Why the Stock Market is so Good when the Economy is so Bad

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 31st, 2014

Economics 101

No One is going to get Rich by Buying and Selling only one Share of Stock

It takes money to make money.  I’m sure we all heard that before.  If you want to ‘flip’ a house you need money for a down payment to get a mortgage first.  If you want to start a business you need to save up some money first.  Or borrow it from a family member.  And if you want to get rich by playing the stock market you need money.  A lot of money.  Because you only make money by selling stocks.  And before you can sell them you have to buy them.

Stock prices may go up and down a lot.  But over a period of time the average stock price may only increase a little bit.  So if you bought one share of stock at, say, $35 and sold it later at, say, $37.50 that’s a gain of 7.14%.  Which is pretty impressive.  Just try to earn that with a savings account at a bank.  Of course, you only made a whopping $2.50.  So no one is going to get rich by buying and selling only one share of stock.

However, if you bought 10,000 shares of a stock at $35/share and then sold it later at $37.50 that’s a whole other story.  Your initial stock purchase will cost you $350,000.  And that stock will sell for $375,000 at $37.50/share.  Giving you a gain of $25,000.  Let’s say you make 6 buys and sells in a year like this with the same money.  You buy some stock, hold it a month or so and then sell it.  Then you use that money to buy some more stock, hold it for a month or so and then sell it.  Assuming you replicate the same 7.14% stock gain through all of these transactions the total gain will come to $150,000.  And if you used no more than your original investment of $350,000 during that year that $350,000 will have given you a return on investment of 42.9%.  This is why the rich get richer.  Because they have the money to make money.  Of course, if stock prices move the other way investors can have losses as big as these gains.

Rich Investors benefit most from the Fed’s Quantitative Easing that gives us Near-Zero Interest Rates

Rich investors can make an even higher return on investment by borrowing from a brokerage house.  He or she can open a margin account.  Deposit something of value in it (money, stocks, option, etc.) and use that value as collateral.  This isn’t exactly how it works but it will serve as an illustration.  In our example an investor could open a margin account with a value of $175,000.  So instead of spending $350,000 the investor can borrow $175,000 from the broker and add it to his or her $175,000.  Bringing the total stock investment to $350,000.  Earning that $25,000 by risking half of the previous amount.  Bringing the return on investment to 116.7%.  But these big returns come with even bigger risks.  For if your stock loses value it can make your losses as big as those gains.

Some investors borrow money entirely to make money.  Such as carry trades.  Where an investor will borrow a currency from a low-interest rate country to invest in the currency of a higher-interest rate country.  For example, they could borrow a foreign currency at a near zero interest rate (like the Japanese yen).  Convert that money into U.S. dollars.  And then use that money to buy an American treasury bond paying, say, 2%.  So they basically borrow money for free to invest.  Making a return on investment without using any of his or her money.  However, these carry trades can be very risky.  For if the yen gains value against the U.S. dollar the investor will have to pay back more yen than they borrowed.  Wiping out any gain they made.  Perhaps even turning that gain into a loss.  And a small swing in the exchange rate can create a huge loss.

So there is big money to make in the stock market.  Making money with money.  And investors can make even more money when they borrow money.  Making money with other people’s money.  Something rich investors like doing.  Something rich investors can do because they are rich.  For having money means you don’t have to use your money to make money.  Because having money gives you collateral.  The ability to use other people’s money.  At very attractive interest rates.  In fact, it’s these rich investors that benefit most from the Fed’s quantitative easing that is giving us near-zero interest rates.

People on Wall Street are having the Time of their Lives during the Obama Administration

We are in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  Yet the stock market is doing very well.  Investors are making a lot of money.  At a time when businesses are not hiring.  The labor force participation rate has fallen to levels not seen since the Seventies.  People can’t find full-time jobs.  Some are working a part-time job because that’s all they can find.  Some are working 2 part-time jobs.  Or more.  Others have just given up trying to find a full-time job.  People the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) no longer counts when calculating the unemployment rate.

This is the only reason why the unemployment rate has fallen.  If you add the number of people who have left the labor force since President Obama took office to the number the BLS reports as unemployed it would bring the unemployment rate up to 13.7% ((10,459,000 + 10,854,000)/155,724,000) at the end of February.  So the economy is still horrible.  No secret to those struggling in it.  And the median family who has seen their income fall.  So why is the stock market doing so well when businesses are not?  When profitable businesses operations typically drive the stock market?  For when businesses do well they grow and hire more people.  But businesses aren’t growing and hiring more people.  So if it’s not profitable businesses operations raising stock prices what is?  Just how are the rich getting richer when the economy as a whole is stuck in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression?

Because of near zero interest rates.  The Fed has lowered interest rates to near zero to purportedly stimulate the economy.  Which it hasn’t.  When they could lower interest rates no more they started their quantitative easing.  Printing money to buy bonds on the open market.  Flooding the economy with cheap money.  But people aren’t borrowing it.  Because the employment picture is so poor that they just aren’t spending money.  Either because they don’t have a job.  Only have a part time job.  Or are terrified they may lose their job.  And if they do lose their job the last thing they want when unemployed is a lot of debt they can’t service.  And then there’s Obamacare.  Forcing people to buy costly insurance.  Leaving them less to spend on other things.  And increasing the cost of doing business.  Another reason not to hire people.

So the economy is going nowhere.  And because of the bad economy businesses have no intentions of spending or expanding.  So they don’t need any of that cheap money.  So where is it going?  Wall Street.  The only people who are borrowing and spending money.  They’re taking that super cheap money and they’re using it to buy and sell stocks.  They’re buying and selling like never before.  Making huge profits.  Thanks to other people’s money.  This is what is raising stock prices.  Not profitable businesses operations.  But investors bidding up stock prices with borrowed money.  The people on Wall Street are having the time of their lives during the Obama administration.  Because the Obama administration’s policies favor the rich on Wall Street.  Whose only worry these days is if the Fed stops printing money.  Which will raise interest rates.  And end the drunken orgy on Wall Street.  Which is why whenever it appears the Fed will taper (i.e., print less money each month) their quantitative easing because the economy is ‘showing signs of improvement’ investors panic and start selling.  In a rush to lock in their earnings before the stock prices they inflated come crashing down to reality.  For without that ‘free’ money from the Fed the orgy of buying will come to an end.  And no one wants to be the one holding on to those inflated stocks when the bubble bursts.  When there will be no more buyers.  At least, when there will be no more buyers willing to buy at those inflated stock prices.  Which is why investors today hate good economic news.  For there is nothing worse for an investor in the Obama economy than a good economy.



