Feeds:
Posts
Comments

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its Employment Situation Summary for May and the economy added 217 thousand jobs in May. As the Washington Post reports:

The strong report, which was released Friday, marks the fourth consecutive month that the country has added more than 200,000 jobs — a key benchmark for a healthy economy. The national unemployment rate held steady at 6.3 percent.

And

May’s job gains also mean the country has recaptured all the jobs lost during the recession, and employment is now at an all-time high of 138.4 million people.

On the other hand…

economists were quick to point out that the nation’s population has also grown. The share of people who have a job remains smaller than when the recession started in 2007. An analysis by the liberal Economic Policy Institute found that 7.1 million more positions need to be created to fill that gap.

ZeroHedge has a nice graphic that reflects the current situation and asks a simple question: “Is the US worker’s cup half full or half empty?

May jobs breakdown

I was struck this past May when I asked my graduating seniors about their plans post-graduation. The responses, rank ordered: (1) moving home or in with friends/siblings in the hope that something will happen; (2) moving home and then off to graduate or law school; (3) unpaid internship; and (4) job (and this category included a gig on an organic farm in the Northwest). In contrast, before the collapse almost all of my seniors who were not going on to grad school had jobs locked up, the best ones having been hired months before graduation. Most of my recently graduated students seem to believe that the glass is half empty…at the very least.

Ezra Klein is a global warming pessimist. In his own words, “we’re fucked.”projected climate change

While he gives several different reasons for this belief, the crux of it seems to be U.S. political institutions and parties (the Republicans). Yet he also concedes that other governments are not serious about climate change either.

Indeed, no government has taken serious steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to prevent a greater-than-two-degree warming by 2100. The U.S., Canada, and Australia all either failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol or dropped out. The EU, meanwhile, has not seen any significantly different fall in emissions from the U.S. since its regulatory structure came into effect. The biggest emitter, China, shows no interest whatever in any emissions cuts at all.

So why blame U.S. institutions or politicians specifically? Politicians worldwide are taking a wait-and-see approach to global greenhouse gas emissions.

I can think of two explanations for their nonchalance: 1) no government does a decent job of addressing this kind of problem; 2) the politicians know something about the problem that Ezra Klein doesn’t.

Twenty-Five Years

It is hard to believe that it has been 25 years since Tiananmen Square Massacre.

 t01_90605094

The picture of an unidentified man standing before the tanks has become something of a symbol of the individual versus the state.

Much has changed in China over the past quarter century, particularly with respect to economic growth, per capita GDP, and life expectancies. Yet, the fact remains that most Chinese may never hear of what happened in Tiananmen Square. As the anniversary approached, access to various Google services was blocked (along with a variety of other internet services).

There is some coverage of the anniversary at Reason and the New York Times. The Washington Post has a piece on what has become of some of the key players in the protests. I often wonder what happened to the man who is pictured above (known only as “Tank Man”). Was he one of the victims of the massacre? Was he detained an executed? Is he languishing in a prison? Perhaps he escaped detention and has lived a quiet life. While the identity of “Tank Man” remains unknown, Lily Kuo provides some background and some speculation.

Tyler Cowen thinks Scotland should stay in the UK, and so do I. But this bit of his blog post I can’t quite agree with:

If a significant segment of the British partnership wishes to leave, and for no really good practical reason, it is a sign that something is deeply wrong with contemporary politics and with our standards for loyalties.

I find this entire prospect depressing, and although it is starting to pick up more coverage in the United States and globally, still it is an under-covered story relative to its importance.

This is a referendum on the modern nation-state, an institution that has done very well since the late 1940s but which is indeed often ethnically heterogeneous at its core. While I expect Scottish independence to be voted down, if it passes I will feel the world’s risk premium has gone up, even if the Scots manage to make independence work. (emphasis original)

The main reason why some Scots want to leave the UK is ideological. Scotland consistently votes 15-20 points to the left of the rest of the UK, and with a current center-right government and a constantly improving prospect of a Conservative victory at the next election, many left-wing Scots fear the policies they’ll face in a united Britain. If you follow the Twitter feed of Yes Scotland, you’ll see a stream of claims about new social programs an independent Scotland could implement, and explicit fears about future Tory rule.

Furthermore, Scots are discontented with devolution, wanting something more, but many of them do not trust that David Cameron will follow through on promises to enact more generous autonomy for Scotland (his party is, after all, still the Conservative and Unionist Party).

