In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
In case you missed it, CityBeat is hosting a party
for the final presidential debate at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. There
will be live tweeting, and Councilman Chris Seelbach will be on-hand to discuss this year's key issues. Even if you can’t come, make sure to live tweet during the
presidential debate using the hashtag #cbdebate. More info can be found
at the event’s Facebook page.
A new study found redistricting makes government even more partisan. The Fair Vote study says redistricting divides government into clear partisan boundaries by eliminating competitive districts. In Ohio, redistricting is handled by elected officials, and they typically use the process for political advantage by redrawing district boundaries to ensure the right demographics for re-election. Issue 2 attempts to combat this problem. If voters approve Issue 2, redistricting will be taken out of the hands of elected officials and placed into the hands of an independent citizens commission. The Republican-controlled process redrew the First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, by adding Warren County to the district. Since Warren County typically votes Republican, this gives an advantage to Republicans in the First Congressional District. CityBeat previously covered the redistricting reform effort here.
Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel will face off in another debate for Ohio’s seat in the U.S. Senate today. The two candidates met Monday in a feisty exchange in which the men argued over their records and policies. Brown and Mandel will face off at 8 p.m. The debate will be streamed live on 10TV.com and Dispatch.com. Currently, the race is heavily in Brown’s favor; he is up 5.2 points in aggregate polling.
Cincinnati is moving forward with its bike sharing program. A new study found the program will attract 105,000 trips in its first year, and it will eventually expand to 305,000 trips a year. With the data in hand, Michael Moore, director of the Department of Transportation and Engineering, justified the program to The Business Courier: “We want Cincinnatians to be able to incorporate cycling into their daily routine, and a bike share program will help with that. Bike share helps introduce citizens to active transportation, it reduces the number of short auto trips in the urban core, and it promotes sustainable transportation options.”
Cincinnati’s school-based health centers are showing promise. Two more are scheduled to open next year.
Echoing earlier comments by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, Ohio Senate Republicans are now talking about using the lame duck session to take up a bill that would set standard early voting hours and tighten voting requirements. Republicans are promising broad consensus, but Democrats worry the move could be another Republican ploy at voter suppression. Republicans defend the law by saying it would combat voter fraud, but in-person voter fraud isn’t a real issue. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office found zero examples of in-person voter fraud in the last 10 years. Another investigation by News21 had similar results. Republicans have also justified making voting tougher and shorter by citing racial politics and costs.
A Hamilton County judge’s directive is causing trouble. Judge Tracie Hunter sent out a directive to hire a second court administrator because she believes the current county administrator is only working for the other juvenile judge. The county government is trying to figure out if Hunter has the authority to hire a new administrator.
This year’s school report card data held up a long-term
trend: Public schools did better than charter schools. In Ohio, the
average charter school meets slightly more than 30 percent of the
state’s indicators, while the average traditional public school meets 78
percent of the state’s indicators, according to findings from the
education policy fellow at left-leaning Innovation Ohio. The data for
all Ohio schools can be found here.
Some in the fracking industry are already feeling a bit of a bust. The gas drilling business is seeing demand rapidly drop, and that means $1 billion lost in profits. CityBeat wrote in-depth about the potential fracking bust here.
Ohio student loan debt is piling up. A report by Project
on Student Debt says Ohio has the seventh-highest student loan debt in
the nation with an average of $28,683 in 2011. That number is a 3.5
percent increase from 2010.
What if Abraham Lincoln ran for president today?
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could soon be reality. Scientists are developing a drug that removes bad memories during sleep.
A YouTube video that went viral over the weekend may have broken the rosy illusions the average American has about wealth and income inequality.
Using data from Mother Jones,
Dan Ariely, ThinkProgress and CNN, the video compares the average American’s ideal distribution of wealth, what the average American says wealth inequality looks like and how wealth is distributed in reality — ultimately showing that the average American says the nation is much more equal than it really is.
