policyshop.net — The new job numbers are out and, at first glance, there is nothing surprising here. But here's a statistic that jumped out at me: 89,000 public sector workers lost their jobs in October, November, and December—with most of those losses, 66,000, occurring in October. Large-scale layoffs of government workers continue across the United States. Such layoffs undermine local economies and stymie the recovery. For every five workers who were hired in the past three months, one was laid off by government. This doesn't make sense. Government may not always do such a great job of stimulating employment growth through fiscal and monetary policy, but it sure as heck can bolster the job market by continuing to employ those people who do have jobs. Instead, thanks to austerity policies, government has been doing the exact opposite.
robertreich.org — The news today from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is that the U.S. job market is treading water. The number of new jobs created in December (155,000), and percent unemployment (7.8), were the same as the revised numbers for November. Also, about the same number of people are looking for work (12.2 million), with additional millions too discouraged even to look. Put simply, we’re a very long way from the job growth we need to get out of the gravitational pull of the Great Recession. That would be at least 300,000 new jobs per month. All of which means job growth and wage growth should be the central focus of economic policy, not deficit reduction.
colorlines.com — By shifting the definition of who is rich, the “fiscal cliff” deal passed by the Congress this week extends many of the notions that have made the United States the most economically unfair it has been in almost 50 years. At first blush, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, as it’s officially known, makes a lot of progress on the changes required to bring racial and economic fairness to America’s tax code. For the first time in almost 20 years, tax rates on the wealthy will rise. The estate tax on inheritances over $5 million will go up. The capital gains tax, which is the cornerstone of preserving the wealth of the super rich, will edge upward. These are all all positive developments. But the trouble is not in the top line of the deal, it’s in the details.
washingtonpost.com — The Perils of Pauline melodrama over the “fiscal cliff” will drag on as Washington heads toward another “debt ceiling” faceoff that will climax over the next eight weeks or so. This farce captivates the media, but no one should be fooled. This is largely a debate about how much damage will be done to the economic recovery and who will bear the pain. There is bipartisan consensus that the tax hikes and spending cuts that Congress and the White House piled up to build the so-called fiscal cliff are too painful and will drive the economy into a recession. So the folderol is about what mix of taxes and spending cuts they can agree on that won’t be as harsh. Largely missing is any discussion of how to fix the economy, to make it work for working people once more. Just sustaining the faltering recovery won’t get it done.
prospect.org — The behavior of political elites on the subject of deficits, debts, and the economic recovery requires some combination of Buñuel and his contemporary John Maynard Keynes to do it justice. With the economy stuck at about $1.5 trillion below its potential and at least 15 million people unable to find full-time jobs, the debate is fixated on the question of how to cut the deficit instead of how to restore jobs, wages, and output. Until President Obama changes the subject to the real issue of economic recovery, he will be mired in an enervating form of retrench warfare where budget cuts are inevitable. He needs to isolate Republicans on the issue of how to produce a recovery, just as he did on taxes. Here again, public opinion is on his side if he will lead. Cutting Social Security and Medicare are no more popular than raising taxes on the middle class.
colorlines.com — Regardless of when the president and Congress decide to end their current budget standoff, it is increasingly clear that the emerging deal will do very little to reverse the fiscal wrongs at the heart of the tax code. These wrongs have transformed America’s economy into the least equitable and most racially unfair it’s been in almost a half century. Our collective denial over the fundamental injustice at the heart of our economic system is a result of white supremacy. The words “white supremacy” are radioactive to be sure. It pains me to write them. However, as a trained economist I go where the facts lead me. Since I have written potentially inflammatory words, let me be clear about what I mean.
aflcio.org — Last week, after Michigan became the latest state to pass "right to work" for less legislation, many began to dig into the history of such laws and discovered that one of the earliest pushes for "right to work" came from an extreme right-wing activist Vance Muse, who was staunchly anti-communist, anti-integration and anti-union. Muse was the leader of the Christian American Association, an organization that fought to pass "right to work" in more than a dozen states in the 1940s. Working with conservative business leaders and segregationist groups, the Christian American Association first pushed for so-called "anti-violence" laws that were designed to clamp down on picketing by unions. After they successfully passed that law in Texas and in other Southern states, they moved on to "right to work" in 1945, passing the first such law in Texas in 1947. In Florida and Arkansas, the Christian American Association used messaging that compared union growth to race-mixing and communism.
guardian.co.uk — This was a banner year for progressives. We brought racial profiling and the death penalty back into the national conversation. Marriage equality made great strides, with four states legalizing same-sex marriage or failing to make it unconstitutional. Despite attempts at voter suppression and an ailing voting infrastructure, a diverse electorate loudly rejected the anti-worker, anti-immigrant, anti-equality agenda offered by an increasingly radical right wing. But last week's sneak attack on organized labor in Michigan reminded us that the enemies of democracy are still very much empowered and in power. The same groups that funded voter suppression again flexed their financial muscle to cripple worker's rights at their core. If we become complacent now, we risk losing all we have gained this year and more.
huffingtonpost.com — That is what the headlines would say if anyone really believed that the anti-union laws passed last week in Michigan actually had anything to do with the rights of workers. When the legislature outlawed contracts requiring workers who benefit from union representation to pay for that representation, it explicitly exempted the police and firefighters' unions. If this law was actually about the "right to work," the Republican legislature and Governor Snyder were effectively denying the right to work to the state's police officers and firefighters. Of course this law has nothing to do with the right to work (RTW), as everyone involved knows; that is just the spin from the anti-labor coalition. This is why police unions and firefighters' unions were exempted. The Republicans were trying to buy off these workers with special favors, not singling them out for punishment.
robertreich.org — It seems as if every major interest has political clout – except children. They can’t vote. They don’t make major campaign donations. They can’t hire fleets of lobbyists. Yet they’re America’s future. Their parents and grandparents care, of course, as do many other private citizens. But we’re no match for the entrenched interests that dominate American politics. Whether it’s fighting for reasonable gun regulation, child health and safety overall, or good schools and family services – we can’t have a fair fight as long as special-interest money continues to poison our politics.