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Cash Flow

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 24th, 2014

Economics 101

New Complex and Confusing Regulatory Policies require Additional Accounting and Legal Fees to Comply

There have been demonstrations  to raise the minimum wage.  President Obama even called for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.  He also wants employers to pay salaried people overtime.  There have been demands for paid family leave (paying people for not working).  Unions want to organize businesses.  To get employers to pay union wages.  Provide union health care packages.  And union pensions.  Obamacare has made costly health insurance mandatory for all employees working 30 hours or more a week.

Environmental regulations have increased energy costs for businesses.  Sexual harassment training, safety training, on-the-job training (even people leaving college have to be trained before they are useful to many employers), etc., raise costs for businesses.  New financial reporting requirements require additional accounting fees to sort through.  New complex and confusing regulatory policies require additional legal fees to sort through them and comply.

With each payroll an employer has to pay state unemployment tax.  Federal unemployment tax.  Social Security tax (half of it withheld from each employee’s paycheck and half out of their pocket).  Medicare tax.  And workers’ compensation insurance.  Then there’s health insurance.  Vehicle insurance.  Sales tax.  Use tax.  Real property tax.  Personal property tax.  Licenses.  Fees.  Dues.  Office supplies.  Utilities.  Postage.  High speed Internet.  Tech support to thwart Internet attacks.  Coffee.  Snow removal.  Landscaping.  Etc.  And, of course, the labor, material, equipment and direct expenses used to produce sales.

The Problem with Guaranteed Work Hours is that there is no such thing as Guaranteed Sales

The worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression has created a dearth of full-time jobs.  In large part due to Obamacare.  As some employers struggling in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression can’t afford to offer their full-time employees health insurance.  So they’re not hiring full-time employees.  And are pushing full-time employees to part-time.  Because they can’t afford to add anymore overhead costs.  Which is hurting a lot of people who are having their own problems trying to make ends meet in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  Especially part-time workers.

Now there is a new push by those on the left to make employers give a 21-day notice for work schedules for part time and ‘on call’ workers.  And to guarantee them at least 20 hours a week.  Things that are just impossible to do in many small retail businesses.  As anyone who has ever worked in a small retail business can attest to.  You can schedule people to week 3 weeks in advance but what do you do when they don’t show up for work?  Which happens.  A lot.  Especially when the weather is nice.  Or on a Saturday or Sunday morning.  As some people party so much on Friday and Saturday night that they are just too hung over to go to work.  Normally you call someone else to take their shift.  Then reschedule the rest of the week.  So you don’t give too many hours to the person who filled in.  In part to keep them under 30 hours to avoid the Obamacare penalty.  But also because the other workers will get mad if that person gets more hours than they did.

The problem with guaranteed work hours is that there is no such thing as guaranteed sales.  If you schedule 5 workers 3 weeks in advance and a blizzard paralyzes the city you may not have 5 workers worth of sales.  Because people are staying home.  And if no one is coming through your doors you’re not going to want to pay 5 people to stand around and do nothing.  For with no sales where is the money going to come from to pay these workers?  Either out of the business owner’s personal bank account.  Or they will have to borrow money.  It is easy to say we should guarantee workers a minimum number of work hours.  But should a business owner have to lose money so they can?  For contrary to popular belief, business owners are not all billionaires with money to burn.  Instead, they are people losing sleep over something called cash flow.

Cash Flow is everything to a Small Business Owner because it takes Cash to pay all of their Bills

To understand cash flow imagine a large bucket full of holes.  You pour water in it and it leaks right out.  That water leaking out is expenses.  The cost of doing business (see all of those costs above).  A business owner has to keep that bucket from running out of water.  And there is only one way to do it.  By pouring new water into the bucket to replace the water leaking out.  That new water is sales revenue.  What customers pay them for their products and/or services.  For a business to remain in business they must keep water in that bucket.  For if it runs out of water they can’t pay all of their expenses.  They’ll become insolvent.  And may have no choice but to file bankruptcy.  At which point they’ll have to get a job working for someone else.

Cash flow is everything to a small business owner.  Because it takes cash to pay all of their bills.  Payroll, insurance, taxes, etc.  None of which they can NOT pay.  For if they do NOT pay these bills their employees will quit.  Their insurers will cancel their policies.  And the taxman will pay them a visit.  Which will be very, very unpleasant.  So small business owners have to make sure that at least the same amount of water is going into the bucket that is draining out of the bucket to pay their bills.  And they have to make sure more water is entering the bucket than is draining out of the bucket to pay themselves.  And to grow their business.

This is why business owners don’t want to hire full-time people now.  Because full-time people require a lot of cash (wages/salary, payroll taxes, insurances, training, etc.).  They’re nervous.  For they don’t know what next will come out of the Obama administration that will require additional cash.  For every time they want to make life better for the workers (a higher minimum wage, overtime for salaried employees, guaranteed hours, etc.) it takes more cash.  Which comes from sales.  And if sales are down future cash flow into the business will also be down.  Leaving less available for all of those holes in the bucket.  So they guard their cash closely.  And are very wary of incurring any new cash obligations.  Lest they run out of cash.  And have to file bankruptcy.  Which is why they lose sleep over cash flow.  Especially now during the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.



