from the Washington Post: “[S]everal legal experts and sources involved in the case said Fitzgerald was probably providing the new grand jury with a primer on what has been learned in the investigation and what remains unresolved. They said the prosecutor’s move into a more active probe could spell trouble for Rove, or for other people enmeshed in more recent developments in the case.”
Percent of Americans want the United States to set a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq, according to a new CBS/NYT poll.
From the Nelson Report: “Washington buzz today focused on reports of a three-hour grand jury meeting (presentation?) by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, with no witnesses called. Our legal advisors confess no inside information, but say this sort of an event usually precedes an indictment being handed down. If so, who…whom…might be the lucky winner this time? The afternoon betting line is White House political guru Karl Rove…” (Via TPM)
is mounting an aggressive effort to counter a Knight Ridder story that described Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito as a committed judicial conservative.”
[Guest blogger and American Progress senior fellow Gene Sperling was President Clinton's National Economic Adviser.]
In evaluating President Bush’s recent speeches aimed at talking up the economy to the 63% of Americans who view it as either “bad,” “very bad,” or “terrible,” I would describe the different parts of his speech as “appropriate,” “unwise,” and “downright misleading.”
I think it is appropriate for the President to want to tell the 43% of the public that thinks that we are in an actual recession that we have had solid GDP and investment growth over the last couple of years. I also think it is appropriate for the President to honor our nation’s entrepreneurs, to remind people that globalization has upsides as well as downsides, and to take an optimistic tone in discussing the future.
I think it is unwise, however, to fail to acknowledge that much of the pessimism in the economy is not, as I wrote last August, a mystery we need Sherlock Holmes to solve. As Paul Krugman put it so well in his Monday column, “Americans don’t feel good about the economy because it hasn’t been good for them.”
But it’s downright misleading to ignore the economy’s weaknesses so the White House can falsely claim their fiscally reckless tax policy is an unequivocal success. When it comes to economic policy, President Bush is like the football coach with a 4-12 record who wants to tell you how his strategy has led to the four victories while pretending he has had an immaculate season. So if the President wants to claim his tax cuts have been the primary cause of our current economic performance since the end of the recession in November 2001, here are a few more economic facts he might want to consider.
American families have consistently seen their incomes decline during the Bush Presidency — even when calculating only from the end of the last recession.
– For 2005, average real weekly wages fell 0.4% from $552.75 in December 2004 to $550.60 in December 2005. Since the end of the recession, they are also down 0.4% from $552.58 in November 2001. [BLS]
– For 2005, average real hourly wages fell 0.4% from $16.40 in December 2004 to $16.34 in December 2005. Since the end of the recession, they have been effectively stagnant, dropping one cent from $16.35 in November 2001. [BLS]
– Since the 2003 tax cut, real hourly wages have fallen 2.2% and real weekly wages have fallen 1.6%. [BLS]
– Real median household income has fallen each year Bush has been in office and by nearly $1,000 since the recession 2001 [U.S. Census Bureau, Income Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Aug. 2005, Table A-1.]
The President focused on job creation in both recent speeches, but employment growth in the current recovery has been the weakest on record.
– Monthly private employment growth has averaged a meager 59,700 per month even excluding the last recession and the months leading into it — the weakest monthly average for any recovery of this length. [BLS]
– The 4. 5 million job growth in the last two and a half years that the President brags about is weak by historical standards. In the last three recoveries, the economy created 7.9 million jobs during the corresponding 30 month period — 3.4 million jobs more than we’ve seen in the last two and a half years — even with a smaller workforce and smaller population. [BLS]
– The only reason the unemployment rate has fallen to 5% is that a smaller share of the population is working or actively seeking work today compared to before the recession. If labor force participation were as high today, as it was before the recession the unemployment rate would be 6.6%–1.6 points higher than today’s official number [BLS]
– Indeed, this is the first time on record that portion of the population holding a job is down 48 months after the end of a recession.
After seeing enormous gains in the fight against poverty under President Clinton, the poverty rate has risen each of Bush’s years in office, as an additional 5.4 million people have fallen into poverty since 2000. [Census, Aug. 2005, Table B-1]
– The poverty rate has risen each year since the end of the recession“”from 11.7% in 2001 to 12.7% last year as 4 million people fell into poverty. [Census, Aug. 2005, Table B-1]
– African American poverty has also jumped — from 22.7% in 2001 to 24.7% in 2004 as nearly 1 million (864,000) African Americans have fallen under the poverty line. [Census, Aug. 2005, Table B-1]
– Child poverty rate is on the rise — jumping from 16.3% in 2001 to 17.8% in 2004. As 1.3 million children under 18 have fallen into poverty [Census, Aug. 2005, Table B-2]
– This is the only recovery on record where poverty increased from the second to third year after the recession. [Census, Aug. 2005, Table B-1]
Though incomes have fallen, consumer spending growth has continued to propel the economy. Unfortunately, this combination has pushed the personal savings rate to historic lows, debt burdens to historic highs, and exacerbated our already unsustainable current account deficit.
