Open thread March 5, 2021 Dan Crawford | March 5, 2021 5:09 am Hot Topics Comments (15) | Digg Facebook Twitter |
In no way, shape or form was I criticizing you or Dan for the technical problems. I was just stating my thoughts.
Obviously, both of you should concentrate on you own health.
The unemployment rate in February was 6.2 percent, down from the previous month’s rate of 6.3 percent. But as the Federal Reserve and top administration officials have emphasized, that number understates the extent of the damage.Most of the February gains came in the leisure and hospitality industries, including restaurant and bars, which have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. “There’s still a long way to go,” Ms. Pollak said, “but thank goodness it’s moving in the right direction and not continuing to hemorrhage jobs. The industry is a first rung on the ladder and employs so many young people.”The retail and manufacturing sectors posted small gains. Losses in employment by state and local governments — mostly in education — pared the overall increase, however. …
https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/03/05/business/stock-market-today/wall-street-rallies-as-us-jobs-report-shows-a-pickup-in-hiringStocks on Wall Street rallied on Friday, rebounding from three consecutive days of losses, after new data showed that the pace of hiring picked up in the United States in February.The S&P 500 rose 1 percent in early trading. Stocks in Europe pared their earlier losses, with the Stoxx Europe 600 climbing into positive territory.The gains in the stock market came even as yields on government bonds also jumped. Rising bond yields have spooked stock investors, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed above 1.6 percent soon after the jobs report was released on Friday before pulling back slightly. By the start of trading in the stock market, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 1.58 percent.The report from the Labor Department showed that employers added 379,000 positions last month, which was well above forecasts for a gain of about 198,000 jobs.The gain on Friday comes after the S&P 500 had fallen more than 1 percent through Thursday, in what would be its third-straight week of losses. …
Just got a vaccine appointment next Wednesday. 100 mile round trip but who cares?
Unmasked: When Identity Politics Turns Deadly
NY Times – Paul Krugman – March 4
… face mask requirements in a pandemic.
Wearing a mask in public, like holding it in for a few minutes, is slightly inconvenient, but hardly a major burden. And the case for imposing that mild burden in a pandemic is overwhelming. The coronavirus variants that cause Covid-19 are spread largely by airborne droplets, and wearing masks drastically reduces the variants’ spread.
So not wearing a mask is an act of reckless endangerment, not so much of yourself — although masks appear to provide some protection to the wearer — as of other people. Covering our faces while the pandemic lasts would appear to be simple good citizenship, not to mention an act of basic human decency.
Yet Texas and Mississippi have just ended their statewide mask requirements.
President Biden has criticized these moves, accusing the states’ Republican leaders of “Neanderthal thinking.” But he’s probably being unfair — to the Neanderthals. We don’t know much about our extinct hominid relatives, but we have no reason to believe that their political scene, if they had one, was dominated by the mixture of spite and pettiness that now rules American conservatism.
Let’s start with the objective realities.
We’ve made a lot of progress against the pandemic over the past couple of months. But the danger is far from over. There are still substantially more Americans hospitalized with Covid-19 now than there were, say, last June, when many states were rushing to reopen and Mike Pence, the vice president then, was assuring us that there wouldn’t be a second wave. Roughly 400,000 deaths later, we know how that worked out.
It’s true that there is now a bright light at the end of the tunnel: The development of effective vaccines has been miraculously fast, and the actual pace of vaccinations is rapidly accelerating. But this good news should make us more willing, not less, to endure inconvenience now: At this point we’re talking about only a few more months of vigilance, not a long slog with no end in sight.
And keeping infections down over the next few months will also help rule out a potential epidemiological nightmare, in which new, vaccine-resistant variants evolve before we get the existing variants under control.
So what’s motivating the rush to unmask? It’s not economics. As I said, the costs of mask-wearing are trivial. And basic economics tells us that people should have incentives to take into account costs they impose on others; if potentially exposing those you meet to a deadly disease isn’t an “externality,” I don’t know what is.
Furthermore, a resurgent pandemic would do more to damage growth and job creation, in Texas and elsewhere, than almost anything else I can think of.
Of course, we know what’s actually going on here: politics. Refusing to wear a mask has become a badge of political identity, a barefaced declaration that you reject liberal values like civic responsibility and belief in science. (Those didn’t used to be liberal values, but that’s what they are in America 2021.)
