The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics just released its employment figures for the month of May, and they would appear to be very encouraging indeed: 431,000 new jobs were created, and the unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent. President Obama hailed this as proof that his economic policies are succeeding, saying, “This report is a sign that our economy is getting stronger by the day.”
When CNBC announced that the number of workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week while private employers added new jobs in May, this was “further evidence [that] the labor market was improving.” In more muted fashion, the Associated Press called it a “slow-motion recovery,” but a recovery nevertheless.
Bank closures throughout the United States continue to be telling of the state of the economy. Friday witnessed the closing of three more banks in Florida and one in Nevada and California, totaling 78 failed banks in this year alone.
The Obama administration is pushing for a second “stimulus” package as the amount of money flowing in the U.S. economy contracts at a pace not seen since the Great Depression, according to international news reports.
According to the New York Times, “A growing number of the people whose homes are in foreclosure are refusing to slink away in shame.” They are just refusing to make their mortgage payments but continue to live in their home until the bank evicts them. LPS Applied Analytics says the average borrower in foreclosure “has been delinquent for 438 days before actually being evicted.” This means that the homeowner essentially lives rent-free for nearly 15 months, and can use his mortgage payment to make other payments such as car loans and credit cards.
After six straight months of gains in consumer spending the April numbers showed no change from March, according to the Commerce Department. This was a surprise to some who have been tracking such things as the University of Michigan’s index of consumer confidence (higher), consumers’ expectations on the economy over the next 12 months (higher), moderate real job creation (higher), savings rate (higher) and manufacturing activity (higher).
The timing of the sellout by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) could not have been more politically auspicious — or more suspicious. For months the Senator had been denouncing the secrecy of the Federal Reserve’s bailout operations, which have exceeded two trillion dollars. For months he had been pledging that he would push for a genuine audit of the Fed. He authored an amendment in the Senate identical to “Audit the Fed” legislation in the House (H.R. 1207) authored by Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas).
“Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year,” according to USA Today. “At the same time,” continues the paper, “government-provided benefits — from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs — rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010.” This reflects, says USA Today, “a major shift in the source of personal income from private wages to government programs.”
When former Comptroller General Bill Walker, who headed the U.S. Government Accountability Office, said two years ago that the “official” debt of the United States “is only around $10 trillion,” he wryly suggested that since this number was produced by “government accounting, which … allows one to ignore Social Security, Medicare and the new prescription drug benefit [it was like] ignoring rent, food and utilities in your household budget [and] it will lead to a few bounced checks.”
Item: The April 22 Washington Post reported that President Obama was making an “assertive stride into the debate on financial regulatory reform.” The President flew to New York “to deliver a stern address to an audience that included prominent financial executives, telling them that greater government oversight is in the best interest of the industry — and the country. ‘Unless your business model relies on bilking people, there’s little to fear from these new rules,’ he said.”
More than a dozen top American banks were involved in a conspiracy to swindle taxpayers by rigging auctions in the $2.8 trillion municipal bond market, according to an indictment filed by the Department of Justice and multiple lawsuits across the country.