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.
Winston-Salem Journal: Americans have a clear choice between two presidential candidates with starkly different ideas for spurring the economy, providing for the health of our people, defending our interests abroad, educating our children and protecting our environment. We believe that President Barack Obama’s progress on these issues merits him a second term in the White House.
Four years ago on this page, we endorsed Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona over Obama. We wrote that we were impressed with Obama, but McCain would “bring the Iraq war to a successful conclusion, work to end American dependence on foreign oil, reduce America’s output of climate-changing gases and begin the rebuilding of our economy.”
The Democratic president has done all those things and more. He is calm under pressure and courageous in standing up for the rights of all Americans, including the poor, veterans, the elderly, women, gays and immigrants. In contrast, we’ve sometimes found it hard in the last few weeks to tell just what Obama’s challenger, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, really stands for.
…. Obama has a keen vision that he has worked hard to achieve, against considerable obstacles and often courageously. But the goal is in sight: An America respected worldwide as much for its prosperity as its defense of liberty and justice.
The Journal editorial board endorses Barack Obama for president.
Kansas City Star: Barack Obama volunteer Marilynn Wadden rang more than a dozen doorbells in her first hour canvassing a tidy neighborhood here before stopping to take stock of her progress… If the race is close here and elsewhere, the outcome may come down to how well Obama volunteers like Wadden do their jobs – compelling everyone they can to go to the polls…
…. even Republicans acknowledge that Obama has an advantage on the ground in most if not all of the most hotly contested battleground states. In Iowa alone, Obama has 67 offices to Romney’s 13.
…. Obama backers refuse to cede ground in their quest to turn out every voter they can.
Not registered to vote? Obama’s team can help. Registered but not sure about plans on Election Day? Obama’s campaign can mail you a ballot. Forget to return the ballot? Obama’s volunteers offer a reminder. Need a ride to the polls? Obama’s volunteers can drive.
Obama’s volunteers appear to be having impact. Democrats report an almost 4-to-1 advantage among voters asking for ballots by mail in Iowa.
The vigor among the ranks appears to grow as Election Day nears.
“It’s our time to go out and lace up our sneakers, put on our walking shoes,” Norma Comstock, 71, a leader in the campaign’s Sioux City office, said recently as she gave her fellow volunteers a pep talk. “This isn’t a sure thing. We’ve got to fight every day between now and Nov. 6 so President Obama can keep fighting for us.”
Reuters: President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are neck and neck in opinion polls, but there is one area in which the incumbent appears to have a big advantage: those who have already cast their ballots.
Obama leads Romney by 59 percent to 31 percent among early voters, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data compiled in recent weeks.
The sample size of early voters is relatively small, but the Democrat’s margin is still well above the poll’s credibility interval – a measurement of polls’ accuracy – of 10 percentage points
President Barack Obama talks to kids during a stop at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland on Broadway Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio, June 14, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive in New York
Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio
At the Girls Club of Cleveland, Ohio
… at the 9/11 Memorial while touring the One World Trade Center building
Words from President Obama are seen on a construction beam after he signed it while touring the One World Trade Center building, which is under construction in New York. The words read “We remember, We Rebuild, We come back Stronger.”
President Obama chats with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
9:55: PBO and Michelle Obama deliver remarks at a campaign event (The Plaza Hotel – live coverage)
President Barack Obama at the Fox Theater in Redwood City, Calif., May 23
All times Eastern
11:30: Attends a campaign event at the The Fairmont Hotel, in San Jose (Closed press)
1:00: Departs San Jose en route Newton, Iowa
4:00: Arrives in Des Moines
4:55: Tours TPI Composites, a wind manufacturer
5:15: Delivers remarks on urging Congress to act on the ‘To Do List’
6:55: Delivers remarks at a campaign event (listed in CNN’s live streaming schedule)
9:20: Departs Des Moines en route Joint Base Andrews
11:30: Arrives at Joint Base Andrews
11:45: Arrives at the White House
President Obama greets a crowd upon arriving at the Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, California, on May 23
Steve Benen: We talked last week about Ohio Gov. John Kasich delivering a message to his constituents: the state’s economy is improving, jobs are being created, and there’s reason for optimism. It is, of course, the exact opposite of what Mitt Romney wants Ohioans to believe right now. This week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) was similarly unhelpful to the larger GOP cause.
….. You can almost hear Romney shouting in the background: “You guys are screwing this up royally. We need people feeling depressed and hopeless, not excited about ‘brighter days.'”
This keeps happening. Many of the nation’s key swing states — Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania — are led by Republican governors, each of whom are eager to tell their constituents that the economy is looking up. They’re hoping to boost their own fortunes, but inadvertently, they’re also helping President Obama in an election year in which the economy is easily the nation’s top issue.
Charles Pierce: I spent four years living under the barely distinguishable leadership of Willard Romney, Governor of Massachusetts. Since he’s out on the road now, running for president, and since he seems to be pretending that it was somebody else who was governor here …. I guess it’s up to the rest of us here to be his living memory of what happened when he won an election for the only time in his life.
…. speaking to a group of Latino businessmen in Los Angeles, Romney took time out from reassuring them that he wasn’t the racist goober he appeared to be in the primaries to excoriate public school teachers and their unions…
….. In 2006, he cut $37.8 million from the state’s higher education budget. Fees skyrocketed, as they did generally throughout the state. In 2003, he tried to cut $100 million from that same budget while raising tuition by $50 million at state colleges and universities. He also wanted to slash job training initiatives and workforce training funding. Things were rather worse at the primary and secondary level, where Romney passed down budget cuts and left cities and towns holding the bag. And that’s the way it was.
TPM: A new poll commissioned by NBC News, the Wall Street Journal and Telemundo shows President Obama with a large lead among Latino voters, 61 percent to 27 percent over likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. President Obama’s approval rating among Latinos polled is 61 percent approve to 32 percent disapprove, while his handling of the economy is at 54 percent approve versus 38 percent disapprove. Romney’s favorablity is underwater at 26 percent favorable versus 35 percent unfavorable.
I chuckled when I saw that even the stomach-churning Rubin concedes that GOPolitico “has gone pro-Romney, big time”.
And I LOLed again when I read our old buddy Byron Tau breathlessly reporting Romney’s attack on PBO’s “administration for allowing the daughter of Cuban head of state Raul Castro into the United States”.
Tau: Castro was allowed into the United States to attend a meeting of the Latin American Studies Association. Romney’s condemnation follows on the heels of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) YouTube comments, where the Cuban-American politican called the younger Castro an “arm” of the regime and slammed the visa as “shameful.”
The Cuban-American community is highly anti-Castro – and the issue could resonate among an influential Florida constituency that is a bit more conservative than the wider Latino community.
What did Tau neglect to mention?
The GWB administration allowed Mariela Castro visit the United States ….. three times.
Kansas City Star: The improving economy is swinging the pendulum in President Barack Obama’s favor in the 14 states where the presidential election will likely be decided …. What’s made the difference is that unemployment has dropped more sharply in several swing states than in the nation as a whole. A resurgence in manufacturing is helping the economy – and Obama’s chances – in the industrial Midwestern states of Ohio and Michigan.
…. After an agonizingly slow recovery, several swing-state economies are finally accelerating:
– The job market is improving in Michigan and Ohio. In Michigan, unemployment fell to 8.5 percent in March from 10.5 percent in March 2011. And in Ohio, it dropped to 7.5 percent from 8.8 percent over the same period….
Many blue-collar workers in Ohio and Michigan credit the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler for saving tens of thousands of auto industry jobs … “There’s a feeling the administration went out of its way to protect jobs that are very important,” says Paul Allen Beck, a political science professor at Ohio State University…
– Unemployment is down over the past year in the 10 other states the Associated Press identifies as swing states: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin…..
Steve Benen: The general trend on initial unemployment claims over the last few months has been largely encouraging, despite occasional setbacks, but today’s report is the best we’ve seen in quite a while.
About a month ago, initial jobless claims matched a four-year low, and as of today, they managed to get even better, exceeding expectations by dropping to the lowest level since February 2008:
The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits fell by 5,000 last week to 348,000, the lowest level since February 2008, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday…..
Greg Sargent: How Romney used to respond to high gas prices: An important scoop from Alex MacGillis, who discovers that Romney (who is now bashing Obama over high gas prices) responded to them when he was Governor of Massachusetts just as Obama has been:
Befitting his profile as a moderate Republican who cared about the environment, Governor Romney responded to price spikes by describing them as the natural result of global market pressures and by calling for increases in fuel efficiency – the same approach that he now derides Obama for taking as president.
Key Romney quote from 2006: “I don’t think that now is the time, and I’m not sure there will be the right time, for us to encourage the use of more gasoline. I’m very much in favor of people recognizing that these high gasoline prices are probably here to stay.”
Steve Benen: When Eric Fehrnstrom, the communications director for Mitt Romney’s campaign, appeared on CNN, he couldn’t possibly have predicted how much trouble he was about to cause for his boss.
…..Tabitha Hale tweeted this afternoon, “This Etch-A-Sketch situation is not going to go away… maybe ever.”
I’m very much inclined to agree. The knock on Romney since Day One has been that he’s a shallow, unprincipled politician, willing to say anything to anyone to win. “Etch A Sketch” is so perfect a metaphor, it’s extraordinary that it came from the candidate’s own communications director.
Howard Kurtz: ….. In a phrase so potentially damaging it might have been hatched in a laboratory by James Carville, Romney communications director Eric Fehrnstrom bobbled a routine question on CNN….
….. His response: “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-a-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”
The unmistakable image: Romney has no fixed principles. Forget about what he’s saying in the primaries, all we have to do is hit the reset button. His positions are no more firmly held than the leaden particles that form those boxy images on the screen and then dissolve with a mere shake.
ThinkProgress: During an interview with Public Radio International’s Marketplace, President Obama defended the individual health insurance mandate and reiterated that likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney enacted a very similar policy as governor of Massachusetts. “[W]e designed a program that actually previously had support of Republicans,” Obama told host Kai Ryssdal, “including the person who may end up being the Republican standard bearer and is now pretending like he came up with something different.”