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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: inflation

Pundits Claim Abortion Issue Has Faded -- But Data Shows They're Wrong

When the GOP-packed Supreme Court first overturned Roe v. Wade in June, Republican politicians and operatives developed a standard talking point: By November, the economy will be the overriding issue in the midterms.

After beating that drum for months, sure enough, it crept into conventional wisdom. For the last month, a wide swath of pundits and analysts alike—mostly male—have taken the GOP talking point as gospel. Their proof often starts with a certain bias which is then confirmed by issue polling in which economy/inflation usually rises to the top.

But just because most people often flag the economy as a top issue, it does not mean abortion and reproductive freedom have lost resonance for a wide swath of the electorate.

In Michigan, a Detroit News/Glengariff poll conducted October 26-28 found that while more independent voters said inflation was the most important issue facing Michigan, slightly more independents also tagged abortion as the issue most motivating them to vote.

Independent Voters

What is the most important issue facing Michigan?

  • 40 percent Inflation
  • 31 percent abortion

Which issue is most motivating you to go to the polls?

  • 35 percent abortion
  • 34 percent inflation

Among all female voters, abortion was the primary driver motivating them to vote, reported ClickonDetroit.com. Overall, 43.5 percent of female voters said they care most about abortion and women’s rights issues, while just 24.6 percent of male voters did.

In Pennsylvania, the latest Fox News poll found that, far from fading, intensity around abortion had actually increased more than on any other issue in the state's critical Senate race.

WHICH ISSUE IS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOUR SENATE VOTE

OCT. 26-30JULY 22-26
INFLATION33%27%
ABORTION 24%14%
ELECTION INTEGRITY/VOTING RIGHTS11%11%
CRIME6%4%

The final pre-election poll from Daily Kos/Civiqs showed that abortion remained the top motivating issue for Democratic voters across the country, with 52% of Democrats saying it would be the most important issue driving their vote.

VOTERS TOP FOUR ISSUES (DAILY KOS/CIVIQS POLL)

TOTALDEMOCRATREPUBLICANINDEPENDENT
ECONOMY/JOBS/INFLATION58%38%83%60%
FAIR ELECTIONS/DEMOCRACY34%43%26%31%
IMMIGRATION32%19%60%30%
ABORTION31%52%14%24%

All of these data points back up early October findings from the Kaiser health tracking poll indicating that fully 50 percent of voters now say the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe has made them more motivated to vote—up from 43 percent who said the same in July and a 13-point bump since news of the opinion first leaked in May.

Plenty of recent polling has indicated that reports of the abortion issue’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Perhaps the pundits claiming abortion has faded just aren’t that good at reading the polls.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

'Not Just For The Privileged Few': Biden Signs Landmark Climate And Health Bill

President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law Tuesday afternoon, the big climate change, tax fairness, and health care reconciliation bill that Democrats passed in record time this month. Biden was joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Whip James Clyburn. The big celebration signing will happen next month, when Congress is back in D.C., but enacting the legislation now will start the ball rolling immediately on the many provisions it has to help American consumers and to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


“With this law, the American people have won, and special interests lost,” Biden said. “The American people won, and special interests lost. […] This administration began in a dark time in America, a once-in-a-century pandemic, devastating joblessness, clear and present threats to democracy and the rule of law, doubts about the future of America itself. And yet we have not wavered, we have not flinched, and we have not given in. Instead, we are delivering results for the American people.“

Biden also blasted Republicans for their refusal to support any part of this bill. “In this historic moment, Democrats sided with the American people and every single Republican in the Congress sided with the special interest in this vote, every single one,” Biden said. “The big drug companies spent nearly $100 million to defeat this bill, $100 million. And remember, every single Republican in Congress voted against this bill. Every single Republican in Congress voted against lower prescription prices, negotiating drug costs, a fairer tax system. Every single Republican voted against tackling the climate crisis, against lowering our energy costs, against creating good-paying jobs.”

Biden continued, previewing the message he’s going to take into the midterm elections: “My fellow Americans, that is the choice we face. We can protect the already powerful, or show the courage to build a future where everybody has an even shot. That is the America I believe in. That is what i believe in. And today, we have come a step closer to making that America real.”

