Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Turning the Corner 

Dimwits and right-wing ideologues comprise roughly 40% of the American electorate, and the President knows he can rely on their unwavering support. But how does he plan to woo the rest of us? Iraq is an unmitigated disaster. War on terror? Still no Osama, and after the latest orange alert in NYC even the congenitally gullible have got our Homeland Security chief figured for the carny shill he is. (Oh, and Mr. President? If there's current, credible intelligence warning of an imminent strike on New York, don't you think it might be a good idea to relocate that convention? Hmmmm?)

So what's left to run on? Surely not the environment. Maybe . . . the economy? The economy that's booming at last? The economy that's turning the corner, just as Herbert Hoover predicted it would? Yeah -- that's the ticket -- the economy! From the Hartford Courant:
Nearly 9 million Americans lost their employer-provided health insurance from 2001 to 2003, with low-income workers and Hispanics feeling the biggest impact, according to a study released yesterday.

The economic downturn that started in 2001, as well as a 28 percent increase in the cost of insurance, caused the decline in coverage, the study says.

The stronger economy now emerging could halt the slide but is unlikely to lead to a substantial increase in coverage over the long term, it says.

"Health-care costs — and health-insurance premiums — continue to outpace workers' incomes by a large margin," said Bradley Strunk, co-author of the study released by the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan research group. "Such rapid growth will continue to strain employers and make private insurance less and less affordable."
From the New York Times:
Layoffs occurred at the second-fastest rate on record during the first three years of the Bush administration, a government report has found.

In the government's latest survey of how frequently workers are permanently dismissed from their jobs, the layoff rate reached 8.7 percent of all adult jobholders, or 11.4 million men and women age 20 or older. That is nearly equal to the 9 percent rate for the 1981-1983 period, which included the steepest contraction in the American economy since the Great Depression.

Recession and weak economic growth characterized most of the period from 2001 to 2003, and millions of jobs disappeared. But while layoffs normally rise in hard times and fall in prosperous years, the new survey published Friday by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics added to the statistical evidence that layoffs are more frequent now, in both good times and bad, than they were in similar cycles a decade ago.
From the AP wire:
Hit with high energy prices, consumers in June slashed their spending by the largest amount in three years.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that consumer spending dropped by a sharp 0.7 percent in June from the previous month. The retrenchment came after consumers splurged in May, ratcheting up spending by a strong 1 percent.

The latest snapshot of consumer spending was weaker than economists were expecting. They were forecasting a tiny 0.1 percent dip in spending and a 0.3 percent rise in incomes for June.

Consumer spending accounts for roughly two-thirds of all economic activity in the United States. Thus it plays a key role in shaping an economic recovery.
In the midst of all this gloom and doom there is, however, a ray of sunchine. Prince Bandar is makin' out:
Oil prices climbed to new highs around the globe today, rising above $44 a barrel in the United States, as global supply concerns and terrorism fears made for jittery trading at a time of strong demand . . . .

Traders are investing largely on psychological factors, analysts said.

Futures were also pressured today by fears of terrorist attacks in the United States. U.S. authorities on Sunday warned that al-Qaida was planning attacks on five key financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington.

There also was uncertainty over the fate of troubled Russian oil giant Yukos, which produces 2 percent of the world's oil. Russian tax authorities said Monday they would begin an investigation into the activities of Yukos, Russia's largest oil producer, for 2002.

Attacks on Iraqi oil infrastructure have also kept oil traders on their toes, said John Kilduff, senior vice president of the energy risk management group at Fimat USA Inc. On Tuesday, saboteurs bombed a northern pipeline that sends oil to a local refinery as well as to Turkey for export, oil officials said.

"There's no shortage of oil, but there's no shortage of disruptive events," Kilduff said.

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