Saturday, February 26, 2005


So, what's the point of this poll?

Sometimes we look at poll results and think, WTF?

Othertimes we look at the polls, themselves and think, WTF. This post is about the latter.

The Plain Dealer describes some of the results of yet-unpublished Gallup poll paid for by the Cleveland Foundation (the official release of the poll data is supposed to be on Feb. 28 in Akron at a meeting of the Fund for Our Economic Future):
Northeast Ohioans are far more pessimistic about the local economy's health than a year ago, and they think the region fails to create jobs and keep them here, a new poll shows.

More than one-fifth of Northeast Ohioans say the economy will be in worse shape five years from now. Across the region, only about one in 10 rates economic conditions as excellent or good.
Well, what a goddam shocker? Surely they didn't throw money away just to find the result. Similar polls have shown much the same thing for two years.

We don't know anything about the track record of the Fund for Our Economic Future, and the PD describes it as a "group of more than 60 philanthropies in nine Northeast Ohio counties working together to support economic development." Hopefully a reader will supply us with more info on this group.

But, from the PD description, it sounds like this was conducted kind of like a "push-poll," aimed at getting respondents to 1) buy into a particular way someone has framed the problem, and then 2) be forced to choose from a pre-determined list what solutions they favored.

If the story is accurate, you don't have to read between the lines to see that someone has framed the problem in such a way that it blames the lack of economic growth in the region to the absence of regional cooperation or some sort of regional approach:
The Gallup survey shows, however, that people in Northeast Ohio overwhelmingly want counties to work together to tackle economic development challenges. More than three-quarters polled said counties in the region should collaborate to create jobs, attract business, promote tourism and train workers.
This is such elementary, predictable stuff that, hell, we'd want to check the brain functions of the one-quarter who opposed collaboration. Really, is there a separatist group fighting to establish the People's Republic of Cuyahoga County?

We don't really have a horse in this race, but maybe we should. What disturbs us, however is, first, that the only real purpose of the poll seems to be to justify a particular "regionalism" agenda. The Fund for Our Economic Future seems to sparring with someone, but who the someone is ain't clear. Second, there doesn't seem to be any new, useful data in this poll. Finally, does anyone really believe the main problem with the economy in Northeast Ohio or in the entire state or nation is the lack of cooperation?


Smith: AARP to expand attack on Bush plan

The Plain Dealer reports that AARP president Marie Smith told an audience at the Cleveland City Club that the group would be expanding its $5 ad campaign aimed at the White House's proposal that would phase out Social Security. Smith warned,
Unfortunately, private accounts that drain money out of Social Security clearly are a 'solution' that is far worse than the problem.
Apparently supporters of the Bush plan are in short supply in Cleveland. The reporter noted that even at least one self-described conservative Republican said he was in Smith's corner on this issue.

Smith advocated for allowing Social Security to invest its trust funds into a "total market index fund" which the reporter says is "similar to most pension funds." In general, we think this suggestion makes a lot of sense if done properly. We suspect that Smith's proposal in this area is more robust than what was reported.

But, so no one gets the wrong idea, the best pension funds don't just invest in a "total market index fund" since there isn't one. First, there isn't just one "market". There is an public equities market (like the stock exchange), there is a private equities market (like venture capital), there is a real estate market, there is a bond market, and their are foreign markets. Even this is an over-simplified list. Second, you can't can't put all your eggs in one basket. To dissapate risk, you have to spread your investments out in these different markets so that if one goes south, you don't lose all your investments. Risk management is a huge undertaking in this regard.

Smith also called for raising the cap on taxable income for Social Security from $90,000 to $140,000. According to the story, Smith believes that this would lower the "shortfall" by 43%, but because of either slopping editing or slopping reporting, there is no indication what shortfall Smith is referring to.

We assume the reporter used the term shortfall to refer to the decrease in payments that some estimate would occur around 2042 when payouts could only not exceed revenues. This "Intermediate" projection suggests that payments would be 70%-80% of the theoretical benefit after that date.

It's unclear how wedded Smith is to the $140,000 cap. Josh Marshall dissects a new Social Security memo on the effects of eliminating the cap altogether, and he concludes that this change, alone, would keep the program fully solvent over the 75-year time horizon.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Ohio jobs picture about to look much gloomier?

