12:00 AM, Jul 5, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
After celebrating our Declaration of Independence from the British oppressor, we will return to work Monday having consumed 155 million hot dogs and, for some 41 million of us, bucked traffic jams, long security lines at airports, or storm-induced flight delays in order to visit family or whatever place attracts us in this huge country of ours.
The weekend began on a high note after a modestly strong jobs report on Thursday. Non-farm payroll employment, the “jobs” in the “jobs report,” rose by 288,000 in June, and the figures for April and May were revised upward by 29,000 jobs. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent—the lowest since September 2008—from 6.3 percent in May, and the number of long-term unemployed (more than 27 weeks) fell by almost 300,000, bringing the decline for the past year to 1.2 million, attributable in part to the increase in the incentive to job-hunt created by the expiration of the extension of unemployment benefits at the end of last year. June completed the first five-month run of better-than-200,000 job creation since the boom years of the late 1990s.
Unfortunately, the labor force participation rate—the share of the population either working or looking for work—remains at the lowest level in around thirty years. Also on the dreary side of the ledger:
· the number of workers involuntarily working part-time rose by 275,000,
· new jobs are mostly in the low-paying retail, hospitality, and health-care sectors, which is why average hourly earnings are up only 2 percentin the past year, and
· the broader measure of unemployment, which includes workers too discouraged to look for work, and therefore not counted in the official unemployment figure of 6.1 percent, and workers involuntarily working short hours, may have dropped to 12.1 percent from 14.2 percent last year, but that means that 19 million Americans still can’t find suitable work.
Still, the jobs market is strengthening, although in my contrarian view not sufficiently to prompt Janet Yellen’s Fed to move forward whatever date she and her colleagues have in mind for increasing interest rates. Yellen says she will think the labor market is strong enough to withstand the effect of a growth-slowing interest rate increase when wages start to rise significantly, which they have not yet done.
More cheering for most observers is the fact that the dreary first quarter, during which GDP declined by a staggering 2.9 percent, is now behind us. All eyes are on the second half, during which most analysts expect the economy to grow at something like a 3.5 percent annual rate. The auto industry is doing its share to keep the recovery rolling. June was the strongest sales month since before the recession. Dealers moved the metal, as trade jargon would have it, at an annual rate of 16.98 million vehicles, up from 15.88 million last year. Although General Motors has had to recall millions of cars for safety reasons, its sales are up as millions of customers bringing their cars in for service liked what they saw in the showrooms, and bought new GM vehicles. Talk about converting adversity into opportunity.
Housing, another important sector, continues to move forward, although not at the torrid pace of the recent past. Pending sales of existing homes—contracts signed with closings likely in a few months—rose 6.1 percent in May from April, but were down 5.2 percent from May of 2013. Sales of new homes in May were up by 18.6 percent compared with April, putting them at the highest level in six years. Prices are running 10 percent above last-year’s levels. Builders are anticipating a good second half and further advances in the prices of their companies’ shares.
Both the manufacturing and non-manufacturing (service) sectors seem to be on the upswing, although it is not clear whether they will grow at the same rate as in recent months. Fifteen of eighteen manufacturing industries covered by the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) grew last month, and the majority of service-sector industries are recording steady economic growth.
So Americans will return to work on Monday with a bounce in their steps. Well, not really. The feel-good factor has yet to make itself felt. Gasoline prices have spiked as the disintegration of Iraq proves that fracking has not made us “energy independent”–oil prices are set in an international market. Rasmussen pollsters report that 52 percent of consumers say the country is still in recession, 67 percent say the economy is unfair to the middle class, and 74 percent expect their grocery bills to rise this year.
7:11 AM, Jun 30, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Writing on the White House blog, Ambassador Susan Rice, the president’s national security advisor, accuses the Senate of harming national security by not confirming more ambassadorial nominees. Rice contends that the current backlog of forty-eight is unnecessary and harmful:
8:05 AM, Jun 26, 2014 • By JAY COST
On balance the Republican “establishment” has done fairly well this primary season. Its favored candidate in the Nebraska Senate race lost, and of course Eric Cantor went down to defeat, but Thad Cochran, Lindsey Graham, and Mitch McConnell all hung on. So, all is right in the world, right?
