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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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Obama Thinks There Is A Business Crisis, Not An Employment Crisis

That’s the only excuse I can think of for his meeting with 20 CEOs yesterday.  Actions indeed speak louder than words.  In this case, however, his actions reinforce his words.  After successfully convincing enough Americans in 2008 that he actually cared about the plight of workers and average Americans, Obama is showing what his true colors are.

He’s trying to “win back Big Business”?!?!  When did he lose them?  It was when Big Business decided that there was nothing Obama could ever do to fully satisfy them.  Mark my words, no matter what Obama does in the next 2 years to kiss their ass, they’re still going to spend record amounts of money in the 2012 general election to put a Republican Teabagger in the White House.

There is an employment crisis in this country, one of many real crises we face.  Big Business believes they still pay too much in taxes, even though their effective tax rates remain the lowest among industrialized nations.  That’s a fake crisis, but it’s one this weak President is unfortunately responding to because he can’t stand it when others call him mean names.  If 2010 sees a Republican Teabagger beat Obama, it will largely be because of his own actions.  Job growth under this President is among the weakest of any President since WWII.  There never was a recession for the richest Americans.  The recession continues for the rest of us, however.  Did Obama’s policies help prevent worst-case scenario job losses?  Sure they did.  Unfortunately, the employment crisis we face requires more than that.

This President isn’t delivering on it and that’s a moral failure.

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Large Corporate Media Outlet Finally Reports On U-6 Unemployment Number

For the first time that I am personally aware of, a large corporate media outlet has finally reported on the under-reported U-6 unemployment number (which measures total unemployed plus workers whose employers make them work less than full-time but want to work full-time).  In watching CNN this morning, a reporter did start with the U-3 number, newly reported at 10.2%, the highest in 26 years.  In addition, however, the reporter made sure to mention the U-6 number of 17.5%.  To be clear, they spent much more time on the 10.2% number, simply out of convenience and inertia.

I do have a question, though.  Why now?  Is it because a growing number of people outside of the corporate media are pointing toward the U-6 number?  Or could it be perhaps that the 17.5% number sounds really bad for a country with a black President?  CNN hasn’t exactly been the paragon on ethical journalistic practices.  Over the years, they’ve slid toward covering what Fox Propaganda reports on.  Fox’s carrying of the Con’s water has extended and intensified since a year ago when President Obama won the 2008 election.

Whatever their motivation, the U-3 number jumped 0.4% since last month, far more than science-lacking economists were predicting.  Worse, the U-6 number jumped 0.5% since last month.  That clearly shows us that this economy is still very weak.

American corporations have out-sourced millions of jobs in the past 20 years – they’re not coming back unless forced to do so.  The bank bailouts of 2008-09 came with too few strings, so the banks are sitting on trillions of American taxpayer dollars instead of using them to loan money to worthy Americans, ensuring the recovery will take longer than it should.  And instead of helping out the American middle class, the largest driver of our economy, ConservaDems continue to want to give tax breaks to the wealthiest, spend our children’s money on occupying two foreign nations and are working to derail critical health care reform.  If you’re mad about any of this, contact your Congresspersons and tell them to stop holding back what we know is needed.

[Update]: Here is a graph of the percent in job losses in every recession since WWII and the length of time it takes to recover back to pre-recession job numbers.  The 0-line is the peak employment prior to the recession.  This is an excellent way to visualize how devastating the Great Recession has really been for average Americans.  We’ve lost more jobs than were lost in the 1948 and 1958 recessions.  The only worse conditions existed in the Great Depression.  It will take years to recover from this, especially with the Cons shutting down every effort to do something positive.  It took 2.5 and 4 years to recover from the last two recessions by this metric.  Will it take 8 or 10 years to recover from this one?

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Thanks For The Awesome Job Market, Cons

Any Con worth their salt will tell you that the “free-market” will fix everything!  Their zeal to cram their fake religion down everybody’s throats led to the collapse of the U.S. economy in this first decade of the 21st century.  But there is a huge disconnect.  Thanks to both Cons and Democrats looking out for their Wall St. benefactors, most Americans haven’t and won’t feel anything close to a recovery for a long, long time.  While Wall St. has posted stunning gains since their lows earlier this year, millions more Americans have continued to lose their jobs and their livlihoods.

