By any measure, the U.S. economy was unusually weak in the first quarter of the year (January through March), though most in the economic, financial, and political sectors were untroubled by the data. Indeed, for most, the winter drop was something of a fluke, caused by unusually harsh weather conditions and an unexpected drop in health spending.
Still, the first-quarter report made the second-quarter data all the more important. Would the economy bounce back? This morning, we received an answer – and for those rooting for economic success, the results were even better than expected.
…. today’s report showing 4% growth is terrific and reinforces the perception of an economy picking up speed.
Bloomberg: Economy in U.S. Grows More Than Forecast
Gains in consumer spending and business investment helped the U.S. economy rebound more than forecast in the second quarter following a slump in the prior three months that was smaller than previously estimated.
Gross domestic product rose at a 4 percent annualized rate after shrinking 2.1 percent from January through March, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 80 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 3 percent advance. Consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, rose 2.5 percent, reflecting the biggest gain in purchases of durable goods such as autos in almost five years.
New Republic: McDonald’s Workers Were Just Handed a Huge Victory by the Obama Administration
The news for America’s low-wage workers has been pretty bleak these past, oh, 30 or 40 years or so. Their pay has stagnated and their bargaining power has atrophied, even as their corporate overlords have seen their own profits and compensation soar. But there are signs of a brightening underway, and the latest one arrived Tuesday in the form of a possibly consequential finding against one of the most iconic low-wage employers of all, McDonald’s.
The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, Richard Griffin Jr., ruled that he would include McDonald’s as a “joint employer” in the 43 unfair labor practice complaints filed by McDonald’s workers over the past 20 months that Griffin deemed had merit (the complaints mostly involve retaliation against workers who engaged in organizing efforts). In the past, McDonald’s and other big fast-food chains have avoided responsibility in such cases, on the premise that their thousands of franchisees are the real employers, not the corporate giant in whose name they operate….
NYT: What Debate? Economists Agree the Stimulus Lifted the Economy
Here’s a simple case study making the point that our political debates about economics have become largely unhinged from those among actual economists. Take the Obama stimulus plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. If you took your cues from the political rhetoric in Washington — or even from the occasional virulent debate in the economics blogosphere — you would think the whole question of fiscal stimulus is highly contested.
But it’s not. There’s widespread agreement among economists that the stimulus act has helped boost the economy.
…. I am a Zionist because the story of my forebears convinces me that Jews needed the homeland voted into existence by United Nations Resolution 181 of 1947, calling for the establishment of two states — one Jewish, one Arab — in Mandate Palestine…
What I cannot accept, however, is the perversion of Zionism that has seen the inexorable growth of a Messianic Israeli nationalism claiming all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River; that has, for almost a half-century now, produced the systematic oppression of another people in the West Bank … that blockades Gaza with 1.8 million people locked in its prison and is then surprised by the periodic eruptions of the inmates; and that responds disproportionately to attack in a way that kills hundreds of children.
…. Hamas is vile. I would happily see it destroyed. But Hamas is also the product of a situation that Israel has reinforced rather than sought to resolve.
This corrosive Israeli exercise in the control of another people, breeding the contempt of the powerful for the oppressed, is a betrayal of the Zionism in which I still believe.
…. the president announced that new and harsher sanctions would be placed on Russia. The European Union finally came around and joined him, which means, I guess, that knocking a civilian airliner out of the sky is what gets the EU’s attention.
…. the president was right in knocking down the notion that this represents a new Cold War.
First of all, there’s no Russian bloc this time. There’s just Vladimir Putin, who is a Russian nationalist and an autocrat, but not a Tsar or a General Secretary, who fights his proxy wars on his own borders, and not around the world. And, like any autocrat, he is theoretically most vulnerable to other autocrats, either individually or in combination.
Like any nationalist, he is most vulnerable to pragmatists who like to hold onto the lifestyles the country has provided them. As nearly as I can tell, beyond a desire to re-establish Russia as a world power, and to establish himself as a world leader, Putin’s not motivated by any ideology that isn’t vulnerable to financial pressure.
Derek Thompson highlighted an interesting economic trend that Republicans very likely find discouraging: “In the 70 years, the U.S. economy has been better, across many metrics, when a Democrat has been the president.” In particular, Thompson noted a “fantastically interesting” paper from Princeton professors Alan Blinder and Mark Watson, who reported that from 1947 to 2013, in literally every category, Democratic presidents outperformed Republican presidents.
…. it’s a democracy and partisan bragging rights matter, too. Why Democrats don’t run around boasting about reports like these is a mystery to me – if Republicans had a talking point like this at their disposal, I suspect we’d never hear the end of it.
ThinkProgress: Obama To Issue Series Of Executive Actions Tackling Methane Leaks From Pipelines
President Obama will announce a series of executive actions on Tuesday designed to tackle the increasing problem of methane leaks from natural gas pipelines, which are significantly contributing to global warming, according to a White House press call.
White House Director of Energy and Climate Change Dan Utech told reporters on Monday that the actions would be part of President Obama’s strategy to cut methane emissions, a key directive under his Climate Action Plan announced last summer. Under the plan, Obama vowed to combat climate change despite inaction from Congress by using his executive powers to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
DPCC: Despite Speaker’s Claims to the Contrary, Dozens of Republicans Irresponsibly Float Impeachment
HOUSE SPEAKER BOEHNER SAYS REPUBLICAN TALK OF IMPEACHMENT IS “ALL A SCAM”
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH): “This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they are trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year’s election,” Boehner told reporters Tuesday morning. “We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans.” [Washington Post, 7/29/14]
…BUT RECKLESS COMMENTS MADE BY HIS OWN PARTY PROVE OTHERWISE
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK): Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview Thursday with “The Rusty Humphries Show” that impeachment would become an issue soon over the “greatest cover-up in American history.” “People may be starting to use the I-word before too long,” Inhofe said. “The I-word meaning impeachment?” Humphries asked. “Yeah,” Inhofe responded. [The Hill, 5/10/13]
ThinkProgress: Appeals Court Saves Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic
On Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a law that would have closed down Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, invalidating a 2012 measure requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals. The state’s only two abortion providers fly in from out of state to serve patients and were repeatedly denied partnerships with local hospitals.
The three-judge panel ruled that since the U.S. Supreme Court established a constitutional right to abortion, “Mississippi may not shift its obligation for established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state,” the Associated Press reports.
On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama hugs LeBron James following the USA vs. France men’s basketball game at Olympic Park during the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England, July 29, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)