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by Kevin Osborne 02.23.2012
Posted In: Economy, Financial Crisis, Congress, Public Policy at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
unemployment

Don't Believe the Hype About Jobs

There is an old saying that goes, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." It’s alternately been credited to writer Mark Twain and British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

No matter where it originated, though, the quote applies well to unemployment figures released by the U.S. Labor Department.

Earlier this month the Labor Department reported the nation’s unemployment rate dropped for the fifth consecutive month in January to 8.3 percent, its lowest level in three years. That is good news, but not quite as good as it first appears.

Using that measure, 12.3 million people are unemployed, which is a decline of 0.2 percent from December.

The number of long-term unemployed — those jobless for six months or more — was 5.5 million people, accounting for 42.9 percent of the unemployed.

Critics of how the government calculates the unemployment rate, however, say it’s misleading because it doesn’t count so-called “discouraged workers.” Those are people who are jobless and have looked for work sometime in the past year but aren’t currently looking because of real or perceived poor employment prospects. In other words, they’ve given up.

Federal data shows a disproportionate number of young people, African-Americans, Hispanics and men comprise the discouraged-worker segment.

Including those workers, the unemployment rate was 16.2 percent in January. Some analysts, however, believe that grossly understates the numbers. (The highest the rate got during the Great Depression was 25 percent in 1933.)

Here’s some context. In the modern era (1948-present), the U.S. unemployment rate averaged 5.7 percent — reaching a record high of 10.8 percent in November 1982 and a record low of 2.5 percent in May 1953.

As economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has noted, “we started 2012 with fewer workers employed than in January 2001 — zero growth after 11 years, even as the population, and therefore the number of jobs we needed, grew steadily.”

Krugman added, “at January’s pace of job creation it would take us until 2019 to return to full employment.”

In a little noticed report, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated last week that the rate of unemployment in the United States has exceeded 8 percent since February 2009, making the past three years the longest stretch of high unemployment in this nation since the Great Depression.

Additionally, the CBO — which is the official, objective analyst for the federal government — estimates that the unemployment rate will remain above 8 percent until 2014.

If that’s not depressing enough, consider this: The share of unemployed people who have been looking for work for more than a year — referred to as marginally-attached workers— topped 40 percent in December 2009 and has remained above that level ever since.

The CBO stated the high unemployment rate’s primary cause is weak demand for goods and services as a result of the recession and its aftermath, which results in weak demand for workers.

To produce the largest increases in employment per dollar of budgetary cost, the agency recommended reducing the marginal cost to businesses of adding employees; and targeting people most likely to spend the additional income — generally, people with lower income.

“Policies primarily affecting businesses’ cash flow would have little impact on their marginal incentives to hire or invest and, therefore, would have only small effects on employment per dollar of budgetary cost,” the CBO’s report stated.

“Despite the near-term economic benefits, such actions would add to the already large projected budget deficits that would exist under current policies, either immediately or over time,” it added. “Achieving both short-term stimulus and long-term sustainability would require a combination of policies: changes in taxes and spending that would widen the deficit now but reduce it later in the decade.”

Let’s make that clear — economic stimulus for poor people who would actually spend the money is most effective, and to have an impact the federal deficit needs to increase in the short-term.

Republicans, are you listening?

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 01.11.2012
 
 
eric kearney

Kearney Introduces Jobs Bill

After a few months of preparation, two Ohio legislators today formally introduced an economic development plan that a nonpartisan group has said could create up to 16,000 jobs in the state.

State Sens. Eric Kearney (D-North Avondale) and Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) have submitted Senate Bill No. 278, known as “Forward Ohio,” for the State Legislature’s consideration.

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by Kevin Osborne 05.02.2012
 
 
portune

Morning News and Stuff

If you come from a large family, you might remember when older siblings would always get new clothes when you were a child and you'd get their hand-me downs. That's also been the situation at Paul Brown Stadium in the past, but Hamilton County commissioners are putting a stop to it. Because the county's Riverfront Parking Operations needs two new trucks, the plan had been to move two trucks from Paul Brown to parking services and buy new ones for the stadium. Commissioners balked at the plan Tuesday, saying the new trucks should be bought for Parking Operations. Commissioner Todd Portune estimates the county will save up to $20,000 because Parking Operations doesn't require the same kind of heavy-duty trucks the stadium uses.

Cincinnati City Council is considering restoring $250,000 to the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). Council had cut the money from CIRV's budget in late 2010, but statistics show that the number of shootings increased in the city afterward. When CIRV was in full effect, the percentage of shootings linked to gang activity fell from nearly 70 percent in 2007 to around 50 percent in 2008 and 2009, but has bounced up to 60 percent in 2011 and so far this year. Part of the cash allocated to CIRV would pay for a statistical analysis by researchers at the University of Cincinnati, to determine if there is a verifiable link.

Federal prosecutors want the jury in the upcoming insider trading trial of former Procter & Gamble Co. board member Rajat Gupta to hear secretly recorded telephone conversations with another man as evidence of the alleged conspiracy between them. The government said in a pre-trial filing that the conversations showed Gupta, also a former Goldman Sachs director, leaked Goldman board secrets at the height of the financial crisis in 2008. The Federal Bureau of Investigation recorded the calls.

The Reds postponed Tuesday's game against the Chicago Cubs due to high water on the field at Great American Ball Park. Heavy rains on Tuesday afternoon and evening saturated the area, and the stadium was no exception. A makeup date hasn't been announced. The action marks only the sixth time that the Reds have postponed a game since Great American opened in 2003.

Cincinnati Public Schools will make energy-saving renovations at 28 schools using a nearly $27 million low-interest loan. The school board approved the plan Monday, despite some board members' concerns about moving ahead with the projects while the district cuts jobs and faces an estimated $43 million deficit.

In news elsewhere, the rumors were true: Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng was hiding at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing since escaping house arrest last month. Chen's presence was revealed today when he left the diplomatic compound to seek medical treatment after receiving assurances from China’s government that he would be treated humanely. Chinese leaders agreed that Chen would be reunited with his family, moved to a safe place and allowed to enroll in a university, U.S. officials said. (Well, that's one international crisis averted, and only about 50 more to go.)

One of Willard Mitt Romney's top campaign spokesmen is leaving his job less than two weeks after his appointment. Richard Grenell, Romney's national security spokesman, resigned after some hardcore conservatives complained about the hiring of the openly gay man. Others, however, say it also was because Grenell was coming under fire “for numerous sexist and impolitic statements he had made about prominent women and members of the media.” After the complaints, he scrubbed over 800 tweets from his Twitter feed and deleted his personal website. Some reporters who dealt with Grenell while he was a spokesman for the United Nations years ago called him the "most dishonest and deceptive press person" they had ever encountered.

An eyewitness to the 1968 assassination of U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy says she heard two guns firing during the shooting and authorities altered her account of the crime. Nina Rhodes-Hughes, who is now 78, is coming forward as a federal court prepares to rule on a challenge to Sirhan Sirhan's conviction in the assassination. Sirhan, who is now 68, wants to be released, retried or granted a hearing on new evidence.

President Obama made a surprise visit Tuesday to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, just before today's first anniversary of the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Willard Mitt Romney has been criticizing the president's recent comments about bin Laden's death, but the Obama campaign questions whether Romney would've made the same decision, given his past statements. While in Afghanistan, Obama signed a security pact that means the United States will maintain a military presence there through 2024 – despite supposedly ending combat operations at the end of 2014. (For those keeping track, the deal means the United States will stay in Afghanistan for 23 years; let's just end the suspense and declare it our 51st state.)

Tuesday was May Day, which traditionally is a day to celebrate workers' rights around the globe — or protest the lack of same. The Occupy Wall Street movement and its various off-shoots held demonstrations in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and elsewhere across the United States to commemorate the occasion.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.21.2012
 
 
foreclose

Council Proposes Crackdown on Foreclosures

Two Cincinnati City Council members will unveil a proposal Wednesday to require banks to take better care of foreclosed properties.

Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld and Cecil Thomas want city administrators to gauge the feasibility of launching a pilot program to improve vacant and blighted properties, which they said would help stabilize neighborhoods.

If ultimately deemed feasible and approved, the proposal would create a mandatory registry for vacant foreclosed properties and enact stiffer civil offense charges for properties that aren’t properly maintained. Also, it would require point of sale inspections prior to sheriff's sales, and assess the costs for code violation corrections to lenders.

The program would be tried on a one-year trial basis in Westwood, Price Hill, College Hill, Madisonville and Mount Airy. If successful, it could be expanded to other neighborhoods.

When foreclosed properties are left vacant, they often become targets of crime and sources of blight, and can ultimately end up in the hands of absentee landlords, Sittenfeld said.

"Our efforts are all about demanding accountability," Sittenfeld said. "Banks and lenders must maintain the properties they own, just like the rest of us."

He added, “We must all care about this issue because all of us are affected by it. If you live next to a vacant foreclosed house, your property values go down and your quality of life deteriorates. This pilot program provides an important step toward stabilizing our neighborhoods."

Sittenfeld and Thomas will formally announce the plan at a press conference Wednesday morning at a foreclosed home at 1540 Ambrose Ave. in College Hill. The property is owned by mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which has had 188 building code enforcement cases in Cincinnati during the past five years.

The proposal also has the support of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilmembers Chris Seelbach, Charlie Winburn and Wendell Young. That gives it enough votes for passage, which means administrators will report back to council on the costs for such a program and whether it would be effective.

Community activists and advocates from Working In Neighborhoods and the Legal Aid Society also support the proposal.

 
 
by 10.23.2008
 
 

Nader Campaign Pushes Reform

Some campaign workers for independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader are conceding their choice for the Oval Office probably doesn’t have a realistic chance at being elected. But they say Nader’s platform of issues is what’s truly important and are urging progressive voters to pressure the winners in this November’s elections into pursuing his agenda.

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by 11.24.2010
 
 

Freestore Helps Feed Nearly 35,000

As part of its annual Thanksgiving Day preparations for the needy, the Freestore Foodbank distributed almost 400,000 pounds of food, its largest amount ever for the holiday.

During the past three days, the emergency food provider distributed 399,660 pounds of food to 12,204 households. That's enough to feed 34,980 people, according to a spokeswoman.

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by Kevin Osborne 04.26.2012
 
 
foreclosure1

Morning News and Stuff

A study by a housing advocacy group found that foreclosures in Hamilton County dropped by 13 percent compared to the previous year. But representatives with Working In Neighborhoods, the group that did the research, said the figures don't necessarily mean that homeowners aren't being affected by the economic downturn. Rather, they note that many large banks were delaying foreclosures due to the so-called “robo-signing” crisis, waiting until they struck a settlement deal with the federal government. In fact, many observers expect foreclosures to increase this year.

After a lengthy trial, former Bengals player Nathaniel “Nate” Webster was convicted Wednesday of having sex with an underage girl. A jury acquitted Webster on three charges, but found him guilty on four others. Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Ralph “Ted” Winkler ordered Webster jailed until his June 6 sentencing, when he could be sent to prison for up to 20 years. Webster signed a five-year, $11.3 million contract with the Bengals in 2004, but played only in a few games.

City commissioners in Dayton are considering an ordinance to establish a domestic partnership registry which could be used by unmarried, same-sex couples. The registry is voluntary, and a couple doesn't need to live within the city. The ordinance says the registry will assist “businesses and universities in the recruitment of a talented and diverse workforce.” The registry would help area businesses that extend benefits to the partners of employees, straight or gay, by having a formal registry of such committed relationships. Local bloggers and others have been pushing for such a registry in Cincinnati for the past few years, but groups like Equality Cincinnati have said the time is not right.

