Archive

Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’
February 6th, 2014 at 2:48 pm
An Idle Generation
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Following on Ashton’s post below (many of the themes of which appear in my column for this week), it’s crucial to note that the hazards presented by Obamacare’s incentives for lower-income Americans to stay out of the workforce are compounding a pre-existing problem. As noted by Mark Peters and David Wessel in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:

More than one in six men ages 25 to 54, prime working years, don’t have jobs—a total of 10.4 million. Some are looking for jobs; many aren’t…

… The trend has been building for decades, according to government data. In the early 1970s, just 6% of American men ages 25 to 54 were without jobs. By late 2007, it was 13%. In 2009, during the worst of the recession, nearly 20% didn’t have jobs.

To the crisis amongst men, we can add the crisis amongst youth. As noted earlier in the week by Zara Kessler at Bloomberg:

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, 36 percent of the country’s 18- to 31-year-olds were living in their parents’ homes in 2012 — the highest proportion in at least 40 years. That number is inflated because college students residing in dorms were counted as living at home (in addition to those actually living at home while going to school). Still, 16 percent of 25- to 31-year-olds were crashing with mom and pop — up from about 14 percent in 2007 and 10 percent in 1968. In a Pew survey conducted in December 2011, 34 percent of adults aged 25 to 29 said that due to economic conditions they’d moved back home in recent years after having lived on their own.

Every trend line is pointing in the wrong direction. Yes, there are structural issues (technology, offshoring) that complicate the employment picture, but free markets generally resolve such issues given enough time. Markets can’t resolve, however, the pathologies imposed on the economy by government — whether Obamacare’s perverse incentives or the consistently anti-growth policies of the White House.

If nothing changes, the upshot will be the Europeanization of the American economy: fewer workers toiling to support a growing class of government beneficiaries.

Future generations may note the irony of Mitt Romney being so thoroughly pilloried during the 2012 election for his infamous 47 percent comment. While you can quibble with the statistics, the underlying theme is correct: we’re headed towards an economy with fewer makers and more takers. Changing that trajectory will be the responsibility of the next president — and it won’t be an easy one.

January 10th, 2014 at 9:57 am
The Obama Malaise Continues: Shockingly Dismal New Jobs Report
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Nearly half a decade has passed since the last recession ended in June 2009.  Unfortunately, this morning’s monthly jobs report from the Labor Department sent another alarming signal that the worst recovery in recorded U.S. history continues.  That is directly attributable to the destructive economic policies of the Obama Administration, and changes must be made, lest we stall into an entirely new recession.

According to the Labor Department, the economy added a shockingly low 74,000 jobs in December.  That is the lowest total in three years, and it fell 126,000 jobs short of the consensus expectation of 200,000 or more (which was economists’ highest predicted number in several months).  Nobody foresaw that tiny job creation number.  Even more alarming, the labor participation rate (meaning the percentage of all Americans actually choosing to participate in the workforce) fell again to 62.8%, the lowest number since 1978.  That is significant because that was before women had more fully entered the workforce.

The Obama Administration and its apologists may attempt to cite the decline in the overall unemployment rate to 6.7%, but that is not the result of an improving economy or labor market, but rather because some 374,000 additional Americans simply dropped out of the workforce and stopped searching for jobs.  Moreover, the Administration assured us back in January 2009 that the rate would be down to its pre-recession level of 5% by now under its wasteful trillion-dollar “stimulus.”

This sharp slowdown is simply the latest evidence that we haven’t “turned the corner” as Obama has been telling us since as far back as 2010.  Rather, we’re going in circles.  Until we return to the policies of lower taxes, less regulation and smaller government that create jobs and economic growth, that will continue.  The numbers prove that beyond any rational doubt at this point.  The answer isn’t more unemployment checks, but putting America back to work.

August 20th, 2013 at 10:40 am
Fact of the Day: Unemployment Rose in Most States Last Month
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In this fifth year of the worst economic recovery in our recorded history under Obama, the situation just isn’t improving like it should, or like it has in every previous recovery.  The latest manifestation of that fact came yesterday, when the Department of Labor announced that the unemployment rate rose in 28 states plus the District of Columbia last month, and only fell in 8 states.

As we noted earlier this month, 240,000 people dropped out of the labor force last month while only 160,000 jobs were created.  Moreover, today there are 2 million fewer Americans working than in 2008, even though our overall population has increased by 13 million during that period.  The last recession ended over four years ago in June 2009, which is more than enough time to conclusively demonstrate the failure of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi economic agenda of higher taxes, more regulation, wasteful spending and record deficits.

