More Bad Economic News, and Why Bush is Accountable
More economic news out today that will not warm the hearts of those at the White House. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index sank last month to its worst levels since before the Iraq invasion. Moreover, the Expectations subindex plummeted in September, reflecting consumers’ fears about the future, and the Present Situations subindex stands at its lowest mark since 1993.
The Conference Board's index sank to 76.8 from 81.7 in August, well below the 80.6 expected. Meanwhile, a key regional manufacturing report showed surprisingly slow growth last month and more job losses.
Much of the drag in the confidence index came from its expectations subindex, which sank to 88.4 in September from 94.9. But consumers also aren't feeling too good about the present, sending that component down 2.5 points to 59.5, the worst since late 1993.
"It definitely gives a stark look at how consumers feel today and that they are not optimistic about the next few months," said Mat Johnson, chief economist with Quantit Economic Group. "The obvious inference from this is that people are feeling more dire about the job market." Of those polled, more than one in three said jobs were hard to find, the worst in over nine years.
And why do consumers have a bleak outlook? Because despite a slight uptick in future orders and home refinance applications, The Institute for Supply Management’s latest national manufacturing report slipped in September, with the employment measure of the report falling again.
U.S. manufacturing took a step backward in September in another sign that industry is still shedding jobs, an influential survey showed on Wednesday.
(A)ll the omens are grim for job creation and analysts fear September payrolls will fall for the eight straight month when the data is released on Friday. "There is nothing here that offers signs of encouragement," said Norbert Ore, head of the committee that compiles the survey for the Institute for Supply Management.
"The rate of decline seems to be slowing ... but I don't see much change in the employment picture in the next six to 12 months," he added. The Institute's national manufacturing barometer slipped to 53.7 in September from 54.7 in August. Analysts had expected a slight gain to 55.0. The employment measure of the report dipped further, to 45.7 in September from an already low 45.9 in August.
Employment research firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported planned layoffs at U.S. firms slipped only slightly in September, to 76,506 from 79,925 in August. That came on top of 872,080 job cuts so far this year.
Think about that last figure for a moment: we are averaging over a hundred thousand lost jobs each month in 2003 almost two years into a recovery. And the experts see no significant improvement between now and November 2004. Indeed, Ford said today they are laying off an additional 12,000 staff, mostly in the U. S., with Chrysler next in line to do the same.
Does it have to be this way? There are some of course who will say that such macroeconomic readjustments like this cannot be the fault of Bush, that such job losses are inevitable in the aftermath of the alleged bubble bursting of the late 1990’s.
This MBA presidency has been in office nearly three years now, and the country officially came out of recession back into positive growth in November 2001, almost two years ago. We have been bleeding jobs since the time Bush came into office, and the only response he has had, in fact his entire economic policy to date has been three tax cuts aimed not at job creation, but instead at wealth creation.
After nearly three years, Bush is accountable and responsible for the lack of economic policies to address the job losses, and his overall disinterest in stopping the bleeding. Saying that you cannot significantly address such macroeconomic shifts on your own in a global economy and that such job losses are inevitable is a cop-out and cover for the fact that you have no interest in trying or remedy to do so. There is no excuse for why the Administration has no clue what to do, assuming they want to of course. Yes, there will be job losses after the booming nineties, but over three million of them during a virtually “free money” monetary policy?
Such job losses are not inevitable when your only remedy has been a tax policy aimed by design at wealth creation and draining the Treasury, instead of making significant macroeconomic investments here at home to grow jobs and allow the US to compete better.
Such job losses are not inevitable when your own personal corporate experience and that of your administration created a rogue corporate climate in this country that allows companies to send jobs overseas while using offshore tax havens and collect corporate welfare. It was not inevitable that Bush campaign contributors could loot their pension funds, defraud their shareholders, and give lip service to corporate accountability, while the SEC has not even staffed up to police those companies.
It was not inevitable that more money was dedicated towards buying off Turkey and other Coalition of the Bribed members than towards funding retraining programs or the broken commitments of the “Leave No Child Behind” education reform scam.
Such job losses are not inevitable when the only energy policy you have developed has been kept secret, and focuses without vision or national security implications predominantly on fossil fuels, instead of investing in new alternative energy, job-producing industries.
Such job losses are not inevitable when your only remedy to address spiraling health care costs for individuals and employers is to blame trial lawyers and seek tort reforms that will do little to reduce malpractice premiums and make health care more affordable for all. Nor is it inevitable that you ignore the burgeoning profits of your pharmaceutical company campaign-contributors that drive higher insurance premiums through billion-dollar advertising campaigns for drugs that aren’t necessary, instead of seeking cost controls that can help employers. Such job losses are not inevitable when you have had no plan since you came into office to provide health coverage for the uninsured, which would alleviate employer premium increases, except for worthless tax credits and savings accounts.
Such job losses are not inevitable when you ignore state government budget crises and root for major service reductions, rather than providing a short-term assistance program that would prevent meltdowns in the state economies and small business contracting.
The problem we face is not a lack of wallet or the inevitability of the global economy, but a lack of will, intellect, competence, and moral clarity on the part of a regime that is ideologically opposed to maintaining and growing the country’s economy through necessary means.