For over a year, the Federal Reserve has said it planned to raise its benchmark interest rate — the one that’s currently near zero, and whose level ripples through interest rates across the economy — around the time that the nation’s unemployment rate hit 6.5 percent, so long as inflation wasn’t getting out of hand.
When Fed officials made that pledge in December 2012, unemployment was 7.9 percent. Now, as the jobless rate inches closer to the 6.5 percent threshold, the Fed is rethinking its stance, minutes from the central bank’s latest policy-setting meeting revealed Wednesday.
“Participants agreed that, with the unemployment rate approaching 6-1/2 percent, it would soon be appropriate for the Committee to change its forward guidance in order to provide information about its decisions regarding the federal funds rate after that threshold was crossed,” said the minutes from the late-January meeting, released after the customary three-week lag. Last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the jobless rate was 6.6 percent.
Fed officials don’t know what their new guidance will look like yet. Some of the Fed’s 10 voting policy-committee members thought it should be changed quantitatively; others thought a more flexible qualitative approach should be adopted. Several thought financial stability should join the unemployment and inflation measures that are intended to help the Fed convey to markets and Americans when they can expect rates to rise.
The Fed’s talk of changing its guidance dovetails with two broader economic discussions taking place. Although it has been falling, the U.S. unemployment rate is no longer seen as a great window into the health of the labor market. Part of its rapid decline, from 7.2 percent in October to 6.6 percent in January, was due to people dropping out of the labor force. Some were doing so for the “right” reasons — i.e., baby boomers retiring — and others for the “wrong” reasons — i.e., those becoming discouraged with the labor-force situation and dropping out. It’s tough to use the shorthand of the headline rate to convey that distinction. The persistent problems of long-term unemployment and underemployment are also not captured by the BLS’s primary jobless rate.
Fed policymakers grappled with another key question in late January: how much the downward trend in labor-force participation is due to structural factors, like demographics, and how much is due to cyclical factors, like the weak recovery. “The extent of the cyclical portion of the decline was viewed by some as difficult to gauge at present,” the minutes said.
The January meeting was Ben Bernanke’s last as Fed chair; when the Fed policymakers next convene, on March 18-19, Janet Yellen will be leading the board.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”