Tag Archives: ABS

True Unemployment At 13%, New ABS Measure Reveals

11 Jul

As anyone with two functioning brain cells surely knew already, the “official” unemployment figure — just like the “official” CPI inflation figure — is a farce.

No. Scrap that.

A deliberate deception.

From the Daily Telegraph:

REAL unemployment is double the official figure – with 13 per cent of Australia’s workforce wanting a job or longer hours.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) yesterday released a new analysis that combines the official unemployment rate with “discouraged” jobseekers, the “underemployed” and those who want to start work within a month, but cannot begin immediately.

The 13.1 per cent rate of “extended labour force under-utilisation” in August 2012 was more than double the official unemployment rate at the time of 5 per cent.

The ABS counts people as employed even if they only work an hour a week.

But the new measure also counts underemployment – workers in part-time or casual positions who want a permanent job or longer hours.

And it includes those “discouraged” jobseekers who want to work but have given up looking because employers consider them to be too old or too young, if they are ill or disabled, lack the necessary training or experience, cannot find a job locally or in their line of work, or cannot speak English well.

The ABS report shows the labour under-utilisation rate fell steadily between 2001 and 2008 but “increased sharply” when the global financial crisis hit in 2009, from 10.6 per cent to 14.3 per cent.

The ABS report said the under-utilisation rate gave a “more comprehensive picture” of the state of Australia’s workforce than the pure jobless rate.

The “pure” jobless rate?!?! One (1) hour a week is not “jobless”?? You’re kidding, right?!

More at the link.

This revelation is so patently obvious, that my only response is a question.

Any particular reason why you have chosen to admit this now?

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Under-Lying: The Truth About Jobs Data

9 Mar

Doubtless even here in little ol’ Australia, the economic pimple down on the world’s bum, you will be regaled with news stories heralding the “unexpected” improvement in US employment. That, along with the US stock market index continuing to record all-time highs, may begin to convince you that the GFC is ending, that the world economy is on the up and up, that “She’ll be right mate” … and maybe now is a good time to go out and buy a house debt-slavery commitment to a bank, or something.

Er. Not so fast.

As usual with government statistics – especially increasingly desperate government statistics – there is a whole lot more to the story than the con-fidence inspiring headlines and “expert” talking head commentary.

From Zero Hedge:

The media’s ecstatic read through of today’s Nonfarm payroll beat can barely end: after all, a print of 236,000 on expectations of 165K, why that has to be great. Well, it is. Until one looks to the number from February 2012, which happens to be 271,000.

And even the Keynesians will agree that February follows January, which in 2013 was a downward revised 119,000. January 2012? 311,000. Which in turn happened just as Europe was fixed again – after all who can forget the LTRO euphoria (and what happened after).

In other words, the first two months of 2012 saw a 582,000 increase in non-farm payrolls. In 2013: 355,000. But something else happened between February 29, 2012 and February 28, 2013… Oh yes, the US government issued some $1,198,397,883,967.30 in debt. Oh, and the Fed monetized about half of this amount, and virtually all of the Treasurys issued to the right of the ZIRP period (i.e., risky debt).

Jan + Feb jobs

To summarize: $1.2 trillion in debt buys the US…. 61% of the jobs created a year ago. But at least the Dow Jones is at an all time high.

Who else can hardly contain their excitement at what the jobs number a year from today will reveal that yet another $1.2 trillion in debt will do to the US job market…

The other point to note about the US jobs data is this. The much-quoted unemployment percentage (now 7.7%, allegedly) is essentially determined by two figures.

The number of people out of work.

Divided by…

The total number of people in the “labour force”.

And how is the “labour force” defined?

…everyone of working age, typically above a certain age (around 14 to 16) and below retirement (around 65) who are participating workers, that is people actively employed (either part-time or full-time) or people actively seeking employment. People not counted include people who are not employed and not seeking employment including students, retired people, stay-at-home parents, and people in prisons or similar institutions.

The “participation rate” is a critical component in the headline-grabbing unemployment percentage rate; a key “economic indicator” that politicians claim credit for when it falls, and pass-the-buck when it rises.

The more people who are considered to be not participating – that is, the lower the participation rate –  the easier it is for the government to claim a fall (improvement) in the unemployment rate.

