency to among the best.” But FEMA under the Bush administration has destroyed carefully constructed efforts. After the 9/11 attacks the agency’s inspector general in 2003 criticized portions of FEMA’s response, citing “difficulties in delivering timely and effective” mortgage and rental assistance to those in need. [USA Today, 6/1/2005]


States Expected To Shoulder More Of The Burden In Emergency Management With Fewer Funds. “The federal focus on terrorism preparedness has left states with an increased responsibility to provide support for natural disasters and emergencies,” noted a report released by the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) this summer. “State budget shortfalls have given emergency management programs less to work with, at a time when more is expected of them. In fiscal year 2004, the average budget for a state emergency management agency was $40.8 million, a 23 percent reduction from fiscal year 2003.” [Gambit Weekly, 9/28/04]

Bush Tried to Cut Federal Percentage of Large-Scale Natural Disaster Preparedness. The administration made a failed attempt to cut the federal percentage of large-scale natural disaster preparedness expenditures. Since the 1990s, the federal government has paid 75 percent of such costs, with states and municipalities funding the other 25 percent. The White House's attempt to reduce the federal contribution to 50 percent was defeated in Congress. [Gambit Weekly, 9/28/04]


Bush Opposed Necessary Funding For Hurricane Preparedness In Louisiana. The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. Ultimately a deal was struck to steer $540 million to the state over four years. The total coast of coastal repair work is estimated to be $14 billion. In its budget, the Bush administration also had proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need. [Newhouse News Service, 8/31/05]

Republican Budget Cut New Orleans’ Army Corps Of Engineers Funding By A Record $71.2 Million. In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding. It would be the largest single-year funding loss ever for the New Orleans district, Corps officials said. “I've been here over 30 years and I've never seen this level of reduction,” said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. The cuts mean major hurricane and flood protection projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Money is so tight the New Orleans district instituted a hiring freeze. The freeze is the first of its kind in about 10 years, said Marcia Demma, chief of the Corps' Programs Management Branch. [New Orleans City Business, 6/6/05]

Landrieu Called Bush’s Funding Priorities Shortsided. Landrieu said the Bush Administration is not making Corps of Engineers funding a priority. “I think it's extremely shortsighted,” Landrieu said. “When the Corps of Engineers' budget is cut, Louisiana bleeds. These projects are literally life-and-death projects to the people of south Louisiana and they are (of) vital economic interest to the entire nation.” [New Orleans City Business, 6/6/05]

Emergency Preparedness Director Furious With Project Cuts. A study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now. Terry Tullier, the New Orleans emergency preparedness director, said he was furious but not surprised to hear that study had been cut from the Bush budget. “I’m all for the war effort, but every time I think about the $87 billion being spent on rebuilding Iraq, I ask: What about us?” he said. “Somehow we need to make a stronger case that this is not Des Moines, Iowa, that we are so critical that if it hits the fan in New Orleans, everything this side of the Rockies will feel the economic shock waves.” [Times-Picayune, 9/22/04; New Orleans City Business, 6/6/05]

Flood Protection Projects Put On Hold Because Of Republican’s 2006 Budget. One of the hardest-hit areas of the New Orleans district's budget is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project. SELA's budget is being drained from $36.5 million awarded in 2005 to $10.4 million suggested for 2006 by the House of Representatives and the president. The Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans has identified $35 million in projects to build and improve levees, floodwalls and pumping stations in St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Charles parishes. Those projects in a line item where funding is scheduled to be cut from $5.7 million this year to $2.9 million in 2006. “We don't have the money to put the work in the field, and that's the problem,” Naomi said. [New Orleans City Business, 6/6/05]

Senator Landrieu Urged Action After SELA Budget Slashed. Louisiana’s congressional delegation assured local officials they would seek significant increases for SELA. “We could have lost 100,000 lives had Hurricane Ivan hit the mouth of the (Mississippi) River before it turned,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., alluding to last year’s storm that largely spared Louisiana but devastated parts of Alabama and Florida. “God has been good, but one of these days a hurricane is going to come and, if we don’t get projects . . . finished, we’re sitting ducks,” she said. [Times-Picayune, 3/11/05]