– The personal savings rate has plummeted this year, hitting -2.18% in August — a level not seen since the Great Depression. [Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)]
– Americans now pay a record 13.6% of their disposable income to service their debt. Since we’ve had to borrow at record rates to spend beyond our means, debt burdens have risen considerably. [Federal Reserve]
– Thanks in part to our recent fiscal deterioration, net national savings have dropped from 4.9% when Bush took office to -1.0% last quarter– its lowest level since the Great Depression. [BEA]
The transition from budget surpluses to budget deficits was a major factor in this shift to dissavings. In January 2001, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected a more than $5 trillion 10 year surplus. Today, Goldman Sachs predicts a $5 trillion cumulative deficit over the next 10 years. They cite the extension of the tax cut as the “single biggest factor underlying” that prediction.
– The current account has deficit exploded“”hitting a record $199 billion in the first quarter this year and on pace to top $800 billion this year. [BEA, Global Insight Inc. projection in Greg Hitt, "Trade Gap Eases, but Deficit Poised to Break a Record," The Wall Street Journal, 9/17/05]
– We now have to borrow about $3 billion from abroad every business day to support our habits.
While President Bush may be trying to claim that everything positive in the economy is due to his tax policies, I don’t want to commit the same error by trying to tie everything negative to the Administration’s choices. But on the other hand, four years of declining wages, rising poverty and weak job growth is hardly strong validation for a tax policy that has significantly contributed to the largest fiscal deterioration in our nation’s history.
You might think that in a free society the media should find the facts and truthfully report them to the public. But former Army intelligence officer Lt. Col. Ralph Peters disagrees. In his recent book, “New Glory: Expanding America’s Global Supremacy,” Peters argues that the media should act as “combatants” in wartime:
The media can no longer sustain their pretenses of being aloof, objective observers dispassionately recording events. The media are combatants. [New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy, Page 49]
Peters took his thesis to Fox News last night. When asked about a recent ABC report that the CIA moved detainees out of secret prisons in Europe prior to Secretary of State Rice’s visit, he said:
When ABC or any other outlet gives away our national secrets, or verifies them, and underscores them by repeating what others have said, and seems to verify for the world — look, they are putting Americans at risk. They’re putting our allies at risk, as you observed. And they’re putting our programs at risk. “¦ But worst of all, Bill, it’s killing American soldiers. [The O'Reilly Factor, 12/6/05]
Bill O’Reilly agreed with Peters’ new definition of the media:
I would not have reported what ABC News reported. I would not have done it. I — as you know — didn’t put Abu Ghraib pictures on this broadcast, the only television journalist not to do so. I do feel that the press has a responsibility to help the government in the war on terror. [The O'Reilly Factor, 12/6/05]
Funny, and we thought freedom of the press was a fundamental democratic value.
During his response to President Bush this afternoon, Murtha revealed, for the first time, that the Pentagon will ask for an additional $100 billion for operations in Iraq next year:
MURTHA: Twenty years it’s going to take to settle this thing. The American people is not going to put up with it; can’t afford it. We have spent $277 billion. That’s what’s been appropriated for this operation. We have $50 billion sitting on the table right now in our supplemental, or bridge fund we call it, in the Appropriations Committee. They’re going to ask for another $100 billion next year.
QUESTION: Can we come back to the $100 billion? You said that you expect the military to ask for $100 billion. Where are you getting that figure?
MURTHA: Where I get all my figures: the military.
Murtha has reason to know. He’s the ranking member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. The total cost of the Iraq war is quickly approaching the cost of Vietnam, which lasted 8 years.
UPDATE: Crooks and Liars has the video.
Lieberman yesterday: “It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be commander in chief for three more critical years and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.” Murtha today: “Undermining his credibility? What has he said that would give him credibility?”
nearly 3 hours today with a new grand jury.
Before the war, we were promised by the Bush administration that Iraqi oil revenues would finance the bulk of their reconstruction. Here’s Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz on 3/27/03:
The oil revenues of Iraq could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years”¦We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.
Now we are being told that the oil revenues might not pay for any of the reconstruction – it’s completely up to the Iraqis. Scott McClellan today:
QUESTION: Iraq’s reconstruction costs — how much of that should be paid for by Iraq with its oil revenues?
MCCLELLAN: Well, Iraq’s oil revenues are for the Iraqi people. It is overseen by an Iraqi ministry and all those revenues go to help the Iraqi people.
McClellan later instructs the reporter to look for the National Strategy for Victory In Iraq because it “talks about the oil sector and the progress that’s being made there.” Actually, that document acknowledges “oil production is slightly down from a year ago.”
Maybe it’s appropriate for the United States to finance Iraqi reconstruction, but the administration should have been upfront with the American people from the beginning. U.S. taxpayers have already spent $18 billion on Iraqi reconstruction, with no end in sight.