Monday, December 31, 2012

historic unemployment

As of November, 2012, 4,707,000 Americans have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks, and 21 % of all U.S. children live in poverty.

The greatest calamity of the Wall Street crash is that four years later there still are over 20 million Americans without the full-time jobs they need. And 4.7 million of them have been out of work for over a half year, the most since the Great Depression. Little wonder that 21 percent of all children live in families who earn wages that total less than $23,350, the official poverty line.

How can this be happening in the richest country on Earth? The United States have the worst income and wealth distributions in the world. No wonder our political leaders bail out Wall Street instead of putting our people back to work.

Make Wall Street pay for the damage it has done. A small financial transaction on their enormous casinos would finance the jobs and education programs we truly need.

Google's new media device the Nexus Q is making headlines not just because of its technology, but due to the one noteworthy feature: unlike most of today’s hi-tech products, it is being manufactured in the United States.

­The Google team decided to build the device in the US as an experiment in American manufacturing which has been in decline for decades. “We’ve been absent for so long, we decided, ‘Why don’t we try it and see what happens?” Andy Rubin, the head of Google mobile unit, told the New York Times.

Google’s management, however, didn’t reveal the location of its plant in Silicon Valley. The company uses a contract manufacturer to make the Nexus Q.

Since the 1990s, most of the US hi-tech companies moved their manufacturing to China, lured by cheap workforce and energy costs. Also China’s monopoly on supplies of rare earths, which are necessary for producing tech products, contributed to the trend. Moreover, when US President Barack Obama asked then Apple CEO Steve Jobs, what it would take to make iPhones in the United States, Jobs said: “Those jobs are not coming back.”

But rising labor costs, intellectual property risks and the issue of time-to-market made some US companies consider moving back to their roots. Some experts even predict that most of the American hi-tech companies would move their manufacturing home in a few years. However, the question remains, if Google’s example will kickstart a US manufacturing renaissance.

January 19, 2011, 3:42 pm

Inside Look at Obama’s Economic Team

My colleague Peter Baker has delved into the world of economic policy-making in President Obama’s White House for an article this Sunday in The New York Times Magazine.
The broad contours of the story are already known: A president facing historic unemployment and significant economic challenges seeks to find solutions. But in discussions with almost all of the president’s top economic advisers, Mr. Baker has unearthed some surprisingly newsy nuggets.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News Peter Orszag, distinguished visiting fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, speaks at the future of American jobs conference at the National Press Club in Washington on Friday, Dec. 3, 2010.
Among them is evidence of turmoil inside the economic team as they fought over how to confront the economic crisis; admissions from now-departed advisers that they got some things wrong; a fresh portrait of Larry Summers, the brash director of the National Economic Council and a new telling of the conflict between the budget director Peter Orszag and his peers.
Here are a few of the better ones:
— Mr. Baker writes that the president’s economic team “fractured repeatedly over philosophy (should jobs or deficits take priority?) and personality (who got to attend which meetings?), resulting in feuds that ultimately helped break it apart.”
“The process felt like a treadmill, as one former official put it, with proposals sometimes debated for months before decisions were reached. The word commonly used by those involved is ‘dysfunctional,’ and in recent months, most of the initial team has left or made plans to leave.”
John Podesta, who was a former chief of staff to Bill Clinton and now runs the Center for American Progress, is critical of Mr. Obama in Mr. Baker’s article.
“’The public didn’t sense that everyone in the White House was waking up thinking about how to create jobs,’” Mr. Baker quotes Mr. Podesta saying. “’It seemed like they were waking up every day thinking about how to pass more bills. It was like, do something. And if that doesn’t work, do something else.’”
— Christine Romer, who recently departed as the chairwoman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, tells Mr. Baker that, with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear the country needed a bigger stimulus package than the White House got from Congress. She had developed a $1.2 trillion option that she kept out of a memorandum to the president at the request of Mr. Summers, but cited the figure in a meeting with Mr. Obama: “That’s what you’d need to do to definitively heal the economy,” she said, according to someone in the room.
“In Washington, she said, ‘you’re not supposed to say the obvious thing, which is that in retrospect of course it should have been bigger. With unemployment at 10 percent, I don’t know how you could say you wouldn’t have done anything different. Of course you would have made it bigger.’”
— In the article, Ms. Romer said the Obama administration should have gone back to Congress for more stimulus money to bolster the economy when it was clear how bad things really were.
He writes: “‘In my mind,’ she said, ‘the problem was not in the original package; it was in not adjusting to changed circumstances.’ Once it was clear that the situation was deteriorating, she said, the White House should have gone back to Congress for more stimulus money. ‘That was where we could have been bolder,’ she said.”
— Mr. Baker calls Mr. Summers, “a larger-than-life figure who by many accounts was ill suited to run a bureaucratic process.”
“To some of his colleagues, Summers was an eye-rolling intellectual bully,” Baker writes. “‘He’s much better at telling you why you’re stupid than creating a system that can produce usable policy solutions,’ said one Obama adviser, who, like others, did not want to be named criticizing Summers. At meetings, colleagues with differing viewpoints felt the full force of his capacity for finding flaws in their reasoning.”
Mr. Baker offers this fun tidbit about Mr. Summers: “Tan from a holiday in Jamaica and trying to get his bearings again at Harvard, where he plans to teach a course on Obama’s economic policy and write a book, Summers sat at a corner table and ordered bisque and — from the lighter-fare menu — a steak ‘as rare as your chef will make it.’”
— The relationships were so bad inside Mr. Obama’s economic team that Mr. Baker says talking about them was like “picking through the wreckage of a messy divorce.”
“When Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood mentioned to a reporter that he had settled a dispute with Orszag by going around him to Emanuel, a peeved Orszag would not take his apology calls; LaHood ultimately sent a case of wine to make amends,” Mr. Baker writes. “Orszag also exchanged testy e-mails with Emanuel over the health care effort. When colleagues suspected him of leaking information to the media, Orszag denied it. But he eventually concluded that he had allowed himself to become overexposed and recognized his relationships were poisoned.”
Mr. Baker quotes Mr. Orszag as saying: “‘Unfortunately,’ he told me, ‘I think the environment often brought out the worst in people instead of the best in people. And I’d include myself in that.’”

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