Steady as she goes. That about sums up the December payrolls report released this morning. Employers added 155,000 workers last month following a revised 161,000 advance in November. The unemployment rate held at 7.8 percent. (November unemployment had previously been revised up from 7.7 percent.)
For the glass-half-full analysis, the U.S. Labor Department gathered the numbers before Congress and President Barack Obama agreed on a budget deal. Considering that corporate executives kept adding jobs -- despite bitter complaints that the fiscal-cliff shenanigans were holding back the economy -- the latest figures signal that the Jan. 1 budget agreement will unleash even more hiring.Read more »
The daughter of Russian Jewish parents achieved some notoriety in the mid-1990s with her memoir, "The Only Woman in the Room.” It chronicled the unlikely role of a 22-year-old woman crafting Japan's post-war constitution. The team's only female member was entrusted by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to draft its women's-right section.Read more »
One of the bright spots in the fiscal-cliff deal is its one-year extension of the federal production tax credit for wind power.
Wind farm developers had been working like mad to finish installations by Dec. 31 to take advantage of the 2.2-cent credit for every kilowatt hour they generate in their first 10 years (adding up to about $1 million for every large turbine). Now, they will have another full year, and the credit will apply even to projects that are started but not fully completed by the end of 2013.Read more »
I'm glad to see Representative Jerrold Nadler lending his support to the idea that President Barack Obama should avert a debt-limit crisis by issuing large-denomination platinum coins, as permitted by 31 USC § 5112.
In case you're not familiar with this idea: In general, the Treasury Department is not allowed to just print money if it feels like it. It must defer to the Federal Reserve's control of the money supply. But there is an exception: Platinum coins may be struck with whatever specifications the Treasury secretary sees fit, including denomination.Read more »
In the run-up, or slow walk, to the fiscal cliff, credit rating agencies warned that a failure to reach an agreement to avert the automatic, year-end spending cuts and tax increases would put the nation's sovereign credit rating at risk. Standard & Poor's had already downgraded the U.S. long-term debt rating to AA+ from AAA on Aug. 5, 2011, during the debate over the debt-ceiling.
U.S. lawmakers heard the words but missed the big picture. S&P's rationale for the downgrade at that time was twofold: first, the risk of default from a failure to raise the debt ceiling; and second, the receding likelihood that Congress and the Barack Obama administration would agree upon "a credible, medium-term fiscal consolidation plan in the foreseeable future."Read more »
Republicans, we know, are angry. But there are different kinds of anger: It can be productive, clarifying and aimed cleanly at a deserving target. Or it can be, well, none of those things.Read more »
Should the federal minimum wage go up by more than $2?
U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, has proposed that it climb to $9.80 over the next two years, having stood at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Harkin's proposal would give a minimum-wage worker the greatest purchasing power he or she has seen since the late 1960s. Harkin intends to submit legislation in the next Congress.Read more »
As I suggested likely in these pages, Congress and President Barack Obama managed to find a way to avert the dreaded fiscal cliff with a good enough deal to raise some new tax revenue but avoid a massive tax rate increase as well as automatic spending cuts. What they didn’t do was create a new form of bipartisan political interaction that gives reason to be optimistic about how they will address the debt limit and government spending decisions that loom in just a few weeks.
While lawmakers can be proud that they exceeded the expectations of many by not allowing a massive growth shock, the real story of the fiscal cliff is one of opportunity cost. President Obama and Speaker John Boehner had a chance to set in motion a new form of bipartisan cooperation. Even if they failed to agree to the larger framework deal that keeps escaping them, it would have been a far better sign for the future if the cliff deal had been brokered directly by the two people in Washington with real power. Instead, it was left to their respective surrogate and colleague -- Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- to broker a last-minute deal.Read more »
Who were these people, gathered on the afternoon of New Year's Eve to fete the president as a deal to avert the fiscal cliff was hanging in the balance?
They were "middle-class Americans" who had tweeted their way to a staged White House event, according to Politico. Here were folks who had responded to President Barack Obama's catchy Twitter hashtag, #my2k, to tell him what a $2,000 tax increase would mean to them. Not a bad deal for 140 characters or less!Read more »