Today was the set day for Ohio Jobs and Family Services to post the unemployment and jobs data for January. For the first time in our memory, however, ODJFS announced at the last minute that computer glitches in DC are preventing the agency from releasing their report. Nothing sinister implied here.

However, we hear from a lot of economists that, if anything, any new reports are likely to show a huge loss in jobs this winter (think 5 digits, maybe 6!?!?). Maybe someone should tip off Congresswoman Pollyanna Pryce.


Sherrod Brown gets crowd

U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown got a good (and anti-phase out crowd) at his town meeting. The Beacon-Journal reports that "100 area residents dragged themselves out of their houses on a cold winter night to attend a meeting about Social Security at the downtown Akron-Summit County Public Library."

But does writer Bob Dyer and his editors think that because he is labeled a "columnist" he should evade professional scrutiny? Really, his comment that "Brown is not exactly an impartial observer" should earn Dyer a place in the douche bag hall of fame. We, uh, seem to recall that it was Bush and the Republican Party that pushed the issue and made it partisan. If wanting the retain the most successful government program in recorded history makes you partisan, than apparently, in Bob's world, about 80% of the country is "impartial."

Further, can we count on Dyer now to apply his disclaimer to every politician that has a position on an issue? More importantly, where is Dyer's cynicism for the chicken-shit Republicans who are trying to lay low on the Social Security issue?


Portman: No feeling in his brain?

From the Enquirer: Cincinnati-area Congressman Rob Portman finally confesses to the cause of his support for the Bush Social Security Phase Out plan:
The amount of information about Social Security can be mind-numbing.
Apparently his constituents are a little more clear-minded:
"If the administration does what they're planning on doing, I don't see how this will fix Social Security. This only increases the deficit."
- Emmett Stubbs, 56, Roselawn, Kroger employee

"I don't think privatized accounts is a good thing because there are people who won't invest wisely. So you'll end up with more ... poverty."
- Rita Pritchard, 39, Pleasant Ridge, accounts payable

"(Politicians) are just trying to sell us something we don't want. And if you keep shipping jobs overseas, the system is unsustainable, whatever they do."
- Phil Mullen, 63, Springboro, retired GM worker

"Privatization is a red herring. It's a way of tricking us into thinking people will control their own funds."
- Kim Stubbs, 48, Roselawn, nurse

(Note: We haven't engaged in selective inclusion of comments. The Enquirer's reporter apparently couldn't find any pro-phase out supporters to quote.)

Thursday, February 24, 2005


To laugh or to cry?

In Cincinnati, we apparently have a case of art imitating life imitating art. First, we apologize that this is somewhat old news by now, but this absurdity over the seizure of satirical passports that were to be used in a Cincinnati art show - seized in the name of homeland security - is worth noting. Thanks to Brian for alerting us to this.

From the Enquirer:
Fake passports for the fictional State of Sabotage were to be issued last Friday night at the Contemporary Arts Center during the opening of its new exhibit "Incorporated."

Instead, the 33 passports were confiscated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Detroit en route to the show.

Robert Jelinek, the Austrian artist who is leader of the art group Sabotage, did not discover the items were missing from his luggage until it turned up Thursday, a day after his arrival here. Buried inside the luggage was a folded receipt from U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the missing items, which also included: seventy-seven brochures produced by the CAC and Sabotage, a container of glue, two ink pads, four "State of Sabotage" stamps, a camera and a bottle of Sabotage perfume called "Cash."
Jelinek is kind of a conceptual artist and part of a collective that works in visual and music arts that revolves around a "State of Sabotage" theme. According to the SOS website, "'Sabotage' in this sense means the braking of conventions, the artistic interruption of processes of thinking and manipulational transfer."

On one hand, the seizure is so far over the top that it could only have come from the Bush administration. If this is what Homeland Security is worried about, we are in deep, deep shit. Customs/Homeland Security officials tried to invoke a law banning "immoral materials" that include "any book, pamphlet, paper, writing, advertisement, circular, print, picture, or drawing containing any matter advocating or urging treason or insurrection against the United States." Apparently after realizing how foolish they looked, federal officials said they would return the "passports" and other materials taken.

