Health Care and Jobs, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Steven F. Hipple, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Talk Nation Radio for December 30, 2011
Breaking through media deceptions about the reality of the jobs and health care crisis
Health Care and Jobs, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Steven F. Hipple, Bureau of Labor Statistics

See below for audio and further information about this week’s show:

Update January 13, 2011: Talk Nation Radio sources clarified unemployment data for listeners, and the media is now correcting their reports. News sites covering global markets have retracted claims that jobs data has been steadily positive. News Corp’s “Market Watch” issued regular projections and sought to use the data to help build investor confidence. Despite grim reports of lower growth in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and of an ongoing banking crisis within the Eurozone that has sent markets reeling, their site has been providing regular upbeat reports that have at times presented the “improving U.S. jobs data” as if the numbers were a major catalyst for improving markets. That may or may not be true, but Market Watch has now corrected their data.

On January 13, 2012, they reported: “U.S. jobless claims rise 24,000 to 399,000.” The numbers were not as good as previously reported on their web site. However, they made no effort to take responsibility and presented the information as if the U.S. Dept. of Labor had made an error. Their story notes: “Jobless claims rose by 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 399,000 in the week ended Jan 7, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 375,000 from 372,000.” In fact, the numbers are always being revised. No agency could disclose full unemployment numbers on a weekly basis since the applications take time to process. Some of the statistical information is provided after government surveys.

We have been trying to point out since early December that the media was being overly enthusiastic about the unemployment numbers in a time of pending layoffs at major companies as well as the U.S. Postal Service. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has been offering the full picture regularly, but that the data has been presented in an overly positive light. For example, on January 5, 2012, Market Watch posted the headline, “U.S. jobless claims fall 15,000 to 372,000,” and pointed to the data as suggesting “gradual improvement in weak labor market”.

A similar spin was provided to the jobs reports issued on Market Watch throughout December, 2012. Unfortunately for American workers, these and other reports in the business sector media failed to include the full picture. Layoffs that were initiated in early December, for example, were not yet included. They have now clearly been added in, and that should have been anticipated by editors and writers at Market Watch and other news outlets.

The government reporting agency is constantly correcting and updating the numbers. We appreciate the fact that Steven F. Hipple of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, spoke with us to clarify this fact and put things in perspective for our listeners.

Interestingly, on January 13, 2012, Market Watch reported an “August-data rewind” claiming that the American people had panicked unnecessarily over information that seemed to indicate a U.S. recession had begun. For Market Watch’s “First Take” page, Rex Nutting claimed that the “Philly Fed change[d] its tune” and had offered a better report. (Here we go again?) ———————————————–

December 30, 2011

There has been an inflating of the US success story on jobs at market news sites like Market Watch (Murdoch site, published in Israel) and CNN Money as well as Nightly Business Report, PBS. We go beyond the headlines about improvements to talk about the reality of what the numbers mean. Also, there has been little or no mention of the problem of corporations and Wall Street investing in health care as a core reason for inflated costs for both health care and health care insurance. Health Care For All activist Dr. Margaret Flowers talks about the crisis provoked by Wall Street speculation in health care stocks, and points out that by getting Wall Street out of health care it would be much easier to make it affordable.

TRT: 29:16 music fades
Produced by Dori Smith, Storrs, CT
Music of Fritz Heede, plus clips: NPR, David Rovics
Download at Pacifica’s Audioport here and at Radio4all.net and Archive.org

We hear from Dr. Margaret Flowers, a congressional fellow with Physicians for a National Health Program (here) and a pediatrician based in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Flowers has been provoking national debate on health care with her protests at Congressional meetings in Washington D.C. and at meetings where health care corporations were discussing ways to make more money on Wall Street. Dr. Flowers has pressed the issue through protests at these events, and has gotten her views across despite the lack of an invitation. She was arrested on several occasions. She also talks about the data in the October2011.org Occupied Super Committee report on health care.

First, we go over the past few months of news on the way new unemployment claims have been reported. In many cases news outlets used a slight decline in weekly claims to argue that unemployment rates were falling dramatically. The information appears to have helped volatile stock markets recover, but was it true? As we learn, much depends on who is counting, and what data gets included in the reports. It had been widely reported that the US unemployment rate fell to 8.6%, a drop from last year. But we were skeptical. So we turned to Steven F. Hipple of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for answers. We soon learned that the numbers were not inclusive enough. “When you add these marginally attached, again that was about 2.6 million people, when you add that into the unemployment figures we call it U5 the actual rate would be 10.2% and that is published each month.” Furthermore, large numbers of unemployed had not been included in the figures being used during November and December of 2011. (See U5 chart here. )

We also mention a report from CNN.com December 30, 2011 where a negative set of numbers on new unemployment claims is made to seem positive.. (See: “It’s impressive to finally see unemployment claims fall below 400,000,” said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist with PNC Financial Services, who said that if there were a magic number for unemployment claims, 400,000 would be it.”)

Related pages and articles:

Democracy Now, May 13, 2009, Margaret Flowers and “Baucus’s Raucous Caucus: Doctors, Nurses and Activists Arrested Again for Protesting Exclusion of Single-Payer Advocates at Senate Hearing on Healthcare” Democracy Now, “Advocates of single-payer universal healthcare — the system favored by most Americans — continue to protest their exclusion from discussions on healthcare reform. On Tuesday, five doctors, nurses and single-payer advocates were arrested at a Senate Finance Committee hearing, bringing the total number of arrests in less than a week to thirteen. We speak with two of those arrested: Single Payer Action founder Russell Mokhiber and Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program.”

Quote: Margaret Flowers: “Our country has gone completely off track…. We have tried the traditional tools… We must stand together… the veterans are showing us the way.”

Photo at Flikr, Physicians take charge.

Jobs, Unemployment crisis, global factors:

America: U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, here. See Press Releases for weekly and survey of new unemployment claims information. Also this page for data.

UK Independent, International job loss, epidemic. See, Public sector job losses to hit 600,000 by 2016

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