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The BLS Employment Situation Summary for January 2014

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 17th, 2014

Economics 101

The Unemployment Rate is 13.6% when you count all Unemployed Workers

The economy is getting better and better.  There are more new jobs.  And the unemployment rate continues to fall.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  But this is little succor for the 10,948,000 who have lost their job since President Obama began trying to make the economy better.  No matter what the BLS says (see the Employment Situation Summary posted 2/7/2014 on the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 113,000 in January, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 6.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.  Employment grew in construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, and mining…

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (6.2 percent), adult women (5.9 percent), teenagers (20.7 percent), whites (5.7 percent), blacks (12.1 percent),and Hispanics (8.4 percent) showed little change in January. The jobless rate for Asians was 4.8 percent (not seasonally adjusted), down by 1.7 percentage points over the year. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.).

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 3.6 million, declined by 232,000 in January. These individuals accounted for 35.8 percent of the unemployed. The number of long-term unemployed has declined by 1.1 million over the year.  (See table A-12.)

Once again there are more new jobs and the unemployment rate fell.  Further proof the Obama administration says that their policies are working.  But the low unemployment rate is misleading.  As there are 91,455,000 people who are no longer in the labor force (see Table A-1. Employment status of the civilian population by sex and age).  An increase of 10,948,000 since President Obama entered office.  The BLS doesn’t count these unemployed people as unemployed in their calculation of the official unemployment rate.  If you did that would raise the unemployment rate to 13.6%.  Which is a lot higher than the official 6.6%.  And better reflects public sentiment on the economy.

Ironically, the people hurt most by the Obama economic policies—teenagers, blacks and Hispanics—are also the biggest supporters of the president.  Which tells us they obviously support him for reasons other than the economy.  And apparently put those reasons above having a job.  At least based their respective unemployment rates.

If we count all Unemployed and Underemployed the Current Economic Recovery would take more than 20 Years

Of the people they actually count as unemployed about a third of them have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more.  So a large percentage of the unemployed are not suffering from frictional unemployment.  That brief period of unemployment between jobs.  No.  These people have lost their jobs.  And can’t find new ones.  While others can find only part-time jobs.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) fell by 514,000 to 7.3 million in January. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time work. (See table A-8.)

In January, 2.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, little changed from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)

If you add the people up who want a full-time job but can’t get one that’s 9,900,000 who can’t find a full-time job.  If we only add 113,000 jobs a month it will take over 87 months to get these people the full-time jobs they want.  Or more than 7 years.  If we count the last 5 years of the Obama presidency it will take the economic recovery out to 12 years.  If we add the people who have left the labor force to the underemployed (the part-time workers looking for a full-time job) that would extend the economic recovery to 244 months.  Or more than 20 years.  Which is longer than the length of the economic recovery following the Great Depression.

The Obama administration still blames George W. Bush for causing the Great Recession.  But one thing they do say over and over is that it was the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.  So they are saying that the Great Depression was worse than the Great Recession.  Yet the current economic recovery is on track to last longer than the economic recovery following the Great Depression.

President Obama’s Economic Recovery is on Course to be the Worst Economic Recovery in U.S. History

The Great Depression and the Great Recession share something in common.  In both the government used Keynesian economics to try and pull the nation out of the economic crisis.  With huge government stimulus spending.  You can see evidence of the FDR spending today.  Such as the Hoover Dam.  But you can see little evidence from President Obama’s stimulus spending.  For there are no Hoover Dams anywhere.  Just a lot of empty buildings that housed failed green energy industries.  With no new jobs to show for it.  Such as those good-paying jobs in the green energy industry that President Obama promised his stimulus spending would produce.  But, alas, it did not.  In fact, that’s just one thing this administration is not good at.  Creating jobs.  Even the jobs they created appear suspect.

Employment in manufacturing increased in January (+21,000). Over the month, job gains occurred in machinery (+7,000), wood products (+5,000), and motor vehicles and parts (+5,000). Manufacturing added an average of 7,000 jobs per month in 2013.

In January, wholesale trade added 14,000 jobs, with most of the increase occurring in nondurable goods (+10,000).

Mining added 7,000 jobs in January, compared with an average monthly gain of 2,000 jobs in 2013…

Employment in other major industries, including transportation and warehousing, information, and financial activities, showed little or no change over the month.

These numbers don’t make sense.  Much like Keynesian economics.  The economy created jobs in manufacturing (machinery, wood products, motor vehicles and parts).  Wholesale trade added jobs.  Mining added jobs.  But this new economic activity required no new financing.  Which is odd.  For it takes money to make money.  Also, there were no new jobs in transportation and warehousing.  Which begs the question.  What did they do with all the stuff they made from all those new manufacturing jobs?  Did it ever leave these factories?  Or is there another explanation?  Did the people who entered the labor force just replace people who left it?  For no net change?  Perhaps.

The manufacturing workweek declined by 0.2 hour to 40.7 hours, and factory overtime edged down by 0.1 hour to 3.4 hours.

Or perhaps this explains how they could add jobs in an industry that required no additional financing, transportation or warehousing.  Hiring new workers while shortening the workweek and cutting back on overtime.  Or a combination of this and people leaving the labor force to net out any economic gain from these new jobs.  Whatever the explanation is one thing is certain.  The economy is not improving.  And President Obama’s economic recovery is on track to be the worst economic recovery in U.S. history.  Despite the glowing jobs reports showing new job creation month after month.  And a continuing falling unemployment.  Things they can only show by not counting the 10 million or so who are no longer employed.



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We are in the Worst Economic Recovery since that following the Great Depression because of Keynesian Economics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 15th, 2014

Week in Review

We are in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  Why?  Because of Democrats.  Who are all Keynesians.  And that’s a big problem as all of our worst economic times were given to us by those who adhere dogmatically to Keynesian economics.  That school of economics that gave us the Great Depression.  The stagflation of the Seventies.  The dot-com bubble.  The bursting of the dot-com bubble.  And the dot-com recession.  As well as the subprime mortgage crisis and the Great Recession.  In all of these events the Keynesians in power followed Keynesian economic policies to avoid recessions.  And then to pull us out of recessions when their avoidance didn’t work.  Then doubling down on the things that didn’t work previously.  In particular artificially low interest rates.  Which have been around zero for the last 5 years.  And massive federal spending to stimulate the economy when the private sector wasn’t spending.  Two pillars of Keynesian economics.  Neither of which have done anything to help improve the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.

