Have you noticed "the powers that be" employ an entirely different standard for measuring the health of America's job market than they use for the stock market?
They're currently telling us that, "The job market is improving." What do they mean? Simply that the economy is generating an increase in the number of jobs available for workers. But when they say, "The stock market is improving," they don't mean that the number of stocks available to investors is on the rise. Instead, they're measuring the price, the value of the stocks. And isn't value what really counts in both cases? Quality over quantity.
Employment rose by 217,000 jobs in the month of May, according to the latest jobs report — and that brought us up to 8.7 million. That is how many new jobs the American economy has generated since the "Great Recession" officially ended in 2009 — and it also happens to be the number of jobs that were lost because of that recession. You can break out the champagne, for the American economy is back, baby — all of the lost jobs have been recovered!
You say you don't feel "recovered"? Well, it's true that the U.S. population has kept growing since the crash, so about 15 million more working-age people have entered the job market, meaning America still has millions more people looking for work than it has jobs. And it's true that long-term unemployment is a growing crisis, especially for middle-aged job seekers who've gone one, two or more years without even getting an interview, much less an offer — so they've dropped out of the market and are not counted as unemployed. Also, there are millions of young people who are squeezed out of this so-called recovery — the effective unemployment rate for 18- to 29-year-olds is above 15 percent, more than double the national rate of 6.3 percent.
But take heart, people, for economists are telling us that full employment may be right around the corner.
Is that because Congress is finally going to pass a national jobs program to get America working again? Or could it be that corporate chieftains are going to bring home some of the trillions of dollars they've stashed in offshore tax havens to invest in new products and other job-creating initiatives here in the USA?
No, no — don't be silly. Economists are upbeat because they've decided to redefine "full" employment by — hocus pocus! — simply declaring that having 6 percent of our people out of work is acceptable as the new normal. And you thought American ingenuity was dead.
Now, let's move on to the value of those jobs that have economists doing a happy dance. As a worker, you don't merely want to know that 217,000 new jobs are on the market; you want to know what they're worth — do they pay living wages, do they come with benefits, are they just part-time and temporary, do they include union rights, what are the working conditions, etc.? In other words, are these jobs ... or scams?
So, it's interesting that the recent news of job market "improvement" doesn't mention that of the 10 occupation categories projecting the greatest growth in the next eight years, only one pays a middle-class wage. Four pay barely above poverty level and five pay beneath it, including fast-food workers, retail sales staff, health aids and janitors. The job expected to have the highest number of openings is "personal care aide" — taking care of aging baby boomers in their houses or in nursing homes. The median salary of an aid is under $20,000. They enjoy no benefits, and about 40 percent of them must rely on food stamps and Medicaid to make ends meet, plus many are in the "shadow economy," vulnerable to being cheated on the already miserly wages.
To measure the job market by quantity — with no regard for quality — is to devalue workers themselves. Creating 217,000 new jobs is not a sign of economic health if each worker needs two or three of those jobs to patch together a barebones living — and millions more are left with no work at all.
(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 09:18
As the Islamic warriors of ISIS rolled down the road from Mosul, John McCain was an echo of French Premier Paul Reynaud, when word reached Paris that Rommel had broken through in the Ardennes: "We are now facing an existential threat to the security of the United States of America," said McCain.
But nothing that happens in Mesopotamia is going to threaten the existence of the United States. As for the terrorist threat from ISIS, for us it is neither greater nor less than it was a week ago.
The existential threat here is to Iraq. Its survival as one nation is now in question, with the possibility it could be torn apart in a civil and sectarian war. But this is preeminently Iraq's problem, not ours.
And if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, his 900,000-man army, and Shia militia cannot defend Baghdad from a few thousand Islamist warriors, America is under no obligation to do it for them.
Maliki told us to go home three years ago. We did. And before we plunge back into that misbegotten war, let us consider what the real threats are — to America.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria consists of fanatics who seek to carve a caliphate out of territory they now control from Aleppo in Syria to 60 miles north of Baghdad. Yet they have halted before Baghdad. And among the reasons is that Iraq's Shia majority is not going to allow Sunni zealots to capture their cities, smash their shrines, and murder their fellow Shia.