The video suggests investment income as one of the drivers of inequality. The top 1 percent wealthiest Americans hold 50 percent of the nation’s stocks, bonds and mutual funds, while the bottom 50 percent of Americans only hold 0.5 percent of such investments, according to the video.
“The average worker needs to work more than a month to earn what the CEO makes in one hour,” the narrator says.
In the past, the United States was a lot closer to equality. As the video points out, the top 1 percent only took home 9 percent of the nation’s income in 1976. Today, that number is up to 24 percent.
Ohio isn’t immune to the trend. A previous report from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found Ohio’s income gap — the income difference between the rich and poor — is wide and growing, and low-income and middle-income Ohioans have actually seen their incomes drop since the 1990s.
The video doesn’t make any suggestions on how to fix the problem — it simply shows massive inequality exists — but there are plenty of ideas out there. A paper from the Congressional Research Service suggested the tax system may be playing a role in driving up income and wealth inequality: “However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be correlated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. … The statistical analysis in this report suggests that tax policy could be related to how the economic pie is sliced — lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.”
In December, The Washington Post posted 10 empirically supported ideas, which included funding preschool education, making unions easier to join and promoting trade in highly skilled professions.
In his 2013 State of the Union, President Barack Obama suggested raising the federal minimum wage to help combat poverty and income inequality — a policy that economist Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute recently advocated.
Here is the full video:
Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper is criticizing Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine for contesting the case that’s forcing the state to recognize the same-sex marriage of two Cincinnatians, one of who is currently sick with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurodegenerative disease with no known cure, and expected to die soon. “Above all, an Attorney General takes an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. This case is a truly sad example of constitutional rights being violated, and the deep and personal harms that result from constitutionally unequal treatment,” Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati Council member, said in a statement. “I respectfully call upon Attorney General DeWine to recognize the clear constitutional wrongs taking place here. Allow this couple to spend their final weeks together in dignity.”
The Cincinnati metropolitan area received a mixed jobs report in June, gaining some jobs over the year but not enough to match population trends. Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate hit 7.4 percent in June, up from 6.8 percent in May and the same as the year before. Although the jobs report was fairly negative, the area has received some good news as of late: Housing sales were up in June despite higher interest rates, and CNBC host Joe Kernen, a Western Hills native, in July 22 segment declared, “Cincinnati has successfully reinvented itself as a hub for innovation” and technology.Early voting for Cincinnati’s Sept. 10 mayoral primary begins Aug. 6. The candidates are Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Queen Noble. The top two finishers will face each other again in the Nov. 5 election. Qualls and Cranley are perceived as the leading contenders in the race.
University of Cincinnati’s police chief is stepping down.
Angela Thi Bennett, one of Gov. John Kasich’s appointees to the Ohio Board of Education, is leaving the board to take a job at a charter school. The board is dominated by Kasich and Republican appointees.
BRIDGES for a Just Community will shut down by early September. The nonprofit, which was founded as the Cincinnati chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, has promoted religious inclusion in the workplace, schools and broader communities since 1944. “Improving community attitudes toward diversity and inclusion, which are a direct result of BRIDGES’ work, coupled with increasing competition in providing services caused the organization to experience persistent financial challenges in recent years,” the organization said in a statement.
Butler County Sheriff’s deputies arrested and charged two men for possessing 155 pounds of marijuana, valued at more than $155,000, in their vehicle at a traffic stop Sunday. Butler County Richard Jones is calling the case evidence that the Mexico-U.S. border isn’t secure.
Talking Points Memo obtained the U.S. House Republicans’ political playbook for the congressional recess. One highlight: “Remarkably, the packet includes virtually no discussion of immigration reform — a major issue pending before the House after comprehensive legislation passed the Senate.”
Here are 36 photos showing anti-gay Russians attacking LGBT activists.
Researchers from Heptares Therapeutics, a drug company, have found the molecule responsible for stress, hopefully giving them the ability to create drugs that precisely fit into its structure.
