James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

4 reasons why the July unemployment report was worse than you think

Aug 8, 2009 17:29 UTC

Lots of temporary jobs and discouraged job seekers are the story. From David Rosenberg at Gluskin Sheff on the unemployment report:

1) The auto sector added 28,200 to the industry payroll in July, which was the highest tally in 11 years. To show you just how big that really is, it is a 69% annualized surge. Normally, the industry, which is in secular decline, posts job losses of between 20,000 and 30,000 consistently, so this alone represented roughly a 50,000 swing.

3) As we mentioned, there have been large fluctuations in the federal government payroll too. After hiring a slew of Census workers in the spring, there were 57,000 layoffs in May-June and then we saw in today’s report that 12,000 federal workers were “hired” in July. Again, mathematically, this contributed about 20,000 to today’s headline number. In other words, and we have no intent on raining on anyone’s parade, there was about 100,000 non-recurring payrolls in that top-line figure. It may be dangerous to extrapolate today’s report into a view that we are about to fully turn the corner on the job market front.

3) Yes, the income number was also firm; average weekly earnings popped 0.5%, but again, this reflected the bounce in the auto sector as well as the 10.7% increase in the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. Again, this is a non-recurring item and does not at all reflect an improvement in underlying income fundamentals in the personal sector. We had a similar bounce in the summer of 2008 when the minimum wage was last boosted.

4) To be sure, the drop in the unemployment rate was a surprise, but it was all due to the slide in the labour force — the employment-to-population ratio gives amore accurate picture of the slack in the labour market and the hidden secret intoday’s report was that this metric slid to a 25-year low of 59.4% from 59.5% inJune and 61.0% at the turn of the year. Of those unemployed, 33.8% of themhave been unemployed now for over 27 weeks — a record amount (was at29.0% in June and was at 17.5% at the start of this recession).

080808unemployment

Why the unemployment rate is headed higher

Aug 7, 2009 18:55 UTC

There were no high-fives at the White House today because of this probable economic reality, as explained by the guys at RDQ Economics (the great John Ryding and Conrad DeQuandros):

The case that the recession ended in June continues to grow with this report.  The rate of job loss has downshifted and the lengthening of the workweek in July resulted in flat hours worked in the private sector and an increase in manufacturing hours worked, which in turn points to a gain in industrial production in July.  However, the decline in the unemployment rate was not a product of job creation, but a result of falling labor force participation.  The labor force is unchanged over the last year and, as the economy improves, people are likely to seek jobs, resulting in an increase in the unemployment rate.  We do not think that the unemployment rate has peaked—although the case that it can peak at around 10% (rather than 11% or higher) is now much stronger.

COMMENT

What? I doubt if anyone actually believes this stuff. If they do, they need to visit their local neighborhood psychiatrist.

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive

5 political impacts of today’s July jobs report

Aug 7, 2009 15:47 UTC

Rising U.S. unemployment, to borrow a phrase, has been a giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of the Obama administration, sucking out its popularity and thus draining momentum from its legislative agenda. But now the White House received some good news from the jobs front. The unemployment in July unexpectedly fell to 9.4 percent from 9.5 percent in June. This breaks a string of 16-straight months where the unemployment rate had either risen or stayed flat, including every month of the Obama term. (Recall the rate was 7.6 percent in January.)

Now, the economy still lost a quarter of a million jobs. And had the same number of people been looking for work in July as June, the rate would have risen. Plus, the broader unemployment rate is still over 16 percent. But the news headlines will show the traditional jobless rate easing, making the approach toward double digits a bit slower if also more unlikely. Here are the political impacts of a possible economic turning point:

1) A third positive data point for Obamanomics. The stock market has been up sharply, the decline in GDP has slowed sharply and now Team Obama can point to a dip in the jobless rate. (Plus cash for clunkers seems pretty popular.) When the market was down, GDP collapsing and the unemployment rate soaring, it was tough for the White House to counter GOP claims that its stimulus plan was anything but a miserable failure. Now Republicans have to make a tougher argument, that a) a “real” recovery plan would be working faster rather than this sugar high from government spending, and b) it’s really the natural strength of the economy (with some help from monetary policy) taking over rather than anything the Democrats have done. More of a muddle than “Obamanomics has done nothing!”

