Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Ogden Area Bouncing Back?

What ought to be clear from a reading of the Brookings Report... any talk of local economic recovery is premature at best

On the theme of making a silk purse out of a sow's ear, we'll briefly direct our readers' attention an uplifting Standard-Examiner morning story, where some unnamed SE writer has cherry-picked a rather dismal Intermountain West economic survey, and reinterpreted it as a downright "chirpy local good news story."

This morning the highly respected Brookings Institution released this report, which paints a generally disappointing picture of "economic recovery" in the Mountain West:
June 2010 —Mountain Monitor: Tracking Economic Recession and Recovery in the Intermountain West’s Metropolitan Areas
And here's the SE's morning writeup, which craftily (and mendaciously, we think) generates a positive local spin:
Ogden area bouncing back / Top of Utah's economic recovery leads Western region
The SE puts all the emphasis on the good part:
The study... contends the Ogden metropolitan area has completely recovered in production output and surpassed prerecession levels of growth in goods and services.
But the fly in the ointment is unemployment, folks; and even the upbeat SE couldn't suppress that fact:
"... jobs failed to materialize, and Ogden's unemployment rate continues to mount..."
What ought to be clear from a reading of the Brookings Report is that Ogden, and the Mountain West in general, is still plagued by a dynamic of increasing unemployment which makes any talk of economic recovery premature at best. For a good discussion of the nature of the so-called jobless recovery on the national level, by the way, check out this link:
The Jobless Recovery
We're going to file this story under the label "Puff Pieces," folks, and for that we'll engage in another neck-snapping Weber County Forum segue. In that connection we invite our readers to check out this 5/10/10 blog article, which skillfully expounds upon the tendency of the print media to process "every visibly negative bit of data ... through a media and Central State assembly line" and to refashion it as "good news" and "evidence" that [a] "nascent recovery is taking hold":
Suppressing the Cognitive Dissonance of a Bogus Recovery
While we appreciate the SE's probably well-intentioned effort to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, we prefer to dwell in the world of reality here at Weber County Forum.

Who will be the first to comment?


OgdenLover said...

With the departure of Hollywood Video, the entire strip adjacent to that containing Smith's on Harrison at 42nd is empty save a payday lender. The strip containing Smith's recently lost at least one business as well. More tax base lost, more jobs lost.

Biker Babe said...

"But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes
He's got high apple pie, in the sky hopes"

'ceptin he's just a ant


Curmudgeon said...

For an interesting op-ed on the limited tools the national government has to foster job-creation [outside of direct federal employment projects, like the CCC say or the WPA], take a look at Mr. V. Mathur's piece, also in this morning's SE. [Link here.]

And in the piece that Rudi dismisses as puffery, there appears this interesting passage:

The report shows that a concentration of federal jobs in the Ogden-Clearfield region help make the area more "recession-proof...." The federal government employs nearly 9 percent of the work force in Ogden, a level 4.4 times the national average and second only to metropolitan Washington, D.C.

So Ogden/Clearfield has a greater proportion of its population drawing federal paychecks than any metro area other than Washington DC. And yet, this fall, Ogden/Clearfield will send to the state legislature and to Congress a gaggle of Republicans loudly braying their support for massive cuts in federal spending and for getting the federal government, as they like to say, " out of our lives."

Of course, posturing for the rubes on election day aside, they're hoping they don't succeed. Just look at Cong. Rob Bishop's recent flip-flop on these very points. He claims loudly he's a fiscal conservative, and he thunders to the rubes against federal spending and chants them his praises of "the private sector" because it's more efficient he says he thinks than large federal-run programs ever could be. [Standard Utah Republican boilerplate these days.] But when the Obama administration proposed cutting a troubled rocket development program at ATK that is behind schedule and over budget, and relying instead on private industry to develop new rocket technology, Bishop immediately did a 180 and began complaining about the administration's decision to cut NASA spending in his district and to rely more on the private sector [in someone else's district] instead. The decsions must be reversed, the Hon. [?] Congressman Bishop insisted, because those decisions would cost jobs in his district. Suddenly, his [alleged] fiscal conservatism and his hymns of praise for the private sector's [alleged] greater efficiency compared to large federal programs were gone with the wind. It's a wonder he's not wearing a neck brace to deal with the whiplash from his high speed ideological 180. And Hatch and Bennett weren't far behind.

But Ogden/Clearfield, with four times plus more federal paychecks in the area than the national average for cities, and cushioned somewhat against the recession because of that, will never the less keep electing state officials, Congressmen and Senators who insist they are dedicated to biting the hand that feeds us. And them.

Sure they are....

Dan S. said...

Good point, Curm. I'll believe that our local politicians want a smaller federal government when they start personally campaigning to close Hill AFB, relocate the IRS Ogden offices, and shut down the Ares rocket program.

AWM said...

Bishop is in a win-win position..he panders to HAFB and ATK and thereby locks up those votes and is free to serve his masters down south without much worry of voter fallout. Of course..were HAFB to close he'd be gone the next election cycle.

OgdenLover said...

Wasn't the decision to cut the ATK rocket program made under the Bush administration?

Dan S. said...