1:28 PM, Jun 24, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hoping that fear will cause Democrats to donate money. The latest plea comes in an email with this subject line: "kiss all hope goodbye."
"Today, in a closed door meeting, Boehner announced he’s transferring $1,5OO,OOO.OO into Republican campaign coffers dedicated to growing the Tea Party majority," the opening of the email reads.
"This news could not come at a worse time. Earlier this month, Boehner authorized $3O,2OO,OOO.OO targeting top Democrats nationwide.
12:11 PM, Jun 23, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Most Republicans say the United States should doing something about the violence in Iraq, according to a poll from CBS News and the New York Times. The poll found 52 percent of Republican adults say the U.S. has a "responsibility" to act in Iraq over the recent wave of terrorism there, and 53 percent say the country should be doing more there. Just 43 percent of Democrats and only 37 percent of independents said the U.S. has a responsibility in Iraq.
The Cantor succession. Jun 23, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 39 • By FRED BARNES
Kevin McCarthy won the race to replace Eric Cantor as House majority leader in the blink of an eye. Less than 24 hours after Cantor’s defeat in a Republican primary in Virginia, McCarthy, the majority whip, had amassed enough pledges to be confident of winning the vote for a new Republican leader, short of some unforeseen late challenge.
1:42 PM, Jun 11, 2014 • By FRED BARNES
Eric Cantor is expected to announce his plan to resign as House majority leader today, probably at a meeting of all House Republicans. Cantor lost the GOP primary to David Brat, a little-known college professor, in Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District on Tuesday.
11:20 PM, Jun 10, 2014 • By FRED BARNES
With their misleading talk about passing an immigration bill this year, Republican leaders are partly to blame for House majority leader Eric Cantor’s defeat at the hands of an unknown college professor.
10:50 PM, Jun 10, 2014 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Around 7:00 p.m. this evening, as the polls closed in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, and as a populist, anti-Big Government and anti-Big Business challenger was about to record an amazing upset of the House majority leader in the GOP primary, an email arrived in TWS inboxes.
3:31 PM, May 19, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Republican National Committee is out with this new video showing that President Obama is mad:
The video is titled, "Obama Is So Mad."
RNC press secretary Kirsten Kukowski writes in an email to reporters, "Not only does Obama learn about scandals in the news, he’s also been “mad as hell” before – IRS, ObamaCare, GSA wasteful spending, Fast and Furious, Secret Service…"
7:01 AM, May 15, 2014 • By FRED BARNES
Ben Carson is warming to the idea of running for president. Since the famous brain surgeon retired last year from Johns Hopkins Hospital, he’s been speaking around the country to enthusiastic audiences. And they’ve affected his thinking about seeking national office.
Can Sasse bridge the gap between the Tea Party and national Republicans? 12:10 AM, May 14, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Ben Sasse has just won a decisive victory in the Nebraska Republican Senate primary. As of this writing, the race has been called by the Associated Press and Sasse holds a 27 point lead over his nearest competitor, with 79 percent of precincts reporting. Having clinched the primary win, early polling suggests Sasse will be the likely victor in the general election in November. At 42 years old, Sasse is poised to become the youngest GOP senator.
11:18 AM, May 12, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
In advance of tomorrow’s Nebraska Republican Senate primary — one of the most hotly contested in the nation — Ben Sasse’s final two television ads note his opposition to Obamacare. The first begins, “Conservatives are rallying in Nebraska against Obamacare and for Ben Sasse,” and it features Sarah Palin speaking in support of Sasse, as well as footage of Ted Cruz, another prominent Obamacare opponent and Sasse supporter. (Paul Ryan, Mike Lee, Rick Santorum, and Tom Coburn have also endorsed Sasse.)
Here’s the ad: