February Employment Report: “Real” or “Fake?”

March 15, 2017

The employment report for the month of February (the first full month of the Trump administration) was released on Friday and the numbers looked pretty good.  The economy added 235,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell one tenth to 4.7%.  President Trump hailed the news and declared that, though the employment reports during the Obama administration were fake, that the February numbers were very real.

Let’s examine that claim.  First of all, take a look at this chart:  Labor Backlog.  Some explanation is in order.  “Actual labor force growth” is the growth in the labor force if it had grown at the same rate as the overall population as it does in reality.  The “BLS reported labor force growth” is the growth in the labor force that the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses to calculate the unemployment rate.  The “change in employment level” is a figure taken directly from the BLS monthly data.  It’s the growth in the number of people who report being employed in the household survey.  The “labor force backlog” is the difference between the growth in employment level and the “actual labor force growth.”  If the employment level grows faster, then unemployment should decline along with the “labor force backlog.”

Note that during the Obama years, the BLS consistently reported less growth in the labor force than what the growth in the population would suggest.  Only in 2012 and 2015 did the BLS report labor force growth that was slightly above actual growth.  The result is that the “labor force backlog” grew steadily during the Obama administration until it peaked at the end of 2014 at 6,359,000 workers who were unemployed.  By the end of 2016, that backlog had fallen only slightly to 5,994,000 workers.  In spite of that, according to the BLS, the unemployment rate plummeted from 9.9% in 2008 to 4.7% in 2016.  That’s impossible and the only way that the BLS was able to make it appear that the unemployment rate was dropping was by claiming that workers were dropping out of the labor force or by not growing the labor force as the population grew, or through some combination of those factors.  Thus, when Trump claimed that the employment data was “fake” during the Obama administration, he was exactly right.  If you’ve been a follower of this blog, you know that it’s something that I maintained all along throughout the Obama administration.

OK, so how about Trump’s claim that the numbers now are “real?”  So far, in January and February, the BLS has reported growth in the labor force of 416,000 workers.  The actual growth in the labor force – if it grows in proportion to the population – is only 89,000 workers.  In other words, so far in 2017, the BLS now claims that 327,000 “missing” workers have reappeared in the work force.  That supports Trump’s claim that his numbers are real.  But time will tell.  Two months’ of data isn’t nearly enough to judge how honest the Trump administration is being when it comes to the employment reports.  It’s something I’ll watch just as closely as the Obama numbers.


Corporate Whining Over Immigration

January 30, 2017

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-immigration-companies-idUSKBN15C0SC

As reported in the above-linked article, the corporate whining about the scale-back in immigration that President Trump began with his travel ban aimed at seven high-risk nations has begun.

While one can criticize the clumsy, sledge hammer approach to the ban, which should have allowed travel by people with valid green cards and should have allowed already-issued visas to simply expire while implementing a moratorium on new visas, the self-serving objections by the global corporations should be dismissed out-of-hand.  It’s not this travel ban that concerns them.  It’s the coming fight over the whole H-1B visa program that they use to suppress wages in the U.S. with cheap foreign labor.

That program, along with the heavily abused student visa program which fills the pipeline that supplies it, has  for decades been a major millstone around the neck of young American workers trying to get a start in life.  The student visa program is used to fill the seats of American universities with foreign students, keeping those seats in short supply for American students and propping up the sky-rocketing rate of tuition increases.  It’s the major reason that young Americans are saddled with so much student debt.  Global corporations then use those graduates to staff their American operations and suppress their labor costs.

Those people protesting the travel ban are likely the same people who rightfully are part of the whole movement that protests the truly immoral situation with income inequality.  It would be interesting to poll those people protesting Trump’s ban about their own financial status.  How many are saddled with crushing student debt?  How many can only dream of having a job like those held by these immigrants?  Does it not occur to them that they are merely pawns in the whole globalization scheme that is actually the root cause of income inequality, especially in the U.S.?

The protest of these CEOs that they have to rely on immigration for high-skilled workers is an insult to American workers.  I hope that President Trump soon turns his focus on slashing both the H-1B visa program and the student visa program.


Week 1 Done

January 28, 2017

The world is slowly awakening to a new reality.  It has profoundly changed.  And that may be an understatement.