Since it's an election year, it must be about time for pandering by lawmakers seeking to keep their offices. Cue U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood), who is proposing a bill in response to fears about an influx of publicly subsidized housing for the poor into suburban areas. Chabot wants to impose time limits and work requirements on most people who get Section 8 federal housing vouchers. If approved, the bill would impose a five-year time limit on Section 8 recipients and require those 18 and older to work for at least 20 hours each week. Even if the measure passes the House, it's unlikely to pass the Senate and be signed by President Obama, leaving us to wonder what Chabot's true motive is. Any guesses?
Believe it or not, Cincinnati is Ohio's wealthiest city, sort of, according to a Business Courier study of U.S. Census data. A total of 3.7 percent of households in the Cincinnati-Middletown metropolitan area have income of $200,000 or more. The No. 2 metro area in the state was Columbus, with 3.63 percent of its households earning that much. Of course, the rankings involve entire regions, not just the city itself, and Greater Cincinnati includes such affluent enclaves like Indian Hill, Mason and West Chester Township. (Suck on it, Bexley.)
Crews from Duke Energy are investigating what caused an explosion and fire under a downtown street on Tuesday. The blast happened under the intersection of Fourth and Main streets at about 9 a.m., and both streets were blocked for much of the day. No one was injured in the mishap.
Brad Wenstrup, a podiatrist from Columbia Tusculum who scored an upset victory Tuesday in the GOP primary against U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township), is crediting grassroots organization for his unlikely win. Wenstrup and his surrogates actively campaigned in all corners of the sprawling 2nd Congressional District, which was recently redrawn through redistricting. Although Wenstrup portrayed himself as a moderate when he sought his first political office, in the Cincinnati's mayor race in 2009, his latest campaign positioned him as a darling of the Tea Party movement.
The American Red Cross has established a hotline for Clermont County residents to call if they have an immediate need for housing as a result of last Friday's tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. The number is 513-579-3024.
Despite rumors to the contrary, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) said he won't move to Washington state to run for one of the three open congressional seats there. The longtime progressive congressman lost in Tuesday's Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur. The two lawmakers recently were redistricted into the same area. Kucinich told reporters Wednesday he will stay on and represent his Cleveland district through the end of his term in January 2013. He would have to resign his current seat if he were to move to Washington state to establish residency for a campaign there.
In news elsewhere, U.S. intelligence officials are monitoring the transfer of millions of dollars to foreign accounts by wealthy Syrians who have ties to President Bashar al-Assad. The officials are trying to determine whether the transfers mean Assad's regime is weakening or if the elites are merely hedging their bets. Assad is under increasing international pressure due to his violent crackdown on anti-government protestors during the past year.
Meanwhile, a Syrian deputy oil minister says he is resigning to join the revolt against the government. Abdo Hussameddin, 58, announced his defection in a video posted on YouTube.
The Obama administration is being criticized for how it treats whistleblowers who reveal instances of misconduct in the public and private sectors. In recent years, the White House has set a record by accusing six government employees, who allegedly leaked classified information to reporters, of violating the Espionage Act, a law dating to 1917. Also, it is alleged to have ignored workers who have risked their careers to expose wrongdoing in the corporate and financial arena, even though there are laws available to protect them.
The House is expected to vote today on a jobs bill that would mark rare agreement between the Obama administration and House Republicans, CNN reports. The proposal is comprised of six measures aimed at removing barriers to small business investment.
With a push from Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and City Council approval, the Homeless to Homes plan is moving forward. The shelter-moving plan, which was originally put together by Strategies to End Homelessness, will use $37 million in loans to build new shelters for the Drop Inn Center, City Gospel Mission and the YWCA. But some homeless advocates have criticized the plan because it forces them to move homeless shelters they don’t want to move. Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, says the money could be spent better developing affordable housing and creating jobs to help eliminate homelessness.
