Friday, July 2, 2010

A Note on Census Hiring

I'll be back later with some more analysis of this morning's rather dismal jobs report, but wanted to share a quick though on the temporary census positions that accounted for most of this morning's reported job losses.

You'll remember that in May the U.S. Census Bureau added 411,000 temporary positions to execute the decennial counting of Americans for representation and apportionment. A number of sources, most notably many conservatives, cried foul, saying these positions, because they were temporary and public sector, did not count. Only private sector jobs, of which there was a net gain of 41,000 in May, should be accepted as actual progress.

In June, we lost 225,000 of those temporary, public sector positions as the census presumably went forward fairly smoothly and more than half the work was finished in less than a month. The private sector added 83,000 jobs. Surprisingly, the same individuals who cried foul at counting the addition of census jobs last month are those advocating most loudly for this morning's numbers reflecting the loss of those jobs to be the most important story of the month.

To me, this smacks of hypocrisy. You can't have it both ways. Either the positions should be completely discounted or they should be viewed as what they are: jobs held by real people that offered a brief, limited reprieve from joblessness.

Either way you slice it, two things are clear: those workers are now back in the ranks of the unemployed, which is bad news, and we should expect more of these losses in the coming months as the nearly 200,000 remaining census workers also wrap up their work.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why Are Brown, Collins, and Snowe Threatening to Jump Ship on Financial Reform?

Inside the beltway, panic started to set in this morning as the prospects for passing financial regulatory reform legislation before July 4th hit a patch of turbulence with Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Scott Brown (R-MA) all threatening to vote against the conference report merging the House and Senate bills.

The offending language for all three Republicans is a $19 billion tax on large banks and hedge funds added at the last minute to keep the legislation from adding to the deficit. Brown wants that gap to be paid for through spending cuts instead, believing the tax would be harmful to the financial institutions.

After an afternoon of trying to convince the three to change their minds, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) announced the conference committee would reconvene this evening to make the changes necessary to win enough votes in the Senate.

Obviously, this is a headache (reopening conference almost guarantees the bill won't be sent to the president before the July 4th break), but it could have been a lot worse. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) were smart to keep the report from the floor of the House and Senate until both chambers were sure they had the votes. If the House had already accepted the report, the conference couldn't be reopened.

Back-tracking at this stage to make some sort of deal which will likely include cuts to other government programs is certainly less than desirable, but it could be much worse. Without Pelosi and Reid's smart management, this would be a much larger setback.

As it is, financial reform is still almost certain to pass with relatively minor changes, it'll just be a week later than expected.

Frankly, the 24-hour widespread hysteria of pundits sounding the death knell of a major Obama policy objective seem a bit silly now. Actually, they seemed silly at the time too.

Adaptability: one. Conventional wisdom: zero.

The House-Senate conference has added an $8 billion increase in FDIC premiums paid by commercial banks and $11 billion of rerouted TARP funds to the report to replace the $19 billion tax on large commercial banks and hedge funds opposed by Senators Brown, Collins, and Snowe.

Senator John Ensign Denies Benefits to Nevadans Facing Highest Unemployment Rate in Nation, Chuckles

As a fourth vote to extend unemployment benefits seems likely to come up before the week is out, Senator John Ensign (R-NV) notified his constituents that even though his state leads in unemployment, home foreclosures, and bankruptcies, he will not be supporting legislation to ensure the continued income of brow-beaten Nevadans.

"I recognize," said the senator in a press conference Monday, "that folks in Nevada have been crushed under the weight of a recession they didn't cause. Homelessness, dire poverty, and the worst education system in America have all conspired to leave the people of my state hopeless and broken. Our fragile economy is on the brink of disaster and many families are living on credit and payday loans just to stay in their homes and keep food on their tables. The people of Nevada are working class folks, the sort that have paid into the unemployment system for years and now, when they need help the most, I am pleased to announce that I will be voting against the extension of that support."

Bewildered members of the press asked the senator to clarify, noting that it seemed preposterous to deny Nevadans the benefits they need to survive in the wake of such crippling circumstances. Ensign acknowledged the confusion and was happy to explain.

"A few years back I sold my soul to Satan and consequently owe my allegiance to the Dark Lord. As it turns out, it serves his purposes to stabilize the national debt at the expense of American families, especially Nevadans who will soon be homeless in the 110 degree inferno that surrounds their under-valued houses outlying our vacuous, job-deprived city centers." Ensign added, with a wink and a nod, "I'm just remembering who sent me to Washington in the first place."

Administration officials in the netherworld were unavailable for comment, but Mr. Satan took to his Twitter account just after the announcement.

"H8 2 C Sen. Ensign blaming me 4 block on benefits vote; I do not assoC8 w him, and he has no soul to my knwldge. #JohnEnsighIsADouche"

Jimi Jobin is a spiritual wanderer and teaches Religion and Philosophy in a private school. He, his wife and son live in Las Vegas, Nevada.