This is the problem with all the ‘noted’ economists the government likes to cite.  They embrace poor economic principles.  Proven wrong over and over again.  They can come up with some impressive looking charts and graphs but their analysis is all wrong.  And the fact that we’re in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression proves it better than any chart and graph.  They’re wrong.  And continue to be wrong.  Yet they provide the economic policies for our country.  Some of the greatest nonsense you will ever hear.  Things you wouldn’t do in your business.  Or in your personal life (see Student Loans Are A Drag On The Economy And Society by Josh Freedman posted 2/11/2014 on Forbes).

While loans are intended to expand college access to a broader population, the nature of risk that they entail also produces the opposite result. Low- and middle-income students worried about the consequences of taking out a loan will be more likely to decide that college attendance is not worth the risk…

Studies have found that high debt levels not only deter access at the beginning, but can also drive students away from completing college once they have already started… students who start college but do not graduate are stuck with loan repayments and no college degree. They still have to repay their loans but do not have the economic boost of a college degree to help them have enough income to cover this cost.

First of all, why is it when it comes to a college education no one ever demands that we lower the cost.  Like we do with greedy oil executives who keep the price of gasoline high.  Why is it no one attacks the greedy people in higher education that keep education so costly?

The problem is too many people are going to college for the wrong reason.  There is a reason why there is a list of the best party colleges every year.  Because a lot of these kids want to go to these schools.  Which explains why colleges in Colorado are seeing a spike in out-of-state applications.  Because these kids want to go to a college where they can party with legal marijuana.  And to make that partying easier they’re majoring in easier degree programs that the college assured these kids would provide them a comfortable living after graduation.  So they can get that profitable tuition out of these kids.  Often times paid for by these kids’ student loan borrowings.  So the colleges are misleading a lot of these kids to make a buck.  Leaving them saddled with a lot of student loan debt if they quit.  Or even more student loan debt if they stay in until graduation.  While getting a degree that can’t get them a job.

A second issue with increasing levels of student loan debt is the effect on the economy… Individuals with more student loan debt were less likely than individuals without student loan debt to purchase homes or cars.

Yes, having too much debt is a bad thing.  It reduces your disposable income.  Preventing you from purchasing a house or a car.  Yet these same economic advisors have no problem with raising taxes and devaluing the currency (i.e., printing money) to pay for all of the government’s stimulus spending.  Higher taxes reduce our paychecks.  And devaluing the currency raises real prices.  Reducing what we can buy with our smaller paychecks.  No, a Keynesian has no problem with debt at the federal level that affects everyone.  But student loan debt is just a terrible thing for those kids who dropped out of college or who didn’t get a degree that an employer could use.

In the wake of the financial crash, households have been trying to deleverage, or pay down their debt so they can have a healthier financial outlook, reduce the amount of their income that they use to service their debt, and begin investing and consuming again…

A look at the data suggests that student loans have slowed down households in the process of paying down debt. Since 2008 — the peak level of household debt — households lowered their levels every type of debt except student loan debt. Student loans have continued to grow throughout this process of deleveraging.

Of course the one thing missing from this analysis is the horrible economy President Obama’s Keynesian policies have given us.  Since he became president he has destroyed some 10,948,000 jobs.  Based on the number that were out of the labor force in the January 2014 BLS jobs report (91,455,000) and how many were out of the labor force when he entered office (80,507,000).  This is why people are struggling with debt levels.  There are no jobs.  If there was a robust economy flush with jobs people wouldn’t worry about taking on debt to invest in the future.  As long as they got a useful college degree in a high-tech economy.  And not something useless like women’s studies or poetry.

But aren’t people facing poor job prospects just taking out more loans to avoid working as baristas at coffee shops that drip the coffee super slowly for no apparent reason? This does not appear to be the case from the debt data. Student loan debt has grown at almost exactly the same rate since the crash as it had been the previous five years — i.e. steadily and without fail.

Student loan credit level has been steadily rising because the cost of a college education has been steadily rising.  Again, where is the outrage at our greedy educators getting rich by loading up these kids with student loan debt for a degree they can’t use in a high-tech economy?

…the loan system allows colleges to raise prices, which causes more students to take out loans. States, facing budget pressures, have also pulled back on investment, putting even more risk on students and further increasing the need for loans.

Again, where is the outrage at our greedy educators who keep raising tuition, forcing these kids to take out more and more student loan debt?

The risk and burdens that come from forcing students to take out debt up front and pay it back later is problematic from head to toe (tassel to hem, one might say). To create a better system of higher education, we need to look at alternatives to the current debt-financed model.

So the solution is for the taxpayer to foot the bill for these useless college degrees at these party colleges?  How is that going to solve any problem?  All that will do is allow more people to go to a college in Denver where they can get high for 4 years.  And then go to work as a barista at a coffee shop that requires no 4-year degree.  How does that make anything better?  Other than get more young people to vote Democrat.  Then again, perhaps that is the only objective of Keynesian economics.  Which is why those on the left embrace these failed policies with a religious fervor.  Because it helps them win elections.  Even while they’re destroying the economy.



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Obamacare will require more Tax Revenue just as it Shrinks the Tax Base

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 9th, 2014

Week in Review

President Obama’s economic policies have given us the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  With some of the greatest economic carnage coming from the Affordable Care Act.  Obamacare.  The great hiring dissuader.  Because of the high cost of compliance for employers.  And now people will even be choosing to leave the labor force.  For it will be less costly for them not to work and collect subsidies for their costly Obamacare (see Obamacare will push 2 million workers out of labor market: CBO by Stephen Dinan posted 2/4/2014 on The Washington Times).

Obamacare will push the equivalent of about 2 million workers out of the labor market by 2017 as employees decide either to work fewer hours or drop out of the job market altogether, according to estimates released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office.

The analysis set off a furious debate in Washington. The White House argued that the reduction is positive because it means Americans will forgo jobs or extra work to stay home with their children or strike out on their own as entrepreneurs…

“This is one of the perverse incentives in this terrible law. It actually encourages able-bodied people to not work,” said Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican. “We should be doing all that we can to increase labor force participation. The health care law actually pushes it in the opposite direction.”

Taking the budget as a whole, the CBO said Congress has made substantial headway on cutting spending and raising taxes, which will reduce the deficit to $514 billion this year and $478 billion in 2015.

But it will rise by 2016 and steadily grow to more than $1 trillion in 2022.

If these people choose not to work and become entrepreneurs who will they hire if others like them choose to leave the labor force?

People choosing not to work is a very bad thing for a big-spending government.  Because government taxes workers to pay for all of that spending.  And if people are leaving the workforce leaving fewer workers in the workforce to pay the taxes government needs that can mean only one thing.  Higher taxes on those with jobs.  To help offset the loss in tax revenue as people leave the labor force to spend time with their kids.  Or become entrepreneurs.

Of course anyone becoming an entrepreneur in this economic climate is a glutton for punishment.  For President Obama has created a very anti-business environment.  Higher taxes, more costly regulatory policies and lest we forget, the Affordable Care Act.  To quote Jed Clampett in the Beverly Hillbillies when he asked cousin Pearle if he should move to Beverly Hills after discovering oil on his property.


Jed, how can you even ask? Look around you. You live eight miles from your nearest neighbor. You’re overrun with skunks, possums, coyotes, and bobcats. You use kerosene lamps for light. You cook on a wood stove, summer and winter. You’re drinkin’ homemade moonshine, and washin’ with homemade lye soap. And your bathroom is fifty feet from the house. And you ask should you move!?


Yeah, I reckon you’re right. Man’d be a dang fool to leave all this.

This is how a lot of people feel today about the Obama economy.  “Man’d be a dang fool to” try and be an entrepreneur in this economy.  Especially with the Obamacare Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.  So those 2 million people plus leaving the economy is not a good thing.  It is a very bad thing.  Which will require some large tax increases.  Or massive cuts in government benefits.  Because federal tax revenue will fall if people leave the tax base.  It’s just that simple.



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The Obama Recovery is Good for Wall Street but Bad for Main Street

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 18th, 2014

Week in Review

The December jobs report was pretty bleak.  It showed that the unemployment rate fell to 6.7% and that the economy added 74,000 jobs.  Not great but good enough for some who say that President Obama’s policies are finally working after 5 some years of trying.  Which is ridiculous.  Because that unemployment rate doesn’t tell you how many people lost their jobs.  And how many people disappeared from the civilian labor force as they gave up trying to find work that just isn’t there.  Which hides the number of people who lost their jobs.  Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t count anyone as unemployed if they are no longer looking for work.  But if you dig down into the jobs report you’ll find this data.  And see that for every person that entered the labor force about seven people left it in December (see The BLS Employment Situation Summary for December 2013 posted January 13th, 2014 on PITHOCRATES).  Which is anything but an economic recovery.

All during the Obama presidency the Federal Reserve has been stimulating the economy.  Right out of the Keynesian handbook.  By keeping interest rates near zero to encourage people to borrow money to buy things they don’t need.  But few have.  No.  The only people borrowing that money are rich investors.  Who are borrowing this ‘free’ money to spend in the stock market.  Helping Wall Street to do very well during the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  While Main Street sees their median family income fall.  Still the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, thinks he did a heck of a job (see Bernanke Says QE Effective While Posing No Immediate Bubble Risk by Jeff Kearns and Joshua Zumbrun posted 1/16/2014 on Bloomberg).

Bernanke is seeking to define his legacy before stepping down on Jan. 31. During his eight-year tenure as leader of the Fed he piloted the economy through a financial crisis that led to the longest recession since the 1930s. He has tried to bolster growth by holding the target interest rate near zero and pushing forward with unprecedented bond buying known as QE.

“Those who have been saying for the last five years that we’re just on the brink of hyperinflation, I think I would just point them to this morning’s CPI number and suggest that inflation is not really a significant risk of this policy,” Bernanke said, referring to a Labor Department report showing the consumer price index rose 1.5 percent in the past year. The Fed has set an inflation target of 2 percent…

The Federal Open Market Committee (FDTR) announced plans last month to reduce monthly purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion, citing improvement in the labor market. The jobless rate last month fell to 6.7 percent, a five-year low.

The only reason why we don’t have hyperinflation is that everyone has depreciated their currency so much to boost exports and pay for bloated welfare states that all currencies are losing value.  And of all these bad currencies the American currency is the least bad of the lot.  Which is why some foreign nationals will pay to park their money in American banks.  Because the risk of it losing its value is so much greater in their home country.

But that doesn’t mean inflation hasn’t reared its ugly head in the US economy.  Just go to a grocery store and look at a bag of chips.  Or a box of cookies.  Or any packaged item that didn’t seem to get overly expensive during the Obama recession. A bag of chips may be the same $3-4 it was before the recession.  But notice the size of the bag.  It’s gotten smaller.  So, yes, consumer prices have not shown great inflation.  But packaging has gotten smaller.  So instead of paying more for the same quantity we are paying the same price for a lesser quantity.  Which means we may be buying 4 of something in a month instead of 3 of something.  It adds up.  Which is why there are so many more people on food stamps.  The Bernanke inflation is taking more of our paycheck to buy what it once did.

The economy is horrible.  Fewer people are in the labor force with each jobs report.  Our grocery packaging is shrinking.  And once the Fed stops its bond buying the stock market is going to fall.  A lot.  For every time rich investors think the economic data will show solid economic activity what do they do?  They sell their stocks.  Causing a stock market fall.  Why?  Why would investors leave the stock market when the data say the economy is getting stronger?  Which seems to go against common sense?  Because they know there’s been only one thing helping them get rich during the Obama presidency.  That ‘free’ money.  Once that source of cheap money goes away they will sell before those inflated stock prices fall back to earth.