They will fight, as the Iraqi army did not.
Secondly, ISIS has as allies in the north and west of Iraq Sunnis who detest Maliki and wish to be rid of him. But these Sunni are not demanding a Taliban regime to abolish smoking and drinking. Nor are they fighting to cut off the heads of their Shia countrymen.
If ISIS goes beyond the liberation of the Sunni triangle to trying to take over all of Iraq, they will lose many Sunni allies and find themselves facing Iraq's Shia majority, backed up by Iranian forces, virtually alone.
But while the Iraqi army and Shia militia may well hold Baghdad, it is hard to see how Maliki can soon reconquer the Sunni provinces. For the Sunnis want no part of him or his regime.
Nor does Maliki seem capable of taking back Kirkuk, which the Kurds seized in the chaos as a step toward independence.
What should America do? Take a hard look at our entire Middle East policy.
Consider. We are now providing weapons to the Free Syrian Army to oust Bashar Assad. "Assad must go!" blared Barack Obama in one of his many ignored ultimata.
But should Assad fall, the result will be the persecution of the Syrian Christians, a massacre of the Alawites, and a possible takeover of the country by the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and ISIS.
Is any of that in America's interests?
Vladimir Putin lately raised a valid question: Why, in Syria, are the Americans on the same side as the people who took down the twin towers? Indeed, why are we?
And who is fighting al-Qaida and ISIS in Syria, battling those McCain calls an "existential threat" to American security? Bashar Assad. Hezbollah. Iran. Russia.
Tehran has reportedly volunteered to work with us in providing military aid to prop up the Maliki regime and keep ISIS out of Baghdad.
If we regard the survival of the Maliki regime to be in our national interests, why would we not green-light the Iranians to do this?
When Hitler turned on his partner Stalin, the United States rushed military aid to save the monster whom FDR and Truman took to calling "Good Old Joe" and "Uncle Joe" at Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam.
Is the Ayatollah somehow worse than Stalin?
Yet, consider, too, how our allies in the Gulf and Middle East have behaved in Syria.
The Turks, clamoring for the overthrow of Assad, looked the other way as jihadists moved into Syria. The Gulf states and Saudis have reportedly sent money and military aid to the extremists.
Are the Turks and Gulf Arabs aiding these jihadists in the belief they will not turn on them, if and when Assad and Maliki fall? Do they think that by feeding this tiger ISIS, it will eat them last?
We may be entering the early stages of a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East. The ISIS claim of having executed 1,700 captured Shia soldiers in Iraq is surely intended to ignite one.
If it happens, this war could spread to Lebanon, Jordan and down into the Gulf states where Shia outnumber Sunnis in Bahrain and in the oil-producing provinces of the Saudi northeast.
Does the Middle East today — Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon — look like what we were promised by George Bush and his neocon advisers when they were beating the drums for a U.S. invasion of Iraq?
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
Right-wing primary voters booted Eric Cantor over signs he might back "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, it is said. If so, the partisans are once again taking a position totally opposed to what they claim to want. Legalizing the status of most undocumented foreigners is the condition for closing the door on future illegal immigration. There is no other politically passable road to get there.
One may err in assuming that the hard right actually desires to solve the problem, punishing others being the more satisfying activity. The targets would include both Republicans not dancing to the right's dissonant tune and brown people in general.
Thing is, illegal immigrants are in this country because they can hold jobs here. And they can hold the jobs because American immigration laws were made to not work.
Thus, the tea party brethren are correct in arguing that past immigration bills offered amnesty for millions without stopping the illegal flow. Also, another amnesty without enforcement would only encourage millions more to enter the United States without proper documents.
Unfortunately, the right wing hasn't noticed — or doesn't want to concede — that the bipartisan immigration reform approved by the Senate is different. It fixes the enforcement part.
