Jobs Numbers Jimmied by Bush Admin

Last week the Bush Labor Dept released unemployment numbers nearly double what was expected. Now, this week, the NY Post’s John Crudele writes that the real number is – hang onto your hats – 147,000. The difference is pure smoke.

[T]he total loss was 147,000 when you include revisions that were made to previous months.

Not scared yet?

Well, the government kept last Friday’s reported loss at just 80,000 by adding 142,000 make-believe jobs to the count.

Those are positions that the Labor Department believes but can’t prove were created by newly formed companies that are beyond the surveying abilities of the government.

That little bit of razzle-dazzle is called the Current Employment Statistics Birth/Death Model, and you can look up that 142,000 number if you don’t believe me.

Previously the government added 135,000 jobs to the February job count, which lessened the loss in that month.

(emphasis added)

Ooooooh. So that’s how it’s done. Is there any reality at all in those…um…projections? Well, probably not.

A closer look shows why these birth/death assumptions are so preposterous.

According to the government, 28,000 jobs were quietly created – but couldn’t be officially counted – last month in the construction industry.

Construction! And that’s despite the fact that the homebuilding industry nationwide is flat on the seat of its Levis.

And through birth/death modeling the Labor Department would also like you to believe that 6,000 new jobs were created in “financial activities.”

Unless the government is talking about the hiring of a new crop of bankruptcy attorneys that’s absolutely crazy.

And then there’s the addition of 23,000 jobs in what the government calls “professional and business services” – in short, consultants.

People lose their corporate positions and go out on their own – and the Labor Department thinks this is actually a new job.

So the numbers – which we already knew were cooked because they don’t include people whose unemployment has run out, people who have taken part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work, people who gave up looking for a job altogether, and people who had to take menial labor far beneath their training and previous pay-rate – are actually hopelessly skewed by the inclusion of tens of thoousands of fantasy jobs?

Well, um…yeah. So this is the Bush Administration. So what’d you expect? Honesty?

Bush Lies…Again

Another NYT editorial does a much better job of catching Bush in the act: in a speech about the economy, virtually everything he said was a lie.

(Via Kevin Hayden at The American Street)

Fear-Mongering Over Gardasil

In what could almost pass for a Merck ad, an NYT editorial today takes up the drug maker’s propaganda and glosses over all the evidence countering it.

Teenage girls and their parents need to read the latest government study of sexually transmitted diseases. The infections are so prevalent they are hard to avoid once a girl becomes sexually active. One in four girls ages 14 to 19 is infected with at least one of four common diseases. Among African-American girls in the study, almost half were infected.

***

By far the most common of the four S.T.D.’s was the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which infected 18 percent of the girls. Chlamydia infected 4 percent, trichomoniasis — a common parasite — 2.5 percent, and genital herpes 2 percent.

The study did not look at such feared diseases as H.I.V./AIDS, syphilis or gonorrhea, but the four it did look at are worrisome enough. Although most HPV infections cause no symptoms and clear the body in less than a year, persistent HPV can cause cervical cancer and genital warts. S.T.D.’s can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and other painful symptoms.

***

The new findings strengthen the case for providing HPV vaccine to young girls and for regular screening of sexually active girls to detect infection. There is also a clear need to strengthen programs in sex education. Exhortations to practice abstinence go only so far.

Teenage girls who are sexually active need access to contraceptives and counseling. They need to understand that the numbers are against them and that a serious infection is but a careless sexual encounter away.

Look at the bolded part and remember what we’ve just learned: HPV does NOT cause cancer and the CDC knows it. Has known it for several years. Yet it’s still barkering for Merck and fear-mongering around girls having sex.

The agenda of the Bush Administration couldn’t be clearer: it’s terrified of sexual females and determined to promote Big Pharma profits no matter who gets hurt. The HPV Scam is a neat way to accomplish both objectives with a single initiative.

But we knew that. What a lot of us don’t yet realize is how far the Bushies have taken their hatred of science, how far they’ve gone to turn science into a political tool. The CDC used to be an independent, more or less trustworthy agency that by and large did good work. It has now morphed into just another propaganda outfit for the ideologies and biases of conservatives and the religious right. Since we know they know they’re lying about the connection between HPV and cervical cancer, there’s no other rational explanation.

…and Who They’ve Decided to Help (2)

El Presidente‘s new “stimulus package” and the Democratic roll-over version of same is theoretically meant to stimulate the economy by giving money to people who really need it and will spend it on basic necessities to keep the economy humming. These are the people who haven’t seen a raise in 25 years or have been out of work, yes? Well, no, not exactly.

On Jan. 24, House leaders and the White House announced a preliminary deal that included stipends for all workers and breaks for business, but no money for extended unemployment or food-stamp assistance and no mention of permanent tax changes.

So who’s getting this bail out besides the banks? Guess what George W Bush’s idea of a “needy” consumer who deserves aid might be. Yup, you guessed it: the near-rich.

Elizabeth and Ben Kilgore are back in the real estate market. All it took was a little-publicized section of the economic stimulus package President Bush signed into law last week that lowered the borrowing cost of buying a more expensive home.

***

[I]f the limit on loans backed by a government-backed housing finance entity like Fannie Mae is raised from $417,000 to the full $729,750 she has been hearing about, Ms. Kilgore said, “we will be able to get a 30-year fixed mortgage for less than what we’re paying now plus our homeowner’s dues.”

Mr George “Silver-Spoon” Bush is less concerned with the people about to lose their homes (he’s offered virtually nothing to help them) than he is with making sure the well-off don’t have to scrimp and that they get a good deal on that Big New McMansion they’ve got their eye on. God forbid they should get stuck with a (yecch!) condo. *shudder*

Three years ago, when they bought their first home, they resigned themselves to buying a condominium because it meant taking out a mortgage they knew they could manage.

“This will push us into a price range that’s now financially possible,” said Ms. Kilgore, a real estate agent in Marin County.

Yay! The Kilgores are now Republican for life. Screw the rest of the country. THEY GOT THEIRS! Eyes on the prize, people.

The temporary change in the loan limits is not about to revive the housing market on its own. But in some of the higher-priced regions of the country that have been hit hardest by the flagging real estate market, it could make a big difference. For if anything is going to breathe new life into the local housing economy in places like the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, Washington and Boston, it is home buyers emboldened by the prospect of larger loans at lower interest rates.

(emphasis added)

There you go. Things are so bad the upscale markets are starting to weaken, and what does Silver Spoon key on? Hint: NOT the people on marginal incomes who got royally reamed by real estate scam artists and the banks who expected to make fortunes on their predatory practices. No sir. No relief for them. And no relief for housing markets in areas where they’re imploding because wages are low (the South, for instance). No no. We’re only concerned about the “flagging real estate market” in “higher-priced regions”.

Priorities, people. Priorities.

Daniel Billett, a mortgage broker in Seattle, where homes in the downtown area sell for a median price of around $400,000, said that he, like dozens of people he knows, is poised to refinance an existing jumbo loan at a lower interest rate.

“As soon as the loan limits are implemented and lenders are accepting applications. I’ll be the first in line,” said Mr. Billett, whose company, Response Mortgage Services, has been receiving a steady stream of inquiries from clients in recent weeks. “I’m going to save hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of dollars every month on my current jumbo loan, by switching to a conventional loan.”

That’s who Silver Spoon cares about. Not you. Are we clear?

Stealing the ’08 Election: Rove and Reconstruction After Katrina

Evidence has come to light over the past month that the so-called “incompetence” of the Federal response to Katrina is anything but. It has been a calculated effort led by Karl Rove to turn Louisiana from a Democratic state into a Republican state by destroying New Orleans, but it may backfire.

Two weeks ago the WaPo reported that roughly a quarter of a million people are suing the Federal government for damages, claiming that the Army Corps of Engineers screwed up the building of the levees, dams, in fact the whole New Orleans water delivery system.

Ever since the floodwaters receded, the idea that the U.S. government was to blame for the Katrina catastrophe has possessed and angered its victims.

A legion of lawn signs, posted in front of many wrecked homes, wagged a finger at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency responsible for the flood works: “Hold the Corps accountable!”

Turns out it was more than mere talk. After a massive deadline filing rush recently that is still being sorted through, the United States is facing legal claims from more than 250,000 people here demanding compensation because, they allege, the Corps negligently designed the waterworks that permeate the city.

***

[O]fficials said the damage claimed against the Corps exceeds $278 billion, an amount that dwarfs even the estimated $125 billion that the federal government has put up for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery.

Win or lose, the volume of claims is a measure of the prevalent sense in this city that the United States created the disaster and that, worse, it has failed to make up for it in disaster aid.

“This was the largest catastrophe in the history of the United States, and people want justice,” said Joseph M. Bruno, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys handling the case in federal court.

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Privatization Leads to Fraud, Mismanagement, and Employee Abuse at Wackenhut

The three words that best describe the private security business these days are “racism”, “corruption”, and “profits”. Wackenhut, the largest private security provider to the Federal govt and the military outside of Iraq, would appear to be awash in all three.

Wackenhut, which has ties to the GOP and the Bush Administration that go almost as deep as Halliburton’s, is currently under investigation:

  • in Alaska by the GAO for “inadequate training and incomplete background checks that led to employment of officers with criminal records”, “poor” record-keeping that included falsified training records, and a near-total lack of any kind of monitoring or oversight on the program, as well as for illegally obtaining security contracts that were supposed to go to minority businesses;
  • in Miami (scroll to bottom) by Dade County for fraud – overbilling, billing for services not provided, falsifying records of guards’ hours, and violations of labor laws for working guards in some cases 20 hrs/day, 7 days/week;
  • by the Homeland Security Committee for “problems at Wackenhut-guarded facilities nationwide that lead to high employee turnover, low morale and ineffective security” at US nuclear sites;
  • by the House Govt Reform Committee “to examine charges of racism, discrimination and poor performance;
  • at a Tennessee Army ammunition plant where inspectors found holes in the perimeter fences, and where “two teenage runaways were found wandering around the 6,000-acre property after getting dangerously close to explosives” after the number of guards had been cut “in response to higher gas prices”;
  • by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for security violations “at Wackenhut-guarded Three Mile Island, Seabrook Station, St. Lucie, and Turkey Point nuclear power plants”;
  • and by the Dept of Energy for “shorting the protective force on combat training; excessive overtime; caught cheating during one security drill and involved in a near-friendly fire incident in another” at its Y-12 (Oak Ridge) nuclear weapons plant.

And that’s only a partial list of domestic investigations.

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Medicare Drug Benefit Turns Into Bonanza for Big Pharma

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Bush’s prescription drug plan – you know, the one that expressly forbids Medicare from bargaining over prices – was going to turn fairly quickly into a bonanza for Big Pharma, so I don’t imagine it will be much of a surprise to learn that that’s exactly what’s happening.

After some initial success containing drug prices, private insurers in the new Medicare prescription drug program may be losing their leverage over drug manufacturers as they try to hold down medicine costs for seniors and the federal government, House investigators have found.

Prices for 10 of the most prescribed brand-name medications have shot up an average of 6.8 percent since December under Medicare private insurance plans, while wholesale prices for the same drugs have risen just 3 percent, House Oversight and Government Reform investigators say. The cost of a month’s supply of cholesterol-controlling Lipitor had climbed 9.6 percent, to $84.27 in mid-April, from $76.91 in mid-December. Over the same time, list prices climbed 5 percent.

Premiums for Medicare drug plans have jumped 13 percent over the past year, when the drug plans went into effect, the investigators say.

And the rebates that insurance companies are wringing out of drug manufacturers are expected to total 4.6 percent of total drug costs, down from 5.2 percent last year. A year ago, Medicare actuaries had expected insurers in 2007 to secure manufacturers’ rebates of 6 percent, then pass those savings on to seniors and the government.

“Essentially as an economist this is just what I would have predicted,” said Marilyn Moon, director of the health program at the American Institutes for Research and a former trustee for Medicare and Social Security. “When you introduce a new program, with all of the fanfare, everyone is anxious to get the best prices, the best look and demonstrate the private sector can handle it. But over time, when you’ve gotten your customers lined up, prices tend to slip upward.”

Slip upward”? Slip?! They didn’t slip. They were pushed.

Economists and accountants always like to talk as if the market is a force of nature with its own rules that’s beyond any human’s control, but that’s bullshit. Actually Moon explains the problem quite competently if you put aside the force majeure thang: once a corporation’s got you hooked, it can abandon loss-leader pricing and return to its comfort zone – unrestricted greed.

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