The Obama recovery.  Good for Wall Street.  Bad for Main Street.



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The BLS Employment Situation Summary for December 2013

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 13th, 2014

Economics 101

The Labor Force Participation Rate has Fallen Steadily since President Obama became President

Ever since the recovery summer of 2010 the Obama administration has told us the recession was over.  And his policies were creating one heck of an economic recovery.  Backed up by all those glowing monthly jobs reports. Like the December 2013 jobs report (see Employment Situation Summary posted 1/10/2014 on the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

The unemployment rate declined from 7.0 percent to 6.7 percent in December, while total nonfarm payroll employment edged up (+74,000), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

The unemployment rate is down.  And new jobs were created.  Again.  Jobs report after jobs report it’s the same thing.  The administration touts the falling unemployment rate and new job creation as confirmation that their economic policies are working.  Even though it’s been 5 years.  And the economy is still in the toilet.  Despite that falling unemployment rate.  For there is a reason why the unemployment rate is falling.  And it has nothing to do with an economic activity.

The civilian labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 62.8 percent in December… The labor force participation rate declined by 0.8 percentage point over the year…

In fact, the labor force participation rate has fallen steadily since President Obama became president.  This is not good.  In fact, it’s very bad.  Because it means that under President Obama’s economic policies more people have left the labor force than entered or remained in it.  Meaning that his economic policies have caused a net loss of jobs throughout his presidency.

The U-6 Unemployment Rate is Closer to the Bitter Sentiment of Job Seekers in the Current Economic Climate

In January of 2009 when President Obama began his presidency there were 80,507,000 people not in the labor force.  At the end of December 2013 that number grew to 91,808,000.  Subtracting one from the other and you get 11,301,000 people that have left the labor force since President Obama entered office.  Because his policies destroyed 11,301,000 jobs.  And because these people couldn’t find new jobs they just gave up looking.  Which is why the unemployment rate keeps falling.

So you can talk of new jobs created.  And a falling unemployment rate.  But those numbers don’t reflect the 11,301,000 jobs President Obama destroyed with his policies.  Which comes to 260,200 jobs lost per year.  Or 188,350 each month.  Which is a lot more than the 74,000 new jobs.  In fact, if you look at the change in the number of people not in the labor force from November to December of 2013 you’ll see that 525,000 people left the labor force.  So the December jobs lost is about 2.8 times the average jobs lost during the Obama presidency.  And giving a ratio of about 7 jobs lost for every new job created in December.  Making December a horrible month for jobs.  Much worse than the 6.7% unemployment rate would have us believe.

The funny thing about the official unemployment rate is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t count people who quit looking for a job.  Or who are working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job.  If we want an alternative measure of labor underutilization (that counts more people who can’t find a full-time job) we should look at the U-6 unemployment rate.  We can find this number in the same BLS jobs report (in Table A-15).  Which was 13.1% for December 2013.  An unemployment rate much closer to the bitter sentiment of job seekers in the current economic climate.

We will have to Wait through many more Bad Jobs Reports before we can Enjoy a Healthy Economy Again

The Employment Situation Summary confirms the horrible economy.  Though misleading with these falling unemployment rates the real economic picture is still in these reports.  All you have to do is look for them.  And understand what they mean.  For example:

In December, job gains occurred in retail trade and wholesale trade…

Employment in retail trade rose by 55,000 in December. Within the industry, job gains occurred in food and beverage stores (+12,000), clothing and accessories stores (+12,000), general merchandise stores (+8,000), and motor vehicle and parts dealers (+7,000)…

In December, wholesale trade added 15,000 jobs. Most of the job growth occurred in electronic markets and agents and brokers (+9,000).

Note that of the 74,000 new jobs 70,000 (94.6%) of them were in retail and wholesale trade.  Which is not surprising when you consider what’s in December.  Christmas.  (While near-zero interest rates sold cars to people who would otherwise not buy them.)  The final sprint of retailers for the year.  And when many of them go firmly into the black.  But while the Christmas surge on employment was underway other sectors did not fare as well.

Within the [professional and business services] industry, temporary help services added 40,000 jobs in December, while employment in accounting and bookkeeping services declined by 25,000.

Businesses add temporary workers when they have a surge in sales they believe won’t last.  And don’t want to have more permanent workers on their payroll when that surge in sales ends.  For it is easier to let temps go than full-time workers.  And less costly.  Accounting and bookkeeping services aren’t the most glamorous of services.  When the economy is growing businesses have more accounting and bookkeeping work.  But when the economy is contracting businesses have less accounting and bookkeeping work.  So a decline here could indicate an economic contraction.

The December 2013 jobs report is bleak.  Just as the oncoming winter looks in December.  Knowing we’ll have to wait through a long and cold winter before we can enjoy the warmth of summer again.  Just as we know we will have to wait through many more bad jobs reports before we can enjoy a healthy economy again.  Thanks to the horrific economic policies of the Obama administration that have failed to work these past 5 years.



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The BLS Employment Situation Summary for November 2013

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 9th, 2013

Economics 101

There was Much Spending in November where People Gathered to Celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday

The Bureau of Labor Statistics November’s Employment Situation Summary is out.  The government is trumpeting the 203,000 jobs created and the fall in the unemployment rate from 7.3% in October to 7.0%.  Proof they say that the economy is turning around.  And that their economic policies are working.  So everything is coming up roses.  If you stop reading the Employment Situation Summary there, that is.  For if you read further the economy is still horrible.

A big part of this improvement was the furloughed federal workers returning to work after the government shutdown.  And the Thanksgiving Holiday.  With retail hiring seasonal employees and stocking their shelves for the kick off of the Christmas shopping season.  This year starting on Thanksgiving Day for many retailers.  So you would expect a gain in employment connected to the Christmas shopping season.  Which there has been.  Retail trade employment added 22,000 jobs.  And leisure and hospitality, employment in food services and drinking places added 18,000 jobs.  And air transportation added 3,000 jobs.  Thanks to the biggest travel day of the year falling in November.

So there was much spending where people gathered with friends and family to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.  And the mad rush to the stores to begin their Christmas shopping.  There was much traveling, shopping and dining in November.  As there always is.  Though some years are better than others.  There was also new hiring in the automobile and construction industries.  Probably more due to the near-zero interest rates thanks to the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing.  Basically printing money to drive down interest rates.  To encourage people to buy big ticket items like cars and houses.  Even though they had no plans to do so.

It is only the Decline in the Number of People in the Labor Force that gives us an Improving Unemployment Rate

So new jobs in these areas don’t reflect on the overall economic climate.  Because once Christmas is over business will lay off those they hired for those seasonal jobs.  And once the Federal Reserve stops ‘printing money’ those interest rates will rise.  Perhaps compounded by runaway inflation from so much printing.  So these aren’t good indicators of the economy.  We can gain a better understanding by looking at the higher stages of production.  Where there are large capital outlays required to hire and expand business.  Industries that look at the long-term.  So if they’re not hiring they’re not optimistic about the long-term economic picture.

A lot of economic activity has to happen before a retail store can sell anything.  Raw material industries have to pull resources out of the environment.  Industrial processors have to transform these raw materials so manufacturers can use them.  And once manufacturers build things wholesalers buy them and resell them to retailers.  That’s a lot of costs these industries have to incur to produce things that may sell 6-9 months later.  Or longer.  And if the economy is looking anemic to them they are not going to incur these costs.  Which is what happened in November with some of these higher stages of production.  Mining, logging and wholesale trade showed little to no change.

The civilian labor force declined by 720,000 in October.  With the government shutdown blamed for a lot of these lost jobs.  So when the government opened for business again in November we should have seen a large increase in the civilian labor force.  But we didn’t.  The civilian labor force only increased by 455,000 in November.  Which means that if you factor out the government shutdown there was still a decline in the number of jobs.  And it is only this decline in the number of people in the labor force that gives us an improving unemployment rate.  For once people give up and quit looking for a job because the economy is so bad the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stops counting them.  Skewing the real unemployment rate.

The Current Economic Recovery is a False One created with the Smoke and Mirrors of Low Interest Rates

This gets to the crux of the Obama economic recovery.  Or, rather, the absence of any recovery.  The government trumpets the creation of 195,000 new jobs per month this year.  But they don’t tell us how many jobs we lost per month this year.  Which we can calculate.  In January of this year there were 89,009,000 people not in the labor force.  In November that number rose to 91,273,000.  A total loss of 2,265,000 jobs this year.  Or a loss of 205,909 each month.  So while they cheerfully report the creation of 195,000 new jobs per month we actually lost 205,909 jobs each month.  If you count those people who left the labor force the BLS doesn’t count when calculating the unemployment rate.  In fact, if you look at the trends this year you can see the trends are going in the wrong direction.

Those in Labor Force vs Unemployment Rate thru November 2013 R1

The most shocking thing about this chart is that there are over 91 million people not in the labor force.  The labor force is the sum of the employed and unemployed persons.  So these are people who could be in the labor force but aren’t.  Because they don’t have a job.  For whatever reason.  On welfare, collecting disability, early retirement, just can’t get a job because the economy is so bad, etc.  So there will always be people out of the labor force.  And a large number is bad.  Because these people aren’t helping to create economic activity.  Which is why the Obama recovery is so anemic.

What’s also shocking about this chart are the trends.  The official unemployment rate has been falling.  Good news, yes?  Well, as it turns out, no.  Because the number of people not in the labor force has been rising during the decline in the unemployment rate.  Making the unemployment numbers questionable at best.  For you can’t have less unemployment if people continue to leave the workforce because they can’t get a job.  And the employment picture isn’t getting better.  It’s getting worse.  And it’s going to keep getting worse until those higher stages of production start hiring.  Which they won’t do until they see a real economic recovery.  And not a false one created with the smoke and mirrors of low interest rates.



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October 2013 Employment Situation Summary

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 11th, 2013

Economics 101

Although there were 204,000 New Jobs in October 720,000 Workers left the Labor Force

The worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression continues (see Employment Situation Summary by the Bureau of Labor Statistics posted 11/8/2013).

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 204,000 in October, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 7.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today…

Both the number of unemployed persons, at 11.3 million, and the unemployment rate, at 7.3 percent, changed little in October…

The civilian labor force was down by 720,000 in October.

If the Obama administration was an employment agency that found people jobs someone would have fired the management team by now with numbers like this.  204,000 new jobs for 11.3 million unemployed people is a success rate of 1.81%.  Worse, although there were 204,000 new jobs 720,000 workers left the labor force.  Which means that for every new job we lost 3.5 existing jobs.  So for one step forward in fixing the economy the administration takes 3.5 steps backwards.  Which means we’re moving in the wrong direction with the economy.

After a near-trillion dollar stimulus bill and quantitative easing up the wazoo what do we have to show for it?  Not a whole hell of a lot.  Other than more debt.  And inflationary pressures just waiting to be unleashed.  Taking us back to the stagflation and misery of the Seventies.  The heyday of Keynesian economics.

Solid Economic Growth starts at Raw Material Extraction

Before John Maynard Keynes gave us Keynesian economics the economy hummed along based on classical economic principles.  Including, but not limited to, thrift.  Savings.  Investment.  A sound banking system.  And a strong currency.  People saved their money.  Banks accumulated their savings into investment capital.  Banks made this capital available to investors.  And interest rates were determined by our savings rate.  The more we saved (i.e., the more thrifty we were) the lower interest rates were.  These are the economic principles that made the United States the number one economy in the world.