Here is the latest US Federal Reserve chart for the participation rate in the USA:

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 9.35.22 AM

The US labor force participation rate has been plummeting ever since the GFC began (the last grey vertical line on the chart). Under-lying the latest unemployment figure, some 130,000 dropped out for one reason or another. Typically, having given up looking for a job due to bleak prospects.

So, a key contributor to the “great” US jobs “result” – which Zero Hedge has debunked above – is more people giving up hope of getting a job.

In Australia, the story is somewhat similar. As usual, by comparison with the northern hemisphere, we are simply a little behind their curve:

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 9.53.23 AM

However, the overall trend is the same:

While the participation rate, the percentage of people either in work or looking for work, for the workforce hit five-year lows of 65.2 per cent by the end of last year…

Our participation rate would be even worse, except for one thing – the number of older Australians who have been forced to try and return to the workforce; doubtless thanks to Australia’s ever rising cost-of-living, and, having seen their retirement nest eggs crushed, first by the GFC stock market crash, then by central banks’ low interest rate policies crushing their returns on “safe” fixed income investments:

A shifting workforce has also seen a record number of seniors in Australia’s jobs market.

a record number of people aged above 65 – 12 per cent – are entering the job market, the Bureau of Statistics data showed.

The average participation rate for those above 60-years-old was also at a record-high of 53.4 per cent.

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 9.58.29 AM

Another vital trend to note concerning our “shifting workforce”, is that more workers are getting fewer hours of work:

Australians are working an average of 32 hours a week, the lowest in over 30 years, detailed labour force data released by the Bureau of Statistics yesterday show.

But what looks like a reinforcement of a stereotype that Australians are living the good life rather than working hard is instead a reflection of a longer trend away from full-time towards part-time work…

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 10.11.32 AM

“We know that over the last 12 to 18 months, conditions have been very tough on the economy and activity has been sluggish, especially for the retail sector,” said Commonwealth Securities economist Savanth Sebastian, who pulled the figures together.

“As a result, while businesses are planning for a future turnaround and holding on to key staff, they are trying to maintain a lower cost base and that means cutting hours back, even for some of those full-time workers.”

This is the truth under-lying official jobs and unemployment data.

To tell a headline lie, all that is needed is to massage the truth underneath.

In the case of employment figures, by simply ignoring the increase in “job-creating” public debt … and ignoring all those who have lost hope.

My hat tip to reader Kevin Moore for the following apropos quote:

“Just look at us. Everything is backwards, everything is upside down. Doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, psychiatrists destroy minds, scientists destroy truth, major media destroys information, religions destroy spirituality and governments destroy freedom.”

― Michael Ellner

Five Reasons Aussies Should Feel Conned

29 Feb

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon certainly has the right credentials to author a column titled “Five Reasons Aussies Should Feel Smug”.

Consider her bio, at her website No Mumbo Jumbo.

As you can see, Nicole has much to be smug about.

Little wonder then, that she prefers to look on the bright side, and to ignore evidence that might cast a shadow.

Nicole’s article is actually a wonderful example of why Aussies should feel conned.

By only looking on the bright side, and failing to inform the public of all relevant information – “good” and “bad” – charismatic financial “experts” like Nicole treat the public like mushrooms.

Let’s take a look at her reasons for advocating national smugness, and consider additional information for a more balanced perspective:

1. Government debt and deficit

As a proportion of gross domestic product, the IMF says we owe 24 per cent. The US has racked up 100 per cent, Italy 120 per cent and Greece 152 per cent.

Yes we have a deficit – tiny by world standards. The IMF says it was minus 2.8 per cent in 2011 and the government has crossed its heart and hoped to (ahem) die that it will be a surplus by 2012-2013.

France’s comparable figure was minus 5.7 per cent, Spain’s minus 8 per cent and the US’s – tut tut – minus 9.5 per cent. Greece’s is ratcheting up so fast it will be wrong before I type it: the 2012 forecast is 6.7 per cent.

That country is now widely expected to default and Fitch’s credit rating of ”C” reflects it. Ours is ”AAA”.

The standard argument. And a meaningless smokescreen. “GDP” essentially only measures the total value of transactions within the economy. It has very little practical relevance to the only two factors that matter when it comes to debt:

(1) Total debt, versus
(2) Total tax revenue.

