WASHINGTON, March 8, 2013 — Rand Paul, after his 13-hour-filibuster, admitted he is considering running for President in 2016. The Bureau of Labor Statistics today reported that February unemployment was down and job creation was up. Good news, but not reason to celebrate yet. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel arrived in Afghanistan today to demonstrate support for the troops and to promise continued commitment to Afghanistan after the pull-out.
Rand Paul for President
Rand Paul is responding to the surge of support from his 13-hour filibuster against the confirmation of John Brennan as head of the CIA – or, more accurately, against the Obama drone program – by saying he is “seriously considering” a run for President in 2016.
Paul told Politico that the Republican party needs “something new, fresh, and different.”
That announcement throws down the gauntlet to Republican leaders, who head into CPAC next week, to consider the role Paul will play within the party.
Paul, who describes himself as a libertarian, is not the standard Republican fare, and could shake things up in the Party.
How will the Party respond to Paul?
Al Cardenas, Chairman of the American Conservative Union chairman, said “There will be a number of great prospects for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. We are excited about our young conservative stars, and Sen. Rand Paul is certainly one of them,” Cardenas said.
Not exactly an exuberant endorsement, but there is no doubt Paul is a contender. He’s charismatic, popular and clearly not afraid to stand up for what he believes in. He is not, however, likely malleable by the party leadership. Can they reach an agreement?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported February unemployment numbers, which were better than most analysts expected.
According to the latest report, the United States added 236,000 jobs from non-farm payrolls in February, an increase of 119,000 jobs since January. The increase is the highest since November 2012, when the US added 247,000 jobs.
The report further stated that the unemployment rate dropped 7.7 percent, down .2 percent since January, and the lowest rate since December 2008.
The higher growth is attributed to a healthier private sector. Public sector employment fell by 10,000 nation-wide.
While everyone agrees the numbers are accurate, there is high debate on what it means, the reasons for the numbers, and what is next.
Speaker John Boehner pointed out that while job creation and lower unemployment is, obviously, good news, the problems in the job market remain. He reminded American’s that despite the improvement this month, “…unemployment in America is still way above the levels the Obama White House projected when the trillion-dollar stimulus spending bill was enacted…”
The Obama Administration used the opportunity to warn that the sequester could reverse the positive numbers. Chairman of the White House Council of Econonomic Advisors Alan Krueger urged Congress to “move toward a sustainable Federal budget” and “sensible spending cuts, while making critical investments in the economy that promote growth and job creation…”
Independent analysts note that the positive numbers suggest a move toward recovery, but warn the US economy is far from healed. They note the most important information to glean from the report is the growth in construction numbers. Analysts further say the political games over the last several months are likely to hurt numbers for next month.
Charles Ortel, founder of Newport Value Partners and Communities columnist adds additional context to the numbers, noting most professional investors do not accord great weight to individual “unemployment” reports, considering that these are survey based, do not segregate full-time and part-time employees and also do not delve into wages and other fringe-benefits earned by the sample pools.
Moreover, he explains, the February 2013, report needs to be placed in proper, long-term historical context. Labor force participation rates have steadily dropped from their pre-recession peak in December 2007, so the 7.7% figure for unemployment is likely far less relevant than the broader measure that counts the employment-to-population ratio, which remains stuck at just over 63%.
Chuck Hagel Goes to Afghanistan
US Secretary of State Chuck Hagel, the first veteran of the Vietnam War to hold the position, landed in Afghanistan today. Hagel’s mission in Afghanistan is multi-faceted, and includes thanking American service personnel, gaining greater insight into the situation in Afghanistan and assuring Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the United States remains committed to the country despite the upcoming troop pull out.
Hagel has known Karzai for 11 years, and said he plans to meet with the President to address numerous topics. One issue Hagel will address is restrictions in NATO forces.
In February, Karzai halted all Special Operations activity in Wardak, a strategically important area that offers a buffer zone to Taliban activity, and ordered all Special Operations personnel to leave the area. Karzai said he took the action in response to allegations of torture and murder of civilians by Special Operations forces.
Hagel’s choice of Afghanistan as his first stop as Secretary of Defense is somewhat ironic. In 2009, Hagel opposed Obama’s decision as president to send an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan.
Hagel will oversee President Obama’s plan – if it is approved – to pull combat troops out of Afghanistan by 2014 and replace them with military trainers and advisors who will turn security over to the Afghan forces.
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