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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

June 8, 2008


Another Friday Afternoon's Bad News

Elton John told us all that Saturday Night's alright for fighting over thirty years ago. So one has to figure that the other days, evenings and nights of the week are good for something as well, right? The Bush administration - a.k.a. The Administration of Diminished Responsibility - have found a great use for Friday afternoons: It's good for releasing bad news.

It's really an old trick, and works especially well in the Summertime. People pay less attention on Friday afternoons, so if you have no choice but to actually tell the American public the truth, that things aren't going well, what better time to get it out of the way than then?

So this past Friday, like so many before them, was no exception, The bad news released was a little document which the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) puts out each and every month called the Employment Situation Summary. It's the same statement telling the same stats that President Bush, just a few scant month ago, touted during the week as showing job creation for a whole slew of consecutive months.

It didn't matter that those few months of job creation were preceded by a whole first term of job losses - it's all about the message. Last Friday's message was horrifying for anyone in need of a job, let alone those of us in jobs we hate but can't afford to leave. In this past month of May, the US economy lost an additional 49,000 jobs. When added to the all of the past first Friday's of the month reports from 2008, it all adds up to a loss of some 325,000 jobs so far this year, and all the spinning in the world won't change that.

Even the number which the President likes to spin the most - the unemployment number which doesn't count those who have given up hope of ever finding a job during the remaining days of the Bush years - can't be spun today. The unemployment rate from April was an even 5.0 percent. That same number in May rose to 5.5 percent. That's a staggering increase of ten percent.

Of course ten percent is a devastating number, but it just tells a small part of the story as gas and food prices rise. Just take a look at the long-term independent trucking industry: If the roads which connect our nation are our veins and arteries, the trucks which carry our goods to market are the cells keeping us alive. At $1,000 and rising per tank to keep their trucks filled with diesel, many of them have taken to leaving their trucks parked instead of losing money and working.

The BLS numbers show that an additional 577,000 people entered the workforce in the month of May. And while 285,000 were removed from the "employed" statistic, 861,000 "officially" joined the measured unemployed.

Some of you may wonder what, if anything, President Bush is doing about the job situation. In is weekly radio address, he had this to say:

"At the beginning of next month, civilian employees may face temporary layoffs. The department will have to close down a vital program that is getting potential insurgents off the streets and into jobs."
-President Bush

That's right, President Bush was taking about getting more of our middle class dollars into Iraq to keep the insurgent employed. He used his radio presence to push Congress to continue funding the Iraq war without a mention of the bad jobs numbers, the economy or any possible solution.

Here's what Dana Perino, the latest White House Press Secretary had to say about the economy when pressed during her latest briefing:

PERINO: We're obviously not happy with the unemployment number that had gone up. We do think it was in line with the expectations for the current economy...
MADMAN: And just how low were those expectations anyway? If and when those numbers decrease next month, will they have met your low expectations yet again?
Certainly this President has ridden the low expectation saddle all the way from 2001 to today and he certainly will continue that dangerous ride well for as long as he can.

PERINO: ...and we do also believe that it's important to look at a couple of things. One, the number in large part was increased by new job applicants, and it usually takes new job applicants a little while longer to find work.
MADMAN: One has to wonder where new job applicants come from. One place they come from are those 285,000 people who used to have jobs.

PERINO: So while it's a concern that the unemployment rate jumped to 5.5 percent, that is still historically low, and lower than the averages of the '70s, '80s and '90s.
MADMAN: Yeah, we knew that one was coming. After all, by changing the method of how we measure the employed versus unemployed, one can control the data. In fact, the number of Americans who are currently able to work without jobs is the lowest it has been in recent memory, even worse than during the lean years of the George H.W. Bush administration.

PERINO: The most important thing we can do now is, first of all, make sure Congress does no harm.
MADMAN: That's right - doing harm is the President's job, and he's quite good at it.