Another key concept of classical economics is the stages of production.  From the extraction of raw materials to manufacturing to wholesale goods to retail goods.  In a healthy economy there is growth at all stages.  And solid economic growth starts at raw material extraction.  For this feeds manufacturing.  Which feeds wholesale goods.  Which feeds retail goods.  Where consumers spend their money.  The fatal flaw of Keynesian economics is that it focuses only on consumer spending.  Not at these higher-order stages of production.  And when Keynesians try to end a recession while ignoring them they fail.  And get job numbers like these.

Employment in retail trade increased by 44,000 in October, compared with an average monthly gain of 31,000 over the prior 12 months…

Manufacturing added 19,000 jobs in October, with job growth occurring in motor vehicles and parts (+6,000), wood products (+3,000), and furniture and related products (+3,000). On net, manufacturing employment has changed little since February 2013…

In October, employment showed little or no change elsewhere in the private sector, including mining and logging, construction, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and financial activities.

This is not the picture of an improving economy.  Consumers are spending money.  Thanks to low interest rates and a record amount of government benefits.  But the economic activity is greatest at the consumer level.  As evidenced by the largest increase in jobs at the retail level.  There are fewer job gains at manufacturing.  And even less at the whole sale level and raw material extraction.  Meaning the new economic activity is greatest at the consumer level.  Because of cheap (and free) money.  But there are no new jobs at the highest stage of production.  Raw material extraction.  Because they see no real economic recovery.  Only Keynesian ‘hot’ money that will cause a surge in consumer spending.  And a surge in inflation.  Leading to a continued sluggish economic recovery.  Or a fall back into recession.  And the last thing they want should that happen is higher costs.  Or more debt.  So they don’t spend more or invest during periods of Keynesian stimulus.

President Obama’s Greatest Supporters are suffering some of the Greatest Unemployment

The October 2013 Employment Situation Summary paints a grim economic picture.  People continue to leave the labor force.  And the government’s efforts to stimulate economic activity isn’t stimulating anything above the consumer level.  As the higher stages of production fear the coming inflation.  And possible recession.  This after 5 years of President Obama’s Keynesian economic policies.  Further proving the futility of Keynesian economics.  And the failure of the Obama administration.  Whose policies have stalled new hiring.  And pushed people from full-time to part-time.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed at 8.1 million in October. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

Those individuals who had their hours cut or can’t find a full-time job are in large part due to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  Which is not only destroying any economic recovery.  But the Affordable Care Act is also making health insurance unaffordable.  Which will make these economic numbers worse as the carnage spreads to employer-provided health insurance.  As people will have to both pay for health insurance AND pay for all of their health care out-of-pocket thanks to those high deductibles.  Which won’t help the unemployment numbers.  For as consumer spending falls so does hiring.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (7.0 percent), adult women (6.4 percent), teenagers (22.2 percent), whites (6.3 percent), blacks (13.1 percent), and Hispanics (9.1 percent) showed little or no change in October. The jobless rate for Asians was 5.2 percent.

It is interesting, or rather ironic, that the president’s greatest supporters are suffering some of the greatest unemployment.  Teenagers.  Blacks.  And Hispanics.  Who seem to never lose their faith.  No matter how much President Obama’s policies favor old white men and women.  And Asians.  It’s not for the lack of spending, either.  For the Obama administration has spent more domestically than any other president.  But it is only his rich Wall Street cronies who are doing well.  And other rich people.  Not the rank and file Obama supporters.  Yet they remain Obama supporters.  So far, at least.  These continual bad job numbers AND the unaffordable Affordable Care Act may change things.  Especially when these continue to fall disproportionally on teenagers, blacks and Hispanics. 



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The August Jobs Report, Stuck between a Lie and a Hard Place

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 8th, 2013

Week in Review

The left has been lauding the good economic news jobs report after jobs report.  Always talking about all those new jobs created.  And the falling unemployment rate.  While not talking at all about the falling labor force participation rate.  For good reason.  For while new jobs and a falling unemployment rate are good people leaving the labor force is not.  And, sadly, the only thing making the jobs report look good is that people are simply disappearing from the labor force (see 169K New Jobs Last Month, 7.3% Unemployment: Conflicting Signals For The Fed by Abram Brown posted 9/6/2013 on Forbes).

Unemployment continues to fall, with joblessness reaching a 4-and-a-half-year low in August at 7.3%. Troublingly, the drop in unemployment comes from fewer people looking for jobs rather than a robust economy adding workers to open positions. The number of Americans participating in the labor market is at the lower [sic]point since August 1978.

Going forward, the Fed will need to decide how much stock to put in the unemployment number. It threatens to continue to fall while job creation stays meager–setting up a situation when the Fed could reduce its stimulus at a time when the recovery still isn’t firmly rooted. “People were not supposed to be dropping from the labor force this year,” says FTN Financial’s Chris Low. “While the Fed wrestles with this quandary, we’ll wait to see if it really meant what it said about the quality of improvement in the unemployment rate…At the Fed, there is a tendency to fall back on the unemployment rate as the best gauge of labor market health.” And he warns, “Markets will be unsettled.”

So what is a lying government to do?  After all of those years, and all those jobs reports, trumpeting the success of their economic policies based on the fall in the official unemployment rate, what do they say about the Fed who may raise interest rates because the official unemployment rate says the economy has recovered while the labor force participation rate says it’s still in the toilet?  When the only economic activity has been their friends on Wall Street taking the money the Fed was making and investing it?  Making money with money?  But making no jobs?  That’s something a Democrat administration is not supposed to do.  Helping rich people at the expense of the middle class.  So what is a lying government to do?

Tell the truth and admit that their economic policies have all failed?  To keep that cheap money tap open for their friends on Wall Street?  Or lie?  And say their economic policies have been successful?  And offer no rationale to keep the easy money tap open?  And let them close that tap?  Killing the only economic recovery?  That was enjoyed only by their friends on Wall Street?  Thus exposing the lie that their economic policies created any kind of economic recovery?

Quite the quandary for the Obama administration.



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