August 2nd, 2013 at 9:35 am
Labor Department: Another Disturbing Jobs Report for July
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In my column this week, I detail how U.S. economic growth has hit stalling speed.  Today’s jobs report from the Labor Department demonstrates that the same is true of the nation’s employment situation in the fifth year of Obama’s economic program.

Only 162,000 jobs were added in July, which was significantly below analysts’ expectation of 190,000.   Even worse, and putting that number in context, 240,000 people dropped out of the workforce last month, while the labor participation rate fell again to 63.4%.  That dropoff explains why the headline unemployment rate declined a bit to 7.4%, which is the number the Obama Administration and sympathetic media will highlight.  But that number only counts people who are actually looking for a job, so those hundreds of thousands who continue to drop out make the surface unemployment rate look better than it actually is.  Moreover, keep in mind that Obama promised at the outset of his administration in February 2009 that his economic policies and trillion-dollar spending “stimulus” would have the unemployment rate down to 5% by now.

The number of part-time workers also amounted to 174,000, showing once again that the approaching ObamaCare mandates are forcing employers to make those they do decide to hire part-time.  All in all, yet another lackluster Obama era jobs report.

July 31st, 2013 at 8:38 pm
Gallup: Fed Unemployment Formula Distorts Jobs Picture

Beware of financial bureaucrats posing as economists. That’s my main takeaway from some pre-analysis of Friday’s unemployment numbers by Gallup’s lead economist, Dennis Jacobe.

As is sometimes the case when using metrics to understand reality, it looks like the federal government isn’t counting the right economic event if it truly wants to understand the employment market.

According to Jacobe, “The current government job measures leave a lot to be desired in terms of face-validity. For example, [Federal Reserve Chairman Ben] Bernanke noted in his testimony to Congress that the Fed’s unemployment target may need to be adjusted, depending on the labor participation rate. A declining participation rate can artificially lower the unemployment rate as job seekers give up looking for work, while an increasing participation rate can do the reverse.”

The problem is particularly acute when one considers how the feds count part-time jobs.

“Similarly, the establishment survey can be distorted by a surge in part-time jobs – a factor that may need to be considered when one evaluates Friday’s report,” writes Jacobe. “Part-time jobs not only count as new jobs for this survey, but if an American having one part-time job adds an additional part-time job, it counts the same as the creation of a new full-time job.”

This kind of counting completely misrepresents the rise in multiple part-time jobs. By treating two-part time jobs as the equivalent of one full-time job, the metric leaves out the fact that unlike just about every full-time job, almost no part-time job provides health or retirement benefits. Thus, while the hours worked my be roughly the same, the overall compensation is not.

What makes this an especially pernicious way to describe today’s employment market is the well-documented impact ObamaCare is having on the decline of full-time employment. If the federal unemployment survey continues to equate workers with multiple part-time jobs and those with full-time employment, a huge net loss in millions of workers’ standard of living will be lost because the official formula simply doesn’t account for it.

That’s a point worth remembering if Friday’s unemployment numbers come back better than expected.

June 25th, 2013 at 6:26 pm
Left & Right Agree: Immigration Bill Hurts Workers

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has been telling anyone who will listen that the immigration reform bill set to pass the U.S. Senate will hurt low-skill and entry-level workers. Flood the market with millions of cheap labor, and the results will be a dip in wages and a scarcity of jobs.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) agrees. This week Sanders, the Socialist who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, got the Gang of Eight and their allies to include a program that will fund summer jobs for American youths (ages 16-24) displaced by the wave of legalized immigrants once the reform becomes law.

Cost to taxpayers: $1.5 billion over two years.

The Sanders program is one of the price-spiking changes made by the Corker-Hoeven amendment to the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill.

Besides the cost, including the provision undermines the Gang’s argument that legalizing 11 million people won’t have a negative impact on current legal workers.

If this bill becomes law, it’s almost certain that this won’t be Congress’ last attempt to spend its way out of an unemployment problem it is choosing to create.

H/T: Byron York

June 7th, 2013 at 3:04 pm
Another Lackluster Jobs Report
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In this week’s Liberty Update, we mark the fourth anniversary of the end of the last recession in June 2009, noting that the subsequent years have been the most dismal recovery since we began keeping records after World War II.  Today’s unemployment report only served to confirm that reality, as unemployment rose to 7.6% and we only added 175,000 net jobs, which is just treading water.