And this President has shown his distaste for his constituents. Not once during his nearly eight years in office has President Bush even suggested adding thirteen weeks of federal money to those collecting unemployment insurance. And there is no sign that he'll do that today. Why? Because it would make his numbers that much worse and, as we all know, it's all about spin and perception...

... and the odd photo-op.

This presidency can't end soon enough for me.

-Noah Greenberg

Open letter from an Obama supporter to Clinton supporters

Barack Obama has captured the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination by winning a majority of the delegates to this year's Democratic National Convention. As a supporter of Obama, I am thrilled about his achievement, but I realize that many of my Democratic friends and colleagues are brokenhearted about Hillary Clinton's loss. All I can say
is: I have been there before, and I sympathize with you.

I have twice volunteered for a candidate who lost the race for the Democratic nomination: Jerry Brown in 1992 and Bill Bradley in 2000.
Both times, I was so disillusioned with the winner of the race that I did not support them or vote for them in the general election. In 1992, I actually voted for George Bush Sr. (the last time I voted for a Republican for President), but did not rue the consequences, since Bill Clinton won and certainly went on to become a better President than Bush Sr. was (though I'm still upset with Clinton for all the trade deals).

In 2000 Al Gore's arrogance towards Bill Bradley during the brief primary season was one of the reasons I went on to vote for Ralph Nader that year. This was a far more serious mistake, as Gore lost an extremely narrow race and George W. Bush's presidency has been one of the most destructive in American history. I readily admit that I made the wrong choice in 2000.

To all Hillary Clinton's supporters: once your sadness has subsided a bit, please consider which of the two remaining candidates better represents your interests. Is it really John McCain, whom many of you have vowed to support if Obama is the Democratic nominee? Do you want a president who will try to get our troops out of Iraq within 16 months, or one who has said he would leave them there for 100 years? Does John McCain represent your positions on the economy, the environment, and health care? I know that you have opposed Obama throughout the primary season, and it may seem difficult - if not impossible - to support him now. So, I'm not asking you to immediately jump aboard the Obama bandwagon. But sometime between now and November, just ask yourself: who would you really rather have as President: Barack Obama or John McCain?

-Eddie Konczal

McCain / Bush Oil Economy; it's a slippery slope

What a train wreck! The economic indicators continue to signal recession (technically two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth). On Friday, there was a twin economic nightmare. Oil spiked up 10 dollars a barrel to 150 dollars a barrel along with the biggest leap in unemployment in 20 years from 5.0% to 5.5%. The DOW fell by nearly 400 points.

Meanwhile, back in the DC Wonderland, the Republicans managed to filibuster the Climate Security Act which would have addressed global warming, job creation and oil conservation efforts.

The Republicans did manage to gum everything up yesterday as they forced a reading of the 500 page bill on the floor to protest not appointing more Bush right wing judges. Congratulations obstructionist GOP on once again accomplishing nothing. Now, what exactly is the GOP's plan for global warming, oil price shock and job creation in this country? Have the GOP even considered that their Iraq occupation is a major factor in the prices of oil? Oh yeah I forgot, they like the high prices for their base of haves and have mores.

-Robert Scardapane

McCain's Ads

Living next door to New Jersey, where there was an election this week, I saw a lot of John McCain for president ads. And they were good. Very good. In fact they were so good, that if I didn't know who John McCain was, I'd think he was someone I might want to vote for.

But he isn't. Those ads were a preview to me of what to expect. Those who think that McCain won't present a formidable candidacy are dreaming their way to nightmare.

And McCain is one politically savvy guy, no matter what people might think. He is sucking up to the miserably unhappy Clinton supporters who can't stand Obama while Obama's people can't get enough of trashing both Clinton and her supporters.

Democrats have a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If Obama is indeed someone who will bring change, he needs to start with his own party and smooth the extremely ruffled feathers of his opponent's supporters before McCain welcomes them--half the Democrats who voted--into his fold.

-Victoria Brownworth

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-Noah Greenberg