This medical version of identity politics seems to trump everything, up to and including belief in the sacred rights of property owners. When organizers at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference asked attendees to wear masks — not as a matter of policy, but simply to abide by the rules of the hotel hosting the meeting — they were met by boos and cries of “Freedom!” Do people shriek about rights when they see a shop sign declaring, “No shoes, no shirt, no service”?
But arguably we shouldn’t be surprised. These days conservatives don’t seem to care about anything except identity politics, often expressed over the pettiest of issues. Democrats appear to be on the verge of enacting a huge relief bill that embodies many progressive policy priorities. But the Republican response has been remarkably low energy, and right-wing media are obsessed with the (falsely) alleged plot to make Mr. Potato Head gender-neutral.
Unfortunately, identity politics can do a lot of harm when it gets in the way of dealing with real problems. I don’t know how many people will die unnecessarily because the governor of Texas has decided that ignoring the science and ending the mask requirement is a good way to own the libs. But the number won’t be zero.
I thing you guys (management) better rethink this business with ads that take up more than the whole page and you have to maximize and click on their “X” — and have to do it every page over and over. It is getting so inconvenient I’ll bet it discourages a lot of traffic.
Please note, drugstores now have the J&J vaccine all over the country and a store close to home could well just have gotten the J&J vaccine. CVS, Walgreen… The J&J vaccine is one-shot, which also may be especially helpful.
CVS and Walgreen now have the J&J vaccine in Arizona, and are taking appointments. This seems to have begun today.
Democrats split on jobless benefits slows relief bill in Senate
via @BostonGlobe – March 5
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats laid aside one battle over boosting the minimum wage but promptly descended into another internal fight Friday as the party haltingly tried moving its $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill through the Senate.
Senators seemingly killed progressives’ last-ditch effort to include a federal minimum wage hike in the relief package, which embodies President Joe Biden’s top legislative priority.
They voted 58-42 against the increase, though the vote wasn’t yet formally gaveled to a close. Eight Democrats voted against the proposal, suggesting that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and other progressives vowing to continue the effort in coming months will face a difficult fight.
But even as Democrats moved past that battle, they lurched into another as a deal they thought they’d reached between progressives and moderates over unemployment benefits threatened to crumble.
Republican senators — in accounts verified by a lobbyist — said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was no longer backing a Democratic proposal for a fresh round of emergency jobless benefits. Instead Manchin, probably the Senate’s most conservative Democrat and a potential deal breaker in the 50-50 chamber, was said to prefer a less-generous GOP alternative.
The Senate’s work, including formally ending the minimum wage roll call that started in the morning, jerked to a halt as party leaders mapped how they would move ahead.
“I feel bad for Joe Manchin. I hope the Geneva Convention applies to him,” No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota told reporters.
The overall bill, aimed at battling the killer virus and nursing the staggered economy back to health, will provide direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans. There’s also money for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, aid to state and local governments, help for schools and the airline industry, tax breaks for lower-earners and families with children, and subsidies for health insurance. …
For the Economy, the Present Doesn’t Matter. It’s All About the Near Future
NY Times – Neil Irwin – March 5
It is generally considered bad journalistic practice to start an article this way, but it must be said: The new jobs numbers that the Labor Department released Friday morning don’t matter.
These numbers can sometimes be unimportant in the sense that any one economic report offers only a partial view of what is going on, and is subject to margins of error and future revisions.
But it’s more than that in this case. This jobs report is inconsequential because the economy is at a momentous inflection point — what matters is not what happened in the last few weeks, but where things end up several weeks from now.
The report that 379,000 jobs were added in February and that the unemployment rate edged down to 6.2 percent is good news. It is a better result than what was recorded in January, and better than forecasters expected.
But the economy is still in a deep hole, with nine million fewer jobs than a year ago, or around 12 million shy of where we would be if pre-pandemic job growth had continued over the last year.
For a simple model of today’s economy, think of it this way: A giant, complicated assembly line has been shut down for a year, and it is now being fired back up. Different stations on the assembly line are coming back at different speeds. The number of final products currently rolling off the assembly line is less important than the details of the progress all those different stations are making (or not) toward returning to full capacity.
In normal times, the total employment gains reported Friday would be a blockbuster number. But continuing to add jobs at that pace would still mean a two-year grind back to pre-pandemic employment levels. The question is whether job creation will accelerate in the months ahead as more Americans are vaccinated and begin to resume normal patterns of behavior, especially regarding travel and entertainment.