Throughout the campaign, Trump’s “populist” rhetoric was dismissed by many – especially by those who stood to lose the most if globalization were dismantled – as exactly that, a play for votes or posturing designed to win concessions in the highly unlikely event that he would actually be elected president.  After all, this is the author of The Art of the Deal, a book about his tactics for winning in the business world.  He’s just  staking out his opening position.  Right?

During the transition, however, he doubled down on his rhetoric and stacked the cabinet mostly with people aligned with his positions.  The world grew a little more nervous.

Then came inauguration day and, I have to admit, that even I was taken aback by his speech.  It was as though he picked up a rhetorical two-by-four and began swinging at everyone who’d had a role in America’s trade mess and economic decline, and any who doubted his intentions or who stood in his way.

Now his first week in office is history, and what a week it was.  TPP (the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal) is dead.  NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Deal) is as good as dead.  The wall on the southern border will be built.  Tariffs on Mexican imports will pay for it.  Immigration from many Middle Eastern countries has been brought to a halt.  And, in stark contrast to Obama’s visit to Mexico in the early days of presidency to discuss renegotiating NAFTA, a humiliating experience that yielded only more Mexican tariffs on American goods, Trump has put Mexico on notice.  If you can’t accept the new reality of American tariffs on Mexican imports and an all-out effort to halt illegal immigration from your country, then too bad – we have nothing to talk about.

Some seem to get it.  Some American companies have begun hedging their bets with announcements of plans to invest in American manufacturing.  Still, the world is largely in a state of denial.  Markets around the world continue to rally on optimism over the aspects of the Trump agenda that it likes – corporate tax breaks and infrastructure spending – while shrugging off the possibility that Trump means business about imposing tariffs on imports.

The world is made up of only two economies, really.  One is the economy of the more sparsely populated countries, able to gainfully employ their workers, which is dominated by the United States.  The other is the rest of the world, badly overpopulated and heavily dependent on manufacturing for export to the aforementioned countries – again, most notably, the United States.  Tariffs on imports into the U.S. will  totally alter the host-parasite relationship that exists between the two.  Those who continue to blindly invest in the economies of the latter may be making a serious mistake.

Americans have finally gotten fed up with playing the role of enabler to ever-worsening overpopulation, using immigration as a relief valve and trade to prop it up.  Trump has hastened the day when the rest of the world must face the consequences on their own.


The New Civil Rights Movement

January 15, 2017

On Friday, Democratic Representative John Lewis, a pioneer of the civil rights movement, announced that he would not attend Donald Trump’s inauguration, denouncing Trump as “not a legitimate president.”  Mr. Lewis should rightly be proud of the major role he played in the civil rights movement of the ’60s, winning equal rights not just for blacks but for all minorities, and the nation owes him a great deal of respect and a debt of gratitude.

However, while Mr. Lewis and Dr. King and others were fighting for the right of minorities to be equal members of society, a new kind of civil rights abuse – one more subtle, arguably just as insidious and even more pervasive – was in the making.  The right of all Americans to make a decent living by putting their God-given talents to work as important cogs in their own economy, was already being usurped by global organizations bent on fleecing the American economy.  Americans – all Americans – black, white, Hispanic and all the rest – have become the new slaves to a new Confederacy of plantation owners:  the New World Order and its global corporations.

The American economy has been drained of trillions and trillions of dollars.  Americans’ savings have been depleted.  Wages are down.  Pensions are gone.  Health care is unaffordable.  Our infrastructure is crumbling.  Our youth are drowning in student loan debt.  No one today feels the lash of a whip, but the threat of being cast out into an economy practically devoid of opportunity might now be just as fearsome for American workers.

Mr. Lewis and others fought the good fight and won the battle.  Though prejudice will always be with us, equal rights for all are now codified into the law of the land.  So successful has that battle been that Barack Obama was embraced by the nation, including whites, as our 44th president, not once but twice.  But it was actually the dawn of this new fight for civil rights – Americans’ economic civil rights – that swept Obama into power.  Once the economy completely collapsed in 2008, American slaves to the New World Order would stand no more.  Obama’s promise of hope and change, his promise to fix our trade problems, and his “yes we can” mantra rang true to the majority of Americans who perceived the country to be “headed in the wrong direction.”

But Obama, along with both political parties, underestimated the depth of the bitterness Americans felt for their economic plight.  They propped up the bankrupt financial and auto industries, implemented some stimulus spending and, beyond that, simply set about restoring the status quo.  The G20, the World Economic Forum, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, just to name a few, happily returned to the task of sustaining the host-parasite relationship between America and the rest of the world.  Democrats and Republicans alike shamefully became willing accomplices, grovelling at the feet of the globalists to fund their campaigns.

