h3>As Progressives Pledge To Address Pain of Unemployment, The Right Keeps Arguing To Make It Worse
Democratic Senators returning to D.C. renewed their push Tuesday for unemployment benefits (but still no vote this week), McClatchy reports. "The unemployment insurance extension is one of the biggest boosts you can give to the economy . . . people who get that money will spend it immediately," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. ... Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, offered a favored conservative argument: "Extending unemployment benefits increases unemployment and keeps people out of work longer," he said, "because workers are less likely to look for work, or accept less-than-ideal jobs, as long as they are protected from the full consequences of being unemployed."
Ezra Klein shows us a chart that screams "Extend unemployment benefits": "You'll have to excuse me for simply stealing Daniel Indiviglio's headline for this chart, but it's really the right way to introduce it:
"'That giant gap consists of Americans who are unemployed, and couldn't get a job even if they wanted to,' Indiviglio writes. 'This emphasizes the need for Congress to extend unemployment benefits. It's pretty clear that millions of Americans remain unemployed because the jobs aren't there -- not because they aren't trying hard enough to find them. In fact, it's not even close.'"
Mike Hall at the AFL-CIO makes it simple: lack of jobs keeps people unemployed, not "generous" unemployment benefits: "You've really got to wonder if any of the Republican lawmakers, conservative think-tankers and right-wing bloggers who continue to claim that jobless workers would rather collect unemployment insurance (UI) benefits than find a job have ever lived in the real world. Thankfully, it's been a long time, but when I was collecting UI, I was busting my hump to find work because the $190 or so a week UI check didn't go too far. Same thing with my wife when she was out of work back then. Everybody I've known who's been on UI would gladly have traded that UI check for a paycheck. If you ask the nearly 15 million people out of work today-almost half for more than six months-they'd make the same deal."
Matt Yglesias answers the question "Who advocates for the long-term unemployed?": "Amidst a decent article about the plight of those about to lose their unemployment insurance, The Washington Post’s Michael Fletcher makes the odd assertion that 'The growing backlash against unemployment insurance has left the 99ers with few political advocates.' His very next sentence hints that this is mistaken: 'President Obama, buffeted by GOP criticism of his economic policies as unemployment rates hover at their highest levels in 28 years, has been struggling to win support for renewing the extended jobless benefits.' So the 99ers have at least one political advocate, who also happens to be the President of the United States. The Speaker of the House of Representatives also supports a UI extension, as do a majority of her colleagues. The Majority Leader of the United States Senate also supports a UI extension, as do a majority of his colleagues. That’s a lot of political advocates. The problem is that 41 GOP Senators and Ben Nelson are on the other side, and in the United States Senate 42 > 57."
The Hill reports agreements between the White House and Senate Democrats on a "a three-bill agenda that they believe will strengthen their party for November’s midterm elections. Democrats agreed to send the Wall Street reform conference report, an extension of unemployment benefits and legislation bolstering credit for small businesses to Obama’s desk in the next two weeks."
Robert Reich uncovers the roots of economic fragility and political anger: "Missing from almost all discussion of America's dizzying rate of unemployment is the brute fact that hourly wages of people with jobs have been dropping, adjusted for inflation. ... June's decline in average hours pushed weekly paychecks down at an annualized rate of 4.5 percent. In other words, Americans are keeping their jobs or finding new ones only by accepting lower wages. Meanwhile, a much smaller group of Americans' earnings are back in the stratosphere: ... Richard Stein, president of Global Sage, an executive search firm, tells the New York Times corporate clients have offered compensation packages of more than $1 million annually to a dozen candidates in just the last few weeks. We're back to the same ominous trend as before the Great Recession: a larger and larger share of total income going to the very top while the vast middle class continues to lose ground."
A White House report on the stimulus goes to Congress today that will say the program has created or saved 3.5 million jobs. AP: "In excerpts of testimony [White House economic adviser Christine] Romer plans to give to Congress' Joint Economic Committee, she says government spending is "leveraging" and encouraging private investment. "We estimate that the $100 billion of Recovery Act funds will partner with close to $300 billion of other funds, the majority of which are from the private sector," Romer argues in the excerpts.
Vote To Break Financial Reform Filibuster Imminent
Final passage of the legislation could come this weekend, AP reports. "Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid scheduled a key vote for Thursday morning after Senator Ben Nelson, one of the chamber's most conservative Democrats, said he would support the bill, which would be the broadest rewrite of the Wall Street rulebook since the Great Depression."
Politico credits progressive activism for helping secure two Republican votes for financial reform. For instance, activists and experts gathered outside the offices of (Maine Sens. Olympia) Snowe and (Susan) Collins last week to urge the duo to vote yes. Supporters also used the event to thank Maine House members who supported the legislation when it passed the chamber June 30. ... During the weeklong recess, [Americans for Financial Reform] did work in 17 states that included sending letters to the editors, meeting with newspaper editorial boards and calling voters and patching them through to their senators. Meanwhile, AFR ally U.S. Public Interest Research Group was organizing events in another seven states, she said."
