Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's a Fright!

Yes, it's that time of year when the ghosts and goblins come out and scare us. You turn on the TV and there they are, looking right out at you with terrifying faces. The scary stuff you get in the mail isn't so bad because you can just look at it, know what it is and throw it out. Underlying all of this are people who are likely quite ordinary, and in normal times are probably not that scary. But here we are with a week until election day and the airwaves and mail is dominated by negative ads. As a nation, we have historically been optimists, looking forward to good things in the future. If you really believe all the negative ads, then none of the candidates for any office is any good! Have we become such pessimists with negative attitudes that we have brought this frightful development on ourselves? I don't know, but I assume the negative ads work to bring in votes. Early on, I decided personally that if a candidate did negative advertising, I would just not vote for them! Well, if I stuck to my decision, I would not be able to vote for anyone who is running. To me, it is scary that election day is only two days after Halloween. Could a candidate win public office by simply stating their position on issues? A friend of mine ran for public office a couple of years ago. His advertising was positive, explaining why he was running and for what he stood. He did not attack his opponent and spent a great deal of time going out and meeting the people. Near the election, I received an attack ad against my friend’s opponent in the mail. I was surprised and asked him about it. He had not seen the ad but had several calls about the ad. Apparently, the state party under which he was running did the ad. Because it is not legal to coordinate such advertising with the candidate, they just did the negative ad and sent it out. He called his opponent and apologized, but the damage was done. For the record, I don't like nasty and would like it stopped! Ed Mallon

Friday, October 8, 2010

News from the Front

Today was the big day when the U.S. jobs report for September came out. Rampant speculation led up to today on the level of job creation or lack thereof in the economy. As part of the report, the Labor Department reported that they had overstated the jobs created from April 2009 through March of 2010 by 366,000. This is a remarkable admission in itself, because even with these numbers, job creation looked dismal. The consensus leading up to the announcement was that, net, no new jobs would have been created. The report indicated that for the fourth month in a row, the economy shed jobs. While this is not good, much is to be blamed on federal and local governments that shed 159,000 jobs, about 77,000 of which were temporary jobs for the decennial census. The good news to me was the fact that the private services sector employment figures rose by 86,000 after rising 83,000 in August. In addition, temporary help services, a good gauge of permanent hiring, rose 16,900 after a rise in August of 17,700. On another front yesterday, the Labor Department announced that the initial claims figure for state unemployment benefits was 445,000, a drop of 11,000 from the previous week. The four-week average of new jobless claims fell 3,000 to 455,750. The trend here is good, with new claims under 450,000, but the four-week average is still over 450,000, and that needs to drop. Clearly, the major issue facing the U.S. at this time is jobs. This is not a harbinger of good things for the Democrats in the House or Senate. Lack of jobs means more pain and less consumer confidence. The Federal Reserve, because of the jobs report, will likely begin a stimulus program of their own. Back in December of 2008, the Fed dropped the overnight interest rate to near zero. Since then, it has pumped about $1.7 trillion into the economy by buying mortgage-related and government bonds. It seems likely now that they will add an addition $500 billion of purchases. The Fed next meets on Election Day, strange as that may seem. It appears that the idea of stimulus from the Fed sits well with Wall Street and has been driving the stock market up for the last number of weeks. Had the jobs report been better, the Fed would not be likely to increase the stimulus and the market would have retreated. Like Alice might see in Wonderland, a good jobs report is bad and a bad jobs report is good! I think we are moving up a long hill, even if it is slowly. Ed Mallon