In the 1960s, Bob Dylan sang:

“Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call.

Don’t stand in the doorways, don’t block up the hall,

for he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled.

The battle outside ragin’

will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls,

for the times, they are a-changin.”

Now, the times are changing again. Indeed, the windows and walls of Washington have been shaken and rattled to their very foundation.  Donald Trump has been swept into power by the same forces that caused Americans to put their faith in a black, freshman senator eight years ago.  This time, however, Trump has gone further, promising to break our enslavement by these global organizations.  The new civil rights movement is on.  The fight for all Americans of all colors to make a decent living and provide opportunity for their children, whether they live in the inner cities, in the suburbs or in rural America, has begun.  As Dylan said further on in his song:

“…get out anyone if you can’t lend a hand,

for the times, they are a-changin’.”

Be proud of what you’ve accomplished, Mr. Lewis, but either get involved in helping this fledgling new civil rights movement or “get out” and make way for others who will.


On Tariffs, Indications are Trump Means Business!

December 22, 2016

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-navarro-idUSKBN14A27N

http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/21/politics/donald-trump-tariffs/?iid=ob_homepage_deskrecommended_pool

I’ve provided links above to two articles reporting on some very important developments in the Trump transition that have taken place over the last two days.  First of all, Trump has chosen a real trade hard-liner, Peter Navarro, University of California economics professor and author of Death by China: How America Lost its Manufacturing Base, as head of a newly formed White House National Trade Council.  The second article reports that the Trump team is planning to slap up to 10% tariffs not just on imports from China, but across the board on all imports.

These developments are an indication that, instead of merely pandering to populist sentiments during the election, Donald Trump was deadly serious when he made trade the centerpiece of his plan to “make America great again.”  Never mind threatening to label China a currency manipulator, complaints about unfair trade practices, enforcement actions taken up with the World Trade Organization, or any of the other mamby-pamby “actions” taken by previous administrations.  It now appears likely that Trump will go right for the jugular.  A 10% across-the-board tariff on all imports would be a death blow to globalization.

To put such a tariff in perspective, in 2015 the U.S. imported $2.76 trillion worth of goods and services.  A 10% tariff would raise $276 billion per year in federal revenue.  Opponents say that this is actually a huge tax on American consumers.  They’re lying.  Tariffs are paid by the companies who ship the products to the U.S.  Those companies then have a choice.  They can try to maintain their profit margin and pass it along to consumers, but that opens the door to domestic manufacturers who could undercut them on price.  Or they can “eat” the tariff and not raise prices, maintaining their market share but eroding their profits.  Either way, there’s a huge incentive to shift manufacturing to the U.S.

Consider another benefit.  That increase in federal revenue can be used to fund an equally large cut in income taxes for American taxpayers.  So, even if the importing companies pass along the cost of the tariff, you’ll have that much more money in your pocket to cover the higher cost.  Essentially, the tariff takes the money right out of the pockets of the global corporations and puts it into the pockets of walk-around Americans.  For all of you who have railed against the worsening income disparity between the top 1% and the rest of us, this is exactly the right way to go about addressing that problem.

For those who doubt the effectiveness of tariffs in boosting domestic manufacturing, consider this:  in spite of the fact that U.S. automakers lost half of the domestic market to imports, nearly every truck on American roads is still built in the U.S. Why?  Because trucks are one category of product on which the U.S. still maintains a 25% tariff.   Without that tariff, it’s likely that most trucks would now be imports and the “Big Three” automakers may not have survived.

Brace yourself, folks.  All hell is going to break loose on January 20th!  It’s been a long time coming and it’s going to be fun to watch.  I can’t wait.


Obama and Democrats are Utterly Clueless

December 19, 2016

http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/19/politics/president-obama-npr-interview/index.html

Almost as amazing as Trump’s victory in the election is the inability of the entire Democratic Party, from the very bottom to the very top – President Obama himself – to grasp the reasons behind their loss.  In a recent interview, detailed in the above-linked CNN article, President Obama blamed the Democrats’ stunning loss on their failure to “show up” in the states that swung from Democrat in the previous two elections to Trump in this election.  The problem, claims the president, is not the message but the messenger.  Hillary should have campaigned harder in the midsection of the country.

