I’m Leaving!! … … … …For A Vacation.

Either way… … …I’m outta here!!

Just too many things and too little time.  Computer woes, family discord, financial worries, annoying little tasks that MUST be done, life’s ordinary foibles.  And its been over 95 degrees for many days in a row.

Just wanted to let you know.

Hello??  Hello????”, Eyeore moaned, although he knew no one was ever listening, 

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“Nothing’s ‘Free'”, Says WashPost

Today the Romney-Ryan campaign came out with a new ad blasting the Affordable Care Act’s cost offsets, specifically its Medicare cuts and its tax increases.

WONKBLOG – By Dylan Matthews on August 22, 2012

Let’s take the claims here one by one.

  • Obama is raiding $716 billion from Medicare…– This one’s true. The most recent CBO analysis of the Affordable Care Act, released last month, estimated the 10-year Medicare cuts in the bill at $740 billion, so if anything the ad’s number is low.
  • …changing the program forever.– Also likely true. You can’t cut $740 billion from a program without changing it a whole lot. To recap, the cuts consist mainly in cuts to Medicare Advantage, which partners with private insurers and actually ends up increasing costs, and in hospital reimbursement rates, which hospitals agreed to in exchange for the influx of customers that comes with the bill’s implementation. In the past, reimbursement cuts have hurt quality at some hospitals, though the previous cuts were much larger than those in Affordable Care Act. So the bill does change Medicare, but how much and in what ways is yet to be determined.
  • Taxing wheelchairs and pacemakers… – Also true. The ad is referring here to the ACA’s 2.3 percent tax on sales of certain medical devices, which is set to take effect later this year. The law includes a “retail exemption,” which excludes items you can typically just buy at a store, such as glasses, contact lenses, or hearing aids. But it does include wheelchairs and pacemakers. A Bloomberg Government analysis predicted the bill would curb spending on such devices, albeit mildly. The provision’s defenders, such as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), note that devices affected by the tax amount to under 1 percent of total health care spending, and thus dispute the significance of the tax. But it’s real and works as the ad describes.
  • …and raising taxes on families making less than $120,000 – True in particulars but not necessarily in practice. The ad is referring here to the CBO’s finding (pdf) that 76 percent of those paying the penalty under the individual mandate fall under 500 percent of the poverty line, or $120,000 for a family of four. There are other provisions that hit non-high earners as well. The medical device tax, for instance, raises costs for pacemaker and wheelchair users making under $120,000 a year. The tax on tanning booths hit low-income tanning afficionados, and the limits on flexible spending accounts and Health Savings Accounts hit across the board.  But the law’s tax increases are generally quite progressive. The excise tax on expensive health plans only applies to plans costing more than $27,500 for a family of four, which only the very rare middle-income family reaches. The law increases the Medicare payroll tax by 0.9 percentage points for income over $200,000, and imposes a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for families with gross income of $250,000 or more. And the bill’s insurance premium tax credits, which make up the bulk of the coverage provisions, are quite progressive as well. Thus for many families, the tax credit will overwhelm any increases in medical device or tanning costs, and the bill will be an overall tax cut for them.
Unfortunately, neither the Joint Committee on Taxation nor a reputable private group has done a detailed distributional analysis to see exactly how much each income group would see taxes rise or fall.
“The Romney-Ryan plan will restore Medicare funding and restore and strengthen the program for the next generation.” – The campaign has indeed reversed course from Ryan’s budget and pledged to reverse the Affordable Care Act’s cuts. Their own plan’s effects on the program are less clear. Experts say reversing the cuts could hasten the program’s insolvency, and CBPP estimates that premium support plans, specifically the one proposed by Ryan in 2011, could raise premiums for seniors by an average of $6,350. The potential for such a plan to cut costs overall is also very much in doubt. As Peter Orszag noted earlier this week, the Medicare Advantage plan’s history suggests that bringing private insurers into the fold doesn’t do much of anything to control Medicare costs. So this line is accurate about the Romney-Ryan plan’s approach to Medicare funding, but the “strengthen” part is to be determined.

Psych Hospital From Hell

 

 

Laura Nyro

 

Laura Nyro /ˈnɪər/ NEAR-oh (October 18, 1947 – April 8, 1997) was an American songwriter, singer, and pianist. She achieved critical acclaim with her own recordings, particularly the albums Eli and the Thirteenth Confession and New York Tendaberry, and had commercial success with artists such as Barbra Streisand and The 5th Dimension recording her songs. Her style was a hybrid of Brill Building-style New York pop, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, show tunes, rock and soul.[1]

Between 1968 and 1970, a number of artists had hits with her songs: The 5th Dimension with “Blowing Away”, “Wedding Bell Blues“, “Stoned Soul Picnic“, “Sweet Blindness”, “Save The Country” and “Black Patch”; Blood, Sweat & Tears and Peter, Paul & Mary with “And When I Die“; Three Dog Night and Maynard Ferguson with “Eli’s Coming”; and Streisand with “Stoney End”, “Time and Love”, and “Hands off the Man (Flim Flam Man)”. Nyro’s best-selling single was her recording of Carole King and Gerry Goffin‘s “Up on the Roof.”[1]

On April 14, 2012, Laura Nyro was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [2][3]

Early life

Nyro was born Laura Nigro in the Bronx, New York, the daughter of Gilda Mirsky Nigro, a bookkeeper, and Louis Nigro, a piano tuner and jazz trumpeter. Laura had a younger brother, Jan Nigro. Laura was of Russian Jewish and Italian ancestry.[4] As a child, she taught herself piano, read poetry, and listened to her mother’s records by Leontyne Price, Billie Holiday and classical composers such as Ravel and Debussy. She composed her first songs at age eight. With her family, she spent summers in the Catskill Mountains, where her father played the trumpet at resorts. She credited the Sunday school at the New York Society for Ethical Culture with providing the basis of her education; she also attended Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art.[5]

Nyro was very close to her aunt and uncle, the artists Theresa Bernstein and William Meyerowitz, who helped to support her education and early career.

While in high school, she sang with a group of friends in subway stations and on street corners. She said, “I would go out singing, as a teenager, to a party or out on the street, because there were harmony groups there, and that was one of the joys of my youth.”[6] Among her favorite musicians were John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Pete Seeger, Curtis Mayfield, Van Morrison, and girl groups such as The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas and the Shirelles. She also commented: “I was always interested in the social consciousness of certain songs. My mother and grandfather were progressive thinkers, so I felt at home in the peace movement and the women’s movement, and that has influenced my music.”[6]

Early career

Her father’s work brought him into contact with record company executive Artie Mogull (1927–2004),[7] who auditioned Laura in 1966 and became her first manager. However, Louis Nigro claims that he “not even once” mentioned Laura to any of his clients, adding “they would have laughed at me if I did.”[4] As a teenager she experimented with using different names, and Nyro (NEAR-oh) was the one she was using at the time. She sold her song “And When I Die” to Peter, Paul and Mary for $5,000, and made her first extended professional appearance, at age 18, singing at the “hungry i” coffeehouse in San Francisco. Mogull negotiated her a recording contract, and she recorded her debut album, More Than a New Discovery, for the Verve Folkways label. The album provided material for other artists, notably the 5th Dimension.

In 1967, Nyro made only her second major live appearance, at the Monterey Pop Festival. Although some accounts described her performance as a fiasco that culminated in her being booed off the stage,[8] recordings later made public contradict this view.[5]

Soon afterwards, David Geffen approached Mogull about taking over as her agent. Nyro successfully sued to void her management and recording contracts on the grounds that she had entered into them while still a minor. Geffen became her manager, and the two established a publishing company, Tuna Fish Music, under which the proceeds from her future compositions would be divided equally between them. Geffen also arranged Nyro’s new recording contract with Clive Davis at Columbia Records, and purchased the publishing rights to her early compositions. In his memoir Clive: Inside the Record Business, Davis recalled Nyro’s audition for him: she’d invited him to her New York apartment, turned off every light except that of a television set next to her piano, and played him the material that would become Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. Around this time, Nyro considered becoming lead singer for Blood, Sweat & Tears, after the departure of founder Al Kooper, but was dissuaded by Geffen. However, BS&T would go on to have a hit with a cover of “And When I Die.”

The new contract allowed Nyro more artistic freedom and control. In 1968, Columbia released Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, her second album. This received high critical praise for the depth and sophistication of the performance and arrangements, which merged pop structure with inspired imagery, rich vocals and avant-garde jazz, and is widely considered to be one of her best works. It was followed in 1969 by New York Tendaberry, another highly acclaimed work which cemented Nyro’s artistic credibility. The record’s “Time and Love” and “Save the Country” emerged as two of her most well-regarded and popular songs in the hands of other artists. Her own recordings sold mostly to a cult audience. This prompted Clive Davis, in his memoir, to note that her recordings, as solid as they were, came to resemble demonstrations for other performers.

Her fourth album, Christmas and the Beads of Sweat, was issued at the end of 1970. The set contained the songs “Upstairs By a Chinese Lamp” and “When I Was a Freeport and You Were the Main Drag”. It featured Duane Allman and other Muscle Shoals musicians. The following year’s Gonna Take a Miracle was an album of her favorite “teenage heartbeat songs”, recorded with vocal group Labelle (Patti Labelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash) and the production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. With the exception of her attribution of the song “Désiree” (originally “Deserie” by The Charts), this was Nyro’s sole album of wholly non-original material, featuring such songs as “Jimmy Mack“, “Nowhere to Run“, and “Spanish Harlem“.

By this time (1971) Nyro was married, to carpenter David Bianchini. She was also reportedly uncomfortable with attempts to market her as a celebrity and she announced her retirement from the music business at the age of 24.

In 1973, her Verve debut album was acquired and reissued by Columbia as The First Songs.

Later career

By 1976, her marriage had ended, and she returned with an album of new material, Smile. She then embarked on a four-month tour with a full band, which resulted in the 1977 live album Season of Lights.

After the 1978 album Nested, recorded when she was pregnant with her only child, she again took a break from recording, this time until 1984’s Mother’s Spiritual. She began touring with a band in 1988, her first concert appearances in 10 years. The tour was dedicated to the animal rights movement. The shows led to her 1989 release, Laura: Live at the Bottom Line, which included six new compositions.

Her final album of predominantly original material was Walk the Dog and Light the Light (1993), her last album for Columbia, which was co-produced by Gary Katz, best known for his work with Steely Dan. This sparked reappraisal of her place in popular music, and new commercial offers began to appear. She turned down lucrative film-composing offers, although she contributed a rare protest song to the Academy Award-winning documentary “Broken Rainbow“, about the unjust relocation of the Navajo people.

Nyro appeared at the 1989 Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and performed in the 1980s and 1990s with female musicians. Among them was Nydia “Liberty” Mata, a popular drummer well known in the lesbian-feminist women’s music subculture. On October 27, 1997, a large-scale tribute concert was produced by women at the Beacon Theatre in New York. Performers included Sandra Bernhard, Toshi Reagon, and Phoebe Snow.

Both The Tonight Show and The Late Show with David Letterman staffs heavily pursued Nyro for a TV appearance during this period, yet she turned them down as well, citing her discomfort with appearing on television (she made only a handful of early TV appearances and one fleeting moment on VH-1 performing the title song from “Broken Rainbow” on Earth Day in 1990). She never released an official video, although there was talk of filming some Bottom Line appearances in the 1990s. On July 4, 1991, she opened for Bob Dylan at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.[9]

Personal life

She had a relationship with singer/songwriter Jackson Browne in late 1970 to early 1971.

Nyro married Vietnam War veteran David Bianchini in 1972 after a whirlwind romance and spent the next three years living with him in a small town in Massachusetts. The marriage ended after three years, during which time she grew accustomed to the country life as opposed to the city life where she had recorded her first five records.

She had one son, Gil Bianchini, also known as musician Gil-T, from a short-lived relationship with an Indian man named Harindra Singh, but gave him the surname of her ex-husband.

In 1975, Nyro split from Bianchini and also suffered the trauma of the death of her mother Gilda to ovarian cancer at the age of 49; Laura herself died from the same disease at the same age two decades later. She consoled herself largely by recording a new album, enlisting Charlie Calello, with whom she had collaborated on Eli and the Thirteenth Confession.

In the early 1980s, Laura began living with painter Maria Desiderio (1954–1999),[10] a relationship that lasted 17 years, the rest of Laura’s life.

Death

In 1996, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After the diagnosis, Columbia Records prepared a double-disc CD retrospective of material from her years at the label. The company involved Nyro herself, who selected the tracks and approved the final project. She lived to see the release of Stoned Soul Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro (1997), and was reportedly pleased with the outcome.

Nyro died of ovarian cancer in Danbury, Connecticut, on April 8, 1997, at 49, the age at which the same disease had claimed the life of her mother.

Nyro’s influence on popular musicians has also been acknowledged by such artists as Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Elton John, Cyndi Lauper, Todd Rundgren, Steely Dan, and Melissa Manchester. Todd Rundgren stated that, once he heard her, he “stopped writing songs like The Who and started writing songs like Laura”.[11] Cyndi Lauper acknowledged that her rendition of song Walk on By, on her Grammy Award-nominated 2003 cover album At Last, was inspired by Nyro.[12] Elton John and Elvis Costello discussed Laura’s influence on both of them during the premiere episode of Costello’s interview show Spectacle on the Sundance channel. When asked by the host if he could name three great performer/songwriters who have largely been ignored, he cited Nyro as one of his choices. John also addressed Nyro’s influence on his 1970 song “Burn Down the Mission“, from Tumbleweed Connection, in particular. “I idolized her,” he concluded. “The soul, the passion, just the out and out audacity of the way her rhythmic and melody changes came was like nothing I’ve heard before.” [13]

 

Samba Noir

 

Samba Noir

When she dances in the space
My body loses its fatigue
My lip shakes a smile
When she swaps the move
My chest loses the beat
My eyes know where to go

Went out, went out of time
Fell down, my samba fell down

When she shays that she doesn’t say
When she pretends that she’s mine
When I let myself go*
When she wants one more swig
When she swaps my cup
I let life go by

Went out, went out of time
Fell down, my samba fell down

I respect the decision
She knows what she wants
I want no discussion
She knows what she wants
From me
From me
From me…
She knows what she wants

When she goes up, I’m saved
Goes down from the asphalt wall
I let a samba in the air
Wraps me in the daybreak
Humming Cartola**
At the table of another bar

Went out, went out of time
Fell down, my samba fell down

I respect the decision
She knows what she wants
I want no discussion
She knows what she wants
From me
From me
From me…
She knows what she wants

 

Applied Romneyism

 

Mitt Romney Will Make His Campaign Announcement Via an App says Motherboard magazine

Mitt Romney Will Make His Campaign Announcement Via an App

Posted by Derek_Mead on Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012

  • Screen_shot_2012-07-31_at_11_43_46_am_large

With the narrative of the 2012 presidential race pretty much set in stone — both President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney will ceaselessly hammer each other on the economy, and little else — the biggest question of the summer has been who Romney is going to pick for his running mate. It’s a seriously important question; aside from the fact that a candidate for vice president need be worthy of that title, picking a VP like, say, Marco Rubio could help Romney expand his potential voter base.

So, considering how worked up political pundits are about Romney’s looming pick, you’d expect he’d announce it with some modicum of gravitas, right? Well, hot on the heels of the ‘revelation’ that smartphone voters are a very important bloc, Romney’s decided to announce the biggest potential game changer this race via a smartphone app.

Apparently, the app (called Mitt’s VP) guarantees that users will receive notification of the pick before the press thanks by shoving push notification down your throat. It also hooks you up with a “Follow Romney on Twitter” button and a link to donate to Romney’s campaign. Sounds rather bland, and certainly doesn’t have the pomp that you’d expect considering the importance of the announcement. But considering Romney’s past forays into campaign apps, I don’t fault him for keeping things simple. And hey, if the White House thing doesn’t work out, maybe Mitt’s marketing skills could mint another exciting tech IPO

 

Young Americans Pay $$$ For ObamaCare

7/31/2012 @ 9:55PM |11,516 views

Where’s The Outrage From Young Americans About Obama’s Health Reforms?

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28:  Anti-Obamacare prot...

(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

President Obama’s 2010 health reform law has been heralded by its supporters as strongly beneficial for young Americans. After all, the ACA decrees that all health insurance plans that offer any dependent coverage must offer coverage to enrollees’ “adult children” (the terminology used in the law) until age 26, even if the adult child no longer lives with his or her parents, is not a dependent on a parent’s tax return, or is no longer a student … even if the adult child is married. And the uninsured rate for those between 19 and 26 has indeed decreased.

So what’s not to like about the health law for young Americans?  The under-appreciated truth is that the ACA has serious adverse impacts on young Americans, far more significant and longer lasting than temporary eligibility to remain on a parent’s insurance.

Health insurance costs are now dramatically shifted onto the backs of younger, healthier adults. 

Proponents of the ACA claim that those shunning insurance are responsible for shifting massive costs to insured Americans, thereby raising insurance prices significantly without the ACA’s individual mandate.
  • This is factually false. Generally, the population at whom the mandate is directed – those who voluntarily do not buy insurance and are not eligible for current government insurance – tend to be younger, healthier, and use far less medical care, on average about $850 and only $56 per year in emergency care. Based on both household survey and provider data, uninsured health care shifts only 0.8% to at most 1.7% of expenditures toward those already insured.
  • The truth is that the health law’s individual mandate was created for one major reason – to force millions of younger, healthier Americans to pay more for insurance than they receive in benefits to subsidize the rise in insurance premiums directly caused by the ACA itself. Because the federal government defines required coverage, and then prevents insurers from considering most risks in determining premiums, the ACA will necessarily cause health insurance premiums to rise. President Obama’s solution to this predictable disaster is to force young and healthy people to buy expensive health coverage costing several thousands of dollars to subsidize the bloated insurance prices for others that his law has created.

Young adults will now have less access to lower cost health insurance coverage, limited more than ever by government-defined “essential” benefits, actuarial requirements, and other regulations. 

  • Consumer-directed health plans often entice healthier, younger people to enroll, because such insurance is a smart financial decision – purchase lower cost coverage, while having the opportunity to accrue tax-sheltered savings. These plans also allow a tax deduction for health savings account contributions, a deduction far more valuable than that which applies only if itemized medical expenses exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income. Not surprisingly, these plans have been surging in popularity, quadrupling as a choice by employees over the past 5 years to 13.5 million, rising in the large and small group, as well as the individual markets. Moreover, an increasing number of employers are offering these plans, because they cost less, and also because enrollees use more preventive services and wellness programs, improving employee health.
  • Under the Affordability Care Act, though, instead of facilitating cheaper insurance that younger, healthier people would rationally choose, like catastrophic insurance with higher deductibles and health savings accounts, the law threatens those plans with new taxes, usage restrictions, actuarial requirements, and a bureaucrat-defined list of “essential” benefits requirements. Highlighting the policy misstep of the new ACA regulations is the recent projection that widespread use of consumer-directed insurance plans could save over $50B per year.
  • Young adults are already seeing their insurance choices disappear due to the new health law. Obama administration dictates about minimum payouts are causing colleges to drop low cost, limited coverage plans altogether or price students out of health insurance. By prohibiting these young adults from purchasing insurance they want, the law is antithetical to the independence and individual empowerment that American universities foster and that young Americans will seek far beyond age 26.

The ACA burdens employers, reduces jobs, and causes employers to drop the health insurance benefit, consequences that should be of particular concern to young adults right now, when young graduates already find it difficult to gain employment. 

  • The ACA’s new insurance mandates, taxes, and employer penalties that will have direct and immediate effects on employer decisions to hire (or not hire) additional employees. According to CBO’s projections in March 2011, “…(the legislation) will reduce employment in 2021 by about 800,000 relative to what would otherwise have occurred.” And the legislation creates powerful incentives for employers to drop coverage, especially for employees with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, jobs typical of those held by most young adults. The CBO and JCT estimated that 3 to 5 million people per year could lose employer-sponsored health coverage starting in 2019 because of the law. Only 23% of companies are very confident they will continue to offer health care benefits for the next decade, dramatically dropping from 57% in 2009, just before the ACA. Small businesses, commonly the employers for young adults, are already dropping health insurance in response to the law, according to the NFIB Research Foundation. Separate employer surveys from Deloitte and McKinsey showed that significant percentages of employers plan to increase employee premiums (68%), increase employee cost sharing (69%), reduce covered benefits (34%), reduce choices of doctors and hospitals (18%), or drop coverage entirely (up to 34% in several scenarios, e.g. if the required benefits cost more than employers now provide) due to the ACA.

The ACA increases taxes that threaten medical technology innovation, of greatest significance to younger Americans, who want jobs in that sector now and who will depend on access to future advances for decades to come. 

  • New taxes on key health care industries and investors, including drug manufacturers, medical device manufacturers, a new tax on unearned income, and changes to the tax status of investments in start-up companies all discourage the risky but essential investment in innovators that form the bedrock of America’s medical technology industry. Perhaps most destructive is the new 2.3% excise tax – on revenues, not just profits – on medical devices beginning in 2013 that increases federal taxes on medical device companies by $30 billion through 2022.
  • Beyond suffocating the health benefits from its innovations, threatening this specific sector is highly counter-productive to our economy especially worrisome for young adults. The US dominates the $350 billion medical device market with 32 of the world’s 46 companies with at least $1 billion in revenue and a total trade surplus estimated at $5.4 billion. The medical technology industry directly accounts for more than 400,000 high paying US jobs and creates about 2 million additional US jobs – the very sort of careers our young people seek.
  • By some estimates, the ACA will cause a loss of 45,000 jobs in the US … and medical device companies are already eliminating jobs because of these onerous taxes. The ACA will cost Boston Scientific alone more than $100 million a year in additional taxes, so they built a $35 million research center in Ireland instead of in the U.S. and announced another $150 million site in China. Stryker Corporation of Michigan announced in November, 2011 workforce reductions of 1,000 workers “to provide efficiencies and realign resources in advance of the new Medical Device Excise Tax scheduled to begin in 2013.” In response to the ACA, 50% of senior medical technology executives in Massachusetts said in March 2012 that they would slash R&D budgets, and 25% said they would cut jobs at home and outsource manufacturing. Cook Medical of Indiana just announced it is scrapping plans to open five new plants in the Midwest because of this specific tax, while saying “in reality, we’re not looking at the U.S. to build factories anymore as long as this tax is in place.”

With its coverage mandates, guaranteed issue and community rating edicts, and price controls, the ACA threatens the overall sustainability of private insurance. 

  • Our own state-based experience already demonstrated that individual health insurance markets deteriorated after guaranteed issue and community rating requirements, like those in the ACA, were introduced. Milliman’s March 2012 study of 8 states showed that insurance companies chose to stop selling individual insurance, which resulted in a decrease in competition. As individual insurance enrollment decreased, premium rates increased, sometimes dramatically. The CBO has already estimated that the costs for health insurance in the individual market will rise 27 to 30 percent in 2016 over current levels. Many believe most private insurance plans will be driven out of business and further predict that many employers will stop offering health insurance and accept the modest penalties, shifting more individuals toward subsidized insurance, ultimately increasing the costs of exchange subsidies for private insurance. The self-inflicted destruction of private health insurance will be put forth as the rationale for public single payer as the only remaining solution to the crisis newly created by the President’s reforms. This bears repeating: the eventual failure of private insurers, foreseeable now and caused directly by the ACA reforms, will likely be falsely cited as rationale for single payer takeover of America’s health care system, an especially dire consequence for young families whose future care depends on access to emerging medical technology and novel therapies, proven deficits of single payer systems all over the world.

The health law is emblematic of this administration’s policies on entitlements, from which America’s younger generation will necessarily bear the financial burden of seniors far more than ever from in the greatest intergenerational transfer in history.

  • But even with all that, recent polls indicate that President Obama once again has enthusiastic support from young voters, outpolling Governor Romney by 56 to 39 percent. This approaches 2008, when two-thirds of the vote among those younger than 30 combined with their massive turnout to help elect Barack Obama. One cannot help but wonder whether this apparent support by America’s younger generation reflects a thoughtful assessment of the future of America, or if it harkens back to high school student body elections, where superficial popularity carries the day. Do young voters base votes on critical thought about policies, or on the candidate’s ability to shoot hoops, text on a Blackberry, and fill out an NCAA bracket?

Scott W. Atlas, MD is the David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow at Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author of the recently published book In Excellent Health: Setting the Record Straight on America’s Health Care (Hoover Press, 2011).

Wonkish; But True

Oooo-bama’s Scare Tactics
WSJ – 7/20/12

Slow Recovery or Failed Agenda?

by Edward Paul Lazear (Morris Arnold and Nona Jean Cox Senior Fellow)

President Obama has a tough task ahead of him. He must convince the American voter that the economy is improving and that he deserves the credit. At the same time, he must make the case that the blame for the slowness of the recovery lies with others. How might he make his case? And what facts might Republican challenger Mitt Romney use to counter his claims?

A graph titled “Private Sector Job Creation” on the Obama-Biden campaign website (barackobama.com) makes clear the president’s opening gambit. It announces proudly that 4.4 million private-sector jobs have been created over the past 28 months. The graph indicates the point at which the president took office and also when he signed the February 2009 Recovery Act.

Although the labor market continued to shrink during the entire first year of the president’s term, he will argue, justifiably, that he couldn’t have been expected to turn things around immediately and that the job loss is owned by his predecessor. He will also point out that the unemployment rate peaked at 10% in autumn 2009 and now stands at 8.2%.

Mr. Romney can reply that Mr. Obama wants to have it both ways. The president does not accept responsibility for any of the jobs lost, but he wants to take credit for all of the gains. Yet we know that all recessions end and that labor markets recover eventually. What distinguishes this labor-market recovery is not that jobs are finally being created but rather the rate of growth is so slow that it will be 2016 before we return to pre-recession employment levels.

Mr. Romney may also point out that there hasn’t been one day during the entire Obama presidency when as many Americans were working as on the day President Bush left office. Moreover, the unemployment rate, which we were told would not exceed 8% if we enacted Mr. Obama’s stimulus package (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), has never fallen below 8% during his presidency. The rate has averaged 9.2% since February 2009.

Still, the president will argue that he has turned things around. In the quarter during which he took office, the economy lost 2.3 million jobs and the economy as a whole was shrinking at almost a 7% annual rate. By summer 2009, the economy was growing again. The employment level hit bottom in early 2010 and started moving up, regaining, as noted in the Obama-Biden graph, more than 3.9 million jobs by the end of this February.

Mr. Romney will have to concede that the turnaround occurred after the first year of the Obama term, but he can point both to the weak recovery and to a renewed slowdown that began on the president’s watch in summer 2010, while he and his party controlled the executive and legislative branches of government.

The GDP growth rate in late 2009 was almost 4%, giving hope of a rebound. But by spring 2010, it slipped to 2.2%, below the long-term average growth rate for the economy.

Over the last six quarters, it has been crawling along at an average 1.9% growth rate, with the most recent quarter logging in at just 1.5%.

Job growth has also slowed dramatically. From December 2011 through February 2012, jobs increased at an average rate of 252,000 per month. During the last three months, that average has fallen to 75,000.

With hiring as slow as this, the unemployment rate, which has risen from its low of 8.1% this April, will continue to rise. Unfortunately, the economy is creating jobs more slowly than the population and labor force are growing.

Mr. Romney will suggest that this new round of slowing is attributable to the Obama policies, not to those of his predecessor. He can add that this is not a “recovery” at all. To recover, our economy must make up for lost ground and therefore needs to grow at rates that exceed rates at normal times. That is what has occurred in every recession except this one. And because we are growing so slowly, we are widening rather than narrowing the gap between where we are and where we should be.

Somewhat more subtle, but also important, President Obama can boast about the decline in layoffs that occurred since his policies have taken effect. In January 2009, the month in which the president took office, 2.6 million workers were laid off. There has been a general downward trend in layoffs during his entire term, and monthly layoffs are one million per month fewer than when he started. Furthermore, surveys conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics find that the most frequent reason for leaving a job today is that the worker quit, in most cases to move to another job. When the president took office, the most frequent reason was that the worker was laid off.

Mr. Romney can point to the hiring deficiencies that persist. Layoffs are highest when an economy is declining, not when it has reached bottom. After discretionary labor has been released, layoffs slow because firms are already lean. But this does not imply that the labor market is healthy. Employment does not grow at recovery speed until hiring picks up, and monthly hiring is only slightly above where it was in January 2009.

Worse for the president, the number of monthly hires remains almost one million below where it was when the labor market was healthy in 2006 and 2007. Mr. Romney can also point out that fewer workers are being hired now than during the average recession month between 2007 and 2009.

Ultimately, to serve a second term the president must convince voters that the economy is improving rapidly enough to make a real difference in their lives. In a Feb. 1, 2009, interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Mr. Obama said, “If I don’t have this done in three years, there’s going to be a one-term proposition.” Mr. Romney’s hope is that the American people will make the president’s one-term prophecy come true.

Mr. Lazear, who was chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2006-09, is a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and a Hoover Institution fellow.

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