Comparing meaningless measures here to meaningless measures “over there”, is meaningless.  All that really matters is this nation’s capacity to repay its debts.  In other words, can the government raise taxes enough to (a) pay for all their annual spending, and (b) pay off their debts too?

According to the government MYEFO 2011-12 budget update, Australia will pay nearly $41 billion in interest over just 3 years, 2011-2014. And yet, under the World’s Greatest Treasurer, they have to cook the books just to manufacture an announced-but-not-realised $1.5 billion “estimated” surplus for one year?!

A not particularly bold prediction: Australia will never pay off the debts already accumulated under this government.

We live in a globalised, intertwined, interdependent world economy. To base your #1 argument for national smugness on comparing our debt ratio to other nations – and especially to those that are widely affirmed to be essentially bankrupt – is no different to telling yourself “She’ll be right mate” while comfortably esconced in a First Class cabin on the Titanic.

2. Resources and economy

Remember we were the only Western nation that didn’t go into recession during the global financial crisis. One of the reasons was mining.

An embarrassment of riches from resources means we can feed the insatiable industrialisation of developing Asia. Indeed, the governor of the Reserve Bank, Glenn Stevens, told Friday’s parliamentary economics committee the boom is ”still building” and ”will take the share of business investment in GDP to its highest level for 50 years”.

The mining tax – whatever you think of it – is designed to spread the proceeds.

Meanwhile, most commentators believe the EU is back in recession and Greece never climbed out of it.

“Insatiable industrialisation of developing Asia”? It seems that Nicole has overlooked all the evidences that the China Miracle is in fact a China bubble heading for a bust.  Even if one disagrees with the more catastrophic predictions, there is now the view expressed by the World Bank that China faces economic crisis over the next 20 years, and predicts China’s economic growth will fall by more than one-third.

And the mining tax? As we have seen (“GilSwan Conned – Mining Tax The Greens’ Pit Of Despair”), the mining tax is a disaster waiting to happen. It is unlikely to generate any tax revenue for the government for years.  If ever.  And there are many commentators eminently more qualified than your humble blogger who have asserted this reality. Including Fortescue’s Andrew Forrest.

3. Interest rates

Here they are relatively high on a world scale, precisely because our economy is strong and needs to be kept in check, but they’re also far lower than they were in the 1980s.

As a consolation to mortgage holders, the RBA has a loaded gun if it needs to shoot its way out of another crisis. And if you are cashed up, you are laughing all the way to the proverbial.

Interest rates may indeed be “far lower than they were in the 1980’s”. But household debt is far higher. Throughout the 1980’s, household debt-to-income never exceeded 49%. Today, it is over 150%.

When the RBA cuts rates, it is a signal that the economy is on the slide. Ergo, it will hardly be “a consolation to mortgage holders” to see interest rates cut, if they subsequently lose their job.

There is also the small matter of the banks not cutting interest rates along with the RBA. Indeed, earlier this month the banks proved their willingness to increase rates in the absence of any move by the RBA. We could also go into all the details about our banks’ dangerously high reliance on wholesale funding, their credit ratings already being threatened and cut by the ratings agencies, warnings from overseas authorities that Aussie banks are the world’s most exposed to the EU debt crisis … but naaah, we won’t do that. That would be really looking on the dark side. And we can’t have that, now can we.

4. Employment and wages

This is what’s really making us uneasy. And it is hard to ignore headlines about mass redundancies in industries struggling due to factors like the high Australian dollar – for example, manufacturing – as they scramble to stay viable. Others – think retail and media – are under pressure because they’re at the pointy end of dramatic consumption shifts.

But it’s important to keep it in context. Unemployment last month actually fell slightly to 5.1 per cent, which boffins consider close to full employment. Although that is expected to tick up as global growth slows, some industries, like tourism and mining, are even reporting worker shortages.

Perhaps it’s our comparatively cushy existence in Australia that causes us to fixate instead on cost-of-living pressures, however it seems we should stop our whinging. CommSec research using The Sydney Morning Herald archives shows we have far more purchasing power for goods – wages relative to prices – than our parents and grandparents 30, 40 or 50 years ago. Housing is another story.

