When Lakshman Achuthan (left), co-founder of Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI) appeared on CNBC to defend his prediction last September of an “imminent” recession, challenges came from many observers, including Tom Keene and Ken Prewitt of Bloomberg and Jon Stewart of The Bonddad Blog. Each pointed to an array of economic indicators that appeared to make Achuthan’s prediction appear almost silly: jobs data improving, auto sales increasing, homebuilders stock prices bouncing, consumer sentiment positive, and others.
White House announcements celebrating the jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) were optimistic: “Private sector employers added 233,000 jobs to their payrolls in February [which] means the economy has added jobs for 24 consecutive months…” This illustrates “the progress of the last two years and the importance of doing everything we can to continue strengthening our economy and creating jobs for the months and years ahead,” wrote Megan Slack on the White House blog. Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, was equally enthusiastic:
In yet another sign that the looming American debt crisis is close to spiraling out of control, February’s monthly federal deficit was the highest ever recorded — $229 billion, according to a report released last Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office. Even more alarmingly, five months into this fiscal year (which began October 1, 2011), the deficit has already exceeded half a trillion dollars, with the government having to borrow 42 cents of every dollar spent during that same span.
Washington, D.C. raked in more than $885 million from President Obama’s economic stimulus package, but the D.C. government cannot report how many jobs it actually generated for its residents. A large majority of the money has been spent, but according to an analysis by the Washington Times, data released by government officials reveal that the city doled out hundreds of millions of federal dollars while effecting no favorable change in the city’s unemployment rate, which ranks among the worst in the country.
In another purported attempt to spur "job creation," Senate Democrats will try to transform their $109-billion transportation bill into law this week. In this delicate economic time, and as the federal government continues to deepen the nation’s mounting deficit, the call for roads, bridges, and trains has met resistance. So congressional leaders are reverting to the Democratic rally cry that has become ingrained in the Obama administration’s political ideology: Government creates jobs.
In a moment of unexpected and unsettling candor, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, in his testimony on Tuesday before the House Financial Services Committee, said that he really doesn’t know what’s happening to the economy. In his best professorial manner and without blinking an eye, the chairman said, "In light of somewhat different signals received recently from the labor market than from indicators of final demand and production…it will be especially important to evaluate incoming information to assess the underlying pace of the economic recovery."
First noted by Bloomberg, that turning point hit the Chinese labor markets in the weeks following China’s Lunar New Year holiday in February, 2010, when hundreds of thousands of Chinese had to be enticed to come back to work. They were bribed with gifts, parties, and cash bonuses. Sunny Jia, sales manager for the Jufeng Handicraft Company which makes linen goods, leather bags, and cabinets for retailers in Britain and the United States, explained, “We needed to do more to make them stay.”
“We’ve slipped away from a true Republic,” Texas Congressman Ron Paul claimed in a speech to a Missouri audience February 18. “Now we’re slipping into a fascist system where it’s a combination of government and big business and authoritarian rule and the suppression of the individual rights of each and every American citizen.”
Last Friday marked the third-year anniversary of President Obama’s $787-billion economic "stimulus" law — and it scored a rather grim milestone: The unemployment rate held steady above eight percent for 36 months, the longest period since World War II. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current 8.3-percent unemployment rate is precisely where it stood three years ago when the legislation, called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), was signed into law. The previous record for above-8-percent unemployment was 27 months, which transpired in the early 1980s.
The deadline for comments on the proposed Volcker Rule was Monday night and hundreds, if not thousands, of letters arrived at the last minute to rail against the rule, mostly from Wall Street. The Volcker Rule — which would prohibit banks from trading with their own money — was proposed last summer by former chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, who said in a letter to President Obama that they shouldn’t be gambling with money guaranteed by the taxpayers. Big losses by government-backed banks that were trading in risky securities such as mortgage-backed assets precipitated the financial crisis in 2008 and set up the need for federal bailouts of those banks.