In an excellent commentary entitled “These Are the Most Important Numbers from the Latest Jobs Report,” American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Strain brilliantly captures the lackluster nature of today’s release.  Setting aside the headline 7.6% and 175,000 numbers, he says, “I encourage you to pay attention to three other numbers which, to my mind, are much more important than 7.6 and 175,000.  They are 2.4, 4.4., and 0.4.”

“We still have 2.4 million fewer jobs than when the recession officially began 66 months ago. Relative to previous downturns, this performance is quite bad.

We still have 4.4 million workers who have been unemployed for six months or longer. This is a very large number. Outside this downturn, the previous post-war record was under 3 million, back in the 1980s. Over 37% of the total unemployed are long-term unemployed. The previous post-war record, also back in the 1980s, was a comparatively low 26%.

When the Great Recession began in December 2007, 62.7% of the working-age population was employed; today it is a staggeringly lower 58.6%. The share of the working-age population with jobs has increased by only 0.4 percentage points since its low point in the official recovery. Though it doesn’t get much attention, many labor economists prefer the employment-to-population ratio as the best measure of the broad health of the labor market. That this measure has improved so little indicates that the economy is creating just a few more jobs than are needed to keep up with population growth. But this is not enough. We need to create enough jobs to handle the growth of the working-age population and to recover the jobs lost in the Great Recession. To put it simply, we are not succeeding.”

So more of the same.  The Obama Administration and its dwindling number of defenders will attempt to characterize today’s numbers in a positive light, but that’s simply not accurate.  A broad economic policy change toward the free-market principles that we know work is necessary, the sooner the better.

April 12th, 2013 at 1:28 pm
ObamaCare Crack-up Looms as Next GOP Messaging Disaster

Don’t look now, but with ObamaCare failing to deliver on its promises before it even takes effect, Democrats are already starting to lay the blame on the one party least responsible for this policy monstrosity: Republicans.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services and the point person for ObamaCare’s implementation, told a Harvard School of Public Health audience that instead of saying, “let’s get on board, let’s make this work,” Republican opponents coerced her into fighting “state-by-state political battles.” Sebelius complained, “The politics has been relentless,” according to Investor’s Business Daily.

This from the woman whose refusal to honor the conscience rights of religious employers elevates the right to “free” contraception over the First Amendment.

But just because Sebelius’ charge that ObamaCare’s completely foreseen failure is actually Republicans’ fault is laughable to anyone who knows the facts, don’t assume that the GOP communications apparatus can be counted on to frame those facts effectively.

After all, this is the same universe of consultants and staff that got outmaneuvered last election season on liberal talking points like the GOP’s “War on Women,” and Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comment.

If the Left wants to present Sandra Fluke and “The Life of Julia” as exemplars of modern feminism, why can’t the Right counter with the common sense observation that what liberals really want is a government sugar-daddy who pays for sex and then subsidizes any consequences thereafter?

And rather than deny that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes, why don’t Republicans instead hit back with the explosive growth of food stamps and the unprecedented extension of unemployment benefits in the Age of Obama?  Throw in the Obama Phone mentality, and people will start to understand that there are real costs to the liberal vision of welfare.

All this to say I hope Republicans have learned their lesson about how to contest Democratic smear campaigns.  It would be a shame if when ObamaCare comes off the rails next year the GOP fails to capitalize electorally because no one clearly makes the case that only liberals are to blame for the mess they created.

February 8th, 2013 at 3:19 pm
40% of Americans Blame Immigration for Joblessness

I don’t know of a major journalist other than Byron York continually highlighting the plight of the under- and unemployed in Barack Obama’s America.

Summarizing the findings of a new Rutgers study, York excerpted this cautionary stat:

The researchers asked people — unemployed and employed alike — about the “major causes” of joblessness. Seventy percent named “competition and cheap labor from other countries.” The next-highest number, 40 percent, blamed “illegal immigrants taking jobs from Americans.” That 40 percent is more than blame Wall Street bankers (35 percent), the policies of George W. Bush (23 percent) or the policies of Barack Obama (30 percent).

“These strong and enduring concerns about globalization and fears that illegal immigrants hurt job prospects for Americans citizens are likely to make it more difficult for policymakers in Washington, DC to negotiate free-trade agreements and reform immigration laws,” the report concludes, in what is probably a serious understatement.

Whether this perception is correct or not, Republicans in Congress need to take care how they handle immigration reform.  As I wrote last week, conservatives like Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies make a strong case that increasing the legal labor supply when jobs are scarce hurts native workers.  If Republicans are seen as complicit in increasing the Democrats voting base and hurting job prospects for working class citizens, the party will have no one to blame but its leadership for its dwindling popularity.

February 1st, 2013 at 9:07 am
Unemployment Rises Unexpectedly to 7.9%
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Earlier this week, the federal government reported that our economy contracted for the first time since the last recession.

Today it reported that unemployment rose to 7.9% last month, up from 7.8% the month before.

Analysts had expected the rate to remain at 7.8%, already a terrible number nearly four years after the last recession ended.  Moreover, the 157,000 new jobs added fell below analysts’ expectations of approximately 170,000, which itself is significantly below the 200,000 per month necessary to keep pace with population growth and substantively reduce the festering unemployment rate.  So Obama II inherits a higher unemployment rate from himself than Obama I inherited from Bush, but with the added burden of $6 trillion wasted deficit spending.

This has ominous broader implications, as noted by The Wall Street Journal:

The labor market looks anemic 3½ years into an economic recovery.  At last count, there are 134 million employed Americans, or four million less than the month before the recession began.  At the same point after the prior recession in the early 2000s, despite what was then called a jobless recovery, there were 5.3 million more workers…  Whether it is retirees, the unemployed, “discouraged” workers or people claiming disability that explain the difference, though, the ratio of “makers” to “takers” in society has dropped.  That has implications for tax revenue and spending and helps explain why, following weak growth data on Wednesday, this is the slowest economic recovery in modern times.”

Hardly the “Forward” that Obama promised.

January 30th, 2013 at 7:37 pm
What Kind of Legal Immigration System Should We Have?

So far, a busy half week on Capitol Hill saw Senator John Kerry (D-MA) become Secretary of State after the U.S. Senate confirmed him 94-3; gun-control politicians getting righteous blowback from the NRA and an advocate for young mothers; and another round of immigration reform heating up.

On this last point, it’s helpful to remember that a big part of what’s missing from the illegal immigration debate is how to fix the problems with the legal immigration system.  For an idea of how byzantine is the process of getting into America the right way, check out these charts prepared the libertarian Reason Foundation and the liberal Immigration Road.  (Each is a pdf.)

The worst lowlight: Waiting up to 28 years to become a citizen.

But before policy wonks and political advocates jump to conclusions and start proposing ways to fix immigration by reducing wait times and streamlining the process, it’s worth having a serious national discussion about what principle should drive our immigration policy.

If it’s about the national interest, in this case defined as what’s best for Americans already here, then it’s far from clear how importing any foreign workers, skilled or unskilled, improves the economic lot of domestic skilled and unskilled workers.  If anything, basic economics suggests that importing more labor reduces the value of the labor already here, which, while a boon for employers, translates into a pay cut for workers.  (For more on this, see Mark Krikorian’s thought-provoking book, “The New Case Against Immigration.”)

On the other hand, if immigration policy is about ensuring that America is the preeminent land of opportunity within the world community, then a small but clear set of filters (e.g. screening out convicted criminals, terrorists, and those fleeing tax problems) need to be put in place to allow the greatest number of opportunity-seeking immigrants to come, live, and hopefully contribute to the nation’s growth.

Personally, I’m conflicted about which route to take.  With Americas suffering from 7.8 percent unemployment – which is really 14.4 percent when underemployed and those too discouraged  to look for work are counted – it’s hard to justify adding to the labor market.  And yet an immigration policy focused on opportunity for those seeking it is an attractive extension of Ronald Reagan’s city on a hill, of which he said “And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

This much I do know: Finding a solution to the illegal immigration problem can’t be done until Americans decide on legal immigration’s foundational principle.

January 4th, 2013 at 9:32 am
Obama’s New Normal: Unemployment Stagnates at 7.8%
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

The unemployment rate when Barack Obama became President was 7.8%.  Four years, four trillion wasted deficit dollars and thousands of federal regulatory pages later, the unemployment rate remains… 7.8%.

Moreover, the Labor Department reported this morning that we added a lackluster 155,000 new jobs last month, and the labor participation rate (the percentage of Americans actually in the workforce) showed no improvement and remains at a generational low of 63.6%.  In fact, considering that the number of women working outside the home has increased during the past three decades, workforce participation is in that sense even more depressing.