Growing state intervention in people’s lives has made ordinary ideological disagreements more salient and fundamental. As a result, ideologically polarized people in advanced democracies often wonder whether they can live in peace with “the other side.” Is this depressing or just inevitable? Anyway, I’m not sure Scottish secession would raise the world risk premium any more than Norwegian or Icelandic secession did, or than Faroese independence would. It would at least be peaceful and negotiated. Still, I reiterate that it is probably a bad idea for Scots, and unlikely to happen according to the polls.

Early Friday morning, the House passed an important amendment to the  appropriations bill for Commerce, Science, Justice and Related Agencies. As Billy House reports (National Journal):

Using states’ rights as a bipartisan rallying cry, the House voted 219 to 189 early Friday to prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to conduct raids or otherwise interfere with medical marijuana activities that are legal in the states.

The amendment, which was sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), passed with the support of 49 Republicans and 170 Democrats.

“Despite overwhelming shift in public opinion, the federal government continues its hard line of oppression against medical marijuana,” Rohrabacher said. But he said the Drug Enforcement Administration would be blocked from using any money in this appropriations bill to conduct raids on state-legal medical marijuana operations or dispensaries, or otherwise interfere with state medical marijuana laws or doctors or patients abiding by them.

One might have hoped that more Republicans would have dusted off their support for the 10th amendment to cast a yea vote. But GOP support was far weaker when similar amendments were offered in the past (there have been six failed attempts since 2003). As the Marijuana Policy Project’s Dan Riffle (Reason) notes: “This measure passed because it received more support from Republicans than ever before…It is refreshing to see conservatives in Congress sticking to their conservative principles when it comes to marijuana policy. Republicans increasingly recognize that marijuana prohibition is a failed Big Government program that infringes on states’ rights.”

These days you take victories—even small ones—wherever you can find them. On to the dark hole of the Senate!

At the end of the term, I always hold team debates in my introductory international relations course. After each team has presented, I hold a “just-for-fun” vote of the class on each resolution. This term, I had them debate the following resolutions. Some of the results surprised me, particularly since I try to craft reasonably balanced debate propositions.

Resolved: That NATO should send military aid to Ukraine to deter Russian aggression and stabilize the country.

The class voted against this resolution, 75%-25%.

Resolved: That the principal reason for the decline in violent death rates over history is the rise of the territorial state.

The class voted in favor of this resolution, 51%-49%.

Resolved: That the optimal level of U.S. counterterrorism expenditure is much lower than it is now.

The class voted in favor of this resolution, 87%-13%.

Resolved: That the World Trade Organization should incorporate labor and environmental regulations with loss of trade preferences as a sanction for defection from them.

The class voted against this resolution, 56%-44%.

Resolved: That for most countries, floating exchange rates are clearly superior to fixed ones or to currency unification.

The class voted in favor of this resolution, 100%-0%. (First unanimous vote I’ve ever seen.)

Resolved: That transnational advocacy networks make little difference in the human rights practices of authoritarian regimes.

The class voted in favor of this resolution, 77%-23%. (Due to an odd number of teams, I took the “con” side of this debate. The other students whipped me.)

Waiting for Paul

Has anyone noticed that Paul Krugman has been strangely silent on the scandal at the VA, in which there seems to be a massive fraud in the failure to accurately report the real time that veterans have to wait for needed health care.

Perhaps this has something to do with this column, in which he said:

The system in question is our very own Veterans Health Administration, whose success story is one of the best-kept secrets in the American policy debate.

And…

For the lesson of the V.H.A.’s success story — that a government agency can deliver better care at lower cost than the private sector — runs completely counter to the pro-privatization, anti-government conventional wisdom that dominates today’s Washington.

And…

Cries of ”socialized medicine” didn’t, in the end, succeed in blocking the creation of Medicare. And farsighted thinkers are already suggesting that the Veterans Health Administration, not President Bush’s unrealistic vision of a system in which people go ”comparative shopping” for medical care the way they do when buying tile (his example, not mine), represents the true future of American health care.

Paul, I’m sure, has been holed up in his office trying desperately to show how the scandal is the result of right-wing extremists who are blindly ignorant to the facts and bludgeon reality with their ignorant, ideological hammers at every opportunity.

Of course that is the basic argument of every Krugman column, whether the “scandal” at issue is climate science, banking reform, austerity policies in Europe, income inequality, etc. etc.  He cycles through his pet lists of topics, but the argument is the same–cut and pasted from one article to the next.  Even if you think that the other Times columnists are whacky, too, at least the others come up with different whack from time to time and don’t expect to get paid for writing the same column every day.

So, Paul, we’re waiting.  Should be a doozy.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,003 other followers

%d bloggers like this: