College Football Week 15 Power Rankings
Championship week brought a final twist to the BCS title race. Top ranked Florida State took care of business in a 45-7 rout of Duke, but Ohio State was tripped up in the Big 10 title game and fell to Michigan State. The Buckeyes loss opened the door for Auburn, who had defeated Missouri earlier in the day to win the SEC title and keep their title hopes alive.
Florida State started the ACC title game slow, as the first quarter ended in a scoreless tie. The Seminoles quickly removed all doubt with a 17 point second quarter and a 21 point third quarter. The route was on, and the Noles cruised into the BCS title game with another blowout.
Ohio State had won 24 straight games heading into their Big 10 title match with Michigan State. However, their schedule was notoriously easy this year, with only 2 games against ranked opponents prior to their date with the Spartans. Michigan State jumped out to a 17 point lead, only to cough it up by the third quarter as they surrendered 24 unanswered points. The Spartans would close out the game with the final 17 points to end the Buckeyes undefeated season and any BCS title hopes.
Auburn ran their way to a likely bid in the BCS title game with a 59-42 win over Missour in the SEC title game. The Tigers were once again dominant on the ground, racking up an astounding 534 yards rushing. Tre Mason had a staggering 46 carries for 304 yards on his own. With back to back wins over top 5 teams, Auburn ends the season as the hottest team in the nation. The potential match up with Florida State should have all college football fans salivating.
1. Florida State Seminoles
2. Auburn Tigers
3. Alabama Crimson Tide
4. Michigan State Spartans
5. South Carolina Gamecocks
6. Stanford Cardinal
7. Ohio State Buckeyes
8. Baylor Bears
9. Missouri Tigers
10. Clemson Tigers
Unemployment Rate Falls to 7% in November
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its employment report earlier today, and the nation once again got good news. The US added 203,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate fell from 7.3% to 7%. This data comes on the heels of a large upwards revision of 3rd quarter GDP from 2.8% to 3.6%. All signs point towards an economy that is growing healthily.
The November figure was higher than experts predicted. Most saw a total of about 180,000 jobs being created.
The August to November time period saw an average of 204,000 jobs created each month. That figure was up from 159,000 jobs average from April to July. October’s numbers were revised to about 200,000 new jobs created. The year started strong in job growth, slowed in the spring, and has accelerated to close the year strong.
Previous spikes in job growth have typically been in low paying jobs, but November saw growth in higher paying jobs as well. Over 27,000 jobs were added in manufacturing, and 17,000 were added in construction. The manufacturing numbers were the highest since March of 2012 according to the Associated Press.
US Economy Expanding Faster Than Previously Thought
The Commerce Department revised third quarter GDP up on Thursday, showing the US economy grew faster than initially projected. GDP growth was revised up from 2.8% to 3.6%. Economists had predicted an upward revision to 3% growth. In another bit of good news, jobless claims dropped by 23,000 to 298,000. These figures are the lowest since May of 2007.
Much of the GDP growth is fueled by businesses accumulating stock. Consumer demand has remained sluggish. US companies have built up over $116.5 billion worth of inventory and saw the biggest increase since 1998.
The job numbers are more promising than the GDP numbers. The job numbers show that fewer and fewer businesses are laying off workers. The less volatile 4 week rolling average of initial unemployment claims fell 10,750 to 322,250. Initial claims have fallen in 7 of the past 8 weeks.
Obamacare Signups Increasing
The online health insurance exchange available via Healthcare.gov has gotten off to a horrendous start. The site was flooded with visitors from day one and quickly proved to be unable to handle the job it was assigned. As a result, October saw only 27,000 people sign up for insurance through the site. However, thanks to tireless work to improve the website over the past two months, those numbers grew tremendously in November.
Preliminary reports indicate that roughly 100,000 people enrolled in a health plan through Healthcare.gov last month. That figure nearly quadruples the numbers from October. All month long the Obama administration pledged that the site would be vastly improved by November 30th. On Monday, the administration quietly declared mission accomplished on that promise.
The new and improved website is supposed to be able to handle up to 800,000 visitors a day. By noon on Monday, the site had clocked over 375,000 visits. Though the website performed much better than it did at the October launch, the administration admits there is still work to be done.
One of the new features of the site is a waiting page for visitors when the server is overwhelmed. Visitors typically only have to wait a few moments.
Manufacturing and Construction Grow in US
The US was dealt some good economic news on Monday as the country returned to work from the holiday weekend. Numbers from both October and November were trickling in, and thus far all signs are positive. Construction grew in October, and Manufacturing grew in November.
The growth in construction was surprising, especially considering what fueled it. Government projects helped spur the construction growth, and they occurred during a month in which the government was shut down for weeks. Construction spending increased 0.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $908.4 billion according to the Labor Department.
Spending had fallen 0.3% in September. The Ohio numbers were the best since May of 2009. Government spending was the big cause of the growth, as federal spending increased 10.9%, including 3.9% in public projects. State and local governments also spent more on construction.
