Radio commentary, January 15, 2011

Against civility The horrendous shootings in Tuscon have certainly inspired a lot of drivel from the commentariat. They were heartbreaking, but please let’s not draw stupid conclusions from them. Perhaps most annoying has been the call for a return to civility. Well, no, I don’t feel like being civil. I like being rude. The problem with the rudeness in American political discourse is that it’s often so stupid, not that it’s so rude. The idea that politics can be civil is a fantasy for elite technocrats and the well-heeled. I’m reminded of… Read More

Radio commentary, November 27, 2010

Eurocrisis: bondholders need a haircut • how Ireland helps Google pay almost no taxes • Germany must screw periphery because it’s screwed its own workers All Eurocrisis today. I never thought I’d be saying this, but it must be conceded that Angela Merkel has a point or two. Not the way the German chancellor and many of her fellow Germans want to drive Greece, Ireland, and the other troubled countries on the periphery of Europe through the austerity wringer. Not that. But this: Merkel thinks that bondholders should take a hit. And… Read More

Radio commentary, November 20, 2010

Stumbling recovery continues • bourgeois theories of unemployment • who gets UI? • how the StimPak helped • models for budget-cutting [The commentary also included an analysis of health lunacy, which I’ve posted separately.] stumbling along The U.S. economy continues its stumbling recovery. On Thursday, we learned that first-time applications for unemployment insurance, filed by people who’d just lost their jobs, rose slightly last week after falling decently the previous week—a fall that exactly reversed the rise of the previous week. The four-week moving average, which smoothes out the weekly volatility in… Read More

Radio commentary, November 13, 2010

Pacifica • deficit commission • QE2 • education “reform” Before that, and before some comments on the news, a few words on the Pacifica situation. I did this show on WBAI in New York for 15 years. I was given the show by our late program director, Samori Marksman, who was a very intelligent and charismatic man with contacts all over the world. After his early death at the age of 52 in 1999—a death I’m certain was hastened by the pressures of Pacifica infighting—he was succeeded by an endless procession of… Read More

Radio commentary, September 23, 2010

Summers • recession over! — except in housing and jobs • Zuckerberg & the charter scam Summers back to Harvard So Larry Summers is leaving as head of Obama’s National Economic Council. Everyone who talks about Summers assures us that he’s a very smart fellow, though he left Harvard, where he was president for five years, a financial wreck. (Background here, here, and here.) He’d advised the endowment to borrow heavily to speculate in derivatives that went sour, yielding billions in losses. But, as everyone will tell you, Larry is very smart. He did help… Read More

Radio commentary, September 15, 2010

[Been a while since I posted one of these. Too many things to do, too little time. Sorry. Much more, including graphs, in the forthcoming LBO.] Thursday morning brought the release of the Census Bureau’s annual income, poverty, and health insurance numbers. These are drawn from a special edition of the Bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey. The regular survey, which covers about 60,000 households, is what the monthly unemployment figures, among other things, are based on. This special survey, done every March, covers 100,000 households. This is a very large sample, though… Read More

Radio commentary, August 21, 2010

[Since today’s show was unusually filled with material—a rerun of the Diane Ravitch interview that first ran last April—I kept the introductory comments short. But I did want to get this on the record, for people who think I’m something of a happy-talker.] Evidence of an economic slowdown continues to roll in. First-time claims for unemployment insurance, filed by people who’ve just lost their jobs, have been creeping up for the last few weeks after falling for most of the year. It’s quite possible that the weak job gains of the last… Read More

Radio commentary, July 15, 2010

burstlet fades It’s now becoming quite obvious that the burst of strength in the first quarter of the year has given way to something much less yeasty. The rate of job growth has slowed dramatically, and the retail sales report released earlier in the week revealed that Americans just haven’t been spending money in the last few months with the vigor they showed in the winter and early spring. I’m not at all surprised by this development—this is what recoveries from financial crises look like. And the Federal Reserve has now come… Read More

Radio commentary, May 8, 2010

Truther follow-up Before commenting on the economic news, a brief follow-up to last week’s comments about the 9/11 Truthers. It provoked, if not a flood, more than a trickle of emails and bloggy complaints, about evenly divided between the patronizing and the hostile. Perhaps my favorite was an email from someone signing him or herself a variant on Sky, who counseled me to learn patience, and disclosing that 9/11 is a spiritual matter. Nothing makes me want to scream more than being told to be patient; I hate it, for example, when… Read More

Radio commentary, April 30, 2010

March on Wall Street The WBAI studios are on Wall Street, of all places, so I was able to catch a glimpse of the anti-bank demonstration sponsored by the AFL-CIO and a coalition of community groups organized by National People’s Action (Showdown in America). It’s inspiring, but I’m afraid there’s just not the level of popular mobilization necessary to overcome the lobbying power of big finance. The unions are blowing off some steam today, but tomorrow they’ll go back to writing big checks to Democratic politicians and apologizing for their failings. And,… Read More

Radio commentary, April 22, 2010

financial “reform” Our president gave a speech on Thursday in the Great Hall at Cooper Union, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s rather conservative 1860 speech on slavery. Obama’s speech was on a much less elevated topic—financial regulation. He made a lot of appealing sounds, and the financial execs in the front row mostly sat on their hands, but while he was talking, Congress was busy working out compromises—with Wall Street’s army of lobbyists at their sides. So I’m going to reserve commentary until we see what’s actually in the thing. Will there… Read More

Radio commentary, April 15, 2010

Recession fatigue (cont.) I said last week that the preliminary reports on March shopping showed Americans rediscovering their lust to buy, following almost two years of born-again prudence. Those early returns, which were based on sales numbers coming from the major chain stores, have now been confirmed by the official word from the Census Bureau, compiler of the monthly retail sales figures. The Census stats are based on a much broader survey of the retail universe, which includes not only big national names like Target and Wet Seal, but also local chains,… Read More

Radio commentary, April 8, 2010

Just one guest up on today’s show, Diane Ravitch, the former conservative educational reformer turned critic of the whole testing and privatization agenda that is now not only the province of the Republican party, but the Obama administration as well. economic news Since I want to say a few words about Ravitch and education before playing the interview, only a few brief comments on the economic news. One, it looks like American consumers are going back to their freespending ways. They haven’t yet reached the point of irrational exuberance, but the preliminary… Read More

Radio commentary, April 1, 2010

March employment First, a few words on the U.S. employment report for March, released on Friday morning. While the headline job gain of 162,000 looked pretty decent, especially after the huge declines of 2008 and early 2009, 30% of the gain came from temporary workers hired to conduct the Census, and another 25% came from temp firms in the private sector. So more than half the gain was in jobs designed not to last. There were a few bright spots. Manufacturing added 17,000 workers, its third consecutive monthly gain—a sterling performance for… Read More

Radio commentary, March 25, 2010

Not much in the way of economic news since last we spoke. The U.S. economy continues to flatline, which only looks good next to the collapse of 2008 and 2009. The Chicago branch of the Federal Reserve puts out a monthly National Activity Index (CFNAI), a composite of 85 separate indicators, that’s a good a single measure of the state of the economy that we have. When it’s at 0, the economy is expanding at its historical average; below 0, it’s growing below trend; above 0, it’s growing above trend. The CFNAI broke… Read More