By way of perspective, through good times and bad since World War II, unemployment has averaged 5%.  And facing an even deeper recession, Ronald Reagan’s agenda of lower taxes and smaller government saw unemployment plummet from 10.4% on the date his tax cuts took effect to 7.0% two short years later, and continued its steady decline to 5% during his administration.

Accordingly, this morning’s unemployment report confirms the “New Normal” under Obama and his wasteful policies.

October 25th, 2012 at 6:32 pm
Income Inequality: It’s Easy to be Poor When We Don’t Count the Safety Net
Posted by Troy Senik Print

The American Enterprise Institute’s Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur have an important (and devastating) piece in today’s Wall Street Journal breaking down the misleading facets of the left’s argument that the U.S. is currently suffering through a crisis of economic inequality. Here’s a particularly eye-opening excerpt:

In the first place, studies that measure income inequality largely focus on pretax incomes while ignoring the transfer payments and spending from unemployment insurance, food stamps, Medicaid and other safety-net programs. Politicians who rest their demands for more redistribution on studies of income inequality but leave out the existing safety net are putting their thumb on the scale.

Second and more important, it is well known that people’s earnings in general rise over their working lifetime. And so, for example, a person who decides to invest more in education may experience a lengthy period of low income while studying, followed by significantly higher income later on. Snapshot measures of income inequality can be misleading.

Thomas Sowell frequently makes a point complimentary to Hassett and Mathur’s second observation above: that measuring income inequality over time tends to be deeply misleading because membership in any given income bracket is highly fluid, with people’s income often shifting dramatically over time. Thus, someone who’s in the bottom quintile of income in today’s measurements may be in the second quintile from the top in 15 years’ time. But we tend to analyze these groups as if their composition is static.

Hassett and Mathur’s first point, however, is the one that always bowls me over. If the point of a safety net is to remove people from the perils of indigence, yet the government refuses to factor those provisions into measurements of income, we end up with a perpetually imperiled underclass that only exists on paper. As Mark Twain said (supposedly quoting Disraeli), there are three kinds of lies: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

September 7th, 2012 at 9:10 am
HANGOVER: Ugly Unemployment Report Greets Obama Following DNC
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Conventional wisdom (pardon the pun) holds that presidential election season doesn’t begin in earnest until the conventions conclude.

If that’s the case, Barack Obama begins his job extension tour with a faceplant.

Economists expected our economy to add 135,000 new jobs in August, but today’s unemployment report shows just 96,000.  Not only is that a steep decline from last month’s already-lackluster 141,000 number, it’s significantly below the 200,000 per month we must see to keep pace with population growth and substantively reduce the festering unemployment rate.  Moreover, another 368,000 Americans simply dropped out of the workforce altogether in August, nearly four times the number of new jobs.  Finally, the unemployment rate remained above the 8% level that the Obama Administration promised in January 2009 we would never reach in the first place, establishing a new record 43rd consecutive month.  In fact, it promised that we would be down to approximately 5% by now.

“Four more years?”  Today’s news makes that an increasingly difficult sell.

No president in modern history has been reelected with unemployment above 7.2%, and even that occurred in 1984 when the rate had plummeted in just a few months from over 10%.  Accordingly, today’s unemployment report makes for an ugly hangover for Obama and his fellow Democratic conventioneers as they board their planes for home.

August 6th, 2012 at 9:31 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Uh… I Didn’t Build That?
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 3rd, 2012 at 9:33 am
Unemployment Rises to 8.3% – “I Didn’t Cause That! Somebody Else Made That Happen!”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

With a new Gallup poll showing Obama’s unpopularity higher among business owners than any other occupational group, this week we dismantle his desperate “You didn’t build that – somebody else made that happen!” alibis.  Peggy Noonan, in this weekend’s column, believes they’re now his most famous words:

President Obama’s comment – ‘You didn’t build that’ – is the political gift that keeps on giving.  They are now the most famous words he has said in his presidency. And oh, how he wishes they weren’t.”