2) Makes the economy a bit less of a negative for healthcare and climate change legislation. The bad economy — and rising unemployment in particular — hurt the Obamacrat agenda in several ways. First, with the economy worsening, it meant Obama had yet to fix the economy. And that was the main thing he was elected to do. Until that is done, healthcare and climate change look like distractions from Job One. Second, a weak economy made it seem to voters like it wasn’t a good time to pass legislation that would add taxes and costs to the economy. Third, the bad economy made Obama less popular and thus his agenda less popular. To the extent that Obama looks like he is capably managing an actual recovery, it will also help momentum on these other issues. And certainly Democrats don’t want to see unemployment hit 10 percent right when healthcare crunch-time hits in the autumn.

3) There is a risk Obama and the Democrats overplay their hand.
Look, the unemployment rate is still double what Americans have become used to during the past generation. Plus, the broader unemployment rate is at scary levels, particularly in states like Michigan and California. And this dip could be followed by a reversal. After the 1990-91 recession ended, the unemployment rate took a similar dip, from 6.8 percent to 6.7 percent. But then it started rising again for the next year and half, eventually hitting 7.8 percent. This was due to a combination of slow economic growth and discouraged workers looking for jobs again (which meant the Labor Department started tracking them again). A lengthy jobless recovery may well be in the offing. Dems would be wise to avoid premature celebration. Here is how IHS Global Insight puts it: “The unemployment rate fell, but it is hard to believe that it has peaked already. … We will need to see sustained employment gains before concluding that unemployment has peaked, and that probably won’t be until the first half of 2010 with unemployment above 10 percent.” This is why the White House is taking a cautious stance today.

4) Voter anxieties are likely to remain high even if the worst is over. President Bush, the first one, lost the 1992 presidential election to Bill Clinton because of the economy and the lingering impact of the 1990-91 recession. Two years later, though, it was the Democrats’ turn to feel the brunt of widespread economic anxiety as the Republicans captured both the House and the Senate. Even though the economy had been growing for 14 straight quarters by then and the unemployment rate was down to 5.8 percent from a high of 7.8 percent in 1992, 72 percent of Americans still thought the economy was only “fair” or “poor,” and 66 percent thought the nation was headed in the wrong direction. That’s right—3½ years after the 1990-91 recession ended, the economy was still weighing negatively on voters. Lesson: It takes a long time after a bad downturn for people to feel safe and confident.

5) The GOP argument just got tougher. The Republicans would be crazy to pull back from attacking Obama’s management of the economy, given high joblessness and massive deficits. But they need to prepare themselves for two things. First, there could be a big GDP pop in the near future. The typical first quarter after a recession shows 5 percent GDP growth or better. And if employers overestimated the severity of the downturn and cut too many jobs, the same upside surprise could happen with employment. At that point, it will seem like Obamanomics might be working, and GOPers better have an answer. Still, if we get a Reagan style “v-shape” recovery and boom, Republicans are in deep trouble, though concerns about the deficit may give a bit of cover. More likely: a good quarter or two followed by weak growth and continued high unemployment. The Long Recession Scenario, or 1990s Japan-lite. Why? Still lots of economic uncertainty after financial meltdown, impact of huge deficits on interest rates, weak consumers, a dead housing market, and the high-tax, high-regulation Obama agenda among others.

Bottom line: The unemployment report provides a short-term boost to Obama’s popularity and agenda, but does not change the likely scenario that on Election Day 2010 (maybe even 2012), voters will not be thrilled about the economy. And to the extent the economy improves, will voters view it as a real turnaround or one manufactured by unsustainable government spending, as with cash for clunkers? A foundation of rock or sand?

COMMENT

We have the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed world. Conservative estimates are that over 120,000 of you dies each year in America from treatable illness that people in other developed countries don’t die from. Rich, middle class, and poor a like. Insured and uninsured. Men, women, children, and babies. This is what being 37th in quality of healthcare means.

I know that many of you are angry and frustrated that REPUBLICANS! In congress are dragging their feet and trying to block TRUE healthcare reform. What republicans want is just a taxpayer bailout of the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry, and the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare industry. A trillion dollar taxpayer funded private health insurance bailout is all you really get without a robust government-run public option available on day one. Co-OP’s ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR A GOVERNMENT-RUN PUBLIC OPTION. They are a fraud being pushed by the GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry that is KILLING YOU!

YOU CANT HAVE AN INSURANCE MANDATE WITHOUT A ROBUST PUBLIC OPTION. MANDATING PRIVATE FOR PROFIT HEALTH INSURANCE AS YOUR ONLY CHOICE WOULD BE A DISASTER AND UNETHICAL, CORRUPT, AND MORALLY REPUGNANT. AND PROBABLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL AS WELL.