Michael Tomasky stops the presses for two honest Republicans, one of whom was former Treasury Sec. Henry Paulson: "Given that President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law soon - the deadline keeps slipping - it seemed timely to ask the central government actor during the panic of 2008 what he made of the legislation and whether he thought, in practice, it would help us avoid another crisis. Mr. Paulson, who was speaking by phone from his longtime home in Barrington, Ill. - he recently put his home in Washington up for sale - was initially reluctant to weigh in. He said he had not read all 2,000 pages of the legislation. But as he began talking, despite his insistence that he didn't want to answer my question, he did exactly that. "We would have loved to have something like this for Lehman Brothers. There's no doubt about it," Mr. Paulson declared about midway into our conversation. He was referring to a provision of the bill known as resolution authority, which would enable the government to unwind a failing investment bank or insurance company in an orderly way without forcing it into bankruptcy, thus avoiding the unintended consequences that a bankruptcy might create."
Continuing Housing Woes Prompt Good, And Bad, Responses
"A sign that the housing market has taken another turn for the worse," says Time: "A new report shows almost a quarter of all home listings in the U.S. had at least one price reduction in June. ... Residential real estate tracking firm Trulia, shows 21 of the country's 50 largest markets cut prices on at least 30% of their listings, up from 10 markets in May. ... "The whole market has slowed down anywhere from 30% to 40% across the country," says [Housing Research Center research analyst Alex] Barron."
To fight housing foreclosures, New York City's comptroller teams up with six unions to pressure big banks to stop dragging their feat on modifying underwater mortgages. According to the New York Times: "The group would send Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, among others, a letter that criticizes them for dragging their feet on modifying mortgages that are underwater or delinquent, and that urges them to do “everything possible” to avert foreclosures. Depending on the response the coalition members get, they might move pension funds and bank deposits to other institutions, according to union officials."
Contrast that with California, where "a $700 million state plan to prevent 40,000 California foreclosures came under fire Tuesday from activists who called it another bailout for the nation's largest banks. "Our concern is this plan provides far too much funding to investors and banks in return for mortgages to be reduced," said Yvonne Mariajimenez, a One LA-IAF representative addressing directors of the California Housing Finance Agency on Tuesday."
Business Lobby Accelerates Trade Deals Push
♦ "Free trade advocates are ramping up efforts to win support for deals negotiated by the George W. Bush administration that have been stalled for years, The Hill reports. The Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT) will hold a press conference on the Senate steps Wednesday to release a letter from ECAT Chairman Harold McGraw III urging the approval of free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama."
Pushback on the Obama administration from the left via Roger Bybee in In These Times: "Americans already have had extremely negative perceptions of free-trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has cost more than 1 million jobs since 1994. Yet precisely at a moment of extreme anxiety, President Obama and his economic advisers seem bent on further amping up the economic worries of already-insecure voters with "free-trade" proposals that the vast majority of Americans—particularly Democrats—deeply despise. ... With South Korea alone, the Economic Policy Institute's Robert Scott has calculated that a loss of nearly 200,000 jobs would occur due to a "free trade" deal designed, above all, to protect and expand the rights of financiers and investors—not workers, consumers or the environment."
Michael Reynolds at Alternet writes that evangelicals are setting up shop in "New Babylon" (Iraq, to you and me), on taxpayers' dime: "Since the US occupation took hold, American evangelicals have established not only schools, but printing presses, radio stations, women's centers, bookstores, medical and dental clinics, and churches in northern Iraq, all with the blessings and assistance of the Kurdistan government. Many of these efforts were funded in part by US taxpayer dollars, channeled through Department of Defense construction contracts and State Department grants. In September 2003, just four months after US forces took down Saddam Hussein's regime, 350 evangelical pastors and church leaders assembled in Kirkuk, where they were warmly welcomed by Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government. At that gathering, George Grant, a leader of Servant Group International, the evangelical organization in Nashville that set up the chain of Christian schools, declared that 'Jesus Christ is Lord over all things; He is Lord over every Mullah, every Ayatollah, every Imam, and every Mahdi pretender; He is Lord over the whole of the earth, even Iraq!'"
Sharon Angle says she's the future of the GOP. Jed Lewison says, "Let's hope so": "Even more damning is that Angle is of the misguided view that she's "mainstream." Maybe she's in the mainstream of the GOP, but that says more about how extreme the GOP has become than it does about the electorate as a whole. Rasmussen today released a poll showing Angle up by a scant 3 points over Sen. Reid. That's very bad news for Angle. When Rasmussen shows a GOPer up by 3 this far away from the election, you know they don't have a shot at winning. So while Angle may be putting a fork in Bob Bennett's political career, it's pretty clear that the voters of Nevada will be putting a fork in hers."