Now, with this morning’s sour unemployment report, prepare to hear, “I didn’t cause that – somebody else made that happen!” from the White House.  The nation’s unemployment rate rose yet again, to 8.3% from last month’s 8.2%.  That means we’ve now suffered a record 42 consecutive months of unemployment in excess of 8%, a level Obama promised we’d never reach in the first place under his economic plan.  The White House will also attempt to emphasize the 163,000 new jobs created, but keep three things in mind.  First, our economy must add 200,000 jobs each month just to keep up with population growth and substantively reduce the unemployment rate.  Second, nearly as many Americans – 155,000 – dropped out of the labor market altogether, according to this morning’s report.  Third, according to the Labor Department, employment growth has averaged just 151,000 per month in 2012, which is below 2011’s average of 153,000 per month.  Some “recovery.”

Fortunately, there is an alternative.  The early-1980s recession witnessed even worse numbers – higher unemployment, higher inflation and higher interest rates.  But President Reagan’s policy of lower taxes and less regulation slashed unemployment from 10.4% to 6.7% in the three years following the effective date of his tax cuts in January 1983.  In contrast, Obama’s policies of higher spending, higher deficits, higher taxes and more regulation have caused the worst recovery since the Great Depression.

Obama just hopes that enough people fail to notice that he really is making that happen.

July 26th, 2012 at 5:18 pm
Gail Collins: Moron
Posted by Troy Senik Print

I have a working theory to explain the existence of pundits like the New York Times’ Gail Collins, self-parodists who find themselves incapable of escaping the intellectual shallows of liberalism: they must all be secretly financed by a group of wealthy conservatives who regard providing endless fodder for bloggers on the right to be a form of public service.

In Collins’ newest dispatch from the outskirts of sentience, she travels to Williston, North Dakota, a sort of 21st century boomtown where unemployment hovers around one percent thanks to the huge oil reserves now accessible from the Bakken formation.

The reality of the economic dynamism in Williston is so painfully clear that Collins is forced to present it in a fairly positive light, though that doesn’t keep her from some of the reflexive sneering of a Manhattan imperialist (she sniffs that there’s a Wal-Mart instead of an adequate mall and that “The most ambitious restaurants would be classified under the heading of ‘casual dining.’).

Because Williston’s success is fueled by conventional (read: useable) energy, however, the gravitational pull of Collins’ liberalism kicks in when, in the second half of the article, she sets out to expose the unseemly side of Williston’s growth. The results are pathetic.

First, Collins takes a swing at fracking so half-hearted that she doesn’t even seem to have bothered indulging her reflexive impulse to crib some talking points from a Huffington Post op-ed by Alec Baldwin (lest you think I’m joking, it’s here).  Her devastating critique includes the fact that the process “uses a lot of water” and makes the town dustier. Well.

Where she really goes off the rails, however, is in her attempt to portray the local economy as a thing of horror:

… Right now … there’s no place to live. Honestly, no place. To house its teachers, the school district has already purchased two apartment buildings, which have long since been filled even though the residents are all required to share their homes with another teacher. Superintendent Viola LaFontaine has taken to the radio airwaves, urging citizens to come up with places for the new faculty to stay.

“We’ve been getting good applicants,” LaFontaine said. “But they’ll make $31,500. When they find out an apartment is $2-3,000 a month, they say they can’t pay that.”

Yes! Housing costs in Williston, N.D., are approaching those in New York City. Many of the oil workers stash their families back wherever they came from, and live in “man camps,” some of which resemble giant stretches of storage units.

If the place you love can’t quite climb out of the recession, think of this as consolation. At least you’re not living in a man camp and waiting half an hour in line for a Big Mac.

Ms. Collins, meet supply and demand. Supply and demand, meet Ms. Collins.

What our fearless columnist is describing is the typical trajectory of boomtowns. The sudden surge of demand sends prices skyrocketing. But if her view extended beyond the tip of her nose, Collins might realize that this is the predicate for a second round of employment growth and a general lowering of prices. When demand is so high that a remote region of North Dakota can charge rents rivaling those of the beating heart of New York City, it’s an open invitation for developers to make their way to Williston, relieve the housing shortfall, and get rich in the process. Ditto the overcrowded restaurants. That means new jobs created. And the increased supply means lowered prices.

One final note: it’s telling that teachers are Collins’ go-to example. Reading her column, one could reasonably wonder how Williston’s housing stock could be both (a) so expensive that it’s prohibitive for many potential tenants and (b) filled to the gills. The answer: private-sector workers are making more than enough to meet the demands of the city’s rent. Only in the public sector, where wages are set by government diktat instead of the market, are crucial employees priced out of a place to live. That’s a real shame for the teachers of North Dakota. If the school system was privatized, they’d all be getting rich now too.