Want a little more perspective? In Greece they’re contending with unemployment of more than 20 per cent and a 22 per cent cut to the minimum wage.

“It’s important to keep it in context”, you say?

Good idea. Here is some context on unemployment, and the official ABS unemployment numbers.

According to Roy Morgan Research, the actual unemployment rate is 10.3%. And a further 7.5% are underemployed. The worst unemployment for a decade. Unlike the ABS, Roy Morgan does not ignore people who worked 1 hour or more in the last month, or did some unpaid work for family.

In other employment realities, there was a 48% increase in small business bankruptcies in 2011. Small business is only the largest employer in Australia, so I guess that is not something we want to talk about.  Let’s stick with pumping up false “con-fidence” instead, by quoting only the official statistics, and parroting the party line from the government, the illustrious RBA, and “Treasury supremo” Martin ‘Mini-me’ Parkinson.

“Housing is another story” … indeed it is. A story that should be told, and not brushed under the carpet. Because it is a story that debunks the entire preceding paragraph about “more purchasing power”.  Around 40% of Aussie households have owner-occupier mortgages, and our house prices are recognised worldwide as being the highest and “most unaffordable” in the world after Hong Kong. It is frankly lazy, if not outright dishonest, to essentially argue that we’ve never had it so good thanks to an over-valued dollar and unsustainably high wages allowing us to buy $500 imported flatscreens for every room, while deliberately ignoring the elephant in the room … record high housing-related household debt.

5. Retirement

God bless super. As controversial as its introduction was – and however inadequate it ends up being – it’s a salvation for our sunset years. What’s more, it’s in our names and our control. Many Greeks are instead getting 12 per cent wiped off their pensions.

So it seems Australians’ confidence – which a global Nielsen survey of 56 markets has just found is the highest in the developed world – is justified.

Let’s just ignore the reality that most folks’ super was hammered by the GFC and never recovered, shall we?

And to say “what’s more, it’s in our names and our control” suggests that our erstwhile and aesthetically pleasing economic expert has no clue whatsoever about what governments around the globe – and on both sides of politics here in Australia – are doing, and are planning to do, with their citizens’ super.

In summary then:

1. Government Debt and Deficit
We are passengers on the global economic Titanic, telling ourselves “She’ll be right mate” from the “relative” safety of the First Class cabins.

2. Resources and economy
Our government, RBA, Treasury, and cheerleading “experts” are betting the national house on a 50 year China Miracle that is actually a bursting bubble.

3. Interest rates
Our household debt levels are 3x higher than they were in the 80’s, so tiny movements in interest rates have a bigger effect on household budgets; if the RBA cuts rates it really means the economy is sliding and your job is at risk; and the banks are ignoring the RBA and setting interest rates as they please.

4. Employment and wages
Real unemployment is double what the ABS claims, because the ABS uses methodology deliberately designed to keep “official” reported unemployment as low as possible; small business bankruptcies are skyrocketing; and the world’s most unaffordable housing with record high household debt means that Australia is the last Western housing bubble just waiting to burst.

5. Retirement
Most Aussies’ super has been hammered by the GFC, and there is a global wave of government confiscations of citizens’ super that has already reached our shores, with both sides of politics having plans and policies already in place to wrest control of Aussies’ retirement savings.

There we have it, Nicole.

Your Five Reasons Aussies Should Feel Smug are in reality, Five Reasons Aussies Should Feel Conned.

By you.

Instead of treating Aussies like mushrooms, how about feeding them a little honesty?

And (contrary to your website title) not just more of the same Mumbo Jumbo:

According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Mumbo Jumbo is a noun and is the name of a grotesque idol said to have been worshipped by some tribes. In its figurative sense, Mumbo Jumbo is an object of senseless veneration or a meaningless ritual.

Global Cooling, Unemployment Rising, Government Lies Unravelling

10 Dec

The World’s Greatest Finance Minister, May 2nd, 2011:

“We created 750,000 jobs since we came to office when other nations shed millions of jobs, and we will create half a million more in the next two years.”

PM Julia Gillard, December 2nd, 2011:

“We are on track to create 300,000 new jobs over the next two years”

The latest Labour Force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

Employed Full-time Persons | Click to enlarge

Employed Part-time persons | Click to enlarge

Employed Total persons | Click to enlarge

Number of Full-time employed? Down 45,900.