One worrisome sign in the new employment numbers: State and local governments appear to be cutting jobs en masse. They cut a total of 83,000 positions, about 69,000 in education.
Will many of these jobs come back, if schools are able to operate at full capacity by the fall? The Biden pandemic rescue plan before the Senate includes $130 billion to help schools reopen safely, and an additional $350 billion to support state and local government budgets more broadly. If that money proves adequate to the task, the February job cuts could turn out to be a temporary blip.
Huge job gains were reported in February in some of the sectors most directly affected by the pandemic, specifically an increase of 355,000 in leisure and hospitality jobs, most of it tied to restaurant employment.
That’s good news as far as it goes, but restaurant employment is still 16 percent below its levels of last February, a two-million-job hole. Widespread vaccination that enables people to return to restaurants safely is the only way those jobs will come back.
The news this week that Merck will help manufacture the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is a bigger deal for out-of-work waiters and line cooks than the 286,000 bar and restaurant jobs added in February.
Things remain murky on the longer-term implications of the crisis. The surge in employment in February was entirely driven by people no longer being on temporary layoff — the number of these temporarily unemployed workers fell by 517,000 people. The number of permanent job losers remained steady at astronomical levels — 2.2 million higher than a year ago.
That raises questions about which jobs destroyed during the pandemic will come back. Are there certain patterns of behavior and business models that are gone forever? And what will the people who once worked in those businesses do now?
That’s the hardest question about the future. It is easy to describe the pathway back for jobs at schools and restaurants. But true economic health will mean that those 2.2 million people find their way back into the ranks of the employed as well, and that could take more than just a shot in the arm.
Democrats Agree to Trim Jobless Aid to Keep Stimulus Plan on Track
NY Times – March 5
Bowing to moderates who said the jobless aid was too generous, Democrats dropped their bid to raise a weekly federal unemployment benefit to $400 from $300.
Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat, insisted on scaling back his party’s plan to increase federal unemployment benefits to $400 a week, leading party leaders to drop the bid.
Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat, insisted on scaling back his party’s plan to increase federal unemployment benefits to $400 a week, leading party leaders to drop the bid.
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Friday scaled back the $400-a-week unemployment payments in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, making a key concession to placate a crucial moderate in their own party who had threatened to defect and derail the new administration’s first major legislative initiative.
With the package stalled in the evenly divided Senate, leading Democrats agreed to drop their bid to raise the existing $300-a-week benefit, bowing to the demands of Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and other moderates who had voiced concern that an overly generous benefit could keep people from returning to work and hamper a nascent recovery. As part of the agreement, they proposed to make a large portion of last year’s unemployment benefits tax-free.
The deal emerged after Mr. Manchin’s objections had halted the stimulus measure in its tracks just as the chamber had begun a marathon series of votes on an array of proposals to change the bill. Democrats’ decision to modify the measure to accommodate his objections was the latest reflection of the strength of a small group of moderates who are crucial swing votes, and the difficulty of governing in a 50-to-50 Senate, where Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote.
“The president supports the compromise agreement, and is grateful to all the senators who worked so hard to reach this outcome,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement. …
The eight Democrats who voted ‘no’ on $15 minimum wage
CNN: The Covid-19 relief bill has passed in the Senate
The Senate passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan on Saturday, after an all-night “vote-a-rama” and a 12-hour struggle to get Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin to support the party’s plan on a critical issue.
The vote was 50 to 49.
Now the bill goes back to the House of Representatives for a separate vote before President Biden signs it into law.
It’s expected to be passed next week.
The $1.9 trillion bill includes stimulus checks for many Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats have faced fierce pressure to stay united to pass the administration’s top legislative priority before March 14, when jobless benefits are set to expire for millions of Americans. But West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s unexpected opposition on Friday to a Democratic deal boosting unemployment benefits ground the Senate to a halt, prompting a furious lobbying effort between the two parties.
Democrats kept a Senate roll call vote open for 11 hours and 50 minutes, the longest in recent history, as Manchin signaled he would accept the Republicans’ less generous proposal.
The dispute was a sign of the centrist Democrat’s power in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats control the narrowest possible majority, and an example of how a single senator can derail the President’s agenda.
Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan had to leave Friday to return home to Alaska for a family funeral, leaving Republicans with just 49 no votes.
Senate Passes Biden’s Pandemic Aid Plan
NY Times – March 6
WASHINGTON — President Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed a deeply divided Senate on Saturday over unanimous Republican opposition, as Democrats pushed through a pandemic aid plan that includes the largest antipoverty effort in a generation.
The package, which still must pass the House before it heads to Mr. Biden’s desk to be signed into law, is the first major legislative initiative of his presidency. It would inject vast amounts of federal resources into the economy, including direct payments of up to $1,400 for hundreds of millions of Americans, jobless aid of $300 a week to last through the summer, money for distributing coronavirus vaccines and relief for states, cities, schools and small businesses struggling during the pandemic.
Beyond the immediate aid, the measure, titled the American Rescue Plan, would also have a huge effect in combating poverty in the United States. It would potentially cut child poverty in half, through a generous expansion of tax credits for low-income Americans with children, increases in subsidies for child care, a broadening of eligibility under the Affordable Care Act and an expansion of food stamps and rental assistance.
Its eye-popping cost is just shy of the $2.2 trillion stimulus measure that became law last March, just as the devastating public health and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis was coming into view. It is the sixth in a series of substantial spending bills Congress has enacted since then, and the only one to pass without bipartisan support, although it is broadly popular with members of both parties outside Washington.
Yet with Democrats newly in control of both houses of Congress and Mr. Biden embarking on his first major legislative push, the party-line vote was an early indicator of the Republican opposition that threatens the new president’s agenda in a 50-50 Senate.
As leading Democrats raced to avoid a lapse in unemployment benefits set to begin on March 14, a groggy and bleary-eyed Senate approved the package 50 to 49, with one Republican absent. Final passage came after a grueling 27-hour session in which Democrats beat back dozens of Republican efforts to change the bill, and scaled back the jobless aid to placate moderates in their own ranks who were concerned that an overly generous federal payment would keep Americans from returning to work, stifling the recovery.
The marathon session featured the longest vote in modern Senate history, as Democratic leaders stalled for time amid last-ditch negotiations with Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a moderate holdout, to trim the unemployment benefits so the measure could proceed.
The resulting package was a narrower version of Mr. Biden’s original plan, with major progressive priorities either dropped or curtailed to accommodate Mr. Manchin and other moderate Democrats. Unlike the president’s plan and a version passed by the House last weekend, it omits an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15. It also narrows eligibility for stimulus checks and reduces weekly unemployment payments, which Mr. Biden and Democrats had hoped to increase to $400 from their current $300 level.
Still, the pandemic aid bill was one of the most far-reaching federal relief efforts ever to pass Congress, and represented a bid by Mr. Biden to use the power of the government to tackle the pandemic and invigorate the economic recovery by pouring immense amounts of money into initiatives to help low-income Americans and the middle class.
The legislation would send another round of $1,400 direct payments to American taxpayers making $75,000 or less and extend $300 weekly unemployment benefits through Labor Day, making a large portion of jobless aid from last year tax-free. It would provide $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments, $130 billion to primary and secondary schools, $14 billion for the distribution of a vaccine, $12 billion to nutrition assistance and money for reopening businesses around the country. …
The Robots Are Coming for Phil in Accounting
NY Times – March 6
… the consulting firm McKinsey, which predicted before the pandemic that 37 million U.S. workers would be displaced by automation by 2030, recently increased its projection to 45 million. …
The fourth industrial revolution has begun
MIT Technology Review – October 15, 2020
… A 2018 McKinsey survey showed that well before the pandemic 92% of company leaders believed “their business model would not remain economically viable through digitization.” This astounding statistic shows the necessity for organizations to start deploying new technologies, not just for the coming year, but for the coming fourth industrial revolution. …
… The first industrial revolution, which began in 18th century Europe. Workers during this time witnessed a dramatic trend toward urbanization, accompanied by a rise in the iron and textile industries, all driven by the invention of the steam engine.
The second industrial revolution occurred in the late 19th century with the rise of steel, oil, and electricity, leading to innovations such as the telephone, the light bulb, and the internal combustion engine.
The third industrial revolution was achieved at the end of the 20th century and is characterized by the rise of digital technologies, including the personal computer and the internet.
The fourth industrial revolution builds on the most recent “digital revolution,” and is marked by emerging technologies, including robotics, AI, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, connected sensors, 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles. Combined with the communications infrastructure necessary to connect all of humanity to these breakthroughs, the result is the potential for a truly global society. …
We’re thinking about the fourth industrial revolution all wrong
Quartz – January 29, 2019