Thursday, July 3, 2014

Last Call For June's Jobapalooza

The good Labor Department jobs news, which it turns out is really, really good:

The economy accelerated in June, with employers adding 288,000 jobs, well above the rate of hiring recorded in the first five months of 2014 and another sign that growth is finally rebounding. 
The Labor Department also said on Thursday that the unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage point, to 6.1 percent, the lowest since September 2008, when the economy’s fortunes turned sharply lower as Lehman Brothers collapsed and the financial crisis ensued. 
Nearly six years later, some of the scars remain — like a historically low rate of Americans in the work force. But the job market has been showing signs of health, even as the overall economic growth rate has been anemic. 
Unemployment has come down from 7.9 percent at the start of 2013, and the average monthly gain in payrolls has been above 200,000 for the last five months.

2.5 million new jobs in he last 12 months, 9.7 million in the last 54 months of private sector growth, a new record for consecutive months of private sector job growth.  This is the good news.

And this bad, long-term labor picture news, which is pretty awful:

But there’s a gnawing fear among economists that the improving data provides false comfort. More than 26 million people are in part-time jobs, significantly more than before the recession, making it one of the corners of the labor market that has been slowest to heal. That has led to worries that the workforce may be becoming permanently polarized, with part-timers stuck on one side and full-time workers on the other. 
“What we’re seeing is a growing trend of low-quality part-time jobs,” said Carrie Gleason, director of the Fair Work Week Initiative, which is pushing for labor reforms. “It’s creating this massive unproductive workforce that is unable to productively engage in their lives or in the economy.” 
Washington has begun to take notice. As the unemployment rate has dropped, the debate among policymakers has expanded from providing aid to those without a job to include improving conditions for those who do. President Obama has raised the minimum wage for federal contract workers, many of whom are part-time. The White House is also building support for a measure that would require companies to provide paid sick leave. Nationwide protests at retailers and fast-food chains that heavily rely on part-time labor have called for more reliable schedules.

The government defines part-time workers as those whose jobs average less than 35 hours a week. Historically, they made up about 17 percent of the workforce — and, in most cases, they were part-time by choice. They may be caring for family members, enrolled in school or simply uninterested or unable to work more hours. Technically, they are not counted among the unemployed. 
But the spike in part-time work since the recession has been largely involuntary. They may have had their hours cut or are unable to find full-time jobs, earning them the official designation of “part-time for economic reasons.” Last year, nearly 8 million people fell into this category, compared to just 4.4 million in 2007.

We're getting jobs back.  We're not replacing them with good jobs.  Corporations are still raking in record profits at the expense of their employees, and wages are still stagnant.  We need to get that fixed, and for that, we need to get the House back from the Republicans in November.

Not So Civil, Definitely Not Right

This week is the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.  Politico's Todd Purdum argues that the legislation would be blocked by Republicans today, causing no small amount of chest puffing among "principled" conservatives, but Doug Mataconis agrees with him:

There are really two issues at play in Purdum’s analysis, but they both tend to support his argument that it would be difficult if not impossible for any President to push through legislation like this Civil Rights Act today.

At the top of the list, of course, is the fact that the kind of bipartisanship that existed in 1964 when the Act was passed simply doesn’t exist in Congress today. Back then 80% of the Republicans in the House and 82% of Republicans in the Senate joined with their Democratic counterparts to pass the bill. Additionally, the bill likely would not have made it through Congress at all without the help of Republicans in the House like Kuchel and McCulloch and Senate Republicans such as Everett Dirksen, who worked across the aisle to reach a compromise that broke the 54 day filibuster against the bill that had been launched by Southern Democrats. Does anyone realistically see something like that happening in today’s day and age? Perhaps if it were the case that the issue involved were something of immediate importance brought on by crisis this would happen, and indeed it did happen in the wake of the September 11th attacks in the case of both the Authorization For Use Of Military Force Against Terrorists and the PATRIOT Act. For almost any other type of legislation, it seems unlikely that the kind of cross-party and cross-chamber cooperation that Congress demonstrated half a century ago would be possible today.

In addition to the decline in bipartisanship, but certainly one of the reasons for it, is the way in which the Republican Party has changed over the past 50 years. The “moderate” Republicans like Dirksen who were behind the Civil Rights Act from the start barely exist anymore. While those moderates predominantly came from the Northeast and Midwest, today’s Republicans are largely a product of the South and the West. That geographic shift has also been accompanied by an ideological shift in the party that has made it far more conservative that it used to be. Indeed, it is beyond question that the Southern Democrats who were the primary opponents would, in most cases, likely be Republicans today. That’s not to say that every Republican would oppose something like the Civil Rights Act, but some would and, as we have seen when it comes to issues ranging from immigration to voting rights to such mundane issues as the budget, that small minority in the GOP is able to wield a lot of power over party leaders who obviously know better when it comes to issues like this. Senator Dirksen and Congressmen Kuchel and McCulloch never had to face that kind of opposition within their own party. If they had, things might have unfolded very differently.

Certainly the Rand Paul wing of the GOP would find it to be an intolerable assault on the rights of business owners to discriminate.  Today's GOP has no ability to govern, they simply lurch from one reactionary pogrom against whatever group they hate today (Latinos, African-Americans, LGBTQ Americans, non evangelical Christians, Muslims, poor people, etc) to another, screaming outrage all the while.

Of course they would lack the courage to pass the Civil Rights Act.  You have only to look towards their absolute refusal to vote on immigration reform of fixing the Voting Rights Act to see that...and the way they treat President Obama, the "Kenyan Usurper".

There are no moderate Republicans in America, only Tea Party nutjobs and the cowards who enable them.

Bigger Isn't Anywhere Near Better

A new Consumer Reports reader survey of fast food chains finds that the kings are so far from the top of the hill when it comes to taste, and have so much competition, that they're now at the bottom of the hill.

We asked subscribers this direct question: On a scale of  1 to 10, from least delicious to most delicious you’ve ever eaten, how would you rate the taste? We heard about 53,745 burger chains’ burgers, chicken chains’ fried or roasted chicken, Mexican chains’ burritos, and sandwich chains’ sub—or heroes, hoagies, grinders, or wedges, depending on where you call home.
The tables reveal that some signature dishes came close to our readers’ benchmarks for excellence. But many of the biggest names earned significantly lower scores for the foods that made them famous, notably McDonald’s. The chain, which serves flash-frozen patties made with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef, touts them as free from  “preservatives, fillers, extenders, and so-called pink slime.” Such a pledge might be comforting, but it’s hardly a rousing endorsement. McDonald’s own customers ranked its burgers significantly worse than those of 20 competitors, including Hardee’s, White Castle, and Carl’s Jr. No other house specialty scored as low. 
Taco Bell’s burritos were also voted least luscious. And the subs from Subway, the world’s largest restaurant chain with more than 40,000 units in 106 countries, are near the bottom of the list.

I can't say I'm surprised.  KFC also came in dead last for chicken, too  The only things that the big fast food chains have going for them anymore is price, and even then there's so much competition for the nearly $700 billion yearly restaurant business, that's simply no guarantee of success anymore.

It's still a pretty big component of success however.  There's a reason the big guys remain the largest chains, especially Subway and McDonald's.  That $5 footlong and the cheeseburger for a buck still makes a lot of profit...especially with the terrible wages these places pay.

Likewise, when you can't afford a $7 Chipotle burrito, you buy a bunch of 99 cent tacos at Taco Bell and call it a day.  It's good to see that fast casual dining chains are doing better, but not everyone can afford to eat there.


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