These industries have been slaughtering you and your loved ones like cattle for decades for profit. Including members of congress and their families. These REPUBLICANS are FOOLS!

Republicans and their traitorous allies have been trying to make it look like it’s President Obama’s fault for the delays, and foot dragging. But I think you all know better than that. President Obama inherited one of the worst government catastrophes in American history from these REPUBLICANS! And President Obama has done a brilliant job of turning things around, and working his heart out for all of us.

But Republicans think you are just a bunch of stupid, idiot, cash cows with short memories. Just like they did under the Bush administration when they helped Bush and Cheney rape America and the rest of the World.

But you don’t have to put up with that. And this is what you can do. The Republicans below will be up for reelection on November 2, 2010. Just a little over 13 months from now. And many of you will be able to vote early. So pick some names and tell their voters that their representatives (by name) are obstructing TRUE healthcare reform. And are sellouts to the insurance and medical lobbyist.

Ask them to contact their representatives and tell them that they are going to work to throw them out of office on November 2, 2010, if not before by impeachment, or recall elections. Doing this will give you something more to do to make things better in America. And it will make you feel better too.

There are many resources on the internet that can help you find people to call and contact. For example, many social networking sites can be searched by state, city, or University. Be inventive and creative. I can think of many ways to do this. But be nice. These are your neighbors. And most will want to help.

I know there are a few democrats that have been trying to obstruct TRUE healthcare reform too. But the main problem is the Bush Republicans. Removing them is the best thing tactically to do. On the other hand. If you can easily replace a democrat obstructionist with a supportive democrat, DO IT!

You have been AMAZING!!! my people. Don’t loose heart. You knew it wasn’t going to be easy saving the World. :-)

God Bless You

jacksmith — Working Class

I REST MY CASE (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/0 7/25/why-markets-cant-cure-healthcare/)

Republican Senators up for re-election in 2010.

* Richard Shelby of Alabama
* Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
* John McCain of Arizona
* Mel Martinez of Florida
* Johnny Isakson of Georgia
* Mike Crapo of Idaho
* Chuck Grassley of Iowa
* Sam Brownback of Kansas
* Jim Bunning of Kentucky
* David Vitter of Louisiana
* Kit Bond of Missouri
* Judd Gregg of New Hampshire
* Richard Burr of North Carolina
* George Voinovich of Ohio
* Tom Coburn of Oklahoma
* Jim DeMint of South Carolina
* John Thune of South Dakota
* Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas
* Bob Bennett of Utah

Posted by jacksmith | Report as abusive

Unemployment rate in July slips to 9.4 percent; another 247,000 jobs lost. Yuck

Aug 7, 2009 12:40 UTC

The bad news arrives. Here is the latest from the Labor Department on the July unemployment rate and the number of jobs lost (bold is mine):

1. Nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline in July (-247,000), and the unemployment rate was little changed at 9.4 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The average monthly job loss for May through July (-331,000) was about half the average decline for November through April (-645,000).

2. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) rose by 584,000 over the month to 5.0 million. In July, 1 in 3 unemployed persons were jobless for 27 weeks or more.

3. The civilian labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in July to 65.5 percent.

4. Among the marginally attached, there were 796,000 discouraged workers in July, up by 335,000 over the past 12 months. Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.

5. Manufacturing employment fell by 52,000 in July and has declined by 2.0 million since the recession began.

6. In July, retail trade employment declined by 44,000. Job losses in the industry had averaged 27,000 per month over the prior 3 months.

7. Employment in professional and business services continued to trend down in July (-38,000); the industry has shed 1.5 million jobs since the start of the recession.  …  While temporary help has lost 844,000 jobs since the recession began, the declines have lessened substantially over the past 3 months.

8. Transportation and warehousing lost 22,000 jobs in July.

9. Financial activities employment continued to trend down in July (-13,000). The average monthly decline for this industry was 23,000 over the past 3 months compared with 46,000 per month from November through April. Since the start of the recession, the financial activities industry has lost 501,000 jobs.

10. Health care employment increased by 20,000 in July, about in line with the average monthly gain for the first half of this year but down from an average monthly increase of 30,000 during 2008.

11. In July, the average workweek of production and nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls edged up by 0.1 hour to 33.1 hours.

