Posts Tagged ‘economy’

The good, the bad and the ugly: Looking at the newest job numbers

January 10, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 10, 2015

On Friday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released employment numbers for December 2014. Many commentators highlighted the positives: Unemployment dropped from 5.8 percent in November to 5.6 percent last month, and 252,000 new jobs were added, mostly in the private sector.

I’m no economist, but I thought that the data were mixed. Here’s my look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the latest BLS report:

• The good. Job creation fell slightly from November but was still strong. As Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum is fond of reminding readers, about 90,000 new jobs are needed each month to keep up with population growth; even so, the remaining number of jobs, 162,000, is not too shabby.

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The old in-and-out: Obama, Bush and the removal of American troops from Iraq

August 9, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 9, 2014

There’s a tendency on the right to blame President Barack Hussein Obama for, well, just about every ill under the sun.

The conservative narrative goes something like this: Obama was inaugurated, and then everything went to hell. I’m oversimplifying the right-wing zeitgeist here — but, I would contend, only slightly.

A cursory examination of the Obama administration provides plenty of fodder for the argument that the president — through indifference, incompetence, iniquity or some mixture thereof — is ruining America. Gas prices rose sharply after the first president from Kenya Hawaii (oops!) took office. So did unemployment as the economy cratered. The deficit — and, as a consequence, the national debt — ballooned dramatically. Americans learned that under Obama, the National Security Agency was collecting unprecedented amounts of information about the calls we make and the e-mails we send. There have allegations that the Internal Revenue Service has been abusing its power to harass conservative nonprofit groups. And an ambassador was killed in the line of duty for the first time in 33 years.

Some of these complaints don’t stand up to scrutiny. Gas prices have risen under Obama, but they’ve never quite reached their peak of about $4.10 a gallon under Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush. The economy has ramped back upward. (The reasons for the slow recovery may lie beyond Obama’s control, much as the recession can’t be entirely attributed to Bush.) Many of the NSA practices seem to have begun under Bush. Protestations of outraged right-wingers to the contrary, IRS scrutiny wasn’t strictly limited to conservative groups. And recently, Republicans on a Congressional committee concluded that the administration was not responsible for any wrongdoing or gross negligence related to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at a consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

One can certainly debate the various merits of Obama’s policies — although I doubt folks on the right will be able to bring themselves to say anything complimentary about health-care reform anytime soon, despite evidence that it’s workingObama’s military intervention in Libya was conducted in defiance of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, thereby leaving a permanent blot on the president’s record. (I object not to the intervention but to Obama’s refusal to obtain congressional permission for extended military efforts.) Obama’s embrace of the extrajudicial killing of American citizens is blatantly outrageous, and will forever stain his presidency. Moreover, the president’s failure to prosecute torture conducted under the auspices of his predecessor severely undermined his claim to any moral high ground.

Yet I write not to bury Obama nor to praise him. Instead, I want to consider one oft-repeated conservative complaint that has always baffled me: The allegation that Obama is responsible for the increasing chaos in Iraq.

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Socialism, lies and the right-wing media

December 5, 2012

Listen to an hour or two of conservative media and you’re likely to hear the words “socialism” or “socialist” applied to President Barack Obama or the Democratic Party, if not both.

The use of those words by eminent right-wing talkers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, in fact, has been so promiscuous that my bafflement at the label has withered thanks to repeated exposure. Then I saw some new figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and my outrage at this misnomer flared up again.

First, let’s look at the nature of socialism. In The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, the late Robert Heilbroner — a socialist himself, as well as a professor of economics at New York City’s New School — defined the movement thus: “a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production.”

Heilbroner, who died in 2005, was not complimentary about socialism, nor was he sanguine about its future. “Born of a commitment to remedy the economic and moral defects of capitalism, it has far surpassed capitalism in both economic malfunction and moral cruelty,” he wrote. He added that it was not clear “[w]hether socialism in some form will eventually return as a major organizing force in human affairs.” Read the rest of this entry »

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