July 24th, 2012 at 1:44 pm
The Reality of Obama’s ‘All of the Above’ Energy Strategy
Posted by Troy Senik Print

An instructive study in the contrast between the president’s rhetoric and results.

Rhetoric:

“We can’t have an energy strategy for the last century that traps us in the past. We need an energy strategy for the future – an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.” — President Obama, March 15, 2012

Results:

Pennsylvania’s PBS Coals Inc. and the affiliated RoxCoal Inc. announced that they would idle some of their deep and surface mines, laying off 225 employees in the process.

…  According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which first reported the layoff, the company employs 795 workers.

In Alledonia, Ohio, Murray Energy Corp. announced Friday it would lay off 29 union coal mining jobs at The Ohio Valley Coal Co.’s Powhatan No. 6 Mine.

“The failed energy policies of the Obama administration and the ‘war on coal’ that the president and his Democrat supporters have unleashed are the direct causes of this layoff,” said Powhatan mine general manager Ronald Koontz, according to The Wheeling Intelligencer. “Unfortunately, for us, this is just the beginning [of] the work force reductions.” — The Daily Caller, July 23, 2012

There comes a point at which the cognitive dissonance that underpins grandiose pronouncements with no relationship to reality simply make the speaker look buffoonish. Looking for that line, Mr. President? It’s behind you.



June 25th, 2012 at 2:40 pm
No Risk, Plenty of Reward
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Over the weekend, Newsday’s Lane Filler had a terrific editorial piece on one of the absolute worst trends in modern American politics: Government’s growing tendency towards preventing failure (read: insulating people from the consequences of their actions).

But as Filler correctly points out, this trend isn’t just limited to big financial firms on Wall Street. We only pay special attention to “too big to fail” because it’s a relatively new development. In many ways, our entire social contract has come to be defined by the same ethos. An excerpt:

Every social program, as much good as it might do, strikes a blow against moral hazard. Unemployment insurance, which many people have received for as long as two years during the current recession, helps folks get through tough times, but economists agree it also keeps some of them from taking jobs. Few people would take $300 per week to trim hedges if they can get $300 per week to not trim hedges while they wait for a wage offer they can actually live, or even better, thrive, on. Take away the $300, though, and that bad job starts to look better. Extended unemployment benefits aren’t the only reason there are 3.4 million unfilled jobs in the United States, but they are a reason.

Let people know that if their income is low enough, the government will give them food, and they won’t have nearly as much inclination to earn food money as they would if they were down to carpet-lint soup. Provide shelter to those who can’t provide their own, and folks feel less desire to hustle for housing than they would if an underpass in Cleveland were their winter home.

As Filler goes on to note, the same criticism applies to Social Security and Medicare, both of which provide far more in benefits than beneficiaries ever pay in.

None of this, of course, is to argue against a basic safety net. But as many conservative wags have been noting of late, the safety net is coming to look a lot more like a hammock.

Failure, uncomfortable as it often is, is the finishing school of success. Having weakened its instructive powers, we should not be surprised to find ourselves living in a nation of adolescents.

June 2nd, 2012 at 4:54 pm
Wisconsin Likes Walker, Could Boot Obama

Byron York explains why President Barack Obama is not campaigning on behalf of Tom Barrett, the Democrat running against Republican Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin’s recall election on Tuesday:

The latest poll on the recall battle shows why Obama is staying away. It’s not just that he doesn’t want to appear with a loser. Perhaps just as importantly, there is no advantage for Obama to risk his own popularity by making a high-profile visit to oppose policies that are finding increasing favor with voters.

The new poll, from Marquette University Law School, shows Walker leading Barrett 52 percent to 45 percent. Beyond the horse race, the Marquette pollsters also asked about specific elements of Walker’s reforms. It turns out some of the key elements of those policies — reforms Obama strongly opposed — are now winning the day.

Those policies include:

  • 75% of voters in favor of “requiring public employees to contribute to their own pensions and pay more for health insurance.”
  • 55% of voters in favor of “limiting collective bargaining for most public employees.”
  • 54% of voters thinking Wisconsin is better off in the long run because of the changes in state government

With these numbers and 52% of voters preferring him, Scott Walker appears likely to keep his job.  If Wisconsin voters start to apply the same poll questions to Obama’s failed economic policies – forty months of 8% unemployment, doubling the national debt in just one term in office – they’ll come to the opposite conclusion about the President.

No wonder he doesn’t want to be seen in Wisconsin.