Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

March 12, 2013

Unemployment, droning citizens and sequester scare-mongering

— — February’s unemployment rate fell from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent, and the Labor Department’s survey of households found that 170,000 more people were working. But there’s a downside: the survey also found that, despite the number of working-age civilians increasing by 165,000, the labor force actually shrank in size instead of growing, and 130,000 fewer people were working or looking for work in February.

The employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) was unchanged at 58.6 percent, exactly the same as the rate in February of 2012, and an anemic four-tenths percent above the low mark in the summer of 2011. This compares with an EPOP of 63 percent in 2007 before the crisis struck.

The Labor Force Participation Rate at 63.5 percent was well below the 66-to-67 percent rate that was normal over the last 20 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data show workers remain discouraged and many are unable to find full time employment, or have given up trying.

The U-6 number under the BLS’ “Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization” includes persons who have given up looking for work, as well as the 7.7 percent who are unemployed. That number is 14.3 percent.

Compared with December 2007, when the recession officially began, there are 5.8 million fewer Americans working full time, and there are 2.8 million more working part time. Part-time workers, who usually work fewer than 35 hours a week, are still a minority of the work force, but their share is growing. When the recession began, 16.9 percent of those working usually worked part time. That share rose in 2008 and 2009 and has remained high since, and today stands at 19.2 percent.

This would not be so troubling if people were working fewer hours by choice. But that is not the case.

• • •

Isn’t it interesting that the same administration that believes foreign terrorists should be brought into the U.S., given the same status in court as actual citizens, provided a defense attorney if they can’t afford one, and put on trial as if they had merely shoplifted items at the local grocery store, would equivocate instead of forthrightly condemning the idea of potentially using a drone on U.S. soil to kill a U.S. citizen who was not posing an immediate threat, and do so with no more due process than that someone in the administration thought that person was a threat to the country.

Citizens are guaranteed protection from such third world practices by the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; non-citizen terrorists — actual and suspected — have no such guarantees, and deserve none. This small point apparently escapes the notice of the Obama administration.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., had the good sense to force this issue to the fore by filibustering the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director in order to get the administration to furnish more information about its intentions. Some Democrats joined Sen. Paul in holding the administration accountable to the Constitutional protections afforded U.S. citizens.

Ultimately, Mr. Brennan was confirmed, but he took the oath of office by swearing not on a Bible, as is customary, but on a version of the U.S. Constitution that did not include the Bill of Rights.

• • •

Two of the most prominent aspects of the sequester are the scare-mongering and duplicity of the Obama administration.

First, an example of the false predictions of catastrophe: “Starting tomorrow everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol. Now that Congress has left, somebody’s going to be vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage. They’re going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they’ve got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real,” President Obama said at a news conference on March 1.

Didn’t happen, and was never going to happen.

And now, the duplicity: The Washington Times reported that “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service official Charles Brown said he asked if he could try to spread out the sequester cuts in his region to minimize the impact, and he said he was told not to do anything that would lessen the dire impacts Congress had been warned of.”

Mr. Brown was told in an email: “We have gone on record with a notification to Congress and whoever else that ‘APHIS would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 states in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they provide funding to cover the costs.’ So it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”

The Armageddon President Obama has forecast could easily be averted by a simple bill in Congress to allow the president to decide what spending to cut and what not to cut, or to allow managers to manage their own budgets. But if the APHIS directive described above reflects the president’s attitude, Mr. Obama wants the maximum pain from his boondoggle, and also wants to stay as far away as possible from responsibility for the misery his idea produces.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

 

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