Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Men's Journal, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndyKroll.

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Graph of the Day: Unemployment

| Fri Jan. 8, 2010 1:18 PM EST

The latest unemployment data released today paint a somewhat disheartening picture—the jobless rate remains at 10 percent, and the economy shed 85,000 jobs last month—especially for this reason: Although jobs were lost, the unemployment rate held steady from the month before, meaning a large number of people had simply given up looking for a new job.

Which brings me to this graph from Calculated Risk. The blue line represents the number of people out of work for more than 26 weeks, and the red line represents the percentage of the workforce those long-term unemployed people represent. As you'll see, those 6.13 million people unemployed for more than 26 weeks constitute 4 percent of the civilian workforce—a record since the the Bureau of Labor Statistics started collecting this data in 1948.

Now, there are a few bright signs in today's jobs report. A crucial manufacturing index showed an encouraging uptick, raising the possibility of some growth in manufacturing industries, while the Labor Department revised jobs estimates from November to reflect gains of 4,000 jobs (the government had originally projected 11,000 lost jobs), the first gain in jobs in almost two years.

Krugman says the report supports his and others' belief that the stimulus was too small, and Brad DeLong uses the report as evidence that our economic recovery, if that's what this actually is, is likely going to be a jobless one. All in all, a decidedly mixed report, especially when it comes to the record numbers of the chronically unemployed, a total that's only likely to grow in the coming months.

(H/T Calculated Risk)

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Hail, Teach for America?

| Fri Jan. 8, 2010 7:35 AM EST

The Atlantic has a story in its January/February issue promisingly titled "What Makes a Great Teacher?" What indeed? As someone who follows education reform closely and occasionally writes about it, I clicked through to the article, eager to see what the writer, Amanda Ripley, had to say on one of the most puzzling, beguiling, confounding questions in all of education. What I found was far from inspiring or groundbreaking, and to be honest felt less like journalism and honest inquiry into teacher performance and more like, well, a Teach for America press release.

I guess the story's subhead should've clued me in:

For years, the secrets to great teaching have seemed more like alchemy than science, a mix of motivational mumbo jumbo and misty-eyed tales of inspiration and dedication. But for more than a decade, one organization has been tracking hundreds of thousands of kids, and looking at why some teachers can move them three grade levels ahead in a year and others can't. Now, as the Obama administration offers states more than $4 billion to identify and cultivate effective teachers, Teach for America is ready to release its data.

What follows is nearly 6,000 words that mainly focus on the Teach for America's long-term data collecting on the performances of its teachers and their students, all in hopes of answering, as the story's title suggests, a crucial question: What distinguishes good and great teachers, the ones whose students excel in the classroom and are eager to learn everyday, from the rest of the pack? (Teach for America, or TFA, for the few stragglers still unfamiliar with the program, is a nonprofit organization that takes a class of smart, talented college graduates each year; puts them through TFA's five-week summer training program; then places them in low-income schools throughout the country where they teach on a two-year contract.) The promise of The Atlantic story is it will reveal the results of TFA's exhaustive, long-term teacher data and offer rigorously tested, refined, definitive predictors on what makes a good teacher.

Geithner's Other AIG Rescue

| Thu Jan. 7, 2010 5:42 PM EST

Via Daniel Indiviglio at The Atlantic, a report by Bloomberg turns up some grisly facts about Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's tenure at his former employer, the New York Fed—namely, how the New York Fed told AIG to keep mum about its swaps deals with other banks that would benefit if AIG got bailed out.

According to emails obtained by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the New York Fed cut from a draft of an AIG regulatory filing mention that banks like Goldman Sachs and Societe Generale had swaps agreements with AIG and would benefit from AIG's rescue via a "backdoor bailout"—a troubling omission at a time when AIG's fate was up in the air and full disclosure was critical. Bloomberg quotes Issa as saying, "It appears that the New York Fed deliberately pressured AIG to restrict and delay the disclosure of important information." Taxpayers, he added, "deserve full and complete disclosure under our nation's securities laws, not the withholding of politically inconvenient information."

Indiviglio uses the latest revelation in the AIG counterparty saga to not only insist that the overly opaque Fed doesn't deserve any more authority (as I did yesterday), but to even question Geithner's position as Treasury Secretary. Without a doubt, that Geithner's New York Fed tried to cover up AIG's exposure is embarassing at the very least; it's also more broadly indicative of the Fed's belief that it can get away with almost anything behind closed doors. Is that the kind of regulator, as some have proposed, that should be tasked with overseeing financial institutions and markets?

Blind Ben and the Fed

| Wed Jan. 6, 2010 12:59 PM EST

In his column today, the New York Times' David Leonhardt takes to task the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Ben Bernanke, for not acknowledging that they inexplicably missed the housing bubble, and questions the Fed's ability to spot future bubbles. In the wake of Bernanke's speech this weekend in which he deflected blame for the crisis and instead pointed to lax regulation as the culprit, Leonhardt rightly notes, as many others have, the numerous occasions in the lead-up to the crisis when Bernanke and his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, rejected the idea of a housing meltdown and the broader crisis to follow. Like Bernanke saying "We've never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis" in 2005, or that Fed officials "do not expect significant spillovers from the subprime market to the rest of the economy" in 2007. Ouch.

Still, near the end of his column, Leonhardt begrudgingly concedes that the Fed "does seem to be the best agency to regulate financial firms." Say it ain't so, Dave.
 

The Curse of Cape Wind

| Tue Jan. 5, 2010 2:22 PM EST

Cape Wind, the proposed 24-square-mile wind farm off Cape Cod, just can't catch a break. Fiercely opposed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and his family, who didn't want rows of spinning turbines sullying their view of Nantucket Sound (they claimed the turbines would cause environmental problems), and getting no help from an otherwise green-tilting Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the alternative energy project now has a new opponent: the Mashpee and Wampanoag American Indian tribes.

Situated on Martha's Vineyard, the two tribes say the 130 turbines would disrupt their sunrise greeting ritual, which requires a clear view of the horizon, and disrupt ancestral burial grounds. In response to the tribes' claims, the National Register for Historic Places announced it is considering the Cape Wind location for listing on its register, potentially ruling it out as a wind farm location. While it doesn't outright kill the project, the National Register's announcement could force developers to relocate it elsewhere.

The decision struck some as an unprecedented move, the New York Times reports:

Others said the finding was surprising because Nantucket Sound, which encompasses more than 500 square miles, is by far the largest body of water ever found eligible for listing on the national historic register. Other eligible bodies of water have included Walden Pond in Massachusetts, which covers about 60 acres, and Zuni Salt Lake in New Mexico, which is about 6,500 feet across, said Jeffrey Olson, a spokesman for the park service.

"The decision is without precedent in terms of implicating many square miles of what is, legally speaking, the high seas," said Ian A. Bowles, the Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs. "But as a procedural matter, it's a good thing a decision was reached, and the secretary is getting personally involved to get it over the finish line."

Now, Cape Wind isn't dead yet. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the tribes and Cape Wind's developer they had until March 1 to reach a compromise, and even if they don't, Salazar himself could still make the final call himself. That said, it'd be quite a surprise to see Salazar go against the powerful Kennedy family, the two tribes, and rest of Cape Wind's fervent opponents.

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