Louisiana National Guard Said Before Katrina That It Needed Equipment Back From Iraq If It Is To Respond To A Natural Disaster. “The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission,” said Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider with the LA National Guard. “You've got combatant commanders over there who need it they say they need it, they don't want to lose what they h ave, and we certainly understand that it's a matter of us educating that combatant commander, we need it back here as well,” Col. Schneider said. [ABC 26 WGNO, 8/1/05]


Iraq Has Left National Guard Units At Home Short Of Equipment. Already suffering from manpower shortages, the National Guard’s overstretched forces are being confronted with another problem: not enough equipment to supply Guard troops at home. “To fully equip troops in Iraq, the Pentagon has stripped local Guard units of about 24,000 pieces of equipment. That has left Guard units at home, already seriously short of gear.” [Detroit Free Press, 6/13/05]

Gen. McCaffrey Said We Could Permanently Damage The Guard And Reserve. Gen. McCaffrey warned against overstretching Guard and Reserve. “[W]e're going to damage fatally the National Guard if we try and continue using Reserve components at this rate. Forty percent of that force in Iraq right now is Reserve component. We have shot the bull. We've got to back off and build an Army and Marine Corps capable of sustaining these operations.” [Meet the Press, 8/28/05]

Governors Say Long Deployments Leaving Their States Vulnerable. “[S]tate officials think continued deployments will have an effect on people who sign up for or remain in the Minnesota National Guard. At a National Governor's Association meeting…some governors criticized the burden of repeated deployment, saying that the troops' absence leaves their states unprotected against things like natural disasters. Officials in Idaho and Montana have said they are unprepared if forest fires hit their states this summer.” [AP, 8/10/05]


Coast Guard Gave Congress List of $919 Million in Unfunded Priorities. The Coast Guard has given Congress a $919 million wish list of programs and hardware not funded in the Bush Administration's fiscal 2006 budget request. For the first time, the Coast Guard has sent Congressional representatives an unfunded priorities list - a tally of needed items not included in the fiscal 2006 request. The list includes an additional $637 million for the service's Deepwater recapitalization program; $11.6 million for helicopter repairs; $4 million to increase aviation maritime patrol hours, and $59 million to renovate shore stations. [Journal of Commerce Online, 5/11/05]

Coast Guard Faced With Helicopter Problems. The head of the US Coast Guard told Congress his equipment is failing at unacceptable rates. Despite increases in spending on maintenance, the agency's older large craft -- called cutters -- experience equipment failures capable of ruining a mission almost 50 percent of the time, according to Coast Guard officials. Further, the agency's HH-65 helicopters suffered a rate of 329 mishaps per 100,000 flight hours in 2004, way over the Federal Aviation Administration's acceptable standard of 1 mishap per 100,000 hours. [UPI, 6/10/05; USA Today, 7/6/05]

Commandant Says Coast Guard Short On Resources. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thomas H. Collins said, “Do we have more business than we have resources? Yes.” The Coast Guard has put the cost of implementing safety regulations laid out by Congress at $7.3 billion over the next ten years. The Bush administration only asked for $46 million for aid to the ports in the 2005 budget. [Budget of the United States,; House Approps Cmte Transcript, 3/31/04; Washington Post, 4/2/03; Boston Globe, 6/30/04]

Posted at 06:27 PM in 2006 Elections, Culture of Corruption, Economy, General, Louisiana, Republicans, Scandals | Comments (57) | Technorati

Thursday, August 25, 2005

San Francisco: Michela Alioto-Pier vs. Jonny Moseley

Posted by Bob Brigham

As a civic minded blogger, from time-to-time I feel it necessary to intervene in local affairs. Today's announcement that San Francisco Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier was successful in her bid to hold-up Jonny Moseley's 30th birthday gift to The City provides an opportunity for me to adjudicate a compromise.


Olympic Gold Medalist Jonny Moseley has spent more than a year organizing "Icer Air 2005" as a birthday gift to San Francisco on the day Moseley turns 30. Moseley envisioned using his name to draw dozens of world class names to San Francisco for a televised event featuring trucked-in snow creating a ski jump on one of San Francisco's legendary hills.

As is often the case in San Francisco, an opportunistic, third-rate politician stepped in at the very last minute to...cancel Jonny Mosely's birthday. From the San Francisco Examiner:

Entertainment Commissioner Terrance Allan was disappointed, saying these type of quirky events give San Francisco its reputation and draw tourists and visitors. He also said it was unfair to cancel the contest after organizers had spent more than a year applying for three separate event permits.

