Arizona Republic endorsed Gov. Jan Brewer (R). “No, Jan Brewer is not the most articulate gubernatorial candidate. But she is a savvy, determined student of Arizona politics who has faced down hard times, both personally and politically. … She is the right person for the job now” (10/11).
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Federal District Court judge Susan Bolton ruled 10/8 the Nat’l Immigration Law Center’s lawsuit “seeking to overturn” AZ’s immigration law “could go forward, despite efforts by” Brewer “and several sheriffs to have the suit thrown out.” But Bolton “dismissed some portions of the suit” including the NILC’s “claim that the law would restrict immigrants’ rights to travel and to use a foreign language” (Lacey, New York Times, 10/8).
You’re The Best, No You Are
Ex-AL tire plant supervisor Lilly Ledbetter endorsed AG Terry Goddard (D) “during an event billed as ‘Women for Goddard.’”
Ledbetter: “I know how far the state here is getting behind. It’s so critical we exercise our vote and get the correct people in office.”
Goddard: “We are singularly honored by your presence and what you accomplished. It has been my privilege in my life to be associated with some very powerful and significant women. And it’s made a great difference to me, starting with my Mom” (Newton, Arizona Republic, 10/8).
She’s A Lady
Critics say Goddard wife Monica Goddard “plays too large a role in her husband’s campaign, … but the woman herself says she doesn’t pay too much attention to the criticism, and that she involves herself in his schedule to help him maintain a work-life balance.”
M. Goddard: “It was hurtful to have somebody say that. But my main decision-making in the campaign … has been just trying to figure out the schedule so that we see Terry a reasonable amount of time, so we know what’s happening, and letting me do whatever I can to help.”
M. Goddard “said she has strong feelings about issues affecting children and education, and likes to offer her input.”
M. Goddard: “I don’t get to make the decisions. But I do weigh in. And I do it with the campaign rather than the candidate, because I know how disruptive that can be” (Arizona Republic, 10/10).
When Mark Twain popularized the famous line attributed to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli about lies coming in three varieties, “lies, damned lies, and statistics,” a lot of people probably assumed that they were both thinking about politics and/or economics. But even people trying their best to examine an issue or situation objectively can interpret the same numbers differently, putting differing weights on differing factors.
Recent economic data are open to substantial interpretation — the upwardly revised 3 percent increase in gross domestic product, for example, and the unemployment rate, dropping in five of the last six months and remaining steady at 8.3 percent in February. Yes, the economy grew by 3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. But almost two-thirds (1.9 percent) of that growth was created by businesses replenishing and building inventories, something unlikely to happen this quarter. Unusually mild weather may also be a factor. Statistics are adjusted seasonally, but a mild winter can “bring forward” some economic activity, stealing from the next quarter. Though the unemployment numbers have been good, the labor-participation rate has dropped. Fewer people 16 or older are working or actively seeking jobs. Since December 2007, the percentage looking for work dropped from 66 to 63.7. Wells Fargo Securities economics unit reported on March 6 that the rate is the “lowest since 1983 when women were still increasing in their participation in the workforce.” The Wells Fargo report continued: “If the current labor-force participation rate was equal to the average during the previous business cycle — 66.1 percent — the unemployment rate would currently stand at 11.6 percent. This suggests that the official unemployment rate does not fully capture the severity of joblessness in this cycle.”
The economy is getting better, but recent improvements may not be quite as impressive upon closer examination. Cutbacks in spending and employment by local, state, and federal governments produced economic headwinds. Rising oil and gasoline prices, and the European debt crisis and recession, portend plenty of dark clouds on the horizon.
The consensus of the 55 top economists surveyed this month by Blue Chip Economic Indicators projects the economy to grow at 2.1 percent this quarter. It is expected to rise 2.2 percent in the second quarter and 2.4 percent in the third quarter, leading into the election. These are not horrible levels of growth, but they are very tepid. The forecast is for unemployment to remain at 8.3 percent for both the first and second quarters. It should improve by one-tenth of a percentage point to 8.2 percent for the third quarter. That is certainly better for President Obama than most of last year’s 9 percent was, but it isn’t likely to come down much this year.
Some say that the direction is more important than the level; when unemployment is rising, people who have jobs fear that they or those close to them may lose theirs. When the jobless level drops, people feel relief and are more upbeat. A relatively static and elevated level means that anxiety remains constant. In short, if the economists’ consensus is right, anxiety levels may remain about the same.
Citigroup’s Tobias Levkovich recently wrote, “One thing to watch carefully is the price of energy and specifically oil and gasoline prices.” Citi’s chief U.S. equity strategist added that “gasoline prices historically have provided a roughly six-month lead on consumer confidence and the recent uptick does not bode well for the summer months, with some suggesting per-gallon prices could go above $4.00.”
Friday’s unemployment figures are certainly open to various interpretations. Virtually all agree that the economy is looking better. How much better? Just how meaningful are the numbers that show improvement? This is subject to widely differing interpretations. But this isn’t just academic quibbling; the trajectory of the U.S. economy is the most important single factor in whether Obama is reelected. If the economy isn’t turning around, it will be a cudgel that Republicans will use to beat Obama, as well as any Democrat who comes within reach. If the economy is turning around in a meaningful way, Republicans have to figure out what their “Plan B” will be: How do they beat Obama (and Democrats) on other issues?
Understandably, much of the attention to Friday’s reports focused on the 227,000 new jobs created in February and on the upward revisions to the December and January numbers. Somewhat less focus was on the jobless rate, which had dropped for five straight months before leveling off in February. Putting aside that the unemployment rate is derived from separate surveys of establishments and households, which tends to make it a bit erratic, it still is the single-most-watched economic number. But economists are also watching carefully something else: the labor-participation rate.
In short, things are improving, but maybe not as much as people believe.
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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."