One the other hand, we suspect that Jelinek knows he couldn't have planned a better outcome and the whole affair proved the point of the exhibit. As a matter of fact, the Customs receipt and a statement from Jelinek on the matter are now part of his exhibit


Ohio leads U.S. in bankruptcy climb

From Policy Matters Ohio comes one more piece of evidence that central Ohio Congresswoman Deborah Pryce is spewing crap about how well workers and the economy are doing in Ohio:
Bankruptcies climbed faster in Ohio than in any other state between 2000 and 2003, and reached their highest recorded rates in Ohio and the United States by the end of that period. . . By 2003, there were a record 5.5 personal bankruptcy filings for every 1,000 people living in the U.S., and 7.7 personal bankruptcy filings for every 1,000 people living in Ohio. . . Ohio's rate was eighth highest in the country and higher than all Midwestern states except Indiana's. Only Tennessee, Alabama, Utah, Georgia, Nevada, Indiana and Arkansas had higher bankruptcy rates than Ohio in 2003.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Chance to pin Tiberi down on Social Security this Thursday

Ohio Congressman Pat Tiberi has not been a supporter of Bush's Social Security phase out plan. That's not to say he has been a strong opponent either. He just strikes us as someone with their finger in the wind, and he admits that the main reason - in fact the only reason we know of - that he hasn't come out in favor of the Bush plan is that his constituents oppose it.

That "unposition" position leaves a lot of room for wiggle and compromise. Isn't it time some consituents and reporters try to pin his position down a wee bit more?

Here's your opportunity. According to a press release Tiberi is holding "neighborhood office hours" in his district Thursday, Feb. 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. We don't know if this is really like some of the "town meetings" the Republicans have been using this week to test the waters on Social Security. "Office hours" sounds like something less structured and maybe run by staff.

Anyway, the event is suppose to happen at the Jefferson Township offices located at 6545 Havens Road in the Columbus northeast suburb of Gahanna. Any takers?


Why does Deborah Pryce lie?

From Congresswoman Pryce's opening statement to the Financial Services Committee on February 17, 2005:
Thank you, Chairman Oxley.
Welcome Chairman Greenspan, and thank you for taking the time to discuss with us your insightful thoughts on monetary policy. It has been a while since I’ve had the privilege of sitting on this committee and the opportunity to enjoy discussing with you the state of our economy.

[. . .]

My home state of Ohio, which has been hard hit by manufacturing job loss over the last two years, has recently seen an increase in workers returning to the job market—and Ohio is not alone in this recovery.
From the January 21, 2005 (most recent) press release from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family services (emphasis added):
Ohio's nonagricultural wage and salary employment fell 7,500 over the month, from 5,362,000 in November to 5,354,500 in December, according to the latest establishment survey conducted by ODJFS.

Service-providing industries were down 6,800 to 4,286,100. Professional and business services dropped 3,400, while trade, transportation, and utilities fell 2,700. Declines were also noted in government (-1,700), financial activities (-500), and other services (-400). Leisure and hospitality rose 1,100 over the month. Educational and health services advanced 600, while information added 200 jobs. Goods-producing industries slipped 700 over the month to 1,068,400. The loss occurred in manufacturing (-1,200). Construction employment was up 500. Natural resources and mining was unchanged.
And what about the previous month? Again, from a ODJFS press release:
Ohio's nonagricultural wage and salary employment, at 5,359,100 in November, was 2,500 below the October level, according to the latest establishment survey conducted by ODJFS.

Service providers lost 1,300 jobs over the month to 4,289,700. Educational and health services declined 1,300. Other services had a drop of 1,000. Decreases were also noted in professional and business services (-500), information (-200), and financial activities ( 100). Trade, transportation, and utilities advanced 800. Gains occurred in leisure and hospitality (+700) and government (+300). Goods-producing industries were down 1,200 to 1,069,400. Declines in manufacturing (-2,400) and natural resources and mining ( 100) were partially offset by in increase of 1,300 in construction.
Doesn't anybody in the press corps check up on Pryce? Should she be allowed to just make this stuff up?

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