The plan would require biometric identification (for example, a fingerprint or the iris of an eye) of all job applicants. That means a stolen or fake Social Security card would no longer pass as acceptable ID. Furthermore, all businesses would have to use E-Verify, an Internet-based system, to confirm the prospective hire's right to work in the United States.
Many on the right insist that President Obama cannot be trusted to enforce an improved immigration law. That is odd because Obama is the first president to take the current flawed law seriously — so seriously that a leading immigration advocate has condemned him as "deporter in chief."
Also note what happened when Obama — frustrated over inaction on reform and pressed by immigrant activists — did consider easing up on the deportations. Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat pushing the changes, warned him not to. The reforms would not pass if the public thought enforcement might be subject to presidential whim.
One suspects that many right-wingers would rather see their teeth fall out and cars repossessed than make common cause with Obama — even on an issue with which they have common cause. Again, populist movements fueled by emotion often bypass achieving goals in favor of nurturing resentments. It's less work that way.
Speaking of politics, it is beyond weird that Idaho Republican Raul Labrador has put himself forward as the right's champion to replace Cantor as House majority leader. Labrador opposes amnesty; it is true. But he also backs an enormous new visa program that would admit up to 200,000 foreign workers to fill low-skilled jobs in motels, restaurants and the like.
He is something of a cheap-labor twofer: Create more competition for our lowest-paid service workers while keeping undocumented workers vulnerable and thus unable to demand higher wages.
A word about the concern over "rewarding lawbreakers." The right should drop it. The vast majority of illegal immigrants are good, hardworking people. And the laws they broke were laws that our business and political leaders held in contempt.
The proposed reforms would make clear to employers, future illegal entrants and politicians that our immigration laws are not to be winked at. It would be strange if Republicans willing to go forth were threatened by a political faction that claims to hate the status quo while doing everything in its power to perpetuate it. Strange, but not the first time.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
There were ten Winnipesaukee waterfront transactions in May of 2014 at an average sales price of $797,100 and a median price point of $672,500. In May of 2013 there were 14 transactions at an average sales price of $907,196 and a median price point of $826,000. Four sales came in over the million dollar mark last May, this past month there were two. For those that keep score, there have been 37 sales so far this year on the big lake compared to 35 for the same period last year.
The largest sale was at 15 Olive Street in Alton. This Adirondack home was built in 1997 but was gutted in 2005 and updated. It has 6,422 square feet of luxurious living space with four bedrooms including the first floor master suite and six baths. Of course you'll find a great room, gourmet kitchen, media room, library, five fireplaces, two decks, two screened porches, and the requisite family room in the basement. Gotta have that! The home sits on a 1 acre level lot with 440 feet of frontage and a U-shaped covered dock complete with a boat lift. Oh yeah, there are long range views of Winnipesaukee and the Ossipee Mountains beyond. This property was first listed in February of 2012 for $2.95 million, was reduced eventually to $1.895 mil, and sold for $1.745 mil. That's only $1.2 million off the original list. Ouch! It is currently assessed for $2,128,600, so I guess the new owner must be pretty happy.
The mid-priced sale was at 125 Pinnacle park Road in Meredith. This house is a nice 1,524 square foot cape with wood shingle siding built in 2006. It has two bedrooms, two and a half baths, a beautiful open concept living area, a walk out basement, and deck overlooking 97' of water frontage and a dock. The house sits on a challenging half acre lot. By challenging, I mean steep. So steep that from the street you look straight down on the roof. Scary actually, but maybe the buyer is a mountain climber or skydiver. This home was listed at $709,900 in June of 2013, was reduced to $689,000, and sold for $650,000 after 282 days on the market. It is assessed for $634,000. Good deal? Only if you have good brakes on the Family Truckster.
The least expensive sale was, not surprising, an island property at 372 Rattlesnake Island. This circa 1965, 1,032 square foot, five room, two bedroom, one bath camp is well maintained and sits on a .83 acre level lot. It has 105 feet of frontage with a sandy bottom and two docks. Now, someone really wanted this sandy bottom because it was on the market for only two days. It was listed at $329,900, sold for $301,000, and is assessed for $311,700 by the good folks down in Alton. I bet the new owners are out there this weekend killing rattlesnakes and having a grand time.
There was just one sale on Winnisquam and that was at 25 Bay Shore Drive in Sanbornton. This 1930s vintage, 2,975 square foot, cape style waterfront home has four bedrooms, two and a half baths, a spacious living room, kitchen with breakfast nook, four season sunroom, and a two car garage. The home sits on a .18 acre beautifully landscaped lot with 100' of frontage. This property is conveniently located not far from the Winnisquam Bridge. This home was listed at $578,500 and quickly went under agreement for $544,900 in just eleven days. It is assessed at $482,800. Nice.
Once again, there were no sales on Squam, but they are all about quality, not quantity, up there.
Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 6/11/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 06:30
One of the hardest things to understand about the whole Bowe Bergdahl exchange is how the White House could be so hopelessly tone deaf as to not understand what was going to happen next.
They knew that the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's capture raised serious questions as to whether he had deserted his post.
They knew that other soldiers had risked, and reportedly lost, their lives searching for Bergdahl.
They knew that Congress not only had expressed concerns in the past about such an exchange, but also established a 30-day consultation period before prisoners could be released from Gitmo.
Yet they did not consult with anyone in Congress.
And — worst of all in terms of optics — they actually staged a celebratory press conference on the White House lawn, effectively pumping up the media balloon with so much air that it was bound to explode with equal force. As it has.
Why? "How could they be so stupid," friends ask me.
It's a hard question because the short answer is absolutely clear: You may agree or disagree with Barack Obama, approve or disapprove of his performance, but when it comes to politics, the one thing you have to admit is that the president and his team are not stupid. They beat today's 600-pound gorilla, Hillary Clinton, in the primaries. Only two Democrats since FDR have won two terms in office, and Obama is one of them. Even if they were once newcomers to Washington, that is hardly the case anymore. At six years in, Obama and his team understand this game.
So how did they end up playing it so poorly? Even the Democrats in Congress are confused and angry.
Didn't anyone say in any of the meetings leading up to the announcement, "We'd better get in touch with key members of Congress"? Sure, we all know that Congress leaks like a sieve. I'm not suggesting that they should have done an "all points bulletin" to every member of Congress. But you at least consult with the leadership. You lock in some allies before you begin. You convince them to take the lead with their colleagues. You don't blindside Dianne Feinstein.
And the press conference on the White House lawn, with the parents, who just "happened" to be in Washington? One of the worst ideas in the world. Here you have a soldier who may or may not be facing a court-martial, from a unit whose members have been told (and with good reason) not to speak publicly about the incident lest they further endanger Bergdahl's life, but who certainly will tell their stories upon his release, stories not only of his disappearance (or desertion), but of lives lost trying to find him, and you stage a press conference on the White House lawn, as if Osama bin Laden had just been found and killed. A day of celebration? That's what they were calling it. But what was there to celebrate? I'm not saying Bergdahl deserved to die at enemy hands. Hardly. I'm not convicting him in advance of any trial. Exchanging him as we did might have been our only option. But it was hardly a cause for celebration.
This is not the stuff of political genius. Everything that has happened since that Saturday press conference has been totally predictable, except apparently to the White House.
I wasn't there, of course, so I can only speculate. But from my experience in politics, one of the hardest things to do is to speak truth to power. Telling a powerful leader something they don't want to hear is more difficult than you can imagine. Eisenhower's chief of staff used to tell the story of setting up meetings with the president's critics and encouraging them to voice their criticism, only to have them enter the Oval Office and tell the president what a great job he was doing.
What a president needs from his team is not blind loyalty, but honesty and courage. He needs people who don't need their jobs, who don't need the patina of the White House, who could walk any day. Otherwise, it's just too hard to say no. If this president doesn't have people like that around him, he should find them.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 June 2014 09:28