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  • 'Extraordinary� fall in German jobless

    That was the headline for the Financial Times article . They still use the German national measure of unemployment rather than the OECD standardized rate (again, they get the BBC out, writing for an international audience), but at least they understand the concept of seasonal adjustments. Okay, that's all for today on German unemployment. --Dean Baker
  • SHORTER TOM SCHALLER.

    SHORTER TOM SCHALLER. Tonight my wife and I are having dinner with friends who are in DC for the swearing-in of a good friend of theirs who is a newly elected senator (hint: It's not Bob Corker .) I think I'll offer a simple toast: Here's to the first Democratic majority -- ever -- that is not dependent on support from southern racists. Over the next few years, there will be plenty of occasion to quibble over whether the Dems are selling out, botching the strategy, pushing for too little or perhaps too much. Some of it has already started. But on these two days, let's remember that this is the beginning of something that American politics has never seen before. The last time there was a Democratic majority in both houses, it depended on the likes of Richard Shelby and Billy Tauzin . Earlier majorities featured such folks as Phil Gramm , James Eastland , and Strom Thurmond . Many things have changed in the last twelve years, and we're all going to be groping in the dark a bit to...
  • THE GREAT RISK...

    THE GREAT RISK SHIFT: WAL-MART EDITION. Wal-Mart is moving towards widespread implementation of new employee scheduling software. Sounds innocent enough -- the software tracks customer habits over seven week periods, and reschedules workers for each one. Moreover, it also creates a range of daily possibilities, allowing Wal-Mart to schedule workers to be on-call during surges, or send them home during lulls, or implement a variety of other strategies to create a more flexible, adaptive, workforce. All sounds routine enough, right? But pity the workforce. The new software will make advance scheduling and reliable paychecks a thing of the past. According to The Journal , "experts say [the program] can saddle workers with unpredictable schedules. In some cases, they may be asked to be "on call" to meet customer surges, or sent home because of a lull, resulting in less pay. The new systems also alert managers when a worker is approaching full-time status or overtime, which would require...
  • BBC Flunks Employment Reporting 101

    Okay class, what do we think will happen to employment as the weather turns cold and people lose their jobs in construction, tourism, and other warm weather industries? Yes, that's right -- employment will fall. This is why the good people at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other statistical agencies invented "seasonal adjustments." We know that some number of people will lose their jobs every fall because of seasonal factors. We also know that many people will get jobs in the spring, when the weather turns warm again. In order to avoid having data that make it appear that the economy is entering a recession every fall and booming every spring, economists try to pull out the normal seasonal fluctuations in the data. Someone forgot to explain this fact to the BBC, which headlined an article on Germany's December employment data, "German Jobless Total Rises Again." Those who take the time to read through the article would discover that the December increase in joblesssness is less...
  • FUNNY HOW THAT...

    FUNNY HOW THAT HAPPENS. This morning's Wall Street Journal boasts an op-ed by George W. Bush calling for comity and compromise with the new Congress. Lucky for them, he's got a common sense, broadly agreeable agenda in the offing: Escalation in Iraq, continuing his tax cuts, privatizing Social Security and Medicare, passing a line-item veto, and ending earmarks. Truly, the man's talent for consensus is boundless. As is his knowledge of high school civics. "Our Founders believed in the wisdom of the American people to choose their leaders and provided for the concept of divided and effective government," he "writes." "The majority party in Congress gets to pass the bills it wants. The minority party, especially where the margins are close, has a strong say in the form bills take. And the Constitution leaves it to the president to use his judgment whether they should be signed into law." It's good to see Bush so suddenly concerned with the rights of the minority party. After sitting up...
  • NUCLEAR WINTER.

    NUCLEAR WINTER. Eric at Defense Tech has a neat post about nuclear winter. A large nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia would almost certainly have significant and long-lasting global cooling effects, while a regional conflict could result in a drop of 1-4 degrees Fahrenheit over time. Unfortunately, the cooling effects only work if the nukes are used on cities, as cities are the only targets that will burn long enough to release enough smoke particles into the air to precipitate the cooling. The policy of destroying cities carries a set of negative externalities that make nuclear war an impractical solution to the problem of global warming... --Robert Farley
  • 110th CONGRESS POP-QUIZ.

    110th CONGRESS POP-QUIZ. Which of the following describes Keith Ellison ? (a) He�s a brand spanking new congressman from Minnesota (b) He�s a Muslim (c) He is an ass-kicking political tactician worthy or our eternal reverence for doing this . (d) All of the above. --Tom Schaller
  • ELECTABILITY MYTH:

    ELECTABILITY MYTH: Jonathan Cohn has a great online piece in TNR today, arguing that Democrats should stop chasing the ghost of electability. He analyzes their mistake in 2004, where they found reasons to disqualify every contender but Kerry , even though none found him inspiring. But Cohn leaves out a strong point that supports his argument. Polls among Iowa and New Hampshire primary and caucus voters showed a majority of those who voted for the candidate they actually liked voted for Edwards , while a majority of voters who voted for who they thought would win in the general election voted for Kerry. Meanwhile, Independents and Republicans heavily supported Edwards. Clearly the Dems were making a mistake at the time. Why did they think that their guess as to what swing voters would prefer was more trustworthy than what those voters actually did prefer? Indeed, Cohn alludes to, but doesn't state outright, the most important but least discussed factor in electability: charisma. Ronald...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: KEEP IT CLEAN.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: KEEP IT CLEAN. The president has said he's willing to "work together" with the new Congress to pass a minimum wage hike; he just wants a bunch of new business tax cuts larded onto it. EPI's Larry Mishel and Jared Bernstein explain why, substantively, that's a dumb idea. --The Editors
  • LORDY, LORDY, HE DID NOT SPECIFY.

    LORDY, LORDY, HE DID NOT SPECIFY. As if you didn�t have enough reasons to hope or pray there is not a major attack on the United States this year, Pat Robertson offers another: He says God told him there will be one, late in 2007. Unfortunately, though able to specify the time of year, God did not reveal to the good Reverend the nature of the attack. �I�m not necessarily saying it�s going to be nuclear,� Robertson told his �700 Club� audience last night. So, not necessarily, but it just might be nukes. Robertson�s prediction comes the same week we learned that a quarter of Americans believe Christ will return to the earth at some point in 2007. Suddenly, just three days into 2007, I find myself already longing for 2008 so Robertson and the millenialists can be proved wrong � again. --Tom Schaller

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