Ahead of the official bill signing, the White House provided a briefing memo titled “By the Numbers,” detailing the major provisions of the legislation and how it will move the nation forward.

Some highlights:

  • 5 to 7 million Medicare beneficiaries could see their prescription drug costs go down because of the provision allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs.
  • 50 million Americans with Medicare Part D will have peace of mind knowing their costs at the pharmacy are capped at $2,000 per year, directly benefiting about 1.4 million beneficiaries each year.
  • 3.3 million Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes will benefit from a guarantee that their insulin costs are capped at $35 for a month’s supply. […]
  • 13 million Americans will continue to save an average of $800 per year on health insurance premiums
  • 3 million more Americans will have health insurance than without the law. […]
  • Families that take advantage of clean energy and electric vehicle tax credits will save more than $1,000 per year.
  • $14,000 in direct consumer rebates for families to buy heat pumps or other energy efficient home appliances, saving families at least $350 per year.
  • 7.5 million more families will be able to install solar on their roofs with a 30% tax credit, saving families $9,000 over the life of the system or at least $300 per year.
  • Up to $7,500 in tax credits for new electric vehicles and $4,000 for used electric vehicles, helping families save $950 per year. […]
  • Power homes, businesses, and communities with much more clean energy by 2030, including:
    • 950 million solar panels
    • 120,000 wind turbines
    • 2,300 grid-scale battery plants
  • Advance cost-saving clean energy projects at rural electric cooperatives serving 42 million people.
  • Strengthen climate resilience and protect nearly 2 million acres of national forests. […]
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 1 gigaton in 2030, or a billion metric tons – 10 times more climate impact than any other single piece of legislation ever enacted.
  • Deploy clean energy and reduce particle pollution from fossil fuels to avoid up to 3,900 premature deaths and up to 100,000 asthma attacks annually by 2030. […]
  • 15%: the minimum tax on corporate profits the Inflation Reduction Act imposes on the largest, most profitable corporations.
  • $124 billion: savings over 10 years the Inflation Reduction Act will generate from collecting taxes already owed by wealthy people and large corporations, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
  • And no family making less than $400,000 will see their taxes go up a penny.

To quote Biden at another historic bill signing, “This is a big fucking deal” for the American people.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Why 'Liberal Media' Can't Report Biden's Good News Straight Up

Interesting headline in The New York Times: "In an Unequal Economy, the Poor Face Inflation Now and Job Loss Later."

This headline appeared last Monday, after more than 50 straight days of falling gasoline prices, the biggest inflation fear. Once exceeding $5 a gallon, the price of gas in many states was already down below $4 a gallon.

As for "job loss later," what do we mean by "later"? Later includes eternity. What we do know is that more than 500,000 Americans were hired last month, greatly exceeding economists' predictions. The unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, and employers remain desperate for help.

We must recognize that it takes a good deal of mental dexterity to write successful clickbait headlines. But when the headline contradicts the reporting — much of it in the same news source — you have an "alternative facts" situation.

Although the Times is considered liberal, it is also hyper-woke and sensitive to left-fringe feelings. That translates into constant carping against the Democratic leadership for not doing enough — enough of what, not always specified.


The mindset further stipulates that the working poor must be subject to pity and that good news for this group cannot be acknowledged. That's why the report that average hourly earnings grew more than five percent in July from a year earlier — after similar annual gains each month this year — sat so unappreciated.

In truth, it doesn't matter whether the news is good or bad. President Joe Biden must always be seen as not meeting expectations. A rhetorical trick to this end is inserting a "but" in the middle of a headline tied to an encouraging development. An example that just popped up in the Times: "Slowing inflation gave Biden a reprieve but high prices remain a political problem."

The right accuses CNN of also being in the pocket of Democrats, but the news channel rarely presents good news without inserting its own big "but." While reporting on the slowing of inflation, anchor Christine Romans bizarrely added, "That job market is still too hot."