Yes and no. The decision to phase out the shuttles was made under the Bush administration. But at the same time, the administration decided to undertake the "Constellation" program to develop new rockets and space capsules, to go back to the moon "and beyond". The first phase of this program included the Ares I rocket and the Orion capsule. And the Ares I is basically a modified space shuttle booster rocket, made by ATK.

So for the short term, this shift actually increased the amount of money flowing to ATK, since they were still making shuttle boosters and simultaneously starting development of Ares I. And where did that money come from? Mostly from NASA's science programs, that is, from robotic space missions.

The problem is that it wasn't sustainable. Even with the cuts in science missions and the shuttle phase-out, carrying the Constellation program forward would have required a significant increase (the experts estimated $3 billion per year) in NASA's budget. And that was just to send people back to the moon, for no apparent purpose other than to keep money flowing to the aerospace contractors.

Meanwhile, along come these startup rocket companies that claim they can do the same thing for a lot less cost. I'm not exactly sure what they're doing differently to save all that money. The optimists would say they're more goal-oriented and less used to guaranteed government contracts. The pessimists would say they're cutting corners on safety and reliability. For better or for worse, these new companies seem to be our only hope for a human space flight program that goes beyond low-earth orbit within existing budgets.

I just wish someone would explain why we even need to have a human space flight program.

David S. said...

Dan S recounts some comments about the space program that he made on an enjoyable hike he and I went on. I will say for the sake of my coworkers reading this, that I did have some things to say and perhaps to retort at the time.

But Dan is always thinking about everything.

Curmudgeon makes a good point, but does so in something of a vacuum. Yes, we receive a lot of federal dollars. But productive industry must pay the taxes for those dollars. As we see from national tax receipts, the private economy continues to shrink even as federal spending balloons! The recent quarters of growth appear to be a mirage!

The point about local politicians working for local programs no matter what, perhaps illustrates an argument in favor of limited government.

As far as Ogden bouncing back - heck - it's bouncing back like the US economy is - on the back of huge debt and spending. You can always make things look good doing that. At least you can for awhile.

Nicely done said...

The federal government doesn't do anything without first taking the means to do it from someone else. The various levels of crap those means have to go through dilute any meager effectiveness of said stimmy to zilch. More government loafer jobs are not helping unemployment in the long haul. All this stimulus to "create" jobs is doing nothing more than kick the can down the road....and the road is not very long....more like a dead end. Nothing more than bread and circus' ...look how that worked out for Rome.

Soon to be Daniel Boone said...

Well Dan, I guess wandering around town wishing you lived in Telluride, sporting scruffed up hiking boots, worn and frayed genes, threadbare flannel/plaid work shirts, generally unshaven and leading a pack of tree hugging fanatics on the fringe, like the Sierra Club, is the way to get your message across and create a smaller government. Me, I always thought that that phenomina dealt with the size of the agency or beauracracy, not the companies that have evolved from national needs.

Care not that Box Elder County and the State of Utah are extremely concerned about the 3000 some jobs that a dying Ares program will bring about, not to mention the collateral businesses that are necessary to keep us, the U.S., the leaders in the Space Race (if there is such a thing these days-now I'm thinking the "race/dash" has been run and we won, but the ultimate and final finish line stretches "from here to infinity and beyond).

Another swell idea you seem to espouse is the closing down of Hill AFB (does Weber/Davis Counties and the State of Utah really need that place or the jobs that go with it-maybe the Sierra Club can absorb some of these thousands of workers you want to see standing in the unemployment lines and plant seedlings up the slopes of the Wasatch). And yeah, what the hell does national defense mean anyway? Who needs that? The world is full of trusting souls, all extending their hands in friendship and good will.

And, dude, then there's the IRS. I don't like paying taxes nor do I like many of the earmarks nor some of the ways our tax dollars are being spent under this "change you can believe in" Obama Administration. What's a few thousand more jobs, with those people out of work and their families suffering. Let's not sweat the small stuff; let's mae for "a smaller federal government." That's what's really important. After all, really, these people can simply man-up the soup lines. The homeless and hungry will be fed! That, apparently, is something you'd like to see and most likely will once you've whittled away at all of these large, money syphoning companies that have kept people clothed, housed and fed.

Yeah, eventually we can all eat trail mix, live in tents in the back yard, prospect, build mulch piles and homestead again. Thank goodness for the Sierra Club and all that it represents. It'll show us the way.

Dan S. said...

Although I don't usually respond to ad hominem attacks from anonymous cowards, I should perhaps point out that I have never advocated shutting down Hill AFB or the Ogden IRS offices.

I do favor cancellation of the Ares rocket, which serves no purpose other than as a jobs program. In fact, I would like to see the whole U.S. human space flight program phased out for the foreseeable future and the money spent instead on science missions and advanced research. Whatever happens, it would be wise for ATK to invest some resources into programs that are more cost-effective, with realistic long-term goals. If they put all their eggs into the Ares basket, then it's hard to have sympathy for the company, even though I'm very sympathetic to the many individuals (including some of my friends) who may lose their jobs.

Finally, I should emphasize that these opinions, and virtually everything else I write on this blog, are my own and do not represent the official position of the Sierra Club or WSU or any other organization that I might be affiliated with.

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