Republican Hostage-Taking Threat Again! Guess Who Benefits?

Once again, Republicans are holding government hostage, trying to force through unpopular cuts to the things We, the People — “the 99%” — do for each other and our economy, while giving handouts to the 1% who pay for their campaign ads and smears. Once again they are threatening to just shut down the whole government if they don’t get their way This time the hostage is unemployment benefits for 2 million people and the payroll tax cut that is the only stimulus left to keep the economy going. Here’s the thing, they say they want “cuts” but what they are really doing is shifting costs from the 1% on to the rest of us.
The current 112th Congress is the first Congress elected under the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates of corporate money in elections. Remember the flood of ads accusing Democrats of “half a trillion in cuts from Medicare” that got them elected — paid for with corporate money? Those ads swung the electorate toward Republican candidates, and now we are seeing the results — including cuts in Medicare and even plans to privatize it entirely.
How Many Times?
To get their way Republicans have already nearly shut down our government or just shut down parts of it several times. Shutdown. Hostage. Shutdown. Hostage. Shutdown. Shutdown and hostage. Shutdown. Shutdown. Shutdown. Hostage. Shutdown. Shutdown. Hostage. Hostage. And on and on…
This Time
Here are just some of the Republican demands this time if we want the hostage released:

  • Approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline project.
  • Block rules reducing air pollution from industrial burners.
  • Drug tests for people receiving unemployment benefits.
  • Reduce the duration of jobless aid from 99 to 59 weeks.
  • Allow states to cut benefits even more.

Even Worse Than That
The National Women’s Law Center writes, in, House Bill Cuts Unemployment and Health Benefits, Domestic Programs, Child Tax Credit and More that there are many other reasons to be concerned:

  • Slashes federal emergency unemployment benefits for long-term jobless workers by more than half—and hits the states with the highest unemployment rates the hardest.
  • Makes permanent, mean-spirited changes to the basic unemployment program, such as requiring claimants to have a high school diploma or GED and making unemployed workers pay for re-employment services offered by the government.
  • Reduces health benefits by reducing financial protections for low- and moderate-income families purchasing health insurance, cutting funds to providers serving low-income populations, and slashing prevention and public health funds.
  • Denies the refundable Child Tax Credit to low-income immigrant families by requiring a Social Security number to claim the credit.
  • Cuts funding for non-security discretionary programs by over $26 billion—on top of the cuts already imposed by the Budget Control Act.

The European Lesson
Republicans claim that cutting back government is good for the economy and creates jobs. (Note — they always claim that anything for the 1% is good for the economy and creates jobs, whether or not it really is good for the economy and creates jobs or not.)
But is it really good for the economy to cut back on the things government does for the people and the economy? Let’s look to Europe, where they have been cutting back on government in a grand experiment to see if that helps the economy. (Hint: it has really, really, really hurt the economy.) Reuters: Analysis: Europe’s austerity zeal risks killing the patient,

Europe’s “no pain no gain” attitude to solving its sovereign crisis risks exacerbating the bloc’s problems, choking off the very growth needed to raise the money to pay down the debt.
… The austerity zeal risks tipping the continent back into recession and a downward spiral of austerity as pitiful growth prospects undermine budgetary targets and ramp up debt burdens, meaning further austerity is required.
“The expansionary fiscal contraction story says that you cut, you show you are serious about cutting and then the confidence fairy will come along and she will start pulling in private investment,” said Stephen Kinsella, professor of economics at the University of Limerick.
“The expansionary fiscal contraction story is a lie. You don’t cut your way to growth.”

Shifting Not Cutting
Do cuts in government spending actually cut spending? Consider what happens when you cut health care spending. The need for the health care certainly doesn’t go away, but the cost of it is shifted away from government and on to individuals. Since iIndividuals do not have the economy-of-scale bargaining power and ability to protect themselves from scams and schemes that government does, their own individual cost is often much higher. So when these costs are shifted from government the cost to the larger economy is actually increased dramatically.
The things government does are done because they need to be done. So if government doesn’t pay for them, does the need go away? No, when you cut government the need is still there. The costs are still there. But the power to bargain and to protect is gone. By cutting the 99%’s ability to protect themselves from scams and schemes, the 1% are better able to prey on them.
So, no, cutting government does not cut the costs of the things government does, it just shifts those costs from government onto the larger economy — the 99% — and even increases them, to the benefit of the 1%.
Who They Are Protecting And Who They Are Hurting
Why else do the 1% push so hard for government budget cuts, even though they really just shift the same costs onto the larger economy? Because this cost-shifting takes the tax pressure off of the 1%. Government collects taxes to cover the things regular people need, the cost of maintaining and modernizing infrastructure, etc. Of course, these are all good for the economy, the country, and the people. But since the 1% make most of the money and hold almost all of the wealth these prime beneficiaries of the economy are the obvious people to collect taxes from. So by cutting back on government they cut back on government’s need for taxes — from them.
And they get the added benefit of cutting back on government interference in their schemes and control.
In the long game of cuts and consequences, a society cannot win. In the 1980s we cut taxes and started cutting government. As a result we now have crumbling infrastructure, bad schools, unaffordable universities, etc. This is because government cuts do not cut the need out of the larger economy, they shift the costs of needed things away from causing tax pressure on the wealthy.
They don’t care if the larger economy suffers as a result, they’re already the 1%.
What To Do
Tell Republican leaders to stop sabotaging the economy. Renew the payroll tax cut and long-term aid for the jobless.
Sign the petition.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Blaming The Economy’s Victims For Economic Crimes

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Blame the unions, blame the unemployed, blame loans to the poor, blame the government… As income and wealth increasingly go to a few at the top public anger is directed at the economy’s victims.
I am in a clinic all day participating in a medical study, so I was talking to one of the nurses. She brought up that California is in real trouble, is going broke, it’s a real mess. She says she doesn’t know what we’re going to do. She has heard that, “lots of states are going bankrupt. There is no money anymore.”
So I asked her what we should do about it.
She said it is because of the unions. “It’s just ridiculous. They want so much.”
I asked if she follows the news closely, she said she does. “I watch the news a lot.”
Some facts: California is famous for leading the country in a wave of anti-government tax-cutting and into Reaganism. We cut taxes an an anti-government ferver and increased prison spending in a law-and-order fever. Then the federal government cut taxes and increased military spending, leading to big deficits. Now we’re out of money to run the state government and the country is getting there, too. California’s problems have little or nothing to do with what state employees are paid, and a lot to do with tax cuts and people across the state not getting paid enough.
Blaming The Unions
This weekend CBS’ 60 Minutes joined the anti-worker chorus, blaming public employee unions for the problems faced by the states. Media Matters, in 60 Minutes’ one-sided, GOP-friendly report on state budgets describes the segment,

In 2,600 words about state deficits, you won’t find the phrase “tax cuts.” Instead, CBS adopts the Republican framing that deficits are all about spending — frequently with loaded phrasing like “gold-plated retirement and health care packages.” And throughout the report, CBS allows Christie, New Jersey’s Republican governor, to launch attacks on unions and make unsupported claims about budget problems, all without ever challenging his assertions and without including substantive disagreement from Christie critics.
You’d never know from CBS’ report that a big part of the reason that “Christie and his predecessors” failed to make required contributions to the pension fund is that they decided to use the money for tax cuts instead. [emphasis added]

Mike Hall at the AFL-CIO blog explains that New Jersey’s workers and pensions are not the problem,

While politicians like Christie rail against the pensions public employees have secured through collective bargaining—painting them as overly generous golden parachutes, McEntee notes the average annual pension for an AFSCME member is $19,000, and the workers contribute 80 percent during their lifetime on the job.

Tax cuts, income and wealth going to a few at the top, but the unions take the blame because they fight for a better life for working people.
Blaming The Unemployed
The unemployed and the checks they get are often blamed for their plight. They are called “lazy,” and it is even suggested the be tested for drugs. CAF graduate David Sirota, in Why the ‘Lazy Jobless’ Myth Persists

The thesis undergirding all the rhetoric was summed up by conservative commentator Ben Stein, who insisted that “the people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities.”
[. . .] The trouble, though, is that the whole narrative averts our focus from the job-killing trade, tax-cut and budget policies that are really responsible for destroying the economy. And this narrative, mind you, is not some run-of-the-mill distraction. The myth of the lazy unemployed is what duck-and-cover exercises and backyard nuclear shelters were to a past era—an alluring palliative that manufactures false comfort in the face of unthinkable disaster.

Blaming The Poor And Government
Republicans on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission are sabotaging the commission’s work, demanding that “Wall Street” and “deregulation” not appear anywhere in the report. They are refusing to participate, instead releasing a counter-report blaming the government, claiming We, the People forced the giant banks to give home loans to the poor, and blaming the poor for receiving those loans.
What People Think
People tend to think about what is put in front of them to think about. That’s why everyone goes to see a new movie on the first weekend instead of waiting until they can get good seats with no lines. Wall Street and the likes of the Chamber of Commerce understand this so they put scapegoats in front of the public to mask what they are doing. Right now there is a corporate/right campaign to blame working people for the problems they caused.
Like 60 Minutes this weekend, the news sources are run by big corporations, and they have been saying over and over (and over and over) that unions and the unemployed and the poor and the government are the cause of the problems. (When was the last time you saw a union representative on TV, explaining the benefits of joining a union?) And, naturally, after hearing these things over and over (and over and over), viewers like the nurse at the clinic I am in think they should blame the unions, the unemployed, the poor, the government, too.
So much of the income and wealth are concentrating at the top. Taxes have been cut so far. The things our government does for us have been cut back so far. Working people’s wages have been stagnant for so long.
But the blame right now is directed at the unions, the poor, the unemployed and our government: We, the People.
As the AFL-CIO blog concludes,

The long term solution to state and local fiscal challenges … is “a robust economy, one that is creating jobs and replenishing tax revenue.”

To repeat: The long term solution to state and local fiscal challenges … is “a robust economy, one that is creating jobs and replenishing tax revenue.”
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Can’t Get By On $250K? Try Leaving Your Bubble!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The Washington Post ran a story how hard it is for a family making only $250K a year. Just who could a story like this be written by and for? How many ways does this story mislead its readers? If you want to write about hardship write some stories about and for the rest of us!
Over the weekend the Washington Post carried a story labeled as a “Fiscal Times” piece, Where does $250,000 a year go? Summary:

It’s the annual income that President Obama and others have repeatedly used to define what it means to be “rich” in America today. … Just how flush is a family of four with a $250,000 income?
… The bottom line: Living in high-tax areas on either coast can leave our $250,000-a-year family with little margin.

Richard Eskow hit the nail on the head in his post, A Quarter Of A Million Little Pieces: Pete Peterson & The Washington Post Have A New Fiscal James Frey, writing,

This “analysis” was written by someone named Karen Hube, and it’s based on two phony premises: First, that “President Obama and others have repeatedly used (that level of income) to define what it means to be ‘rich’ in America today,” and second, that it’s a hardship to get by on $250,000 a year.

(Please read Richard’s post, because he gets into what the Fiscal Times is, and why it carries stories like this one.)
The story claims that President Obama and others label them as “rich” because $250K would be the lower borderline if the Bush “tax cuts for the rich” expire. But this misleads readers because the family making $250,000 will NOT see any tax increase at all. If you understand how tax brackets work you know that only amounts above $250K get taxed the additional 4.6%, so someone making $250,001 will pay an additional tax of $0.046. Yes, that’s right, four point six cents. The amounts become large only with very (very) high incomes, but those incomes are so high that the additional tax is still almost nothing. A person making $1,000,000 would pay an additional tax of $2,875 a month on their $83,333 a month of income. (Sorry, it’s hard to write a number like that without shouting.)
So Who Is The Story For?
Just who is going to feel the pain of the people who “only” make $250K? The Joneses in the story actually have retirement savings and life and disability and health insurance! They have student loans to pay off because they went to expensive universities and they will have the high expenses to send their kids because their kids will, too. 98% of us understand that when we read this story. Since anyone who makes less than $250K is going to know better from their own experience than to believe what they read in this story, who is this story written for? Hint: the Washington Post is in … wait for it … Washington!
What about the rest of us? If $250K a year — the borderline for entering the top 2% — leaves the Joneses “with little margin” then shouldn’t there be 49 articles for every article like this, explaining how people who make less than $250K are doing — since that is almost all of us? Shouldn’t there be 49 articles about how 98% of us are not getting by, and have no margin at all?
Anti-Government
The story tries to make an anti-government point by claiming that taxes are squeezing the Joneses, complaining that the Joneses “only” take home $173K after all taxes (incl cell phone tax). (That is “only” $14.4K a month take-home.) But a careful reading shows that the opposite might be the case. It might really be limited government that is squeezing them:
College Costs: One of the factors in the cost analysis is college costs. They are paying off high student loans, and are getting ready to send kids to expensive collected. But college costs are so high because we have less government, because of tax cuts. This is clearly true in California, for example.
Child Care: Child care costs are high because government is “limited” in our conservative on-your-own society.
Health Care: The Joneses health insurance bill is another product of our on-you-own limited government here. Health care is covered anywhere else.
Retirement: The Joneses are saving a lot for their retirement. This drain on their income is high because in conservative America you are on your own. Corporations got rid of most pensions through the 401k scam, while the Social Security system is inadequate.
There are many other areas where limited government pouts a squeeze on people: insufficient transportation options and high energy costs due to fossil-fuel reliance among them.
They Did One For The Rest Of Us
To their credit the Post also has a story this weekend, In the U.S., Christmas remains a great divide, but the story misses the point by blaming the recession for the difficulties regular people face,

A new division is emerging in America between those who have moved on from the recession and those still caught in its grip.
This holiday season, those two worlds have been thrown into stark relief: At Tiffany’s, executives report that sales of their most expensive merchandise have grown by double digits. At Wal-Mart, executives point to shoppers flooding the stores at midnight every two weeks to buy baby formula the minute their unemployment checks hit their accounts. Neiman Marcus brought back $1.5 million fantasy gifts in its annual Christmas Wish Book. Family Dollar is making more room on its shelves for staples like groceries, the one category its customers reliably shop.

But many, many people with jobs are having a hard time buying baby formula, too, these days. It was like this for more and more people before the recession. In fact, many say that is why there is this bad economy. Where I live people go through my recycle bin looking for cans – and were doing so before the recession. People living on Social Security are having a very, very hard time while the people making $250K “with little margin” can talk casually about cutting the program in order to avoid having the cap lifted causing them to pay a bit more into the system.
The Post story attributes the divide to the “grip” of the recession and not to the problems caused by policies that have led to our intense concentration of wealth. The problem is that our economic system for thirty years has been increasingly rewarding a few at the very top, and not the rest of us. Tax cuts, bailouts and bonuses for them, government cutbacks and stagnant wages for us.
But flawed as it is, that is one down, only 48 more stories about the other 98% to go to catch up with the one about getting by on only $250K.
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How About A Summit With The Unemployed?

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
We had bailouts and bonuses for Wall Street but letdowns and layoffs for Main Street. We had a deficit commission but no jobs commission. We have tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts for the rest of We, the People. And this week the President is having a “summit” with the heads of giant corporations. So how about holding a summit with the unemployed?
President Obama is holding a “summit” with 20 or so CEOs Wednesday, “to ease strained relations with business.” NY Times: Obama to Meet With Executives,

President Obama will host a roundtable with about 20 corporate chiefs on Wednesday, according to the White House, part of an attempt to ease strained relations with business.
… With the mood for the meeting already lightened by his recent announcements of a trade deal with South Korea and a compromise on tax cuts with Congressional Republicans, Mr. Obama and the executives will discuss an overhaul of the tax system…

See if you can guess what sort of “overhaul of the tax system” suggestions are likely to come out of a “summit” with top CEOs. Hint: a recent “summit” with Republican leaders resulted in a plan for extending tax cuts for the rich and cutting the inheritance tax.
Record Profits
The Washington news types talk about “strained relations” between business leaders and President Obama. The business news reports I’ve been reading don’t reflect a “strain” at all. A recent NY Times story: Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter,

American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or noninflation-adjusted terms.

Record corporate profits. Wow. Just wow. And for the rest of us?
High Unemployment, Very High Long-Term Unemployment
But wait, something else is at high levels as well. This year’s headlines:
January: Number of long-term unemployed hits highest rate since 1948
June: Long-Term Unemployment at Highest Recorded Rate
September: Long-term unemployment reaches crisis level
December: Long-term unemployed are left without assistance
Susie Madrak , over at Crooks and Liars, has a few things to say about this summit in her post, Obama To Hold CEO Summit Wednesday; Execs To Present Their Very Reasonable Demands For Ransom

Basically, they want to run untaxed, unregulated businesses with few (if any) legal obligations to the people who still work for them. Oh, and they want “austerity” for the working classes…
… Now perhaps the president can convene a one-day summit of the unemployed and the working poor to ask them what they think, for a change.

Yes, perhaps the President can convene a summit with the unemployed.
Playing The Ref
In November I wrote about this idea that President Obama is “anti-business,”

Here is what has been going on. In a classic “playing the ref” move, the Chamber of Commerce has been pitching the idea that the Obama administration is “anti-business” because they don’t give the big, monopolist, multi-national corporations everything they want. “Playing the ref” is a sports term, the idea being that if you complain enough about the calls a referee makes the referee will feel the need to give your team a few breaks in order to appear to be making fair calls.
So the Chamber, by complaining that Obama is “anti-business,” is really trying to get Obama to be even more pro-business. (The same strategy is at work when you hear complaints about the “liberal media.” After so may years of this accusation by right-wingers, newsroom editors are terrified of appearing to be left-leaning, resulting in so many right-leaning news stories.)

This summit to “ease strained relations” with business leaders is in response to a classic “playing the ref” move. While sitting on the highest profits ever they complain that the President is :anti-business” and get what they want. It’s too bad the unemployed — with the highest rates of long-term unemployment ever — are not represented in Washington by swarms of well-paid lobbyists, or by campaign contributions, or by “independent expenditure” smear-ad campaigns, or by astroturf (providing a corporate-purchased appearance of “grassroots” support) organizations. That seems to work. Being one of the regular old-fashioned “We, the People” doesn’t seem to buy much influence on our government and its leaders any more.
So how about holding a summit with the unemployed, and taking their suggestions? This might “ease strained relations” between the unemployed and the country’s leaders and their policies.
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Extend Unemployment Benefits Not Tax Cuts For Wealthy

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
In a stunning public display of just who our government works for and who it does not work for, unemployment checks for people out of work longer than 26 weeks run out tomorrow night. Congress, meanwhile, is caught up in a debate over extending a special tax break for the few people making more than $250,000 a year.
This is the situation. Here is a chart of the number of people unemployed for 26 weeks or longer: (click to enlarge)

Here is a chart of the economic divide, showing members of Congress receiving employment benefits from Wall Street: (don’t click the pig is big enough already)

Yes, the extended unemployment benefits that go people who have been unemployed more than 26 weeks will run out at the end of November – tomorrow night. Congress did not extend this program because Republicans blocked it, saying the cost is too high, since we spent so much money making sure that the banksters continue to receive their bonuses. Instead of acting on extending these unemployment benefits Congress is currently debating extending a special tax break that goes only to wealthy people making more than $250,000 a year.
The Human Cost
The terrible human cost doesn’t even get considered. According to the Ayn Rand terminology that conservatives favor, considering the human cost would be wrong and would enable the parasites (us) to feed off of the producers (the wealthy few).
Pennsylvania: Food pantry organizers hope stockpiles hold up in case unemployment benefits run out,

Unless Congress extends unemployment benefits, an estimated 83,000 people will see their benefits run out in December and another 200,000 in the first four months of 2011, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry.

Kentucky and Indiana: Thousands in Kentucky and Indiana face lapse of unemployment benefits,

Amid an anti-spending atmosphere in Washington, funds to extend unemployment compensation for more than 33,000 Kentuckians and nearly 67,000 Hoosiers are likely to run out next month.

Maryland: Benefits due to end for thousands in Md.

Thousands of Marylanders face being cut off from unemployment benefits next month — just in time for the holiday season — as Congress remains undecided on whether to extend the payments in one of the worst job markets in decades.
An estimated 2 million people nationwide are slated to lose benefits, including 14,000 in Maryland. And more than 30,000 laid-off Maryland residents will exhaust their benefits early next year. The phase-out is happening because a federally funded program that gave residents payments beyond the normal 26 weeks lapses on Tuesday.

Iowa: Interactive map shows unemployment by county,

Extended federal benefits lapse on Nov. 30, giving Congress only two days to pass an extension. If they fail, hundreds of thousands could lose benefits. Failure to pass an extension would mean nearly 44,000 Iowans will see an immediate reduction in benefits and 8,700 Iowans will be prematurely cut off completely. Every week beginning Dec. 1, another 1,500 Iowans will lose their benefits.

Michigan:
Flint: Many Genesee County families could lose unemployment benefits without vote from Congress
Grand Rapids: With unemployment benefits to end this month, Gov. Jennifer Granholm makes plea for extension,

Michigan, with the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate at 12.8 percent, would see 168,520 unemployed workers lose their benefits between December and April 30, according to new figures from the Michigan League for Human Services. But even if an extension is granted, 13,011 will lose their benefits because they will have received the maximum 99 weeks of assistance.

Ohio: 2,332 Muskingum County residents face losing jobless benefits,

Statewide, 301,404 people will lose jobless benefits in the same window.