Seemingly lost on the President is that West Virginia – a state where Hillary did campaign more than once – made the biggest swing  from Democrat to Republican of any state in history, losing by 69% for Trump vs. 27% for Clinton.

Why did she lose so badly there?  She came right out and said that she was going to put the miners there out of work.  In a subsequent attempt at damage control, she promised “retraining” for laid off mine workers.  Retraining to do what?  She had nothing.

The message she gave West Virginians, though more pointed and targeted to that particular demographic, was consistent with the globalist message that both the Democrats and Republicans have been selling for decades – that your manufacturing jobs are never coming back, that this is somehow in your best interest and if you’re just patient enough you’ll come to understand, and that we’ll retrain you to do some other job – a job that doesn’t exist.

The problem for Democrats is that nobody believes it any more.  Their message has been proven to be a load of crap.  Along comes Donald Trump and, in spite of his many flaws, immediately seizes the spotlight with a new and very simple message:  I’ll slap tariffs on those imports.  Your jobs are coming home. We’ll make America great again!  (Not to mention his message about putting a halt to the illegal immigration that both parties embraced in an effort to pander to the Hispanic vote.)

Republicans shouldn’t be smug.  They too fought Trump tooth and nail every step of the way, clinging to the same globalist message.  Only because Trump chose to identify himself in this race as a Republican do they now find themselves in control of so much of the political landscape.

The Democratic Party used to be the party of working-class Americans, but has morphed into a money-grubbing carnival barker for the New World Order.  But they don’t see it.  They still want to believe that if they had just polished that turd a little brighter and sold it a little harder they’d have won the election.


Manufactured Exports Fall to 5-1/2 Year Low

December 7, 2016

Almost seven years ago, in the wake of his disastrous visit to Mexico to address our trade deficit – which resulted in a sharp rebuke from the Mexican president and even higher tariffs on American goods – President Obama decided to turn his focus on exports.  “Why can’t we have an export-driven economy like Germany,” he challenged his economic team.  Evidently, none of them responded that there is no other United States out there to serve as our trade patsy as we’ve done for Germany.  So, in January of 2010, the president proclaimed that, within five years, the United States would double its exports.  This would be the centerpiece of his economic agenda.

Yesterday the Bureau of Economic Analysis released its monthly report of International Trade in Goods and Services.  The overall trade deficit came in at $42.4 billion in October, right in the range where it has been throughout the Obama administration.  There isn’t another economic report that chronicles America’s economic demise as clearly as this one does, yet the reaction was the same as it’s always been:  ho-hum.  Unbelievable.

To get to the real heart of the problem – the siphoning of jobs out of our economy – you have to strip away the “noise” – the trade in services, oil and food.  What’s left is trade in manufactured products, and the picture there grows worse with each passing month.  The deficit in manufactured products was $57.9 billion in October, not far from the record of $62.5 billion set in March of last year.  Check out this chart:  manfd-goods-balance-of-trade.

Especially pathetic is the contribution of declining exports to the increase in the deficit.  In October, manufactured exports fell to $104.3 billion, the lowest level in over 5-1/2 years.  (Exports of manufactured goods were $104.9 billion in March, 2011.)  Manufactured exports have fallen by $10.3 billion since peaking at $114.6 billion exactly two years ago.  To reach Obama’s goal, exports would have had to rise to $171.7 billion.  They never even came close.  Here’s a chart showing both manufactured exports and imports since Obama made his vow to double exports:  manfd-exports-vs-goal.  A complete failure, and no surprise.  The U.S. has no control over exports.  But at least deflecting attention away from the steady growth in imports – and the corresponding steady decline in manufacturing jobs – made things more pleasant for Obama around the punch bowl at G20 meetings.

Frankly, I’m sick of tracking this statistic under the Obama administration, watching it get predictably worse.  Only two full months of data remain – November and December.  Then things get interesting again.  This deep hole that’s been dug under the (lack of) leadership by Obama becomes Trump’s baseline.  How far and how fast can he whittle down this deficit?  Could he even turn it into a surplus, like we used to enjoy forty years ago?  Time will tell.  A deficit of $60 billion in manufactured goods represents a loss of ten million manufacturing jobs, and probably an equal number of jobs in ancillary industries.  Such a demand for labor would mop up every last unemployed person in the country and send wages soaring.  If Trump accomplishes even half of this, people will be stunned at the effect on the economy.