Number of Part-time employed? Up 58,000.

Number of Employed persons? Up 12,200 (with allowance for rounding).

Since June.

2,440 per month.

At that rate of part-time “jobs created” (to replace Full-time jobs lost), it will take over 10 years for Julia to achieve her “300,000” jobs created. Assuming you believe that the government creates all the new jobs, with zero from the private sector.

It will take 18 years to reach Wayne’s promised “half a million more”.

It’s also worth noting the ABS statistic for just how many are “Unemployed, looking for full-time work”.  That number has risen by 33,900 since June, the month following Wayne’s pre-budget promise.

And the number of persons in total who are “Unemployed” has risen by 38,100 over that time.

So essentially, part-time jobs are replacing full-time jobs. And at a rate way insufficient to meet the rise in total unemployed job-seekers (eg, retrenched full-time employees, school leavers, immigrants, refugees, retirees forced to look for work due having their superannuation “nest egg” decimated, etc).

Now, this is just the “seasonally adjusted fiddled” ABS data.

Some say that Australian government “official statistics” are about as believable as government statistics in other countries.

Like the USA, where “official” unemployment has allegedly just fallen to 8.6% … thanks to their simply not counting the millions of people who are unemployed but have given up looking.  Alternate statistics researchers such as the venerable ShadowStats claim US unemployment is more like 22.5%:

Source: ShadowStats.com

In Australia, Roy Morgan research publishes an alternate measure of unemployment. And surprise surprise, it too consistently shows unemployment rates significantly higher than our government’s “official” statistics.

Here’s the latest Roy Morgan stats (emphasis added):

# In November Australia’s total unemployment as measured by Roy Morgan was 1,044,000, or 8.6% (unchanged in percentage terms, but up 18,000) from October 2011 and up 229,000 (up 1.7%) since November 2010 — Australia’s equal highest unemployment rate since March 2004 (8.8%). It is also the highest number of unemployed Australians for nearly a decade — since January 2002 (1,075,000).

# The Roy Morgan November 2011 ‘underemployed’* estimate was 938,000 (7.7%), up 90,000 (0.6%) from October 2011, and up 126,000 (0.9%) since November 2010.

# In total in November 2011 an estimated 1,982,000 (16.3%) of Australians were unemployed or ‘underemployed.’ This is up 108,000 (0.6%) on October 2011 and up 355,000 (2.6%) since November 2010.

# The latest Roy Morgan unemployment estimate is 3.4% above the 5.2% currently quoted by the ABS for October 2011 — this is the equal largest gap since December 2005 (8.5% Roy Morgan cf. 5.1% ABS).

Who to believe?

You decide.

Just remember the indignant words of Sir Humphrey Appleby, in an episode of the classic BBC satire Yes Prime Minister titled “The Smoke Screen”:

“They’re government statis…. they’re facts”

UPDATE:

For any reader questioning the “Global Cooling” reference, I have no interest in pointing you to the many websites where you can find evidence that the world has experienced a slight cooling over the past decade. Instead, in keeping with Thursday’s reference to The Golden Rule (ie, “Follow The Money”), I give you instead the opening paragraph of the official press release for the 2010 Bilderberg Meeting of the world’s ‘elite’ … and suggest you think about it:

Click to enlarge

GDP Growth Hangs On China Thread

7 Dec

September quarter GDP data is out from the ABS.

Prepare yourself for much trumpeting from all the usual suspects (Government, lamestream media, Labor supporters) about the headline figure – “strong” growth of 1% (“seasonally adjusted” ie, fiddled) in the September quarter, thus lifting “annual growth” to 2.5%.

Prepare yourself to not hear any trumpeting of the fact that is still 30% below the Treasury’s very recently revised 3.25% “estimate” for 2011-12 … and now half the year is over.

Or, any trumpeting of the important detail. State Final Demand:

Click to enlarge

All the “growth” in July-September came from the mining states of WA (4.1%) and QLD (2.9%).

The rest of the country is either in (SA, TAS, ACT), or near (NSW, VIC) recession.

Make no mistake dear reader.

Australia’s economy … and Wayne’s “surplus” … is hanging on China.

Everything else is noise.