In addition to gas prices, the cost of food is down. Nonetheless, CNN tied the inflation report saying just that to a segment about food shoppers in Philadelphia complaining about ... the prices. One need not go far to find someone willing to gripe about the cost of eggs.

In any case, these are First World problems. If the price of filet mignon has some consumers switching to cheaper chicken, well, the sun will still rise tomorrow at dawn. (Caviar also costs way too much, don't you think?)

This consumer whining gets tied to Biden's low approval numbers. And the low numbers must — The Story goes — get tied to inevitable disaster for Democrats in the midterms.

But a recent Monmouth University poll has 50 percent of adults preferring Democrats in the midterm elections, versus 43 percent for Republicans. Perhaps, just perhaps, the popularity of the president doesn't predetermine what will happen in November. What about the unpopularity of the opposition?

CNN had Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan on to comment on the FBI search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. Duncan is a good Republican who fears that putting Trump back in the headlines will hurt his party in the midterms.

"I'm one of those Republicans that wishes we were sitting there, talking about how bad Joe Biden is doing, how bad inflation is," he said. Never mind that Biden is doing well and that inflation seems to be coming down. Duncan is just passing on the Republican Party talking points.

But Republicans don't have to do that. So-called liberal media is doing it for them.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Are Wage Increases Driving Inflation? Not This Time

A popular line on our recent surge of inflation is that an over-tight labor market has led to rapid wage growth, which in turn forces companies to raise prices. Higher prices in turn lead workers to demand higher wages, which will give us a wage-price spiral and soon lead to double-digit inflation.

While this was a story that plausibly fit the data in the 1970s, it is very hard to make the wage-price spiral fit the current situation for a simple reason: The wage share of income has fallen sharply since the pandemic. By wage share I mean total compensation to workers, including fringe benefits, not just cash wages and salaries.

Here’s the picture:

Worker Share of Net Income Decline chart Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis

As can be seen, the wage share of corporate income had been recovering gradually from the troughs it hit in 2014 following the Great Recession. However, we see a sharp reversal in 2021, with the wage share falling from 76.1 percent to 73.7 percent, a decline of 2.4 percentage points.

Perhaps some economists can tell a story where rapid wage growth is driving inflation even as the wage share of income is falling, but I’m not that good an economist. [Editor’s Note: “Good” as in dishonest.]

This still looks to me like a case where supply-side disruptions, associated with the economy reopening from the pandemic together with the war in Ukraine are driving inflation.

This view is consistent with the fact that year-over-year inflation in the European Union was 7.5 percent as of March. The EU countries did not have as big a stimulus as the United States and by most measures the EU labor market is not as tight as in the United States.

Published with permission from DC Reports. Dean Baker co-founded the Center for Economic and Policy Research in 1999. His areas of research include housing and macroeconomics, intellectual property, Social Security, Medicare and European labor markets. He is the author of several books, including "Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer."

'Slightly Better Than Expected': Experts Say Core Inflation Now Slowing

The monthly Consumer Price Index report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was released Tuesday morning, and while inflation continues to rise some economists appear pleased, with one stating the report is “slightly better than anticipated.”

Overall, the annual rate of inflation is 8.5 percent, but removing food and energy, prices are up 6.5 percent annually.

Gas prices are a big part of the inflation rate. CNN’s cable reporting calls the current report a “rearview mirror” look, given that gas prices are coming down. They add some economists are hoping the peak of the inflation has been reached. They also note that the U.S. does not rely much on oil from Russia, so in other countries, inflation is worse.

“Food prices are up 8.8% over the past year. Energy prices are up 32%, including 11% in March alone — reflecting the spike in energy prices associated with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” The New York Times’ Ben Casselman notes.


Casselman points to Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine for food price increases:

And he sees some good news: “Headline inflation accelerated in March, but we all knew that would happen given gas prices. The bigger surprise is the slowdown in ‘core’ inflation.”

There’s still plenty to be concerned about. Casselman says this is “the fastest year-over-year inflation since 1981.”

Meanwhile, oil companies – not the President – set the price of gas at the pump and other energy products, and are under no obligation to price gouge, which is illegal in most states during a declared state of emergency, such as war, natural disasters, or COVID-19.

University of Michigan economist and public policy professor Justin Wolfers:

And Wolfers throws a challenge to the mainstream media, which is generally focused on only bad news:

Printed with permission from Alternet.

Why Are Americans Feeling So Bad About A Good Economy?

The U.S. economy is doing its best impression of a Formula One car, racing at high speed while negotiating a series of twists and turns. Last year, real gross domestic product grew faster than any year since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan was running for reelection on the theme, "It's morning in America."

One indicator after another suggests an economy enjoying robust health. Last week, economists were pleasantly surprised when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in January, the economy added 467,000 jobs — despite omicron, which spread across the country with alarming rapidity.

Unemployment remained low at four percent, compared with 6.4% a year before. A record number of people quit their jobs in November, reflecting their confidence that in today's labor market, they can find better ones.

The stock market is up more than 12 percent over the past 12 months. Corporate profits reached a 70-year high in 2021. Federal tax revenues soared by 18 percent in the 2021 fiscal year, as more people made more money.

But ... there's always a "but." As the columnist George Will postulated years ago, all news is economic news, and economic news is always bad. The dominant news in recent months has been inflation, once thought to be permanently vanquished but now making a comeback.

Prices climbed by seven percent last year, the biggest increase since 1982. A recent CNN poll found that 80 percent of Americans regard rising prices as a major problem, and 63 percent think the national economy is in poor shape.

That notion is at odds with reality. In April 2020, when the economy was suffering a pandemic-induced collapse, CNN found, 60% of Americans thought the economy was in bad shape. That the number is higher now than it was then is a testament to the power of negative thinking.

Where does the negative thinking come from? Maybe from the psychological phenomenon known as loss aversion. As Investopedia explains, some research suggests that "the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the joy we experience when winning."

Since the pandemic crushed the economy, we have regained nearly 24 million jobs, and growth has rebounded strongly. But those gains get discounted because of what we have lost: stable prices. The joy of a boom doesn't compare to the misery of inflation.

Politics plays a role. Most of the people who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 are not inclined to cheer the state of the economy, because they don't want to think that Joe Biden has done well at managing it. They feel vindicated by every unfavorable development. They bring to mind country artist Patty Loveless, who sang, "You can feel bad if it makes you feel better."

Biden hardly deserves all or even most of the credit for our improving fortunes. The economy is an unpredictable beast over which Washington has only limited control. But he did push through a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package last spring, despite warnings that it could overheat the economy and spark inflation.

Those warnings turned out to be valid. But if you're going to blame Biden's spending for the rise in inflation, you have to give credit to Biden's spending for the surge in economic growth. The outlays served to boost overall demand, which produced both results. Without the relief package, we'd have lower prices but slower growth and higher unemployment.

Much of the gloom about the economy stems from the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Some are economic: snarled supply chains, shortages of some goods, canceled airline flights and other events resulting from workers being infected. But the fear of COVID-19, the obligation to wear a mask and get any number of vaccine shots, and endless uncertainty may do more damage to the national psyche.

We all yearn for a normal life that we fear will never return. And whether we are in the pro-mask, pro-vaccine group or the opposing camp, we are confronted with reminders every time we go out that the other side is an obstacle to what we want. Bitter feelings fester.

In our yearning, we forget that in what we recall as the happy times, we were grumpy. In December 2019, before the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S., Gallup found that 62 percent of Americans were "dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time."

When you're smiling, the song says, the whole world smiles with you. These days, though, you'll get more company with a scowl.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Biden Says What Most Sane Americans Think About Peter Doocy (VIDEO)

It was not a good day for Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy. First, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was clearly irked by his line of questioning as he tried to make news by framing a rise in crime as something the Biden administration has ignored, despite Fox News promoting Second Amendment “activists” and doing its best to oppose efforts to reduce poverty and efforts to counter societal ills.

Later, after the close of President Biden’s Competitiveness Council meeting, reporters continued to shout questions at the President. Among them Peter Doocy, who carelessly asked the President if rising inflation was a “liability” for the midterm elections.

“It’s a great asset – more inflation. What a stupid son of a bitch,” President Biden appeared to say sarcastically.

Watch The Entire Exchange Below:

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

How Much Blame Does Biden Deserve For Inflation Woes?

President Joe Biden's standing with voters has taken a beating on multiple fronts. He is perceived as not focusing on issues they care about, particularly inflation.

Inflation is a president slayer. Richard Nixon imposed wage and price controls. When they were lifted, prices soared even higher. Would Nixon have been removed over Watergate if the economy had been better?

Gerald Ford issued red and white lapel pins proclaiming "WIN," which stood for "Whip Inflation Now." Inflation was unimpressed. Ford got whipped by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election.

Inflation dogged the Carter presidency as well. Carter did eventually appoint a determined inflation hawk, Paul Volcker, to lead the Federal Reserve. He threw the nation into a recession by hiking interest rates. Ronald Reagan defeated Carter in 1980.

Does Biden deserve the blame for inflation? Not to the degree people are saying.

Senate Republicans held a press conference in July blaming the "insane tax and spending spree of President Biden and the Democrats for six straight months of raging inflation." In December, Sen. Mitch McConnell tweeted: "It is unthinkable that Senate Democrats would try to respond to this inflation report by ramming through another massive socialist spending package in a matter of days."

Whoa. Biden did pass a large COVID-19 bill early in his term, but the rest of the "socialism" Republicans are fulminating about did not pass.

Republicans are suddenly crying "socialism!" but let's be fair. While the government has been pumping money into the economy at a record clip over the past 14 years, most of that has been the work of the Federal Reserve, and former President Donald Trump was the most vociferous proponent of easy money we've ever seen.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the Federal Reserve has been shoveling money out the door with pitchforks, and in the wake of COVID-19, both the central bank and the federal government have been "dropping money from helicopters," to use the image coined by Milton Friedman.

Many economists believe the Fed was right to do this as a response to the financial crisis of 2008. The controversy arises about when it was time to stop. Arguably, the Trump years were the right time. But that's not what the Trump-led GOP favored.

Trump's money gusher began in 2017 with the $1.9 trillion tax cut that wasn't matched with any spending cuts.

Trump appointed Jerome Powell to the Fed but quickly soured on him when he didn't increase the money supply quickly enough for Trump's taste. Powell was soon on the receiving end of Trump tweets. He argued that "we need rate cuts and easing" (exactly the opposite of what we needed).

If Republicans were worried about inflation, they might have spoken up about Trump's attempt to flood the economy with easy cash (to say nothing of eroding the norm about political influence on the Fed).

Then came COVID-19. Most people think the big federal cash infusion, the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, was a necessary response to the emergency. It saved many from destitution. But that money, combined with the trillions of dollars of quantitative easing and near-zero interest rates over the past decade and a half, certainly set the stage for inflation. Congress passed an additional $900 billion in December of 2020 — which Trump signed — for a grand total of over $3 trillion in COVID-19 relief.

Again, all of this money sloshed into the economy before Biden took the oath of office.

Was it wise for Biden to pass yet another COVID-19 relief package, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, in 2021? I don't think so. But did it cause the inflation we're experiencing now?

The annual inflation rate for most things Americans buy was already at the highest level in a decade before Biden entered the White House. And inflation is global. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, inflation among its 38 member states is running higher than at any point since 2008.

So, even if Biden is only partially responsible for the inflation we've got, there are steps he can take. One would be to remove the Trump-imposed tariffs, which are taxes that raise the price of goods to Americans. Another would be to promote more legal immigration. We are suffering a severe labor shortage in all areas. More labor would ease bottlenecks at ports and in transportation. Make keeping schools open a priority. Remote learning has been terrible for kids, and many parents cannot work if their kids are not in school.

Biden should forthrightly address what's on voters' minds. He's gotten tangled up in internecine fights with other Democrats over matters voters don't know or care about and that he can't even win. If they sense he's not really engaged in controlling the inflation menace, it could well do to him what it has done to other presidents.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.com