Just one day after President Barack Obama’s re-election, one left-leaning Ohio group was already making demands. They want federal unemployment benefits renewed. The group’s research director, supported by economic data, says the expiration of those benefits could have bad repercussions for the unemployed and the federal and state economies.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati investment professionals are beginning to renew worries about the federal fiscal cliff. The fiscal cliff, which includes emergency unemployment benefits, is a mix of tax hikes and budget cuts set to automatically occur at the end of the year. The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan agency that measures the impact of federal budgets and policy, has warned about the fiscal cliff’s potential economic damage. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has also warned lawmakers about the fiscal cliff.
A state appeals court ruled today that the city of Cincinnati is allowed to reduce retirees’ health benefits. The cuts in benefits are meant to shore up the city’s pension plan, but retirees, including former City Clerk Sandy Sherman, filed a lawsuit arguing the benefits can only be increased, not decreased. The case could still move to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Hamilton County’s new Democratic sheriff, Jim Neil, is already making plans. He says he favors alternative sentencing to deal with jail overcrowding, and he wants to audit and restructure the sheriff department’s budget to cut waste.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will be in Cincinnati Thursday to unveil Cincinnati’s first prescription drug drop box. The drop boxes are meant to reduce prescription drug abuse and improper ingestion.
A sign of what could come to Cincinnati next spring: Columbus’s casino reported $18.3 million in revenue for its first month. Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino is currently being constructed and is expected to open in spring 2013.
Blue Ash-based Empire Marketing Strategies is buying a plant site in Mason for about $820,000, and it could create 200 jobs.
In case you missed it, CityBeat posted comprehensive election results for Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio and the U.S.
State Democrats and Republicans have an explanation for two incumbents losing in the Ohio Supreme Court: names. On Democrat William O’Neill defeating Republican incumbent Robert Cupp, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Robert Bennett said O’Neill won because he has an Irish-American name. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said, “Sharon Kennedy is a great ballot name. That’s why she won.” Redfern says he will introduce legislation that will require party affiliation to appear on the Ohio Supreme Court ballots.
The election didn’t change much in the Ohio Board of Education. It remains five Democrats and six Republicans.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan said the approval of Issue 4, which extends City Council terms to four years, will be good for local business. She argues “there’s a great business case to be made for having a more stable and reliable local government.”
While marijuana was legalized in some states, Butler County led what it believes is its biggest marijuana bust in history. More than 900 lbs of marijuana were seized.
Bill Cunningham, local conservative radio talk show host, may retire due to Obama’s re-election. Oh well.
In the story of another conservative meltdown, CityBeat has a special letter for the Lebanon tea party: We’re sorry.
Perhaps the national media’s most under-reported story of election night was that Puerto Ricans favored statehood in the polls for the first time. If Congress and Obama act, the island could become the 51st state.
Popular Science has an open letter to President Barack Obama. While they like how Obama generally supports science funding more than a President Mitt Romney would, they want Obama to do more.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the Cincinnati streetcar is being delayed until 2016. The streetcar has been delayed time and time again, much to the cheer of opponents. Some opponents have taken the delay as yet another chance to take shots at the streetcar, but the city says a lot of the delays have been due to factors out of the city’s control, including ballot initiatives, the state pulling out a massive $52 million in funding and a dispute with Duke Energy.The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent in December, with November’s rate being revised upward to 7.8 percent as well. Employers reported adding about 155,000 jobs last month, but about 192,000 entered the labor force, meaning the amount of people joining the labor force outmatched the newly employed. The unemployment rate looks at the amount of unemployed people in the civilian labor force, which includes anyone working or looking for work.
U.S. Speaker John Boehner was re-elected U.S. House speaker. Just moments after securing the top House seat, Boehner said he will make the U.S. debt a top priority. But continuing to make the debt and deficit top issues could hurt the economy, as the fiscal cliff and recent developments in Europe have shown.
Uncle Sam is helping out Cincinnati firefighters. The Cincinnati Fire Department will be getting $6 million in federal grant money to hire 40 additional firefighters. The money will be enough to fund salaries for two years.
Cincinnati’s biggest cable provider dropped Current TV after it was sold to Qatar-based Al Jazeera. The Pan-Arab news network has had a difficult time establishing a foothold in American markets, largely because of the perception that it’s anti-American. But Al Jazeera has put out some great news stories, and some of the stories won awards in 2012.
If anyone is planning a trip through New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, Dayton International Airport now has that covered.
A small town in Ohio is being accused of covering up an alleged gang rape to protect a local football team. But KnightSec, a hacking group affiliated with the organization Anonymous, is fighting back by releasing evidence related to the case.
Despite a solved fiscal cliff deal extending emergency unemployment benefits, Ohio’s unemployed will soon be getting less aid. The decrease was automatically triggered by the state’s declining unemployment rate.
Ohio’s universities are adopting more uniform standards for remedial classes.
The newest Congress is a little more diverse.
In what might be the worst news of the century, the Blue Wisp Jazz Club could close down. The club, which has the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is facing financial problems.
People who recently obtained gift cards for Rave Motion Pictures may want to get a move on. The theater is being sold to AMC Theatres.
A new theory suggest Earth should have been a snowball in its early days, but it wasn’t due to greenhouse gases.
Despite problems with staff and records, a report is calling changes to Ohio’s youth prisons system a model for the nation. The report from a court-appointed monitor praised the Ohio Department of Youth Services for reducing the number of offenders in secure confinement and spreading services for youthful offenders around the state. However, the report also points out staff shortages, inadequate teachers and inconsistent medical records. Advocates for youthful offenders claim the bad findings show a need for continued court supervision.
There’s a new sheriff in town, and the old one is becoming a visiting judge. Simon Leis, who served as sheriff for 25 years, is best known for going after an allegedly obscene Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and prosecuting pornographer Larry Flynt. As visiting judge, he will take on cases other judges are assigned but can’t get to due to full dockets.
An appeals court is allowing City Gospel Mission to move to Queensgate. The special assistance shelter wants to move from its current Over-the-Rhine property to Dalton Avenue, but businesses and property owners at Queensgate oppose the relocation. In its opinion, the Ohio First District Court of Appeals said opponents to the relocation “have not raised any genuine issues of material fact in support of their constitutional attack upon the notwithstanding ordinance in their capacity as neighboring businesses and property owners.”
Butler County nonprofit services are worried that a greater need for their services in 2013 will force more budget tightening.
U.S. retailers did not have a good Christmas. Holiday sales were at the lowest they’ve been since 2008. The disappointing sales have forced retailers to offer big discounts in hopes of selling excess inventory.
Former president George H.W. Bush is in intensive care “following a series of setbacks including a persistent fever,” according to his spokesperson.
The Food and Drug Administration says FrankenFish, a giant, genetically modified salmon, is environmentally safe.
Fun fact: More Iranians worry about global warming than Americans.
Colleges are now helping students scrub their online footprints.
Antifreeze now tastes bitter to deter animals and children from eating it.
Scientists have developed a highly advanced robot boy capable of doing chores. Keep its face in mind, for you could be looking at the first of our future robot overlords.
A Purcell Marian High School administrator was fired for declaring his public support for same-sex marriage. Mike Moroski, who was the assistant principal at the Catholic school, wrote about his support for LGBT equality on his personal blog. Following the blog post, Moroski claims he was given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to resign or recant his statements. CityBeat covered same-sex marriage and the amendment that could bring marriage equality to Ohio here.
A board vote failed to remove State Board of Education President Debe Terhar from her position. In response, Ohio Democrats filed a lawsuit seeking access to her cell phone and other records. Terhar has been receiving heavy criticism for a Facebook post that compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. CityBeat wrote about Terhar’s ridiculous Facebook post here.
Cincinnati Public Schools and Winton Woods City Schools were among nine city school districts found to be scrubbing attendance data by the state auditor. The school districts claim most the errors were simple mistakes, not intentional manipulation of data. Both the auditor and schools agree state policy is too confusing and must change.
The city of Cincinnati is beginning the process of sorting through construction bids for the streetcar. Three bids ranging from $71 million to $87 million have already come to light, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. The bids could push up the price tag on the streetcar, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, cautions the process is barely starting. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the mayor’s race here.
Cincinnati is speeding up the demolitions of condemned buildings this year, particularly buildings near schools and family zones.
A new report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services found employment in the shale industry was up 17 percent in the first quarter of 2012. Critics caution the jobs aren’t worth the risks — pointing to a number of environmental and health concerns related to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” CityBeat wrote about fracking and its extensive problems here.
One in 25 students in Columbus schools are restrained or secluded. The state’s lax seclusion policies have been under heavy criticism in the past year following the discovery that school staff were using seclusion for convenience, not just to restrain students.
On Wednesday, Metro staff will be holding a security exercise meant to gauge counterterrorism capabilities. Metro bus service will not be affected.
The Horseshoe Casino pays homage to Liuzhou, China — Cincinnati’s sister city of 25 years.
The chief curator resigned from the Cincinnati Art Museum.
A Cincinnati woman was charged with helping her daughter beat up a student during a classroom brawl.
Curiosity is officially the first robot to drill another planet.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is asking the city administration to complete construction of the streetcar in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will be hosted in Cincinnati. A letter from Qualls to City Manager Milton Dohoney and Mayor Mark Mallory explains her reasoning: “This may present a challenge, but it is one I am sure the administration is capable of meeting. The streetcar will serve a critical role in efficiently and effectively moving visitors to and from Great American Ballpark and allowing them to conveniently visit other venues such as Fountain Square, Horseshoe Casino, Over-the-Rhine, Washington Park, etc.” CityBeat covered the streetcar’s delays and how the project relates to the 2013 mayor’s race here.
Gov. John Kasich will reveal his plan for funding Ohio schools today. The plan is expected to include a $300 million “innovation fund” to support school initiatives that improve teaching and learning. In a previous interview, Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, explained the troubles of establishing a plan: “Many governors have tried before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s something we have to take our time with and get it done right.”
City Council passed a resolution urging Kasich to expand Medicaid. Qualls explained the need for the resolution: “Expanding Medicaid will create a net savings to the state over time, allow the City’s health department to improve access to health services at lower costs, and most importantly, provide health care coverage for thousands of Cincinnati residents who need it most.” A study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found a Medicaid expansion would save the state money for the first few years. Previous studies also found correlations between improved health results in states and a Medicaid expansion, and a study from the Arkansas Department of Human Services claimed Arkansas would save $378 million by 2025 with the Medicaid expansion.
A new report found poverty is increasing in Ohio. About one in six Ohioans are below the federal poverty line, according to the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies report.
About $100 million in development downtown is kicking off today. City officials and business leaders are gathering for the groundbreaking this morning of a lot at Fifth and Race streets that has idled for nearly 30 years. The lot will host the new four-story headquarters for DunnhumbyUSA.
Kasich says Ohio will continue taking Ky. jobs in the future. The rough words are Kasich's interesting approach to encouraging Ky. legislators to support the Brent Spence Bridge project.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued a scam alert telling businesses to be wary of emails claiming to be from the Federal Trade Commission or FTC.
Miami University broke its application record.
A Wright State professor saved Cincinnati-based Kroger more than $170 million with his work on more accurate pharmaceutical predictions. The professor, Xinhui Zhang, is now one of the six finalists worldwide for the Franz Edelman Award.
Ohioans now have a phone number to report cases of child abuse or neglect: 855-O-H-CHILD, or 855-642-4453. Reports can be anonymous.
Humanity is one step closer to the inevitable robot apocalypse. GE's hospital robot can sort scalpels, sterilize tools and prepare operating rooms for surgery.
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?