How bad have things gotten for the real average American?  How about a look at a paper published last month by Advance Realty and Rutgers: America’s New Post-Recession Employment Arithmetic.  Here are some choice figures for you to chew on [emphasis mine]:

• The combination of a weak economic expansion sandwiched between two recessions (2001, and 2007–2009) produced what will be a lost employment decade. As of August 2009, the nation had 1.3 million (1,256,000) fewer private sector jobs than in December 1999. This is the first time since the Great Depression of the 1930s that America will have an absolute loss of jobs over the course of a decade.

• To put this new millennium experience into perspective, during the final two decades of the twentieth century, the nation gained a total of 35.5 million private-sector jobs. During the current decade, America appears destined to lose more than 1.7 million private-sector jobs.

• This 1.3 million annual increase in the labor force means that in terms of private-sector payroll employment, the nation has to create an estimated 920,000 jobs per year.  Adding this to the actual private-sector job losses accumulated during the 20 months (to date) of recession equates to an August 2009 employment deficit of 8.6 million jobs. Given conservative estimates of further employment declines (even if the recession ends in the third quarter of 2009) and the continued increase in the labor force, the nation’s employment deficit could approach 9.4 million private-sector jobs by December 2009.

• Erasing this deficit will require substantial and sustained employment growth. Even if the nation could add 2.15 million private-sector jobs per year starting in January 2010, it would need to maintain this pace for more than 7 straight years (7.63 years), or until August 2017, to eliminate the jobs deficit! This is approximately 50 percent greater than the length of the average post–World War II expansion (58 months).

The “free-market” cannot and never will fix this.  It’s going to take the concentrated effort of the federal government working with the private sector to pull us out of this disaster.  Thanks again, Cons!

[h/t MB]

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Will Progressives Hold Blue Dogs Accountable?

There are early signs that progressives are truly fed up with being treated like free piggy banks to the Blue Dogs.  There are two articles that indicate things could be shifting under the Blue Dogs’ feet.

Up front, h/t to PaulVA at Daily Kos.

The first comes from the union side of things.  The Sheet Metal Workers International Association is the first union to have suspended all campaign donations to every Democratic candidate until the Employee Free Choice Act and true health care reform have been passed.  Now that’s letting the money talk!  Further, AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka puts a shot right across the ConservaDems’ bow:

And then there’s that other group: those fair weather friends who can’t seem to decide which side they’re on. I’m talking about politicians who love to have our help come election time, but, always seem to forget us after the votes are counted.

He continues with language that allows for no misunderstanding:

we need to send them a special message: it’s that you may have forgotten what the labor movement did to get you elected; but, by God, we never will! And if you stab us in the back on health care this year don’t you dare ask us for our support next year!

PaulVA points out that labor has contributed more in this cycle than the health care industry, financial services or any other interest group to the Blue Dogs.  More importantly, labor supporters have provided the greatest difference in field operations for Democrats than any other group for a long, long time.  These ConservaDems, by and large, represent relatively right-leaning districts.  If the troops don’t show up in 2010, it will be much, much harder for these clowns to win their re-election campaigns.

Rep. Salazar is one of the folks, representing CO-03.  If substantial numbers of real Democrats don’t show up, Rep. Salazar, do you think you can power yourself to victory?  Will you really take the chance to find out?

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Early Thoughts on Sonia Sotomayor

Before this chance passes me by, I wanted to put down my early thoughts on Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the judge President Obama has nominated to replace Justice Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court.  At this point, I’m not thrilled with the choice.  Now, that’s not to say I don’t like her as the nominee.  What I am concerned about is her track record.  I don’t care too much that she is a woman, nor that she is a Hispanic.  I do believe the Supreme Court could use a little more diversity, as long as it’s not diversity for diversity’s sake.

Back to her track record: what little I’ve seen so far doesn’t encourage me.  I’m unsure whether she’ll stand up for actual people.  In contrast, I knew quickly after their nominations that Samuel Alito and John Roberts definitely would not stand up for actual people.  They had track records establishing that mindset.  What I’ve read about Sotomayor indicates at best a mixed message.  Will she be as strong an advocate for American citizens as Alito and Roberts are for corporations and the elite?  If not, that’s not change; that’s not progress, both of which this country is in desperate need.

Indeed, reading this article raises plenty of questions I’d like answered.  This paragraph in particular caught my attention:

Yet Sotomayor did not live her entire childhood in a housing project in the South Bronx — she spent most of her teenage years in a middle-class neighborhood, attending private school and winning scholarships to Princeton and then Yale.

That’s not the story President Obama wanted highlighted, which means his introduction of Sotomayor comes across as disingenuous.  If she rose up out of the projects into a middle-class neighborhood and attended a private school, say so.  Let the American people ascertain the true Sotomayor, not the version the White House wants spun.