What were the odds of that happening? A Columbus police officer who investigated a four-vehicle accident Tuesday that involved Gov. John Kasich is the same person that the governor had called “an idiot” in an earlier encounter. Officer Robert Barrett responded to the mishap on Interstate 71 in downtown Columbus that happened in stop-and-go traffic and did not result in any serious injuries. Shortly after taking office last year, Kasich recalled the citation he received from Barrett in 2008 for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle, calling Barrett an idiot during a meeting with state employees.

State lawmakers removed a proposal this week to enact a priority funding system for federal family planning dollars that would've essentially blocked funding for Planned Parenthood affiliates across Ohio. The Republican-controlled House Finance and Appropriations Committee pulled an amendment to Kasich’s mid-biennium budget review that was inserted last week. A committee chairman said the amendment mirrored that of House Bill No. 298, which is being worked in the House Health and Aging Committee. About $1.6 million of the $4.3 million in federal family planning money the state received last year went to Planned Parenthood affiliates.

In news elsewhere, House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) is lowering expectations that the GOP will retain control of the House after this fall's elections. At a closed door meeting with rank-and-file Republicans, Boehner reiterated his concerns the party could lose seats in the House in November, according to The Los Angeles Times. "We’ve got a fight on our hands," Boehner said. Some observers wonder if Boehner believes the gloomy forecast or if it's a scare tactic to get unruly Tea Partiers to toe the party line.

After he scored victories in five primary elections this week, the Republican National Committee formally embraced Willard Mitt Romney as the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee on Wednesday. Reince Priebus, the RNC's chairman, said in a statement that the party organization and its resources were now at the disposal of Romney’s campaign. Also, the campaign staffs of the RNC and Romney will merge and begin coordinating their efforts. Game on.

George Zimmerman received firearms training and bought a gun on the advice of an animal control warden, as a method for dealing with a belligerent neighborhood dog. That's one of many revelations in interviews with Zimmerman's relatives and neighbors conducted by Reuters News Service. Zimmerman is awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in Sanford, Fla.

It's beginning to look like Israel's military isn't in as big of a rush to start a war as the nation's politicians. Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Israel’s military chief, said Wednesday that he believes Iran will choose not to build a nuclear bomb, an assessment that contrasted with the statements of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Gantz said international sanctions have begun to show results and could relieve pressure on the Obama administration, undercutting efforts by Israeli political leaders to urge the United States to consider a potential military strike on Iran.

International judges have found former Liberian leader Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war, at his trial in The Hague, the BBC reports. Taylor has been on trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for almost five years. He was accused of backing rebels who killed tens of thousands during Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.
 
 
by 05.11.2011
Posted In: Government, Police, Courts, Financial Crisis, Spending at 04:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

400-Plus City Workers Owe Money

News junkies probably heard about the warnings issued by Cincinnati City Hall this week, reminding citizens of its “ticket amnesty” program: Anyone with unpaid parking tickets should pay now or possibly have their vehicles impounded by police.

What City Hall didn't announce was that as of last month, 429 of the nearly 62,000 unpaid parking tickets were issued to municipal employees — including some cops and firefighters.

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by Andy Brownfield 11.05.2012
 
 
hartmann1

County Commission President Lays Out Budget Plan

"Austerity budget" rejects tax increases

The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some taxes.

Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30 percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.

“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said. 

He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.

Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000  or 0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3 percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5 percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.

Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic development is not possible without it.

Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.

Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.

Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.

Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own budget proposal as well.

“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.

The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by the following week.

He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.

“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different visions in terms of solutions.” 

Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major party challenger.

Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s waiting for the election results.

“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking that’s what you were going to go with.”

 
 
by 02.24.2011
Posted In: Social Justice, Business, Financial Crisis at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

American Inequality at a Glance

There was a period of time in U.S history, roughly for 30 years after the Civil War, known as “the Gilded Age.” The American economy grew at an unprecedented rate as the nation transformed itself from an agrarian society into an industrial one.

But the transformation's downside included excessive displays of wealth and captains of industry who grew their fortunes on the backs of exploited and mistreated workers. The government ignored the situation, as the era gave rise to the concept of “social Darwinism.”

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