College Football Week 14 Power Rankings
The BCS title race was thrown for another loop this weekend as top ranked Alabama went down in a thriller at Auburn. The Tide’s loss was the Ohio State Buckeyes gain, as they are now likely one win away from a spot in the title game. Florida State became the consensus number one team in the country with a 37-7 rout of rival Florida.
The annual Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn turned into an instant classic. For the second time in less than a month, Auburn got a miracle finish to beat an SEC foe. This time around, the Tigers returned a missed field goal over 100 yards for the go ahead score as time expired. Alabama had several chances to put the game away late in the 4th, holding the ball deep in Auburn territory but failing to come away with any points. The Crimson Tide will look back at those possessions with much regret over the coming weeks.
Auburn advances to the SEC championship, where they will face Missouri, who defeated Texas A&M on Saturday to lock up the SEC East.
While Florida State had an easy go of it in their rivalry game, Ohio State was put to the test by Michigan. The Wolverines had a chance to tie the game in the waning moments, but opted to go for a two point conversion with the score at 42-41. Michigan failed, and Ohio State’s undefeated season continued. The Buckeyes will next face Michigan State in the Big 10 title game.
1. Florida State Seminoles
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Auburn Tigers
4. Missouri Tigers
5. Alabama Crimson Tide
6. Oklahoma State Cowboys
7. South Carolina Gamecocks
8. Michigan State Spartans
9. Stanford Cardinal
10. Baylor Bears
Drone Strikes Endanger Afghan Security Deal
A security deal that would keep US troops in Afghanistan for another decade now faces a new hurdle. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is furious with the US after a drone strike killed civilians in southern Afghanistan. Karzai has wanted an end to strikes that kill civilians before he agrees to sign the security deal.
A broad deal that would keep a few thousand troops in Afghanistan has already been agreed upon, but has yet to be signed. Karzai mentioned last week that he wants to wait until after the April elections in Afghanistan before signing the deal. The Obama administration wants the deal signed immediately, or they will begin a final withdrawal of troops.
President Obama has mentioned publicly several times that the 2014 timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan was on track. It was a promise both he and Vice President Biden made during the 2012 campaign. However, the administration was negotiating with the Afghan government to continue a US presence in the region for months.
Nuclear Deal Reached with Iran
A temporary deal to halt Iran’s nuclear program and ease sanctions has been reached in Geneva. The deal was announced last night, with President Obama taking to the airwaves to announce it. The deal follows weeks of intense talks in Geneva between six world powers and Iran.
Iran has been quickly building their nuclear program over the last decade, though they have always stated that the program was peaceful. However, many world powers feared the program was secretly designed to build nuclear weapons. The higher levels of uranium enrichment the Iranians sought led many to believe they wanted nuclear weapons.
The program led to sanctions from Western nations. The sanctions have taken their toll on Iran, and this year the people elected moderate President Hassan Rouhani. President Rouhani promised to bring an end to the sanctions and open dialogue with the West. In September, he spoke to President Obama by phone, the first time leaders of the two nations had spoken in decades.
The deal will last approximately six months, during which time a permanent solution will be sought. Iran has agreed to halt uranium enrichment beyond 5%, a number that is good for energy production but short of that needed for weapons. Iran has also agreed to dilute its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium and will not be expanding their nuclear program during the six month period.
In return, the world powers have offered $6-$7 billion in sanctions relief, most of which will come from oil revenue that has been frozen in foreign banks. Most sanctions will still be in place against Iran during the sixth month period of the deal.
Democrats Pass Filibuster Reform
Democrats have passed a major rule change in the Senate that will help get President Obama’s nominees confirmed quicker. Democrats eliminated the filibuster on most executive and judicial nominees, meaning they will get an up or down vote and require only 51 votes to get confirmed. The rule change passed 52-48.
The reform, dubbed the nuclear option, was seen as a last resort after Republicans continued to stall or reject President Obama’s nominees. Republicans have launched a record number of filibusters during President Obama’s time in office.
The filibuster is a parliamentary tactic that aims to slow down or stop legislation and presidential nominees from being passed or confirmed. It changes the requirement of passage from a simple majority of 51 votes to a super majority of 60 votes. In the past, a filibuster has required 67 votes. With both Democrats and Republicans united in opposition to each other the past two decades, a filibuster has been a near death sentence for legislation and nominations.
Republicans have used the filibuster a record number of times in recent years. Since 2006 when Democrats took control of the Senate, Republicans have mounted 380 filibusters. As noted by Gregory Koger to Ezra Klein, the filibuster has become a new veto point in American politics. This was not how the US government was designed to work.
Consumer Prices Fall in October
Despite fears of inflation due to excessive money printing, consumer prices actually fell in October. The Consumer Price Index fell 0.1% last month, largely thanks to a 2.9% drop in gas prices. The price of gasoline, which has been declining since the spring, is now near two year lows.
The CPI rose in September by 0.2%. If you discount energy and food prices, consumer prices rose 0.1% in October. The past decade has seen gas prices become a major problem for American consumers. A gallon of gas hovered around the $1 mark in the 1990s, but the past decade has seen the price skyrocket to over $3 a gallon. Given how much gasoline many Americans consume, this greatly weakened their spending power in other areas.