Arizona: Many Arizonans on verge of losing jobless benefits,

PHOENIX — About 90,000 Arizonans will lose their unemployment benefits soon unless Congress passes an extension, according to the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

Alabama: Unemployment expiration could leave thousands without benefits,

Unless Congress extends unemployment benefits by Nov. 30, Alabamians could begin losing unemployment compensation and nearly 58,000 residents could be off the rolls by April.

Mississippi: Editorial: House failing the jobless,

An effort to extend unemployment benefits past Nov. 30 for an estimated 53,000 Tennesseans, 8,000 Arkansans and 6,600 residents of Mississippi fell short of the necessary votes in the House of Representatives last week.

Colorado: 150k unemployed Coloradoans at risk of joining more than 26k with no UI benefits,
North Carolina: Unemployment Extension Standoff Makes NC Woman ‘Feel Like A Pawn In A Chess Game’,

“My last check will be the week ending Nov. 30 unless they come back on Nov. 29 and miraculously vote an extension,” said Millen, who lives in Charlotte, N.C.

Will Congress act before tomorrow night and extend unemployment benefits to people who are suffering because of the greed of a few?
Action Items
Click here to call your members of Congress and demand they act!
Sign this petition to Congress: Continue the Federal Unemployment Insurance Programs
Sign the petition: Tell Congress: Don’t extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy
Visit unemployedworkers.org
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The Great American Credit Catastrophe

The 911 of the Middle Class is the consumer credit debacle. It is the gift that keeps on giving. The reality is that the housing crisis is just one piece of this really big, ugly mess. It seems to me that our President MUST call for immediate reform and take action through executive order. Call me politically naïve, but we need action. Unemployment continues to hover close to 10%, and higher in badly hit areas. Interest paid by the banks on savings ranges from less than 1% to maybe 2.5% on a good day. The consumer credit card companies, though regulated now sort of, ran naked through the streets jacking up everyone’s interest rates to over 15 to 30%. Yes they have to notify the poor, irresponsible slobs now before they do things, but the banks still get to burn kerosene in the town square with no permits. And we haven’t even gotten to the health insurance yahoos that have four more years for their trickery. Oh Nelly, bar the door! It’s the Wild West again as the cattle are corralled – only this time it’s the American people being herded to ruin by the giddy-up bankers and health insurance companies, not just the mortgage guys.
People are getting sick from worry. Their backs hurt, their necks are out, and they are grinding their pearly whites. Few sleep well at night. Pharmaceutical sales are up. The banks we saved are savaging us. They are bulldozing the Middle Class under mountains of debt. People are losing their homes, divorces are up, businesses are closing, and unemployment is rampant. The consumer credit world and their FICO scores are broken. They are based on a world that no longer exists. In two short years, many consumers have watched their scores collapse under an avalanche of debt. The FICO scores were calibrated for a different time when consumer credit cards were not the only source of money available, mortgages were not under water, and unemployment was not soaring. If we are ever to unwind this situation, these algorithms must be reset. Otherwise the banks will never lend again. The Middle Class needs a do-over, just like the banks got.
Yes sir, Obama stood up against the broad sweeping foreclosure legislation, and Bank of America seized the moment halting foreclosures nationwide. But we’re all holding our breath waiting for the other shoe to fall as even Progressive strategist Mike Lux gens up the netroots to re-engage with the President and Congress. It is inconceivable that people have not taken to streets in protest over their lost pensions, and the absence of any kind of interest bearing bank account — except on consumer credit cards. In fact, this week Robert Sheer wrote brilliantly about Obama’s “No Banker Left Behind” — while every normal person has been thrown under the bank bus. How did we allow the bail-out of every financial institution, while abandoning the common folk? Why are Democrats — whether conservative, moderate or netroots – not able to channel this collective anger, rage and disappointment other than to take aim at one another? Given the data, there is no way out for the once resilient Middle Class without a do-over. Instead of “No Banker Left Behind” let us heal the Middle Class by fixing the credit industry; restricting the health care industry now, not in four years; and making those banks lend the money we gave them and not hide behind FICO scores. All of the Democrats are writing, but no one is demanding change now. The Tea Party has successfully harnessed the anger and rage, but has no plan. Frankly, they are just another distraction taking our attention away from the gravity of the problems.
Mr. President, come back to us as Mike Lux laments. We need you. We, in the Middle Class, are living this nightmare everyday of our lives. Figure it out, and get the Middle Class out from under. The numbers do not lie. This is our emergency, our call to action, our 911. Friends and neighbors are collapsing from the stress when they can ill afford it. Unemployment is not going away. Consumer debt is skyrocketing. Mr. Obama, Americans are not being frivolous and irresponsible as Dr. Summers would like you to believe. They are boxed in with no escape hatch. Consider enacting a nationwide job core like the WPA, putting the banks on real notice, corralling those nasty health insurance folks, redoing the credit industry, and loosening up cash. No one is sleeping at night. People are nervous and cannot see a future.
Please, inspire us again, show emotion, get messy, and let the wrinkles show. Mr. President raise your voice in outrage. Give us voice. Come back to us. The time is now.
This was originally published on the Huffington Post earlier today.
See the pearltree below for the references for this article.
US Economy

Rebuilding America. Is Bill Clinton Up for the Fight?

The US and the economy were for the first time a big focus at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting last week in New York City. Hallelujah! The former President hinted at an effort to get the unemployed back to work and retrained for the new and emerging jobs. Of course, Tom Friedman from the New York Times showed up with a lofty panel of experts, and there were sessions on new market-based solutions, worldwide manufacturing and clean tech. Admittedly, there was a discussion on “Robust Job Creation in the United States.” The former President did address the issues of small business, manufacturing and clean energy. There was a panel where players such as Wal-Mart, Timberlake and others discussed the in overhauling their operations to reduce carbon emissions and create jobs. And there was the tireless work of Laurene Powell Jobs together with her co-founder Carlos Watson at College Track that has been working for over a decade to change the lives of under privileged youth by keeping them in school and preparing them for college.
So why not have Bill Clinton turn his full attention to rebuilding America? Obama’s not doing it so what the heck? Call it whatever you want to, but just do it. Bring together all of the Laurene Powell Jobs with those like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Mark put his money where it mattered – the City of Newark, New Jersey’s inner city public schools, a place close to my heart. Consider the results, if the Clinton Global Initiative took a year or two to turn their full force to rebuild this country, not some third world country. We need the likes of Clinton to mobilize, incentivize and give us comfort as the Tea Party rains empty sound and fury rhetoric down on our heads. Who better? To heck with those who do not believe it is politically expedient!.
Bill Clinton gets it because if the US is broken, it will derail all of his global initiatives and we would not want that. If we can’t get it done in Congress (and we cannot), then we must forge new public/private partnerships. The former President hinted at an effort, like the WPA (Works Progress Administration), in which people went back to work to rebuild the infrastructure of this country. In fact, the WPA was the largest agency of the New Deal employing and feeding millions. Who knows why the White House isn’t using an Executive Order to start such a public works program instead of fighting about extending unemployment benefits.
I like my fellow blogger Yotta Point believe that there is work to be done on the domestic front that could leverage the infrastructure of a CGI-like effort. It will take a village to start the hard work of rebuilding this country, and it must be done brick by brick. Indeed we are falling behind the world in terms of education, math and science, and qualified job applicants for the next generation of jobs. The call to action is to make this happen. Instead of being one of the many threads at the annual convening of CGI – this could become the sole focus, or at least an independent focus, to repair America for the next few years. We might make it happen if Clinton and his mighty Foundation marshal their forces to rebuild this country’s economy, and heal the social fabric. Instead of rage rallies and tea, the best and brightest could come together for public discourse, and problem solving in CGI-like forums. CNN and the other broadcasters cannot do, and there are few other outlets capable of something of this magnitude.
Mr. Clinton, we need your global initiative to become local. After all, we’ve got Madame Secretary watching over the world from the State Department for the next few years. The people of this country are in big trouble. Help us think globally and act locally.
Note: originally posted on the Huffington Post, “Clinton’s Global Initiative Gets Local.”

Where Are The Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The economy is stuck. We need jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Not tax cuts.
The government released the July Employment Situation Summary and it isn’t great.
First, in context, before the stimulus we were losing around 800,000 jobs a month. The problem is that the stimulus is fading and structural changes were not made in how the economy operates. So there is no special reason to point to that makes people think that this stagnation won’t continue or even get worse again.
Eric Lotke sums up the numbers,

Unemployment remains unchanged at 9.5 percent, with 14.6 million people out of work. In July, we lost 202,000 jobs in the government sector as the census winds down, and we gained 71,000 jobs in the private sector. African American unemployment grew fractionally worse to 15.6 percent, and teenagers to 26.1 percent.

The “scariest” jobs chart sums it up with a picture, from Calculated Risk: (click for full-size)
EmployRecessionJuly2010
Solutions?
Eric Lotke has one that involves work that needs to be done and people out of work,

We know what we need to do. Put people to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. Fix our potholed roads, our overcrowded schools and our bursting water mains. Create new infrastructure like wind turbines and solar cells. Lay the tracks for high speed rail, the 21st century parallel to the interstate highways of the 20th century and the transcontinental railroads of the 19th. And make the parts in America! Put us to work building our economy of the future, like our grandparents did for us.
Yes, it will cost money. But don’t worry, money is out there. Those top-end Bush tax cuts are worth $43 billion annually. Restoring the estate tax for multi-millionaires brings in $50 billion. A financial transaction tax brings in $177 billion annually, and stabilizes our financial system to boot. Draw down our troops and rein in Pentagon procurements gives us another $100 billion every year for productive endeavors. That’s without even trying bold new sources of revenue. More progressive taxation at the top end. Confronting corporate power and redirecting subsidies that go to agriculture, oil and pharmaceutical giants. Ferreting out the rest of those tax subsidies for moving production offshore. We can do this.

What, you say? Give people government jobs fixing up infrastructure? Yes, because infrastructure is government’s job. As Atrios says today,

I’m not going to deny the importance of private sector job growth, but there’s no reason to see private sector jobs as somehow superior to public sector jobs. More than that, plenty of private sector jobs really are “government jobs,” from contractors in the military-intelligence industrial complex to private highway construction workers. Plenty of jobs and companies wouldn’t exist without government spending, however they’re technically classified.