Tax the rich. Good luck with that

Aug 6, 2009 18:17 UTC

Government revenue estimates of future tax hikes on the wealthy always overestimate how much dough they will bring in.  This is certainly the case with the 1993 Clinton tax hikes. Now why is that? First up is my Reuters compadre, the so-smart-he’s-scary Christopher Swann:

It has been many years since the rich had a powerful incentive to test the limits of the tax code. The top rate of income tax has fallen with only minor interruptions since its vertiginous peak of 92 percent in 1953. But a foretaste of what might be expected was offered by Maryland’s ill-fated creation of a millionaires-tax bracket in 2008.

A year later 1,000 millionaires had disappeared — a third of the total — and revenues from this group had fallen by $100 million. Some may have left the state while others may have found ingenious ways to reduce their reported income.

And now Richard Rahn in the WaTimes:

Quite simply, upper-income people have options. History shows that when tax rates are raised, many will choose to work less (leisure is nontaxable), retire earlier than they had planned and save and invest less in taxable, productive activities. Those making more than $160,000 per year would need to have their taxes roughly tripled to take care of just this year’s deficit. (One merely has to look at the tax evasion practiced by the chairman of the congressional tax writing committee, the secretary of the Treasury and the former majority leader, et al. at today’s tax rates to know that they and their colleagues, as well as most everyone else, will find either legal or illegal ways to avoid paying the tax.

Will healthcare reform create trillion-dollar budget deficits?

Aug 6, 2009 14:34 UTC

That is the contention of former White House budget official James Capretta who does the math:

CBO expects the spending in the bill would grow at a rate of least 8 percent annually into the indefinite future, while the revenue to pay for it will only grow at about 5 per cent per year. Hence the “substantial increases” in federal budget deficits beyond 2019.

Although CBO declined to specify any actual deficit numbers beyond 2019, they can be easily calculated, in rough terms, from the information provided in Elmendorf’s letter.

By 2030, if the spending associated with the coverage provisions rises 8 percent per year after 2019 and the revenue rises by 5 percent, the bill would add more than $200 billion per year to currently projected budget deficits. By 2048, the annual deficit increase would top $1 trillion — and only go up from there.

COMMENT

As a practical matter, this country lacks the ability to address healthcare (and for that matter ANY problem), in a focused, direct, and coordinated fashion. It is also incapable of really planning much of anything of real value, at least not at this point in time. That type of activity does not fit within our governance model.

What you see here is an example of what happens when ANY entity is run by committee. We’ve known that as a society for a long time.

Our governance model is a “herding cats” governance model, where we let people and the entities they form have the freedom to do most of what they consider to be in their best interests, and we hope that it will also be in society’s best interests.

Sometimes that works for us, and other times it doesn’t. It will never yield consistency in approach, effort, and results. For us to think so is delusional in nature.

We (as a nation) lack the ability to rally around anything, unless it is perceived as An imminent threat to virtually all of us, and that’s not going to happen often. And so we become self-absorbed in thinking about our own personal, close to home minutiae.

There are some positive and negative ramifications associated with ANY alternate approach we might pursue, and the yelling and screaming will always loud and raucous.

As George Will often says, there is the “inertia” which is Washington. There is also the “inertia” which is the U.S. and its constituent parts.

Although this approach has served us well for most of the last 110 years, from a theoretical perspective, one has to wonder how long we can govern ourselves using the “herding cats” governance model, in light of our increase in size and complexity of our citizens.

If the US were run like a business, then every single day, its management team would assess whether its goals are being attained, bust their butts to achieve those goals, ensure that it was getting the maximum value and productivity out of those working for it, and make on the dime changes to most effectively and efficiently reach those goals. In other words, be nimble.

This country is not nimble, and can not be.

I’m not advocating a particular change, either left or right; just the recognition that EVERY governance model has its limitations, and this one is no different. However, for us to think that we can continue to use it and not have negative periods and poor, inappropriate responses to problems, is not reasonable. A country needs to know its limitations.

5 reasons why Obama will hike middle-class taxes

Aug 4, 2009 10:16 UTC

JamesPethokoukiscrop.jpgC’mon, how about some Walter Mondalesque candor from the Obama White House on taxes? Yes, yes, it was 25 years ago this summer that the Democratic presidential candidate self-immolated on the issue at his party’s convention in San Francisco. But surely Americans have become more urbane and sophisticated since then as to what makes for sound economic policy, oui?