Julia’s Big Lie On Jobs

3 Dec

Back in May, barnabyisright.com was the first (and only?) to debunk Treasurer Swan’s hand waving Big Lie about how many jobs the Labor government have “created” since coming to power. Using their own budget documents. It was Wayne’s pre-budget red herring, to distract the media from the upcoming record budget deficit announcement.

We followed up in June, with conclusive proof of his Big Lie from the Australian Bureau of Statistics official Labour Force data.

Now Julia herself has joined in Wayne’s lying-on-the-jobs action.

Here’s what she claimed yesterday at the ALP’s National Conference, in a speech where she used the word “jobs” over 30 times … a classic snow-them-with-BS propaganda technique that explains why the fourth estate won’t notice or check up on what she claimed (h/t Andrew Bolt):

“We are on track to create 300,000 new jobs over the next two years”

Statements like that prompt your humble blogger to rub his typing fingers together with Monty-esque glee:

Especially after our Treasurer’s claims back in May.

Recall, not only did Wayne falsely claim that “we created 750,000 jobs since we came to office when other nations shed millions of jobs…“.

He went further:

“…and we will create half a million more in the next two years

Let us leave aside for the moment the tiny little matter of Wayne’s “half a million more” back in May, versus Julia’s “300,000” yesterday.

Even though we could well say, “Here endeth the lesson”.

Let us instead take another look at the latest ABS Labour Force statistics, to see whether or not Julia is “on track to create 300,000 new jobs over the next two years”.

Here’s a chart of Full-time Employed Persons from June – the end of last financial year, and the month following Wayne’s original “half a million more” claim – through to October:

Click to enlarge

Oops.

That’s 5,300 fewer full-time employed persons. In 4 months (end June to end October).

How about Part-time employed persons?

Click to enlarge

Hmmmm.

That’s 22,700 more part-time employed persons. In 4 months.

And the grand total employed persons?

Click to enlarge

Ok.

17,300 more “employed” persons. In 4 months.

Or just 4,325 more per month.

At that rate, it would take the government until mid-April 2017 to create Julia’s promised “300,000 new jobs”.

And until mid-February 2021 to create Wayne’s promised “half a million more”.

Of course, that’s only if we are happy to (a) ignore the fall in full-time employed persons, and (b) assume that the government alone, not the private sector, “created” a “new job” for every single one of those 17,300 extra “employed persons”.

Ridiculous.

“We are on track” to get there “over the next two years”, Julia?

Labor’s lying on jobs would make the stupidest planker blush.

Economic planking.

A fitting metaphor for the most dishonest, idiotic, incompetent government this nation has ever seen.

A Nation Under Stress, A Bureaucracy Under Delusion

8 Sep

From the Australian:

One in four households relies on welfare benefits while one in seven is spending more than it earns, as increasing cost-of-living pressures bear down on families.

Click to enlarge

Of the nation’s poorest households, one in 10 went without meals and 7.3 per cent could not afford to heat their homes in winter during 2009-10, according to a six-yearly snapshot of spending by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australians are having to spend more than half their income on the basics – housing, food and transport – as the soaring cost of living bites into spending on life’s luxuries. One in eight households could not pay their bills on time.

The ABS household expenditure survey reveals that households are under as much financial stress now as in the lead-up to the 1998 east Asian economic crash.

The “financial stress” afflicted some of the nation’s wealthiest people, with almost one in seven high-earning households failing to pay bills on time and 8.8 per cent seeking financial help from friends and family.

The ABS survey reveals that government pensions or benefits are the main source of income for one in four households, which get by on an average of $557 a week.

The typical Australian household spent $1236 a week on goods and services in 2009-10 – 38 per cent more than was spent during the previous survey period, in 2003-04. Prices rose by 19 per cent, which the ABS said indicated “a rise in real living standards”.

Half the spending was on food, housing and transport.

Now I really have heard it all.

Price rises = “a rise in real living standards”?!?

What a complete and utter load of doublespeaking bullshit.

Now, if the ABS had said “a rise in disposable income indicates a rise in real living standards”, then possibly there’d be some truth in the statement.

But to try and argue that price rises equates to rising living standards, is so utterly nonsensical as to be nothing less than delusional.

Why do we continue to allow our government bodies to so blatantly lie to us like this?

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