It is that time of month again; this morning the Labor Department will release the payroll report for September. There is no reason to expect any real drama or change.
Whew. No government shutdown. The Senate passed a funding bill yesterday morning, the House imposed “martial law” and sent it to the president’s desk later in the day. Now comes the hard part.
Years ago, as a professor at the Syracuse University I decided to teach a course entitled “Economics in the Media” in the Newhouse School of Communications. The idea was spawned by the realization that I might do more social good by producing a single economically literate journalist than 20 economics majors a year. I promise you that this author did not take my class.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump unveiled his tax plan yesterday. I will leave for another occasion a full evaluation of the plan, but one plank raises an important issue in tax policy. The plan includes the provision "If you are single and earn less than $25,000, or married and jointly earn less than $50,000, you will not owe any income tax. That removes nearly 75 million households – over 50% – from the income tax rolls. They get a new one page form to send the IRS saying, “I win,” those who would otherwise owe income taxes will save an average of nearly $1,000 each.”
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continues its crusade for organized labor. As reported by the Washington Examiner, "The board is considering designating companies that use temp agencies to be 'joint employers' of the agencies' workers. In effect, a corporation that hires an agency for a short-term project could find itself permanently responsible for the latter's workers if they unionize.”
By the numbers, the Obama recovery has been a disappointment. Inflation-adjusted Gross Domestic Product has grown at an average annual rate of only 2.1 percent (George W. Bush’s recovery averaged 2.4 percent until the Great Recession hit; Ronald Reagan averaged a whopping 4.3 percent).
Pope Francis is visiting Washington DC and drew attention for his remarks on climate change with President Obama, saying "I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation.”
Newspapers reported, in some cases somewhat breathlessly, that Senate Democrats had introduced either a climate or an energy bill that would be an effective political tool, especially timing its introduction just prior to international climate talks in Paris. The centerpiece of the stories is the policy of reducing of greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent each year through 2025 — a cut even larger than the target set by the Obama administration. In addition, the bill would set targets for overall energy usage. The sales brochure makes it appear to be a sleek, aggressive alternative to the Presidents Clean Power Plan and other climate-centric regulations.
Chatter about a government shutdown is rising, despite the public avowals of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that they have no interest in closing the government. Unfortunately, not everyone in DC is on the same page; among Republicans the Planned Parenthood issue has reared its ugly head, Senate Democrats have filibustered every appropriations bill, and the administration has threatened to veto six of the bills even though they are not yet in final form for presidential signature.
One almost daily hears references to the “student loan crisis.” But what is the crisis, and how should it be fixed?