"Every neighborhood contributes to the vitality of the international persona by hosting street fairs like the Castro Fair or the Folsom Street Fair," Allan said. "All of that contributes to the mystique and allure that draws visitors to San Francisco. I find it disingenuous that one neighborhood would feel aloof and detached from making our city great."

That neighborhood is represented by Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier. The San Francisco Chronicle asked her about her push to cancel Jonny Moseley's birthday:

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who represents Pacific Heights, was also pleased that the competition had been called off.

"This is the only responsible thing to do,'' she said.

That Michela would pull a hold-up maneuver is not surprising in the least bit, she is known as the champion of fluff issues. There seems to be no bounds to the lengths Alitio-Pier will go to in her quest to score cheap political points, which makes sense considering she lost and kept losing as a candidate until she was appointed to her seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Michela Alioto-Pier is best known for her opposition to smoking outdoors and her tear-drenched tantrums that result whenever somebody says a bad word that is overheard by her socialite ears.

While Alioto-Pier lacks the ability to get anything done on the real issues, she excels at making a big deal out of fluff-issues. And she was successful in her battle against Jonny Moseley. But Michela only won the first round. Which wasn't exactly a win when you consider the extreme financial backlash that could result from Michela's hold-up job.


If Jonny Moseley isn't sick of politicians like Michela Pier-Alioto, he should be given all available help to reschedule the event at the earliest possible date. In return, there should be no swearing or smoking by any of the fans or participants. If, for example, an athlete were to crash after flying 70 feet in the air and accidentally mutter the word "crap" – the perpetrator would need to immediately recite 5 Hail Marys. Ten for the word 'shit' and the f-bomb should result in 20 Hail Marys. Unless the F-bomb precedes "Michela Alioto-Pier" –- in that case it is justified.

Posted at 12:44 PM in Activism, California, Culture of Corruption, Economy, General, Netroots, Scandals | Comments (1) | Technorati

Monday, April 04, 2005

North Dakota farmer's appreciate Democrats

Posted by Bob Brigham

This is certainly good news for Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND):

MEDINA, N.D. -- It's tough to make a living as a farmer in North Dakota these days, Owen Olson says. [...]

"If it wasn't for the federal government here," said Olson, 39, "nobody would be farming."

No one is talking about eliminating federal subsidies, just reducing them. But in North Dakota, where more than three in four farmers receive payments -- the highest percentage of any state -- the proposals working their way through the hearing rooms on Capitol Hill are big news.

Bush proposed cuts of $5.7 billion from agricultural programs over the next 10 years as part of a deficit reduction package. The House Budget Committee set the figure at $5.3 billion, while its Senate counterpart said $2.8 billion should be trimmed.

The GOP quest against the family farm on behalf of multi-national agribusiness will be a major issue in the 2006 election. An entire demographic -- rural voters -- is coming into play and ready to swing.

Posted at 04:41 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Economy, North Dakota | Comments (2) | Technorati

Sunday, April 03, 2005

2006 Primary: Joe Lieberman credibility bankrupt?

Posted by Bob Brigham

I actually did vote for it before I voted against it:

The greatest hypocrisy on this bill may come from the Democrats, who often speak as if they are the party of working people. Some Democratic senators spoke against the bill and then voted for it. One of them, Senator Joe Lieberman, spoke for it and against it, voted for cloture (cutting off debate and moving the bill toward passage) and then voted against the bill.

Posted at 06:28 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism, Connecticut, Economy | Technorati

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Lowering the bar on mandates

Posted by Tim Tagaris

Good news and bad from a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll just released. The good news is that people seem to think President Bush is handling Social Security poorly. They also believe imposing a retirement tax (AKA privatization) is a bad idea.

The bad news is that the public is buying into Republican frames of "crisis" and the need to act immediately to save social security. Unfortunately, I fear these numbers are a precursor to growing support for privatization as fear mongering continues to take hold.