[Find out five ways to boost the economy and create jobs]

Nope. If you had any doubt that higher taxes are still poisonous policy in center-right America, all you had to do was listen to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs yesterday. He briskly and precisely walked back the White House from the ambiguous statements made by Tim Geithner and Larry Summers on the Sunday chat shows. “I am reiterating the president’s clear commitment in the clearest terms possible that he’s not raising taxes on those who make less than $250,000 a year,” Gibbs said.

But what’s so clear, Mr. Gibbs? “Commitment” in this context is a schemer’s word, the much-weaker-yet-more-conniving sibling of “guarantee.” Did Broadway Joe express a mushy “clear commitment” to winning the 1969 Super Bowl? Clearly not. In any event, feel free to ignore Gibbs or any other White Housespinmeister who gives the impression that President Obama raising middle-class taxes would be the equivalent of playing himself in a Hollywood biopic — so unlikely as to be fanciful. It’s not and here’s why it will happen eventually:

1) Obama knows the budget math doesn’t work. Put aside today’s budget mess. It’s gospel among center-left wonks (the kind of folks who give Obama economic advice) that structural government spending as a percentage of GDP is headed sharply higher over the long term because of entitlements — and there’s little that can be done about it. The ratio has been around 20 percent or so the past few decades, and number crunchers forecast a sharp rise to 25 percent (best case scenario) to 30 percent (worst case) of GDP over the next few decades. Tax revenues typically hover around 18 percent of GDP. That gap — representing $500 billion to $1 trillion a year — will need to be closed or else cause economic chaos. The possible answers: a) less spending, b) higher tax revenues from higher growth, or c) higher tax revenues from higher rates on the non-wealthy. Oh, and the wonks are convinced “a” is a political impossibility and “b” an economic one. They’re wrong, but that’s what they think.

[See if Obama's big economic gamble is paying off]

2) Obama seems to prefer tax hikes to spending cuts. Reduced future healthcare spending needs to be a huge part of the budget solution, and ObamaCare doesn’t make the grade at this point. Right now the various Obamacrat plans actually make things worse by failing to “bend the curve.” What’s more, Obama has proposed nothing as president to make Social Security solvent. And during the campaign, his preferred fix was higher payroll taxes rather than commonsense measures like extending the retirement age or changing how benefits are calculated. Of course, Obama has also proposed raising income, investment, corporate and energy taxes. Cut spending or raise taxes – forObama it’s an easy pick, unfortunately.

3) Obama has already tried raising taxes. Let’s, for the sake of argument, ignore the increased federal cigarette tax that would certainly seem to be a violation of Obama’s tax pledge. Call it a misdemeanor offense. But what about his cap-and-trade proposal, a de facto energy tax on everyone? Before the plan was modified in the House, the White House expected the plan to bring in some $80 billion a year from 2012 to 2019 by auctioning off carbon emission permits (probably to pay for healthcare reform). And making energy more costly is as about as broad-based a tax as you can get.

[Find out how healthcare taxes would affect you]

4) Obama’s advisers are for higher taxes. Let’s review, for example, what White House economic adviser and guru Larry Summers said on Sunday about tax hikes: “There is a lot that can happen over time. It is never a good idea to absolutely rule things out no matter what.” Indeed, Summers won’t rule it out because he thinks all the Bush tax cuts need to go, not just the ones for so-called rich folks. Here is Summers from earlier this year on Meet the Press when he put no qualifiers on letting the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2010: “I don’t think there’s any question they have to be repealed. The country can’t afford them for the long run. … They can’t be, they can’t be part of the long-run budget picture.” Not for anyone, it seems.

5) Obama doesn’t seem to think high taxes are harmful. Think about this: Not only was the top income tax rate a stratospheric 70 percent when President Reagan took office in1981, the tax code was not indexed to inflation. A lethal combo for economic growth. But here’s what Obama wrote about the Reagan tax cuts in The Audacity of Hope: “The high marginal tax rates that existed when Reagan took office may not have curbed incentives to work or invest, but they did distort investment decisions — and did lead to the wasteful industry of setting up tax shelters.” That’s it! Heavens, if Obama doesn’t think the pre-Reagan tax code wasn’t a disincentive to working, saving and investing, is there any tax system that he would find anti-growth?

Bottom line: The belief in the need for higher, European-style taxes (like a VAT) fills the policy cloud that surrounds Obama. It’s hard to overstate this. It’s right up there with global warming. Obama knows he faces a looming fiscal crisis and higher taxes will be his weapon of choice. To paraphrase Mondale, “Obama will raise middle-class taxes. He won’t tell you (yet). I just did.

COMMENT

What about help for the lower class?