Judge Sotomayor has a track record of voting with conservative judges in District Court, not liberal judges.  That’s worrisome to me.  President Obama was elected by the largest margin in 20 years.  Democrats control the House and Senate by a large margin.  If liberals can’t get a proud, strong liberal nominated to the Supreme Court at this point in time, it won’t happen for the next couple generations.

The corporate media did a very poor job of accurately describing Bush’s nominees’ character and voting tendencies.  They are the most radical judges nominated in years.  They aren’t strict constitutionalists – they vote to overturn law more than the other Supreme Court judges.  What happened was the extremist right-wing set the frame for Democrats to have a hard time getting the truth out about ultra-conservatives nominated to the bench.  By claiming liberal judges were the activists, supposedly “legislating from the bench”, they prevented the same kind of criticism from being leveled at their nominees, even though the records clearly show which judges are activists and which aren’t.  Bush forced the Supreme Court so far to the right that President Obama should have nearly been forced to nominate someone to try to balance the tilt back toward the center.  By nominating Sotomayor using language like “moderate”, the balance will not likely shift back.  Replacing Justice Souter with someone who is more conservative than he is pushes the Court that much further out of balance.

I sincererly hope my initial read on Judge Sotomayor is incorrect.  I hope she stands up for Americans’ rights and works to limit corporations’ rights.  I hope she will prove to be a strong counterbalance to the extremists Bush appointed.  Some of this might come out in confirmation hearings this summer.  It will unfortunately take many decisions on the Court before a clear picture emerges.  I hope it won’t be too late once that happens.

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Unemployment (U-6) Hits 15.8%

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released April’s unemployment figures.  They aren’t pretty.  They won’t be pretty for a long time.  April’s U-6 figure hit 15.8%, and the U-3 number (commonly cited by the corporate media) hit 8.9%.  This recession is the longest since the Great Depression.  Some have taken to calling it the Great Recession.  I suppose we won’t have a handle on the recession/depression moniker for a while still.  In any event, more numbers include:

The BLS revised job loss numbers upward for February, from 651,000 to 681,000, and for March, from 663,000 to 699,000.  700,000 people lost their jobs in March.  That’s an astonishing number.  700,000 households, just in March, are unlikely to earn as much as they did if or when they get a new job than the one they lost.  That’s the lingering infection that conserative economic policies have left for America.  In such a state are we that a mere 539,000 lost jobs in April was actually received as good news.  Unfortunately, that’s another 539,000 households who will be worse off for quite some time than they were before.  And economists have the audacity to say the economy is bottoming out and that’s somehow more good news.  Note: I’ll have a post on bankers and economists coming up.  I read something that still has me shaking my head.

Back to today’s numbers: over 5.7 million Americans have lost their jobs in this recession.  If the Cons had their way, what little recovery action has already been taken would have been tossed away, just like all those jobs.  You see, a good number of Cons would rather this recession deepend in severity and extended in time.  They want a permanent serf-class which they can keep under control.  They nearly got their wish, too.  Unfortunately, that means the real adults have to spend the next X years cleaning up their mess.


2009 CO Legislative Actions: Green Energy Bills

The Colorado legislature has been busy keeping Colorado’s New Energy Economy moving forward.  Recognizing the enormity of the risks climate change and foreign-supplied fossil fuels pose to Colorado’s health and safety, Democrats are pushing initiatives through that will benefit us all.  I tracked down the following bills that are or have been introduced in the Colorado legislature this year.  I’ve included basic descriptions of the bills to round out what’s going on. I’m going to go over the status of these bills in the future.

HB09-1149 “Solar Home Prewire And Consultation”, sponsored by Rep. Merrifield in the House and Sen. Morgan Carroll in the Senate would requires commercial home builders to offer prospective buyers the following:
1. The option of having the home include, or be pre-wired for, a solar photovoltaic installation; and

2. A list of local solar installers who can assess the home’s solar energy potential.

On a personal level, I’d rather see stronger language for increased solar power distribution in residences.  All houses should be pre-wired for solar PV.  There is simply too much infrastructure in Colorado’s metropolitan areas to not build solar PV out on a large scale.  Each panel would reduce the demand from GHG polluting power plants just that much more.  At the same time, I recognize that many people think these things probably need to be taken one step at a time.  The Governor’s Energy Office would maintain a list of expert solar system installers to be provided to anybody who requests a copy.  That’s a good idea.

