Poor Bob Woodward! The only way he can get attention nowadays is by whining and crying and generally creating a tempest in a teapot.
Yesterday Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen posted one of their patented “Behind the Curtain” pieces: Woodward at War, in which they dramatically revealed the inside story of Woodward’s little spat with the White House. This is the sort of story only the Villagers really care about, but when they care about something, they insist on forcing their opinions about it on the rest of us. It was the subject of the first hour of Morning Joe for yesterday and today, and the focus of countless media reports and blog posts throughout the day yesterday. Woodward must be in heaven with all this attention. From Politico:
Bob Woodward called a senior White House official last week to tell him that in a piece in that weekend’s Washington Post, he was going to question President Barack Obama’s account of how sequestration came about — and got a major-league brushback. The Obama aide “yelled at me for about a half-hour,” Woodward told us in an hourlong interview yesterday around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington’s powerful have spilled their secrets.
Digging into one of his famous folders, Woodward said the tirade was followed by a page-long email from the aide, one of the four or five administration officials most closely involved in the fiscal negotiations with the Hill. “I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today,” the official typed. “You’re focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. … I think you will regret staking out that claim.”
Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. “ ‘You’ll regret.’ Come on,” he said. “I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.’”
Horrors! “I think you will regret staking out that claim” is a “major league brushback?” Either Nixon and his men were quite a bit wimpier than we all thought, or Woodward is a lot touchier now than he was in the Watergate days.
In an update, Vandehei and Allen revealed that the White House adviser who supposedly yelled at Woodward over the phone and then “threatened” him was Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council. This morning they published the actual e-mails between Sperling and Woodward. Frankly, I was underwhelmed. Follow me below the fold to read them.
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Economists–well at least NeoKeynesian economists that look at data–frequently use words like “rigid” and “sticky” to describe the jobs market. Rigid is a good word. It means “deficient in or devoid of flexibility”. The Labor Markets are the biggest empirical hurdles to jump if you want to buy into some variant of supply-side economics or NeoClassical economics.
Wages and quantities of labor used to adjust very slowly. They appear to be dismally slow these days. Part of this is obviously due to outsourcing. The substitution of foreign (e.g. outside of our borders; legal status really doesn’t matter for purposes of macro growth) for US-based workers seems to have made the NeoKeynesian assumptions of sticky and rigid wages even more so.
What’s very interesting about today’s BLS report on jobs is that the unemployment rate inched down but the fundamentals in the job market don’t appear to be changing much. Plus, the unemployment rate inched down based on the way it’s calculated by more than anything else. It’s not really fooling people that know economics or finance, but will the public at large embrace the nuance? A huge portion of the populace is simply leaving the job market.
Felix Salmon explains some of the nuances in his Reuters Blog today called “No good news for the long-term unemployed”. He focuses on some of the buried numbers rather than the top number. Yes, he has a nifty graph you should check that out too.
The December jobs report turns recent history on its head. We’ve been used to healthy increases in employment making no dent in the unemployment rate, but this time a mediocre jobs figure—just 103,000 new jobs were created—coincides with a gratifyingly large fall in unemployment, to 9.4% from 9.8%. For those keeping track at home, that’s employment up by 103,000 and unemployment down by a whopping 556,000.
There’s no doubt that the headline payrolls number is a disappointment. The economy just doesn’t seem to be creating jobs: we need to see 150,000 new jobs a month just to keep pace with population growth. But is there some good news, at least, on the unemployment front?
I’m not sure. While unemployment is down from both December 2009 and December 2010, it’s down only for those who have been out of work for less than 26 weeks. The ranks of the long-term unemployed are still rising
Well, it’s not so ‘whopping’ in context–as we’ll see in a moment–but let’s look at some other things. The underlying numbers appear to be a total disconnect–and Salmon’s analysis is not unique among economists’ take on the situation–with the assessment of the President who just appointed lawyer Gene Sperling to do an economist’s job. President Obama also continued his rhetoric on substanial job creation being just around the corner and how the trend is just so much rosier under his leadership. Does any one outside of his circle actually believe this?
Now, read this Bloomberg article and notice the part at the end that I highlighted.
Obama said Sperling has been an “extraordinary asset” over the past two years as a senior adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, helping to pass a small-business jobs bill and a tax-cut compromise.
Obama said one of the reasons he selected Sperling is that “he’s done this before,” a reference to Sperling’s 1996-2000 leadership of the NEC during the Bill Clinton administration.
Obama also named Jason Furman as principal deputy director of the NEC, and nominated Katharine Abraham to the Council of Economic Advisers. He also nominated Heather Higginbottom as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Obama spoke on the same day that government data showed that the U.S. added 130,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate dropped to 9.4%. Read MarketWatch’s story about jobs report.
Obama trumpeted 12 straight months of private-sector job creation and said, “the trend is clear.” But he said there’s a lot of work to do to get more people back in the labor force, and pledged to forge ahead with more job-creation efforts.
Sperling was also deputy NEC director during Clinton’s first term, which was marked by standoffs that resulted in government shutdowns. Sperling helped negotiate a balanced budget agreement in 1997 and was an advocate for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall law that separated commercial and investment banking.