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling Social Security?" N=1,008 adults, MoE ± 3

Approve: 41%
Disaprove: 52%
Unsure: 7%

"As you may know, one idea to address concerns with the Social Security system would allow people who retire in future decades to invest some of their Social Security taxes in the stock market and bonds, but would reduce the guaranteed benefits they get when they retire. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?" N=1,008 adults, MoE ± 3

Good Idea: 40%
Bad Idea: 55%
Unsure: 5%

"Which of these statements do you think best describes the Social Security system: it is in a state of crisis, it has major problems, it has minor problems, or it does not have any problems?" N=1,008 adults, MoE ± 3

Crisis: 18%
Major Problems: 53%
Minor Problems: 24%
No Problems: 3%
Unsure: 2%

"Do you think the federal government should make major changes in the Social Security system to ensure its long-term future in the next year or two, within the next 10 years, or do you think major changes are not needed within the next 10 years?" N=1,008 adults, MoE ± 3

Next Year or Two: 49%
Within 10 Years: 39%
Changes Not Needed: 9%
Unsure: 3%

Posted at 10:37 PM in Economy | Comments (1) | Technorati

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Social Security Debate

Posted by Bob Brigham When it comes to Social Security, there is no crisis. If you have a Kos account go join the open-source message refinement.

Posted at 06:41 PM in Economy | Comments (4) | Technorati

Monday, August 09, 2004

Is Bush Shooting Himself in the Foot in Appalachia?

Posted by DavidNYC

This NYT story about coal mining regulations has me perplexed. On the one hand, it says that Bush wooed the mining vote in West Virginia in 2000 by promising to roll back environmental restrictions - ie, the kinds of regulations which allegedly were reducing the number of available mining jobs. WV, ordinarily a solid Democratic state, went for Bush - though Al Gore's gun stance (and some speculate, Joe Lieberman's religion) had something to do with it as well.

But now it seems, at the behest of the coal companies, Bushco is determined to roll back mining safety regulations, which are a horse of a much blacker color. The miners themselves - through their unions - are apparently quite opposed to such rollbacks. These anti-regulations, for instance, would permit exposure to even higher levels of coal dust - which is responsible for the dreaded black lung disease - even while OSHA itself is arguing for lower levels.

I can understand why the Bushies want to please their corporate benefactors in the coal industry. But coal executives don't cast too many votes. In order to once again carry a place like WV, Bush will need the rank-and-file - and if he's telling these works to literally eat his dust, I can't see how that's gonna help. And it seems to me that this is now the second time Bush has struck out when trying to win votes by helping a dying smokestack industry in Appalachia - remember steel tariffs, anyone? This news just put OH, PA and WV that much further out of Bush's grasp.

P.S. Environmental regulations - the kind promulgated by, say, the EPA or OSHA - are a key reason why it's so important to have a Democratic president. These sorts of rules can often be strengthened simply by a president's (or agency administrator's) directive, without getting stymed by lobbyists in Congress. And the regulations will get enforced by the president's appointees, who, without a doubt, will be much more vigilant in a Kerry administration than in a Bush administration.

Posted at 12:59 AM in Economy, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia | Comments (28) | Technorati

Friday, May 14, 2004

Job Losses & Swing States

Posted by DavidNYC

DHinMI at Kos takes a look at how job losses over the last 3-plus years have been spread across the electoral map. Some of his findings:

�Ģ Only four swing states have experienced a net gain in jobs since Bush took office: AZ, FL, NV, NM.

�Ģ But in none of those states has job growth outstripped population growth. Says DH, "Thus, despite more jobs in some places, in 49 of 50 states there are more job seekers today, in both raw numbers and as a percentage of the state's population, than there were 3 years ago." (The only exception is Alaska.)

�Ģ The Census Bureau refers to metro regions as "Metropolitan Statistical Areas," or MSAs. DH again: "Of the 100 largest MSA's, 43 have gained jobs; 27 of those 43 MSA's are in swing states. But those gains are concentrated in a handful of states; 11 of those MSA's are entirely in Florida, and another 5 encompass most of Tennessee.

"For example, all major MSA's in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri have lost jobs, as have the majority in Pennsylvania and Iowa. Other states with major metro areas that have lost jobs encompass heavily populated areas of Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin."

I don't like bad economic news - but as DH concludes, at least this bad news might lead to some good news: "The job situation in the U.S. is full of grim statistics. Finally, however, there is a silver lining ��� the job losses of the last three years are likely to cost the current occupant of the White his own job."