More below…

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Real March 2009 Unemployment: 15.6%

The U.S. Labor Department released March 2009 unemployment numbers today.  The most common number being reported by the corporate media is the U-3 number: 8.5%.  As I’ve written before, this number is used to undercount how bad un- and underemployment really are in America.  The more complete number, called U-6, is at 15.6% this month, up from 14.8% last month and 9.1% in March 2008.  That 15.6% number is the highest ever recorded (going back to 1994).

663,000 jobs were eliminated last month, as the Con 2008-09 recession continues to deepen.  The underemployed are becoming a large problem: The average work week in March dropped to 33.2 hours, a new record low.

Previous months’ numbers were updated: January came out much worse than originally thought; February was unchanged.  January’s job loss number went from an initial 655,000 to 741,000.

Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost a net total of 5.1 million jobs, with almost two-thirds of the losses occurring in the last five months.

At this point, I still don’t thinkthe Obama administration has done enough to pull the economy out of its deep recession.  We still don’t know what millions of mortgages and other financial instruments are really worth.  The credit markets are still largely frozen.  Banks are walking away from houses, leaving their previous owners stuck with properties that are upside-down in value.  These unemployment numbers will continue to get worse for the forseeable future.  I expect the U-3 number to get above 10% and the U-6 number to bump up against 20%.  Combine those numbers with millions of workers that aren’t on the official rolls of companies and we’ve got huge problems.

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Quick Hit: Colorado’s Energy Efficiency Stimulus Funding

As part of the stimulus spending championed by President Obama and passed by the Democratic-led Congress, Colorado will receive more than $128.7 Million for weatherization funding and energy efficiency grants.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Colorado will receive $128,753,213 in weatherization and energy efficiency funding – including $79,531,213 for the Weatherization Assistance Program and $49,222,000 for the State Energy Program.

Weatherization and energy efficiency are two methods of keeping energy costs down.  Here’s how the Obama administration is playing this: weatherization, energy efficiency and other programs go into effect as soon as possible, saving energy consumers money right away.  A carbon cap-and-trade program goes into effect in the next couple of years, which will have the effect of raising energy prices as the program spins up and a price for carbon is settled on.  As Americans continue to use energy efficient programs (power generation, appliances, etc.), the raising energy prices don’t impact their budgets severely enough to disrupt their lifestyles.  These kinds of things are being thought through by Obama and others.  The right-wing reactionaries are desperately trying to tie into populist anger – I don’t think it’s going to get them very far as people do the math at their kitchen tables.

Oh, and as this funding is spent in Colorado, programs are expanded, which requires more employees.  Thus, good paying jobs are created and the economy finds a bottom.  A lot of people win under Obama’s plan.

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Quick Hits: Chuck Norris, Unemployment & Alabama Shooter

Chuck Norris is a secessionist and quite possibly a terrorist. Why do right-wing extremists hate America so much?

I haven’t posted anything about the most recent unemployment numbers, but was reminded this morning why I need to.  The most cited figure from February was 8.1% – a 25-year high.  That sounds impressive and all, but as I’ve written about in the past, it doesn’t reflect the reality workers are facing.  The number was just tossed out on a CNN morning show where the speaker said, “At least 92% of us do have jobs – that’s good news!”  No, no it’s not.  That quote gets at the heart of why the oft-cited number should be different.  The real unemployment number went all the way up to 14.8% last month.  That means only ~85% of Americans that want a job actually have one.  The 8.1% number only counts people who are available for work and actively looked for a job in the prior four weeks.  If they still don’t have a job after four weeks, they’re still unemployed.  It’s disingenuous, at best, that the corporate media pushes the lower number down our collective throats every month.  It’s not a stretch to say they do it quite purposefully for this reason: outraged workers demand real changes; irriated workers don’t rock the boat.  When 1 out of 5 Americans are unemployed, will more of us figure that out?

The first question I had when I heard about the Alabama massacre this morning was what ethnicity was the man?  Recent mass killings have been perpetrated mainly by middle-aged white men, but I haven’t heard about that side of things from the corporate media.  I’ve only done a quick search on this situation and haven’t found an explicit answer.  That works out to be pretty definitive to me: if the shooter was non-white, you know that information would be found in the opening sentence, if not the headline.  I’ll keep watch and update or correct this hypothesis as more information (like a picture) becomes available.  [Update]: It’s as I suspected.  He wasn’t a minority.  What are we going to do about these psychopathic, mass-mudering white people with assault rifles?  Talk about a menace to society…


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