Posted by Natas | Report as abusive

Cash for clunkers is Obamanomics in microcosm

Aug 3, 2009 17:58 UTC

Think of “cash for clunkers” as a sort of bizarro twin of that “bucks for banks” program from last autumn. You know, the one where Congress authorized $700 billion to keep financial clunkers on Wall Street up and running.

Thank goodness the automobile version won’t be nearly as expensive for taxpayers, consisting of a mere $1 billion in incentives for individuals to trade in their old gas guzzlers for new, (at least slightly) more fuel-efficient vehicles.

And giving away free money turned out to be so wildly and unexpectedly popular that the House quickly passed a bill giving away another $2 billion before heading out on August holiday. Now it’s up to the Senate to pass a similar extension before it takes the rest of the month off.

It shouldn’t. Although there’s no doubt the program encouraged a mad rush into automobile dealer showrooms, what will be the net effect of the deluge once it subsides? Probably not much.

An analysis by Macroeconomic Advisers forecasts that the program will affect only the timing of car sales, not total sales: “In particular, we expect that roughly half of the 250,000 in new sales would have occurred in the months following the conclusion of the program, and the other half would have occurred during the program period anyway. Therefore, we do not expect a boost to industry-wide production (or GDP) in response to this program.”

In other words, the program gets much of its juice via stealing car sales from the near future rather than generating additional demand. In practice, it works much like tax policies and subsidies to encourage women to have more children. Studies have found that women may have children earlier than they would otherwise, but they don’t necessarily have more kids.

The rebate program is also emblematic of the administration’s unwise approaches to economic policymaking. It borrows money to generate economic activity, which in effect borrows growth from the future, since eventually that loan will have to be paid back through higher taxes.

It picks and promotes a particular industry in a sort of small-scale industrial policy. It also places an emphasis on consumer spending as a route to renewed prosperity over greater investment — and isn’t that how the American economy got in trouble in the first place?

And for those reasons, cash for clunkers isn’t just a whimsically named government program that helps automakers clear out some inventory and generate a bit of quick cash flow, while also making average Americans feel they’re finally getting their bailout.

If that’s all it was, cash for clunkers wouldn’t be such a big deal. Rather, it is evidence that no one in Washington is learning any economic lessons. And that is a very big deal.

COMMENT

I did some research and made a list of Pros and Cons to the Cash for Clunkers program. So far, it’s 6-Pro, 12-Con.http://www.CashForClunkersInstruc tions.com(And I added a video – Jon Stewart on Cash for Clunkers, for kicks)

Why Team Obama thinks your taxes are going up

Aug 3, 2009 16:28 UTC

The White House can try and walk back from the comments yesterday by Geithner and Summers, but don’t buy it. Pretty much — like 99.9 percent — of center-left economists think Americans don’t pay enough in taxes to support the modestly-large welfare state/military superpower that they seem to prefer. And by not enough, I mean $500 billion to $1 trillion a year too little.

There is no reason to believe Summers, Orszag, Goolsbee, Bernstein and even Obama don’t also believe that. The only question is what will be the taxing mechanism. All the wonks love a value-added tax. It is efficient and somewhat below the radar. That second thing is important since Team Obama is certainly smart enough not to buy into the theory that Americans are ready to pay vastly higher taxes. There is nothing in recent polls or election results to imply that. Just ask the folks in California ….

Will GDP pop in the third quarter? If so, will Obama smile?

Aug 3, 2009 13:55 UTC

That is the case being made by the always-great Ed Yardeni (bold is mine):

If nothing changes during Q3, real GDP will be up 4.6% during the quarter. This isn’t our forecast. It is arithmetic. If there is no change in final sales to consumers, business, governments, and foreigners, and if nonfarm inventories are unchanged, that’s how much real GDP will increase. This is because nonfarm inventory investment was minus $144.4bn (saar) during Q2. If it is zero during the current quarter, real GDP will surge. The inventory investments component of real GDP has been negative for five consecutive quarters, the longest stretch since Q1-2001 through Q1-2002. … By the way, during the first quarter of the last 10 economic recoveries, real GDP rose 5.8% on average, with a high of 17.2% during Q1-1950 and a low of 1.4% during Q4-2001.

Me: Will the White House then be ready to declare the end of the recession? My guess is that rising joblessness will impel them to keep any smiles on hold. Also, as long as they can say we are in a “recession,” they can keep talking about how they inherited it from Bush. But they will own the recovery for good or ill.

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