Posted at 01:52 PM in Economy | Comments (2) | Technorati

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Driving for Votes

Posted by DavidNYC

I want to let you know about a great new site focused on grassroots swing state activism. It's called Driving Votes, and its goal is to help people who live near swing states to register voters who actually do live in swing states. The best thing about this project, I think, is the fact that it harnesses the kind of do-it-yourself spirit that powered, among other things, the Dean campaign. While you are encouraged to plug in with local organizations (such as ACT), all you really need is a car (or bus ticket), some friends, a free weekend and the chock-full "Registration Packets" available on the site.

Another thing I also like is that it gives non-swing staters a straightforward and simple way to get involved in swing state politics. My map tells me that almost every safe state in the nation borders on at least one swing state (except, I think, Montana, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and of course the freak states). Sure, it may be a long drive in some situations, but New Yorkers (and Californians, and Texans, and so on) can't complain anymore that we don't matter in presidential election years.

So hop in your car, get on the bus, catch the train - or, if you're already in a swing state, take a walk downtown - and register some voters. Driving Votes will help direct you to areas which are likely to be Democrat-rich. Let's get to it!

Posted at 02:51 AM in Economy | Comments (4) | Technorati

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Exporting Jobs... is Good?

Posted by Seamus

Bush was in Pennsylvania today trying to put some spin control on statements made by the Chairman of White House Economic Advisors. The chairman said earlier this week that "Outsourcing is a growing phenomenon, but it's something that we should realize is probably a plus for the economy in the long run."

Bush's spin (with Santorum and Specter at his side): "The numbers are good," Mr. Bush told an audience at Central Dauphin High School, near Harrisburg. "The numbers are good, but I don't worry about numbers, I worry about people. There are still some people looking for work because of the recession. There are people looking for work because jobs have gone overseas. And we need to act in this country. We need to act to make sure there are more jobs at home, and people are more likely to retain a job."

But he didn't exactly disagree with his advisor's statements either. This take from the NY Times is interesting: "In Pennsylvania today, the president spoke about the need for educating people for "the jobs that are being generated in the 21st century." Although he did not say so, Pennsylvanians know those kinds of jobs are not, generally speaking, in the coal and steel industries, which were twin pillars of the Keystone State's economy for many decades."

Posted at 04:40 PM in Economy | Comments (4) | Technorati

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Bush Not Talking About Manufacturing Jobs

Posted by Seamus

As my first guest post for the Swing State Project, it seems fairly appropriate that it be a followup to the State of the Union given last night. Probably everybody reading this knows about the miserable job situation in America. Since Bush took office, we have lost nearly 3 million jobs. Combine this with the fact that nearly 4 million Americans have lost their health insurance, and you can see that millions of potential swing voters have ample reason to be upset with the Bush administration's job policies.

This job collapse has been felt worse in many of the swing states, particularly in the Midwest, due to losses in the manufacturing industry. And economists will tell you that Americans need to adapt to shifts in our economy that are producing more jobs in service industries. The steel tariffs were meant to protect one troubled American industry in the Midwest, but Bush had to withdraw those tariffs because of international pressure.

Here is what George Bush had to say about this in his State of the Union speech:

America's growing economy is also a changing economy. As technology transforms the way almost every job is done, America becomes more productive and workers need new skills. Much of our job growth will be found in high-skilled fields like health care and biotechnology. So we must respond by helping more Americans gain the skills to find good jobs in our new economy.

Bush's solution to the collapse in manufacturing industry jobs? Apparently it is to dismiss them all together. There is no proposal for protecting American manufacturing. No clear proposal to actually create new jobs in manufacturing - or even in the service industry for that matter. Just a blanket statement elsewhere in the State of the Union implying that his infamous tax breaks for the wealthy will create jobs.

The Washington Post takes a look at the jobs issue:

A fact sheet on the new program, called "Jobs for the 21st Century," said it was aimed at strengthening high school and higher education, as well as job training, so that workers in the United States can "compete in a changing and dynamic economy and fill jobs in emerging industries."

The White House said President Bush would seek $250 million to fund partnerships between community colleges and employers in high-demand job sectors, $33 million for expanded Pell Grants for low-income students, $100 million to help middle or high school students who have trouble reading and $120 million to improve high school math education.

Bush touted the program today during a visit to Ohio, a key state in this year's presidential election campaign but one that has lost more than 250,000 jobs since he took office three years ago. In remarks at Owens Community College in Toledo, he insisted that the U.S. economy is "strong" nationwide, but he acknowledged that "these are still troubled times" in Ohio, with many people out of work.

Well, some things jump out at me from the start here. Aren't the Democrats already jumping all over Bush because he hasn't adequately funded the Child Left Behind Law? And didn't Bush promise to cap spending in the State of the Union? Didn't Bush just cut job training programs? And, if Bush is putting all of his job-related efforts into job training, what is he doing about job creation? I mean, where are people going to work after they are trained for these alleged new jobs?

I don't think my reaction here is an anomaly. The job issue is potentially the one problem that Bush knows he can't fix. This may be why he didn't directly acknowledge job losses in manufacturing in his speech, but instead relied on generalized statements. One last bit from his speech in Ohio today (following a "blame terrorists and Clinton for the lousy economy" rant):

We overcame it, in my judgment, because we properly stimulated the economy by letting people keep their money. And now we're growing. Nationwide, this economy is strong -- housing up, inflation's low, interest rates are low. We had good exports the last quarter, new jobs are being created -- I mean, last month on the exports. Things are happening.

I fully recognize, in Ohio there are still troubled times. The manufacturing here is sluggish at best, and, therefore, people are looking for work. People who could rely upon a steady job in the manufacturing sector are hoping to be able to realize their hopes by finding work elsewhere.

There are some things we can do to make sure the Ohio manufacturing sector is strong. One is to make sure our trading partners understand we expect there to be free, but level -- the playing field needs to be level; that we expect countries like China to understand that trade imbalances doesn't mean -- that says that the trade is not balanced and fair, that they've got to deal with their currency.

We also need an energy policy, by the way. If you rely upon manufacturing to have a vibrant job base, you've got to have an energy policy. Manufacturers need to have a reliable source of energy. We're too dependent on foreign sources of energy. We got public policy that is -- that makes it difficult for Ohio's manufacturers to say, we got a reliable source of energy. We've run up the demand for natural gas, we haven't had a corresponding increase in natural gas. It's hard to keep people working when your energy bills are going out of sight. We need an energy policy. I called on Congress to pass one, and they need to get one to my desk.

It strikes me that instead of identifying policy that will create manufacturing jobs, Bush is trying to use the loss of manufacturing jobs to push through some of his own more controversial policies on energy. Notice his co-opted use of the phrase "fair trade". Although I've read that statement on trade three times and I still don't think it is a real sentence. I think there can be no question that Bush recognizes that his policies will not save the manufacturing industry which is why he is shifting the subject to job training in new industries and attempting to justify new energy and trade policies.

Posted at 03:17 PM in Economy | Technorati

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Rove Judicata

Posted by DavidNYC

Yesterday I speculated that the Bush administration might try to throw up a new & different set of tariffs to replace those which were struck down by the WTO on Monday. I also wondered whether the WTO would actually swallow this gambit. In other words, would the WTO force the EU, Japan, etc. to relitigate the new tariffs? Or would it be wise to Rove's scheme and say "You may have paraphrased a bit, but we know it's the same thing. And it's still illegal." This distinction matters because it took the WTO over a year and a half to rule against the administration. If the countries opposing us on steel tariffs had to start back again from square one, Rove might successfully drag the new challenge out past election day.

Via Kevin Drum, it looks like the administration may indeed be trying this ploy. The Financial Times article that Kevin cites refers to "complex methodological changes" to American law which would somehow protect steel producers. How these would differ from ordinary tariffs is not quite clear, though I have to imagine these would also be justiciable at the WTO. Otherwise, if these types of changes were judgment-proof, wouldn't the administration have pursued them in the first place?

Yet even the best-case scenario for Bush - ie, the EU has to relitigate everything - might still not be that great. Anger appears to be running high in Europe (doubtless exacerbated by other factors), high enough perhaps that the Europeans simply wouldn't bother waiting for another WTO ruling before launching retaliatory trade measures. I have to imagine the French can't wait to cause trouble for Bush, and the beleaguered Tony Blair probably can't afford to bend over yet again. Unfortunately, the Europeans somehow have it in their heads that Texas is a swing state (guys, it's Florida citrus you're interested in, trust me), but if George Bush has to sweat a little bit even when he visits his home state, I'll be happy with that.

One final thought: Fester, in the comments, observes that Rove's mission to protect steel makers at seemingly any cost suggests that Bush is prepared to give up on Michigan. I'm strongly inclined to agree here. Let's see if Bush makes any more visits to MI.

P.S. I've read more about steel that I ever imagined I would - and by now, I've probably written more about it than anyone would care to read. So I'm going to let this topic rest for a bit, at least until December 5th, which is when the EU is expected to implement its relatiatory tariffs. (Unless something big comes up, of course.)

(NYT and Miami Herald links thanks to Dan Drezner.)

Posted at 06:53 PM in Economy | Comments (1) | Technorati

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

TNR Misses the Point on Steel Tariffs

Posted by DavidNYC

TNR's "&c." blog makes what I think is a crucial misjudgment regarding the next phase of the fight over steel tariffs. Noam Scheiber (or whoever actually writes that blog) says that yesterday's final WTO ruling was a good thing for the administration. Bush gets to play up the fact that he tried to help the steel industry as best he could, but, poor dear, he was ultimately thwarted by "those faceless, bloodless, soulless, pointy-headed bureaucrats at the WTO [who] just wouldn't let him have his way."

Just like how Bush didn't go to war in Iraq because the UN said "no", right, fellas?

TNR goes on, in a parenthetical:

Granted, the administration could easily defy the WTO ruling if it really wanted to. But don't expect to hear about that option from anyone at the White House.

Sure, Karl Rove may not start barking up this tree. But do you really think that steel workers (who certainly have no love for the World Trade Organization) and steel mill owners will just philosophically resign themselves to a defeat at the hands of the WTO? Jeez, that would mean caving to the French, mon dieu! I can easily see both of these groups clamoring for Bush to tell the WTO to go shove it - which of course Bush can't do, unless he wants a trade war on his hands.

Rove may have some rabbits up his sleeves - he often does. He may come up with some new clever way to mollify the steel industry (targeted tax breaks, maybe?). Or Bush may just try to impose a slightly different set of tariffs, forcing the EU & Co. back to square one at the WTO. (I admit I have no idea if this tactic is viable - there may be some sort of res judicata principle at work here.) But I don't expect the steel industry to quietly swallow this latest development. No - these guys are going to get angry.

Posted at 08:56 PM in Economy | Comments (5) | Technorati

Monday, November 10, 2003

Trade War is Hell

Posted by DavidNYC

From the AP:

The United States is facing up to $2.2 billion in European Union trade sanctions within weeks after a World Trade Organization appeals panel ruled Monday that U.S. tariffs on imported steel are illegal.

In a 170-page report, a three-member WTO panel rejected the bulk of the U.S. appeal of an earlier ruling that said the duties of up to 30 percent introduced in March 2002 by President Bush's administration breached trade rules.

The appeals body is WTO's highest tribunal, and the decision is final.

In a joint statement, the countries that brought the case said the United States had "no other choice" but to remove the import duties without delay. The European Union said it will impose retaliatory sanctions of up to $2.2 billion by introducing 100 percent duties on some U.S. imports, effectively pricing those goods out of the EU market.

And the Europeans aren't backing off their plans to toss a political hand grenade into next year's elections:

The European Union plans to target its tariffs at goods that are produced in important swing states in the 2004 presidential election. (Emphasis added.)

And other countries are ready to get in on the act:

In addition to the European Union, complaints were filed by Japan, South Korea, Norway, Switzerland, China, New Zealand and Brazil. All of those countries also could now seek to impose sanctions on U.S. imports if the duties are not removed, and Tokyo already has warned it may retaliate.

At least in a trade war, no one gets killed. I can't wait to see how this one plays out.

(Thanks to Seamus.)

Posted at 03:21 PM in Economy | Comments (5) | Technorati

Saturday, November 08, 2003

So is This a Real Recovery Now?

Posted by DavidNYC

A lot of the analysis on this site is predicated on a state of affairs which I acknowledge could change dramatically at any time: our slumping economy. But last week, we learned of a dramatic GDP spike, and by now, you've probably caught wind of the revised employment numbers, which show substantial growth dating back to August. I'm not a hardcore number-cruncher - when I look at things like unemployment figures, I do so with an eye to what I think the political consequences of presiding over a lousy economy will be. So are we in a genuine recovery now, and if so, should we consider chucking out the "angry unemployed voter" thesis?

Billmon, for one, says not so fast. He asks a pair of crucial questions: "If growth downshifts to a 3-4% rate" from its current giddy high of 7.2%, "will the job-killing recovery return? And if it does, will growth continue to downshift?" I'm not about to a hazard a guess here, but it goes without saying that one quarter of good growth does not a full recovery make. As the New York Times reminds us, there was a four-month period of consecutive job gains late in 2002, which only wound up fizzling early this year.

I want to look at things from a different perspective, though: Even if we are now in a sustained, genuine, jobs-adding recovery, will it be enough by election day? At least one person in Congress is thinking along these lines:

Representative Pete Stark of California, the ranking Democrat on the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, noted that the current pace of job growth would need to continue for 19 months for the country to return to the peak employment level reached in early 2001.

So if we keep adding jobs at the October rate (126K/month), around 900,000 people who had jobs when Bush took office will still be jobless come November, 2004. (We've lost 2.4 million jobs since the peak in Feb. of 2001.) And if job creation follows the more conservative three-month trend (286K in Aug-Sep-Oct), 1.25 million people will be, as the saying goes, worse off than they were four years ago. Though I'm hesitant to invoke Hirdt's Law - because something hasn't ever happened in the past, it can't happen in the future - I am mindful that the last President who oversaw over four years of net job losses won a grand total of six states in his re-election bid. (Hoover.)

In any event, we clearly aren't out of the economic woods yet, though we may be on the right path out of the woods. Until we start seeing conclusive, continued signs of job growth, I'm going to hold off on revisiting my economic-related analysis.

UPDATE: Another nugget, again from the NYT:

Gene Sperling, a top economic adviser in the Clinton White House, encouraged Democratic candidates to use his calculations showing that even if the number of jobs increased every month between now and the election at last month's pace of 126,000 new jobs, it would still be the slowest recovery in terms of job creation since World War II.

Posted at 01:11 AM in Economy | Comments (1) | Technorati

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Europeans Threaten Trade Retaliation - Against Swing States

Posted by DavidNYC

Following up on my remarks yesterday about a potential trade war vis-a-vis the steel tariffs: The New York Times reports on European threats to retaliate if the US doesn't lift its trade "safeguards", which include both tariffs and illegal export subidies. Apparently, the WTO's appellate decision will be handed down earlier than I had realized: Nov. 10th. If the US doesn't comply with the WTO's ruling (which is widely expected to uphold a previous decision that declared the tariffs illegal), the EU is warning that it will impose up to $6.2 billion in sanctions against us.

The most intriguing bit here is that the Europeans definitely understand swing state politics:

The European Union already has a list of sanctions targeted at American products in ways intended to maximize political pain for Bush's Republican Party: they would aim at Harley Davidson motorcycles manufactured in Wisconsin, citrus products from Florida and textiles from the Southeast.

Will the Japanese follow suit and block imports of pacemakers from Minnesota? Or perhaps the Chinese will slap tariffs on Girls Gone Wild videos from Mardi Gras. Doubtless the chintzy plastic bead-making industry is awaiting these developments with bated breath.

Posted at 07:50 PM in Economy | Technorati

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Swing States in Worse Economic Shape

Posted by DavidNYC

DHinMI, guest-hosting over at Kos, picks out an important nugget at the end of this NYT piece:

Compared with the rest of the country, jobs have disappeared more quickly, and incomes and house prices have grown more slowly in the nine states won by the winner in the last three presidential elections, according to, a research company. Besides New Hampshire, the states are Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

"They're just getting pummeled by global competition and off-shore outsourcing," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at"

Apart from Kentucky (which had a spread of -14), all of these states are on the SSP list.

On a related note, DH also observes that even if the economy starts to improve, voter perceptions may not catch up with reality. In other words, if Joe Citizen still thinks the economy sucks, that will inform his decisions, regardless of what the facts say. My argument has been that reality may not match up with "reality": Just because the economy's performance meets the dictionary definition of the word "recovery" does not mean that we are experiencing a bona fide, job-creating, wealth-enhancing upswing.

And even if we do start to experience something that feels like a genuine recovery, it may simply be too late for it to have enough of an actual effect by election day. Unemployment, which stood at 4.1% when Bush took office, is now ay 6.1%. The President is running out of time to put a significant dent in this figure. Oh, Bush can (and will) flog the GDP numbers all he wants, but those aren't the numbers that matter to ordinary citizens. And evidently, this is going to be an even tougher sell in a big bunch of crucial swing states.

Posted at 10:01 PM in Economy | Comments (4) | Technorati

Economy Archive: