AUG#: +130,000 jobs.

Unemployment up at 3.7%...AUG jobs under Trump HERE

Friday, April 29, 2011

Crushing the Human Spirit Indeed!

Crushing the human spirit indeed.

A comment by a conservative at the Huffington Post a few weeks ago:
The thing the Dems need to work on is completely crushing the human spirit. Once they can make sure nobody thinks they have a chance to succeed, the more they will realize that they need to join the collective and surrender their individual­ity and creativity­.
Crushing the human spirit?  Does this poster even know what that means? 

What kind of things really crush the human spirit?  

Friday, April 22, 2011

Family Planning, Sex, and the Right-Wing

Disturbing and absurd logic from the right-wing.

Just when I think I know how destructive the right-wingers are and how absurd and twisted their thinking can be, I find something even more disturbing and absurd.

While researching the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood and the effects of such defunding a couple of weeks ago, I came across the Family in America website.  A recent article, "Forty Years of Title X is Enough", discusses the negative effects of decades of family planning.  It seems that the overall birth rate in our country is going down, which "Family in America" freely admits. 

This might just reflect the fact that fewer women are having children they don't want and can't provide for financially or emotionally.  Now, most of us would find that a good thing, and a reason to make sure that safe and effective birth control continues to be available to women who want it, even poor women who can't afford such birth control without government assistance.

But no.

This group has a whole different slant on this:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Romney Ahead of Obama?

Is Romney Really Ahead of Obama?

Polls can be so misleading, and so can news articles and reports about a poll.

Just this morning in Huffington Post:

Mitt Romney in Striking Distance of Obama! 

Let's look at a few statements in this article:  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Wealth Will Trickle Down!

I Told Them Not to Worry; the Wealth Will Trickle Down!

I don't know where this came from, but it is funny!  Gallows humor, I guess. Click on the picture for more detail....

Monday, April 18, 2011

45% of Households Pay No Taxes!

Updated 9/18/2012:  Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney speaks with derision and disdain about the "47%" who supposedly pay no taxes.  Commentary HERE.

Ezra Klein at Wonkblog itemizes those who don't pay income taxes HERE. 

A few weeks back I posted:  "47% of the People Pay No Taxes!".  Here's an update for Tax Day:

CNN ran an article this morning about the percentage of people who will pay no taxes in 2010.  Now, I'm assuming that CNN means that these 45% of households had no tax obligation, meaning that they didn't owe a dime for all of 2010, not that they paid earlier and don't owe anything now.  Also, many of the people who won't pay federal taxes will pay state and local taxes as well as FICA employment taxes, sales taxes, property taxes either through their mortgage or rent.

Some rich people also paid no taxes!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Keep Your Hands Off of My (Son's) Medicare!

Who Is Really Going to Trash Medicare?

Last year during the health care debate, the Republicans were able to convince many older people that the Dems were going to change or trash Medicare.  They had oldsters holding signs that said, "Keep Your Hands Off of My Medicare!".  

Well now, a year later, the Republicans are actually the guys proposing to dismantle Medicare, as laid out in Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan's latest budget.  I'm not surprised; are you?    

Monday, April 11, 2011

What Percentage of the Unemployed Get Benefits?

(Note:  Updates for May 2012 in progress at end of article.)

The percentage of the "official" unadjusted unemployed for March 2011 who were getting benefits as of the week of March 12, 2011:  62.37%.  (8,770,443 out of 14,060,000).

The percentage of the "unofficial" unemployed for March 2011 who were getting benefits as of the week of March 12, 2011 is much lower:  30.19%.  (8,770,443 out of 29,047,000).

The number of people receiving benefits in March is taken from the Department of Labor's Unemployment Weekly Claims Report which includes the week of March 12.  This is a non-seasonally adjusted figure.  I use the March 12th figure as this is the week on which the monthly unemployment figures are based.  

The "official" unemployment number is the non-seasonally adjusted number for the month of March 2011, also from the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) monthly situation report.   I explain my alternate unemployment figure of 29 million here, in another blog entry. 

A few comments on these numbers:

1.  Many people think that the unemployment rate only includes those who are getting benefits.  These figures should make it very clear that this isn't so.  Over one-third of the "official" unemployed (those who have looked for work in the past 4 weeks) are not getting benefits.  There is no connection between benefits and who is counted as unemployed.  (Explained here:  How the Unemployment Rate Is Calculated.) 

2.  It is highly unlikely that any new or re-entering workers are getting benefits.  In March 2011, there were 4,362,000 unemployed in these two categories (unadjusted).  Also, 657,000 said that they had quit their jobs vs. being laid off.   Most quitters do not qualify for unemployment benefits.  Therefore, the total of those entering, re-entering, or who quit their last jobs (but have looked for work in the past 4 weeks) is 5,019,000.

3.  That leaves 9,041,000 "officially" unemployed who have been laid off, most of whom probably qualify for benefits.  As only  8,770,443 people were getting benefits in mid-March, there are still at least 300,000 unemployed people who aren't getting benefits.  This is complicated by the fact that there are 8,737,000 part-time workers, some of whom are eligible for unemployment benefits depending on the state in which they live and how many hours they are working.

In summary:  There are hundreds of thousands, probably millions of people out there, who are unemployed because they were terminated, who are actively looking for work or who "want work", and who are not receiving any benefits.  The lowest number of people unemployed (because they were terminated), actively looking for work, and not receiving benefits is 300,000.  The highest number of people unemployed (because they were terminated), who "want work" and may or may not be actively looking for work, and who are not receiving benefits is somewhere around 6,521,000.    (That's 15,291,000 terminated minus  8,770,443 receiving benefits.).

As we watch the numbers of people receiving benefits go down every week, there is no obvious way of telling how many of these people are excluded from the numbers of those who are no longer receiving benefits because they have found employment and how many have exhausted all benefits (the much-maligned 99ers).  The number is somewhere between 300,000 and 6,521,000.  And, of those who have found employment, we know that 8,737,000 are working part-time because they can't get full-time work.  Those are still huge numbers!

Updates for May 2012 (in progress):
The percentage of the "official" unadjusted unemployed for March 2011 who were getting benefits as of the week of March 12, 2011:  62.37%.  (8,770,443 out of 14,060,000).
The percentage of the "unofficial" unemployed for March 2011 who were getting benefits as of the week of March 12, 2011 is much lower:  30.19%.  (8,770,443 out of 29,047,000).
The lowest number of people unemployed (because they were terminated), actively looking for work, and not receiving benefits is 300,000.  The highest number of people unemployed (because they were terminated), who "want work" and may or may not be actively looking for work, and who are not receiving benefits is somewhere around 6,521,000.    (That's 15,291,000 terminated minus  8,770,443 receiving benefits.).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

You Cannot Have My State!

Excerpted from "You Cannot Have My State!"

You believe we are broke; I believe we live in one of the wealthiest nations on Earth.

You believe it is o.k. to silence your opponents; I believe that everyone's voice should be heard.

With all the fervor and strength I can muster I tell you now, 


There is room in this world for honest disagreements. There is room for differing policy views and different world views. ...There is no place for those who would trample the rights of anyone, be they in the minority or the majority. ... There is no place for those who would serve the interests of wealthy corporations ahead of the poor or disadvantaged.

Thanks to "Left on Red" at Huffington Post.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why Kloppenburg's Win IS a Big Deal!

Update on the Kloppenburg/Prosser Supreme Court race in Wisconsin:

As most of your know, on Thursday (yesterday, April 7, 2011), the Republican Clerk of Waukesha County in Wisconsin, one Kathy Nickolaus, announced that she had somehow forgotten to add 14,000 votes from the town of Brookfield, Wisconsin, into the vote counts she reported early Wednesday morning.  As Brookfield, Wisconsin, is an overwhelmingly conservative, Republican burg, those 14,000 votes were cast overwhelmingly in favor of the conservative incumbent, David Prosser, thus giving him the lead by about 7,500 votes.

Vote canvassing and auditing continues, and there is still talk of a recount. We will all have to wait and see what happens as a result of this "miscounting".  (I will comment on the particular situation involving Ms. Nickolaus in a separate blog entry a bit later.)

Though the numbers used below will have to change should Waukesha's updates be found to be correct, most of this article still holds:

Kloppenburg, an unknown liberal Democrat, came from a 20-odd point deficit a few weeks ago to glean a vote count within one half of one percent of the long-time conservative incumbent Prosser.  But, as my fifth grade teacher used to say, "Almost never got there", and that is never more true than in elections.  But it's only just begun, and Kloppenburg did carry 19 more counties that controversial conservative Republican governor Scott Walker carried in November.    

This article as originally written:

Right now Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Joanne Kloppenburg is winning the race with a mere 204 vote lead.  It is likely that the Republican incumbent, David Prosser, will request a recount, so it isn't over yet.

Many Republicans are trying to devalue the importance of Kloppenburg's win.  "It's only 204 votes," they say.  No, Republicans and baggers, it is much, much more than 204 votes.  And some Democrats are concerned that this vote was too close; they feel that Kloppenburg should have won by a lot more.  

Below, two very cogent and clear descriptions of the importance of this election and explanations of why a victory of a mere 204 votes is much more than it seems:

From "Cinnamonape" at Huffington Post:
"Just some interestin­g number crunching to show what this means. Prosser won the non-partis­an collective Primary in early February with 55% (247,500 votes). Kloppenbur­g only had 25% (112,500 votes).By all sane estimates Prosser would have won in a landslide again. Kloppenbur­g wasn't a particular­ly attractive or charismati­c candidate, lacked anywhere near the experience of Prosser, and lacked the benefit of incumbency­. In fact she was easily painted as someone on the left, where a centrist candidate might be viewed as more electable.
But then Walker, Fitzgerald and their crew began to wreak havoc with their budget reform plans....a­nd although Prosser wasn't even directly involved with those events,anyone associated with Walker became a  lightening rod.
As you can see from the above Kloppenber­g, a 30% underdog, rallied from that deficit to, apparently­, defeat the heavy favorite.
But there is even more to the story. The run-off resulted in a tripling of voter turnout (from 450,000 to almost 1.5 million).
Looking at this in terms of just "new turnout".  Prosser was able to mobilize 492,500 more voters to support him besides those that showed up to the original primary. But Kloppenbur­g brought out 627,500 more voters than voted for her in the Primary. That means that while Prosser brought out 2 new voters for every one in the Primary, Kloppenbur­g brought out 5.5 for every one voter supporting her in the primary!
This is a stunning turn-aroun­d in a short two months.. ­and the only thing that explains it is the failure of the Wisconsin Republican­s to govern in a manner that befits "Represent­atives of the People." "

From "Forward Progressive" also at Huffington:

I'm tired of people saying "I'm upset the victory margin wasn't higher" if you looked at what Joanne was up against you should be ecstatic if she even won by one. I'll spell it out here....
1.) it's a spring election, traditiona­lly very low turn-out which typically is good for Republican­s (Prosser)
2.) She was out spent by prosser. (he spent 1.8 million and she spent 1.2)
3.) He's an incumbent, typically harder to beat an incumbent.
4.) She was a virtual no-namer to, us, Wisconsini­tes 6 weeks ago
5.) Prosser was supposed to be "untouchab­le" to any challenger
This is a HUGE victory, stop demeaning it.

An Open Letter to Joanne Kloppenburg

From "MovieGuy2010" at Huffington Post:

"Funny how these things work out.

I promise you, not a single Democrat outside of Wisconsin, and many inside had ever heard of JoAnne Kloppenbur­g a couple of weeks ago. Really she was a token candidate, NO one expected this until Scott Walker decided to become Ronnie Reagan Jr. and kick the Unions of WI in the teeth to make his Teabagger bones.

First. JoAnne, if I may be so bold. Please don't forget who put you in that exalted seat, and why.
We have PLENTY of judges there for the political powers that be, you were elected by us poor working schmucks who have been getting kicked in the teeth for the last couple of decades.
We are not asking for an inside job, just a day in court and a recognitio­n that we matter as well as people that can call the governor and get their call taken any time of the day. 
So, you have gone from an unknown asst Attorney General to a name that MIGHT be a rallying cry for working class folks tired of being the scapegoat for disasters we didn't cause, but mostly landed on us anyway.
Do us proud, Supreme Court Justice Kloppenbur­g. Sometimes fate picks people out, and puts them in the right place at the right time.
This time, it was you."

Wisconsin Supreme Court Battle: The Aliens are Coming!

Democrat Joanne Kloppenburg, virtually unknown in Wisconsin until a few weeks ago, defeated the incumbent Supreme Court Justice Repubican David Prosser in a very narrow, but important victory.  

She won by a margin of 204 votes; she received 740,090; he received 739,886 votes.  It is unclear if all of the absentee ballots have been counted as yet, and it is very likely that the Republicans will request a recount.

This is an exceptional victory for the forces who are fighting for the rights and futures of working people everywhere.  Just a few weeks ago, Ms. Kloppenburg was a virtual unknown running against an incumbent, and he had outpaced her by about 30 percentage points in the primary.  A 20% turnout was expected; about 33% of registered voters actually did vote.  

Those of us posting at Huffington Post entertained each other as we kept track of the returns online, but the following gets my vote for the funniest reply of the day:

Republican poster claims:  

My Uncle is an election judge in Madison. He said they caught 13 people voting for Joanne that actually lived in Illinois. They followed them to the parking lot and wrote down all the Illinois Plate Numbers. 
God Bless

MovieGuy replied:

My second cousin twice removed is an election judge in Madison as well, and he said, he watched hundreds of people after voting for Prosser, go the parking lots and peel off their skin to reveal they were giant orange weasels from the moons of Altarus 7! 
He said, they were then picked up by a giant flying saucer driven by John Bohener, who was squeaking and chirping away at them in some kind of alien language! 
My second cousin ran after them, and demanded to see their long form birth certificat­es but Boehner just chirped out “Give our regards to Scotty, we are off to visit our leader David Koch in California­!"

Thanks for the laugh, MG!  We're going to have to watch for those orange space ships as the recount gets under way! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Conservatives Put a Spin on Food Stamps

The fact that more and more people need food stamps is gong to "Ruin Your Day".

The title is "Here's a Food Stamp Graph That Will Ruin Your Day".

It shows that the percentage of people who are receiving food stamps has gone up precipitously over the past three years.  

Now, the scary title was found on a right-wing blog, and what will "ruin your day" is the number of people who are now dependent on the government.   

Before I read the article and the comments, I had two thoughts:  First, it's really unfortunate that so many people need to rely on food stamps, and, secondly, thank heavens that the program is in place to help so many.

Then I looked at the graph, and noticed that it was formatted for maximum impact.  The left axis isn't scaled from 0 people needing food stamps; it starts at 26 million.  Instead of the left axis running from 0 to 45 million, it runs from 26 to 45 million.  It makes the increase in food stamps recipients seem much more onerous.     

I had just found the food stamp article and graph after reading this at Huffington Post:  Budget Cuts Kill  the Middle Class 

The Increasing Inequality of Income in our Country

The article at the Huffington Post included this dramatic graph which shows the percentage of total income that is going to the top ten percent over the last 100 years:

You don't need to be particularly skilled in graph reading to notice that the middle class was strongest when the top ten percent received only about 35% of national total income.  This last chart only goes up to about 2007, so it doesn't show the impact of the recession.  

So, keeping in mind that the top earners have received a greater and greater percentage of national income over the past three decades and that the number of people who receive food stamps has gone up dramatically over the past three years, let's look at the spin put on the food stamp graph by conservatives. 

First of all, the USDA has made it easier for people to get food stamps.  Thirty-eight states loosened eligibility requirements.  You no longer have to be down to your last dollar to qualify for food stamps.  This should be a good thing, as you can supplement your low income with food stamps without spending down all of your assets.  This also explains some of the increase.   

People Receiving Food Stamps Like "Being Dependent"?

Now, conservatives see the increased need for food stamps as a bad thing because it shows "government dependency".  They don't interpret it as a graphic representation of the nation's suffering; they complain about people becoming dependent on the government. 

Let's look at some comments:
"Fox Piven must look at graphs like this one and jump for joy. Just look at how many Americans are now dependent on the government for"
"Democrats see this as a plus, more and more people on the dole means more votes and MORE POWER." 
Other than I have no idea who or what Fox Piven is, why would anyone jump for joy that more and more people have a low enough income to qualify for food stamps?  Do the right-wingers really think that people enjoy being "dependent on government"?  Democrats are happy that people are struggling?  Only in bizarro-conservative right-wing world. I tend to think that most people would rather have a decent-paying job.
  We need to place limits on these programs. We can’t support participants forever. Break the cycle.
What cycle?  People are getting food stamps who have never gotten food stamps before.  Obviously, then, this is not about a cycle.  Of course, the writer of this remark thinks that if we let people starve, they will suddenly find work in a nation with 28,000,000 unemployed or underemployed. Or maybe the poor will demand that the "government wage" (right wing rhetoric for minimum wage laws) be reduced so that they can all work for $1/hour.  
 The 14% graph is his base for 2012 and the house should introduce a bill to exempt people on government assistance from voting. Call it the Conflict of Interest Act. It will get some headlines and put the issue front and center where we can make the case of Obama spending policy and jobless economy
Great. Let's go back to the days of poll taxes and such and only let people with means vote. Really sick thinking going on here. Also really dangerous thinking; that only people with decent jobs should be able to vote. 

By this "Conflict of Interest" act, then nobody in Congress should vote either, right?

Then a poster called the Democrats the "Party of food stamps" and talked about Republican policies that create jobs.  O.K., what policies, Republicans?

Its all Bush’s fault
This was posted sarcastically, but it is probably truer than blaming this on Obama.  The decimation of the middle class has been going on for decades now; the recession just made it more obvious to a greater number of people.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Third parties, New Hampshire and the 2000 Presidential Election

Bush won the 2000 Presidential Election by the thinnest of margins.  Some people in Florida still wanted to count but the Supreme Court cut things off.

Found HERE
Bush won with 5 more electoral votes than Gore.

If Gore had won Florida, he would have won the election.  Gore lost Florida by 540 votes.  People can rant all they want about hanging chads, but there were 97,000 votes for Nader in Florida.  If a few hundred of those people had been smart enough to look at the implications of their vote and decided to vote for Gore vs. Nader, Gore would have won.  Did those Nader voters really prefer Bush to Gore?  Are there 550 Nader voters in Florida who have thought, "Gee, voting for Nader gave us Bush, and I'm responsible." over the past 10 years?  

Then there's the New Hampshire factor, which I have never read about in the context of the 2000 Presidential race.  Bush won New Hampshire by 7,211 votes.. not as close as Florida, but close enough.  If 7,212 out of 22,000 Nader voters in New Hampshire had decided that Gore was going to be better than Bush, Gore would have won.  Did those Nader voters in New Hampshire really intend on electing Bush to the White House?  Are there 7200 Nader voters in New Hampshire who are feeling any degree of responsibility for the Bush legacy?

So when we look at the tax cuts for the rich, the unfunded unending wars, the financial turmoil that is the Bush Legacy, we can blame the people who voted for Nader in Florida and New Hampshire.  Gee, thanks, guys.  That Nader vote really was swell.    


Updated 4/10/11:  Thanks to "Owen" who caught my error in assessing New Hampshire's votes.  I have updated this blog entry.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Monthly Unemployment Report for March 2011

June 2012 unemployment rate and jobs numbers will be released Friday, July 6th.  Check back then!

Latest employment and unemployment reports can be found HERE!

The following report is for March 2011.   For current numbers, click on the link above. 

Unemployment Rate Continues to Decline, but....

The mainstream headlines express excitement about the new job numbers: "Stocks move higher as jobless rate falls", "Unemployment rate falls again as Job Growth Picks Up."

Two things are true: First, there are over a million more people who are reporting that they are working this March since last March. In fact, there are 900,000 more people who are reporting that they are working since February, just a month ago. Those are unadjusted numbers, not accounting for usual seasonal variations in the job market.

Seasonally adjusted "official" unemployment rate at 8.8%, unadjusted "official" at 9.2% but.....

In adjusted numbers, there are 900,000 more people working since March 2010, and 300,000 more working since February 2011.  The mainstream unemployment rate now stands at 8.8%, down from 9.7% a year ago.  The mainstream unadjusted rate now stands at 9.2%; it is usually about .5% to .7% higher than the adjusted rate. 

Secondly, the number of jobs reported by business has gone up by similar numbers: 1,300,000 new jobs "non-seasonally adjusted" between March 2010 and March 2011; 900,000 new in just the last month. In the "seasonally adjusted" buckets, there are 1,300,000 new jobs over the past year, with 200,000 new jobs reported over the past month.

More People are Returning to Work but........

O.K., O.K., this seasonally adjusted stuff sometimes makes it all sound like a shell game. But there are no two ways about it, more people are working this year than last, and more people are working this month than last. That's good, especially for those one million people who have found jobs over the past year.

In terms of unemployment, there are 1,600,000 fewer "officially" unemployed this month than there were a year ago and 500,000 fewer "officially" unemployed now than there were last month.
400,000 more people are now considered in the "civilian labor force" than a month ago, but there are still 600,000 fewer people in the "civilian labor force" than a year ago. Many of the people who left the labor force over the past two years to "sit it out" are are still sitting.

Alternate Employment Rate Falls to 18.2%

Last month, February, there were 29,580,000 people who were unemployed, underemployed or who "wanted to work", representing 18.6% as an alternate unemployment rate (unadjusted for seasonal variations). Let's compare that with March:

14,060,000 officially unemployed, 6,250,000 "want a job", and 8,737,000 part-time who want full-time. That adds up to 29,047,000 out of an "unofficial" civilian labor force of 159,272,000 for an "unofficial" unemployment rate of 18.2%. That is better than it was last month.

Let's be Cautious

So should we break out the champagne yet? Well, no, of course not. 29 million people is still a very large number of people who want work (or who want to work full-time) and aren't doing so. And we need to remember that this number doesn't include people who are working temp jobs and people who have returned to work at much lower rates of pay.

Also, of those 29,000,000 only 8,770,443 people are receiving unemployment benefits. (This number from the DOL weekly report.)  We have no idea who the people are who aren't receiving unemployment benefits.  Some are certainly new grads entering the market, some are people re-entering the job market, and some are most certainly 99ers.  But there is no breakdown or accounting of those who are unemployed but not receiving any unemployment benefits.

As Paul Krugman mentions, the "participation rate" (the number in the civilian labor force compared to the total civilian non-institutional population) is low and it has gone down over the past year. It appears to be stuck now, at 64.2% over the past three months. The employment population ratio (ratio of people employed compared to the number of people in the civilian non-institutional population as a whole) appears to have bottomed out at 58.5%, but it is now stagnant.

Interestingly enough, it is not an increasing number of people over 65 who are contributing to this lower number in the participation and employment-population ratios; in fact, the participation rate and the employment-population rate in the over-65 age cohort (of those who are not disabled) has actually increased over the past year, from 22.1 to 22.6% and from 20.6 to 21.2% respectively. The employment population ratio for those age 16 to 64 not disabled has edged up slightly.

But the participation and employment-population ratios of the disabled have gone down over the past year, and the unemployment rate for this group has continued to go up. One can surmise that, as it continues to be harder for those who are disabled to find work, they are more likely to leave the labor force.

The number of people working part-time for economic reasons (those can't find full-time work) dropped over the past year, but that number has ticked up by close to a 100,000 since February. It's unclear what that number may do long-term. We will just have to wait and watch.

Long-term unemployment

The most problematic statistics, however, are those related to long-term unemployment. The average duration of unemployment continues to climb with 45.5% of the unemployed out of work 27 weeks or longer for another new record.  This indicates that those who were laid off the earliest are having the most difficulty re-entering the work force. The average "official" unemployed person is now unemployed 39 weeks, also a new record. The numbers that reflect the status of the long-term unemployed just continue to go up, indicating that these people will be the last to be hired back to work.   6,161,000 people have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks, and that doesn't include those who are discouraged or "want a job" but haven't looked in the past four weeks.     

Deficits and the Future

We have deficit hawks who are insistent on cutting government jobs, and we have state governments who are struggling with staggering budget deficits. 

The biggest drop in employment in March 2011 was in the local government sector.  Local schools report a decrease of 9,200; other local government reports a decrease of 8,000.  We can expect more people who are laid off from government jobs to start hitting the unemployment rolls in the next few months.  The more government workers who are laid off, the more private sector workers may lose their jobs as the repercussions of this echo through the economy.

My deepest concern continues to be that, as people straggle (not rush) back into the workforce, we as a nation will forget that so many are still unemployed and that so many are working for much less than they were before all of this began. People will be relieved they have money to spend and, while they will still be cutting back to adjust to their new lower wages, they won't think very much about how we got into this mess and what it says about our country in general.

Watch for my analysis of breakdown by sector, the winners and losers of this month's employment roulette, in the next few days.

Trashing Teachers: Are They Paid Too Much?

Trashing public school teachers seems to be a favorite spectator sport these days. 

The salaries and benefits of public school teachers have been examined with a fine tooth comb by countless people, including people who make hundreds of times what the average public school teacher makes as well as those who can barely spell or construct a coherent sentence.  

Some homeschoolers, egged on by the likes of Michele Bachmann, have made it clear that they feel that public school teachers are overpaid.  They all feel that they are doing a much better job teaching their own kids than any public school teacher might, even if that teacher has a Master's degree and decades of experience.

Young teachers have more energy?

Other critics seem to think that the energy of a 22 year old teacher, a recent college graduate, will make up for the experience of an older teacher who has been in the classroom for decades.  So get young kids in the schools, let them teach for a few years, and put them out to pasture when they hit 30.  Is that the idea? 

Here is an example of the kind of criticism that teachers are now dealing with on a daily basis, found in a reply to an article for the Huffington Post.  Dean Baker, the Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, talks about the deficit:  The Deficit Hawks Target Nurses and Firefighters.

Dean talks about the upward redistribution of wealth in this country and the "deficit hawks" who are out to fix the deficit... on the backs of the middle class.

He writes in part:
But deficit hawks don't get paid to go after rich people or the health care industry. Deficit hawks get paid to go after the benefits of middle-income people. This is why we were treated to a Washington Post column by finance industry executive Robert Pozen telling liberals that they should support his plan for raising the retirement age and cutting Social Security benefits for higher-income earners.
When Pozen talks about cutting benefits for higher-income earners he is not thinking of people like Peter Peterson or Robert Rubin. He has his gun sights on people earning $40,000 to $80,000 a year. In other words, Pozen wants to cut benefits for workers like schoolteachers, firefighters and nurses.
 These are workers that definitely enjoy somewhat higher pay and a higher standard of living than most of the workforce, but only in Washington deficit hawks' circles are these people living lavish lifestyles that need to be cut back. These workers are quite explicitly the target of the Washington deficit hawk gang.
 The deficit hawk crew will even shed some crocodile tears for the poor who earn near the minimum wage and live near the poverty level. They would raise their benefits if not for those greedy plumbers and mechanics who insist on getting the Social Security benefits that they paid for.
In the next few weeks we will be treated to an endless parade of budget experts who will be yapping about "entitlements" and insisting that middle-income workers are living too lavishly. "
Definitely a great article and well worth the read.
Teachers Unions have reduced the quality of teachers?
Here comes a commenter, member "Lightfoot Letters", who adds another voice to the complaints about teachers and their unions:
"As for the teachers unions....­...
In the early 1900's, most educationa­l leaders, as well as the rank and file of teachers argued that the unionizati­on of teachers was prompted by selfish devotion to self interest. The affiliatio­n with the A.F. and L. was the prostituti­on of the well-being of all children. The main assertion was NO WORTHY TEACHER would ever feel justified in going ON STRIKE.
What they feared has become the reality. I believe that history shows, the teachers prior to the 1970's were better educated, dedicated and produced a far superior citizen thru the public education system than since the 1970's. Example: The teachers unions, say nothing do nothing, regarding the very poor history books and class discipline­, both serious educationa­l issues throughout the US...but spend millions on for pure political purpose and cause."
Well, Mr. or Ms. Lightfoot Letters, you're kidding, aren't you? 

A realistic view of the profession "way back when".

Teachers back in the early days of the 20th century were often very dedicated, but many were often cruel and many resorted to physical punishment to keep large classes of students in line. (Both my father and mother mentioned teachers they had or they knew of who were quick to use the switch and whom they considered "cruel" decades later.)  Also, teachers didn't have to compete with t.v's, text messaging, video games, and Facebook for the attention of their students. Parents could usually be counted on to punish the child if the kid acted up in class, for better or worse, and this punishment might have been physical.

Few kids finished high school back then, so education was restricted to what the kids needed to manage in a factory or on the farm: Basic reading, writing, and arithmetic­.

Teachers, like nuns, were supposed to be wedded to their kids. Teachers were paid next to nothing, usually didn't need a college degree, just a two year degree, and often could not marry. In fact, in some places a teacher could be fired just for having a beau. Almost all teachers had to leave teaching when they were pregnant. It wasn't until the 60's that teachers could seriously think about returning to school when they had young children at home, and often those were only the teachers who were widowed. 

My sense is that most of the old-time dedicated teachers would go running from today's classrooms of unruly, t.v-and- video-game­-addled kids whom they aren't allow to paddle.

To demean today's teachers due to some kind of dream of yesteryear shows a complete ignorance of conditions for today's teachers.

Is a teacher selfish for joining a union?

Is it selfish for a teacher or a nurse or a fireman to want middle class pay for work that requires a high level of training and experience and a great deal of stamina and devotion?  But it is not selfish for a CEO to want millions or a hedge fund manager to make billions?  Oh, that's right.  Those fat cats earned their money; they didn't steal it out of the taxpayers' pockets.

You know, you just can't even reply to some of these right wing 
comments.  It is as if some of them live in a completely different reality.

Who do you call when you have a leaky pipe?

Here's a great Op Ed piece written by an Edward Johnson, an experienced teacher, for the Chicago Sun-Times:

Experience Makes Teachers Better; We're Worth the Cost
"When I have a leaky pipe in my home, I call my plumber. I wouldn’t dream of telling him how to do his job, nor would I be able to do what he does. ... That is why I am both amazed and angered over the fact that everyone these days seems to think they know my job better than I do.
I have been a public school teacher in Illinois for the last 36 years, but now everyone from Bill Gates to Rahm Emanuel, from state and federal politicians to the pundits on cable news stations, seems to think they know how to teach. Having $40 billion or $50 billion does not mean you know how to engage, entertain, inspire, motivate and educate a classroom of 25 10- and 11-year-olds for 6½ hours each day. ...
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wouldn’t last a week in my classroom. ..
 I love what I do, and I have gotten pretty good at it over the years, thanks in part to the fact that I have tenure.
You see, tenure doesn’t just protect those bad teachers we always hear about; it also protects a multitude of good teachers. It protects them against the ire of the local bank president whose son got a D on his report card and whose brother-in-law is on the school board.
It protects them against budget cuts when it would be very easy to get rid of the more expensive and experienced staff members. It gives them time to acquire the knowledge and wisdom they need to become master teachers."
It's really not fair that we are putting teachers in the position of defending themselves and their salaries.  When I first taught 30+ years ago, teachers were lucky if they made $7,000 a year.  I left teaching for a job in private industry that paid me $10,500 as a trainee; yep, 50% more to move to the private sector.    

I've seen teachers' salaries and benefits go up over these decades, and, as private wages have stagnated, teachers' pay now seems reasonable, sometimes overly generous.

But teachers are fortunate to be able to earn a middle class salary, buy a home, send their kids to college, and retire in dignity when everybody around them is being laid off, seeing their wages drop, and worrying about how they will live when they retire.

And because they have been able to maintain a semblance of a "middle class" life, teachers and the unions that have provided that middle class life are now pilloried.  

What are we going to do about this country, everybody?