Initial unemployment claims fell by 50,000 last week to 449,000. The last time the number was that low, Barack Obama was the surprise winner of the Iowa Caucus four years ago. Speaking of surprise winners in Iowa: according to the Republicans there was no winner in Iowa as the official tally now shows Santorum won by 43 votes. Their rationale to declare “no winner” is that there are eight precincts whose reports are missing, so there couldn’t be a final determination, but these missing ballots were all in counties where Santorum did well. The real margin of victory for Santorum was probably higher, but we still aren’t talking landslide. [update: Iowa declared Santorum the winner on Saturday]
To avoid admitting that Romney didn’t win, the Republicans then fell back to saying that Romney and Santorum each got six RNC delegates, so it was a tie (stop looking at us and move on). They also awarded six delegates to Ron Paul. Funny that nobody mentions that Paul also won Iowa. Of course none of these delegates are actually committed to anybody as they were “awarded” by the state party, and weren‘t elected by the Caucus (the GOP term for this is “soft committed“).
Back to the economy: manufacturing continues to show growth, albeit with lower wages; retail sales were up 6.6% last year, but the 4th quarter was nearly flat; and housing starts are generally up, but almost all in apartment units.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil was down more than 2% today. You would think when Obama killed the pipeline that oil prices would spike on the basis of the anticipated shortages. Funny how just the opposite is happening. It might have something to do with domestic production being above 50% of consumption for the first time since the mid 1990s. The fact is that Obama is keeping oil produced in Canada and most of the Midwest from being exported to China. The reality of that will never sink into the “drill baby, drill” crowd however.
A variety of reports on the condition of American highways point to the folly of 30 years' neglect. Internationally we rank 20th in highway infrastructure behind several countries that most Americans would assume to be 3rd world. Nearly half of all traffic accident reports cite the poorly maintained or obsolete highways as the cause. The cost to commuters caused by the neglected highway system is estimated at $110 billion each year.
Over all, the lack of modern infrastructure is slicing a trillion dollars off the top of our GDP. That’s about 7% of unrealized potential economy that would put an awful lot of people to work. Then there is the three trillion dollars' worth of infrastructure repairs that have been piling up for decades. These include bridges, dams, levees and other constructs that have the potential for mass casualties when they fail.
So highways are yet another indicator that we have sunk to third world status under Republican domination. The problem with correcting any of this is that the education system was one of the first things to go. The Republican solution for the roads is the same as for everything else: privatize them. President Eisenhower built the Interstate Highways, President Romney wants to own them. www.prairie2.com