It’s The JOBS, Stupid! Why DC Elites Don’t See This? Come on, people, the jobs answer is right in front of you. There is work that needs doing, and there are people out of work. There are Ten Million Jobs Needed – Ten Million Jobs That Need Doing!
Tax the wealthy and Wall Street to pay to fix up our infrastructure. Tax Cuts Leave Nothing Behind — Infrastructure Investment Leaves Behind Infrastructure. Not only that, Tax Cuts Caused The Deficits, Therefore…
Connect the dots.
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If You Feed Them They Breed — And Other Dehumanizing Conservative Idiocy We Should Ignore

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The country is in an economic emergency. Unemployment — especially long-term unemployment — is at extremely high levels and the recovery is faltering. Conservatives are obstructing efforts to solve this because they believe it helps them in the November election. To this end conservatives are throwing out every possible argument against helping the economy to see if any of them stick, and to provide cover for opposing taking any action that might help matters.
The latest nonsense they are spreading is that helping the unemployed keeps them from finding jobs. Good Lord! This is basically the old “if you feed them they just breed” storyline. They say “it makes them dependent” as if hard-working people laid off because of Wall Street’s scams are squirrels. Or, to hear the nasty way conservatives talk about these human beings, they are like rats. “Hobos,” one Congressman called the unemployed! And the DC elite listen, chuckle and repeat.
But while they say unemployment assistance keeps these lazy parasites from finding jobs, they also obstruct bills that create jobs by maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure. This tells you it’s just something they say, to cover for what they do. And what they do is obstruct any effort to fix the problem because they believe they will benefit if it is not fixed.
For example, the big DC drumbeat right now is against “spending.” They claim that government spending caused the crisis, ignoring and passing the buck on everything that actually caused it, especially their deregulation and their lack of oversight. They blame government for everything, so why should this be different.
Along these lines they claim that the stimulus didn’t work, or even that spending made the problem worse, because there are still people out of work. But look at the following chart. The right side of the chart shows the effect of the stimulus. (Source, Jed Lewison and Karina Newton)
monthly_private_sector_job_creationloss
A conservative, anti-government myth that is everywhere now is that “Government forced banks to give loans to people who couldn’t pay them back, and this caused the financial collapse” — and its variant that it was about forcing banks to “help minorities. This is an example of the tactic of repeating a lie over and over until enough people believe it. To deflect people from understanding what really caused the crisis and from seeing that they are obstructing the effort to reform the financial system they made this one up” Unfortunately this has become what bloggers call a “zombie lie” — no matter how many times you prove it is just a lie, it comes back from the dead.
The Zombie Lie Problem
The “zombie lie” problem shows that it is a mistake to think that just arguing facts is a way to shoot this stuff down. Spending your time arguing facts with people who are trying to mislead misses the point. The lie is not about the facts, it is cover for the obstruction. When you try to argue a fact they will make up something else to throw you off track. Facts are not what this is about, feeding a narrative of no action is what this is about, because they understand that a bad economy helps them in the Fall.
Listening to this stuff at all, and trying to argue facts just contributes to the lack of action. There comes a point when you have to stop llsteneing and getting bogged down by intentional distractions and get something done for the economy and the public.
It Is Time To Stop Listening To This Stuff And ACT
Enough with these stupid, heartless, dehumanizing right wing “if you feed them they breed” arguments that are preventing action. People are out of work and the recovery is faltering. It is time to push aside the nay-sayers, and get something done. The government simply has to step in and act. First, do the minimal, obvious things:
1) Pass the unemployment extension, because people can’t find jobs.
2) Continue COBRA subsidies, because so many of the long-term unemployed are older people who cannot get or afford insurance any other way. This is simple humanity, people! And, by the way, COBRA itself is running out for many people, never mind subsidies.
3) Send aid to the states. 900,000 jobs in the states are riding on this help.
At a minimum do this. Don’t get lost in the weeds of what bill to attach it to. Just do it. Bring it out by itself for an up or down vote so the public can clearly see who is helping and who is voting against jobs and help for the unemployed.
But what Congress really ought to be doing is passing the George Miller “Local Jobs for America Act.” .
As economists like Paul Krugman keep saying we risk going into a serious depression. At the least we are entering a pattern of slight recovery, slight decline for a decade. Look at what happened to Ireland when they tried “austerity.”
Here is an undeniable fact about government spending. Government spending on infrastructure creates the conditions that enable businesses to prosper. Tax cuts leave nothing behind, but the roads, transit systems, ports, electric grid, Internet, courts, schools, universities, research, and all the rest that government spending creates make us competitive and are needed by businesses
Do it. Ignore the obstructors who are trying to set the stage for November. Put people to work. Help the long-term unemployed. Pass jobs bills.. And spend on modernizing our infrastructure so American can be competitive again.
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Only 20,000 New Non-Census Jobs In May! Jobs Bills NEEDED!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Evan as Washington ignores jobs bills and slashes help for long-term unemployed workers the economy may be starting to fall back. The economy added 431,000 jobs in May, but 411,000 of those were temporary Census workers. Compare this to last month when businesses added 218,000 jobs.
The unemployment rate remains very high at 9.7%, dropping only because 322,000 more people gave up looking. And long-term unemployment — the “lazy” ones whose COBRA benefits Congress killed last week — grew. “The number of people out of work six months or longer reached 6.76 million in May, a new high. They made up 46 percent of all unemployed people, also a record high.”
Dean Baker, Unemployment Falls to 9.7 Percent, But Private Sector Job Growth Slows: “Excluding Census workers, job growth has just kept pace with the growth in the labor force over the last 3 months.”
Construction lost 35,000 jobs. Retail lost 6,600 jobs.
Areas not losing jobs showed slowing jobs growth. Employment services gained 34,000 after having added 75,000 a month from October through January. Health care added 13,011 after adding an average 20,000 a month through the prior 12 months. Restaurants added 5,500 jobs in May down from an average of 19,000 jobs over the last four months.
A big one: state and local governments lost 22,000 jobs, and this loss is expected to grow in coming months.
Manufacturing, fortunately, was up.
Dean concludes:

This report is a clear warning that the recovery is very weak. The weakness is in spite of the temporary stimulus provided by the hiring of 550,000 Census workers. With house prices falling again, severe state and local budget cutbacks looming, and troubles in Europe dampening exports, the future is not bright.

Except for the President, who said, “This report is a sign that our economy is getting stronger by the day,” reaction was mostly negative.
Wall Street Journal: Reaction to Jobs Report: Disappointing.
Washington Post, Bad Jobs Report.
NPR, Disappointing.
Some good news, the President and Labor Secretary called on Congress to extend unemployment benefits and COBRA,

President Obama called for an extension of unemployment benefits, and Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis called on Congress to also extend health coverage.
“We continue to push for programs to help unemployed workers make it through this difficult time,” Ms. Solis said in a statement. “I call on Congress to extend the unemployment insurance and COBRA subsidy provisions in the Recovery Act through the end of the year.”

But will Congress listen to reality, or to the Wall Street deficit cutters.
In the following “scariest” chart from Calculated Risk the dotted line shows what is happening without the temporary Census jobs.
PercentJobLossesAlignedMay2010

The dotted line shows the impact of Census hiring. In May, there were 564,000 temporary 2010 Census workers on the payroll. Starting in June, the number of Census workers will decline – and the two red lines will meet later this year.

This chart shows the long-term unemployed — the “lazy” ones Congress doesn’t think should get any assistance.
LongTermUnemployedMay2010

Guillotines And Green / Tea Party Thinking

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Update – Digby calls it “simple cruelty.”
Congress is a big FAIL on jobs and unemployment. The Senate is heading home instead of helping the unemployed, the House is FAILing on jobs unemployment and COBRA subsidies.
Congress says they are worried about the deficit, but the deficit was The Plan. It is right in front of your faces:
Step 1: Cut taxes to “cut the allowance” of government so that it can’t function on the side of We, the People. Intentionally force the government into greater and greater debt.
Step 2: Use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People. When the resulting deficits pile up scare people that the government is “going bankrupt” so they’ll let you sell off the people’s assets and “privatize” the functions of government. Of course, insist that putting taxes back where they were will “harm the economy.”
Congress: If you are so worried about the deficit, why don’t you fix what caused the deficit instead of taking it out on unemployed people?
Anything else I write about this will quickly devolve into a post about setting up guillotines, and joining the Tea or Green Party.
Except the guillotines will probably be made in China.
If you are as mad as I am you might want to come to the America’s Future Now conference, where we are going to be talking about how progressives can get more done, June 7,8,9 in DC. Click here to see the agenda, then click here to register.

Update – In case anyone foolishly believed this was about cutting the deficit: House defies Obama, OKs F-35 engine funds. And not even a guarantee it will be made in the US!

Teacher Layoffs Loom Nationwide, DC Restaurants Humming

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Some say that “government can’t create jobs.” Others respond “unemployed people can’t create votes.” Meanwhile, conservatives, whose policies put so many people out of work, now say unemployed people are lazy and should not be collecting unemployment benefits.
Washington, DC is the center of a strange Information Deficit Disorder. The restaurants in DC are humming, the median income is really high, the Pentagon contracts are flowing. Seriously, pick a DC-area zip code, say 22314, and go to this site: “Dollar Amount of Defense Contracts Awarded to Contractors in this Zip Code from 2000 to 2009: $7,086,397,848.” Even better, scroll down the page and look at some of the contracts and amounts awarded. So-and-so Consulting, $54,024, 204. So-and-so Associates, $1,698,274. Even better, see how many have the same address. This is just one zip code. There are pages and pages and pages like this for DC-area zip code after zip code. Clearly it is really, really good to be part of the military industry.
So from DC’s viewpoint things are doing mighty fine. One Representative from Pennsylvania actually said the other day, “businesses back home complain that they want to start hiring but are getting few applicants because Congress has repeatedly extended unemployment benefits.” Her district has 10% unemployment. There appear to be 14,900 people unemployed just in the city of Erie, which is in her district. Here are ALL 99 jobs advertised in the local paper.
Maybe this strange DC Information Deficit Disorder explains why hundreds of thousands of teachers are about to be laid off around the country because Congress isn’t interested in acting. Republicans, who want schools privatized, call it a “bailout.” Fox News, Teachers Seek $23b- Lifeline or Bailout?,

Education analyst Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation … questions the wisdom of funneling federal taxpayer funds, in any amount, to the public school system as it is presently structured. [. . .] they dont need another bailout from Washington for public education.

Sen. Harkin’s $23 Billion Teacher Bailout Stalls

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s $23 billion amendment to bailout 300,000 teachers who will otherwise lose their jobs has stalled. “I have no Republicans who want to vote for it,” he told Capitol News Connection. Meanwhile, in the House today, the Secretary of Education and top Democrats in the House struggle to drum up support for the same measure.

It isn’t so good to be part of the teaching profession right now. Or a parent, for that matter. In fact, these days it isn’t so good to be part of almost any profession except military or Wall Street.
I have been attaching the following paragraph to several posts about the jobs emergency:
President Obama has talked about a bold, large scale vision for a new direction for the country. But Congress and the President are getting trapped in austerity budget thinking that won’t allow them to go in the direction of stimulus and helping regular people. If there is to be no money because of an austerity budget then American competitiveness, the economy and the mood of the public can only get worse. Do the DC elites actually believe the public is going to reward this with votes?
NOTE: Part of the America’s Future Now conference in Washington D.C. from June 7-9 will be devoted to strategy on how the progressive movement can fight the deficit cutters. Speakers such as Van Jones, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, AFL CIO President Richard Trumka, Arianna Huffington will offer a build vision for how the progressive movement can rebuild America’s economy and put people back to work. Click here to attend.