Posts filed under “Current Affairs”

Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool…

…than to open it and remove all doubt.

Invictus here.  I usually know exactly where I’m going when I sit down to write a post — some numbers tell me a story that I think would be interesting to be share.

Not so this time.

I’ve wondered often and aloud what it takes these days for an individual to be discredited.  The answer seems to be that it is simply not possible.  Being wrong — about anything and everything — no longer carries any consequences whatsoever.  On many levels, it’s quite remarkable.  As it relates to economics, stories about hyperinflation, sky-high interest rates, rampant government spending, expansionary austerity, an economic plan that will get the unemployment rate to 2.8%, etc., etc., have been making (or made) the rounds for the past few years.  Yet the purveyors of these fictions lose no credibility and somehow maintain their status as experts, continuing to appear on business television shows and on op-ed pages nationwide. (Post-market on Friday, December 23, Bloomberg Television trotted out Harry “Roaring 2000′s” Dent, for example.  How’d that call work out?)  Paul Krugman has railed about all this countless times, most recently here, and he has a very valid point.

But Rush Limbaugh has now taken it all to a new level by demonstrating a mind-numbing cluelessness about one of the most fundamental of our employment statistics, the unemployment rate.  Mr. Limbaugh did not just twist, distort, or massage statistics (though he most certainly did do those things), he displayed an abject ignorance of what the BLS measures and how it is measured.

In an error-laden, wince-inducing screed that was somewhat painful to read, Rush explains to his Dittoheads that the government manipulates its economic releases to make them administration-friendly.  (Of course, that being the case, he does not tell us why, three years into the current administration, the unemployment rate is not a second-term-insuring 5 percent instead of 8.6, but never mind that.)

In the hope of maintaining my sanity, I’ll confine myself to the most egregious assertion in Rush’s comedy of errors (emphasis mine):

What was the number of jobs created [in November]?  It’s 120,000 jobs.  It’s 120, 126,000, whatever. That’s in the ballpark.  That number of jobs created can lower unemployment rate 0.4%, almost one half of a percent? Creating 120,000 new jobs can do that?  [...]

A mere 126,000 job increase drops unemployment rate almost one half of a percentage point.

If you’re thinking, “Hey, Invictus, the payroll number comes from the Establishment Survey and the Unemployment Rate from the Household Survey,” congratulations, you know more about how BLS does its job than Rush Limbaugh.  Try as I might to think of something funny to say about this, words escape me.  What is there to say?  Millions (tens of millions?) of people listen to this man, and in all likelihood believe what he said, despite the fact that his claim is wholly, totally without any merit whatsoever because he conflated the two surveys to simply fabricate a narrative — the narrative being that a modest rise in payrolls could cause an outsize decline in the unemployment rate. So, the question then becomes, did he know what he was doing and just not care, or did he simply opine ignorantly on a topic about which he clearly knows nothing?  Honestly, as jaded as I have become, this one threw even me for a bit of a loop.

For those who are going to accuse me of picking on Rush, I’ll simply say this:  Find me other examples of such blatant intellectually dishonesty and I’ll criticize those, too.

If there are any Rush defenders in the audience, please drop it in comments — I’m tired of the market volatility and could use both a break and a laugh.

Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Economy, Employment, Media, Politics, Think Tank

Invictus here. Interested parties were treated to a fascinating debate on the evening of November 14, as the Munk Debates assembled four estimable economic minds to debate the following resolution: Be it resolved North America faces a Japan-style era of high unemployment and slow growth Arguing the pro side of the resolution were David Rosenberg…Read More

Category: Current Affairs, Cycles, Data Analysis, Economy, Employment, Federal Reserve, Wages & Income

11/11/11 11:11:11

Today has been called a one-derful day. At eleven seconds past 11:11 am, on this, the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year, we have an unusual date and time: 11/11/11 11:11:11 This is not going to happen again for a while. And 1000 900 years ago, in the year 1111, we…Read More

Category: Current Affairs

Is Occupy Wall Street: Just Noise?

According to a Global Investment Strategy Special Report, the Occupy Wall Street movement symbolizes the fact that political extremism is rapidly becoming mainstream. But is it really extremism? Consider the following, from BCA: The Occupy Wall Street movement is rooted in the secular decline of the American middle class. Judging from the GINI coefficient, the…Read More

Category: Current Affairs, Politics

Demand Question for Charlie Rose/GOP Candidates

If I could get one question posed to the candidates at the next debate (Tuesday night), which is to focus solely on the economy, it would be this: “We repeatedly hear about taxes, regulations, and uncertainty standing in the way of job creation. However, the National Federation of Independent Business (“The Voice of Small Business”)…Read More

Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Economy, Employment, Politics

Holders of Sovereign Debt

Here’s a great chart just released by the International Monetary Fund.   Note that almost half — 47 percent –  of the US$14.7 trillion U.S. federal government debt is held by the Federal Reserve and the government itself, such as the Social Security trust fund. Add to that the 22 percent foreign official holdings (mainly central…Read More

Category: Bailouts, Credit, Current Affairs

Weekend Smorgasbord from Invictus

Herewith a potpourri of unrelated items I’ve found on my never-ending voyage through the internet. Grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair. Seen This Movie Before First up, an excerpt from a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt in December 1906. I was taken by the opening line and the third paragraph. Indeed,…Read More

Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Economy, Politics, Research, Taxes and Policy

Attention Americans: You Won’t All Be Rich Tomorrow

(Source: Census.gov)> If we were all to become suddenly rich tomorrow, the government’s revenue problems are solved at the current tax rates, so no worries in that case. But I place long odds on that, so let’s move on to what’s actually happening. It’s as if the entire country has turned into Lake Wobegon, as…Read More

Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Economy

The Census Bureau released its annual report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage: 2010 (full PDF)  this morning.  Barry has posted the slide presentation that staff went through during the conference call over in the Think Tank (please have a look).  The (very ugly) bullet points from the release can be found here, and the…Read More

Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Economy, Employment, Research, Wages & Income

Obama Jobs Speech Wordle

We’ll see what ultimately happens, but he clearly used the appropriate language given the stated purpose of the speech. > Click through for larger graphic.

Category: Current Affairs, Economy